The Order of Things
We all have our routines. Some of us are more flexible than others, but most of us have specific habits we repeat daily. As they say, we are creatures of habit. Think about these two examples: Do you put on your pants or your socks first? And do you wash your face after your shower or before? Whatever your answers, do you have a reason why you chose to do these things the way you do?
Pants or Socks First?
So, when you’re getting dressed in the morning, what do you put on first, your pants or socks?
Those who argue socks must go on first say it’s because their after-shower wet feet don’t slide readily through the pant legs when dressing. Or they say putting on pants first limits their mobility, making sock application more difficult. Of course, it depends on the pants.
The others, those who adamantly believe pants must go on before socks, say they do so to avoid looking like a chicken running around in socks. (I mean no offense to any chickens out there.)
Has anyone really taken the time to objectively study the order of putting on clothes? I don’t think so. Nor do I think it is necessary. You do what works for you. And that’s true for skin care as well as clothing.
Wash Face Before or After Shower?
As a dermatologist, patients often ask me about the correct order for the application of skincare. The question, “Should I wash my face before I shower or after?” is a very common question. Usually, an angry tirade of complaints about skin pores accompanies that question.
Somehow, somewhere, visible skin pores became both the scapegoat and the reasoning behind washing habits. They really get a bad rap. The term skin pore, commonly used by both laypeople and those in the cosmetology field, is actually very misleading.
A pore is a minute opening on a surface through which gases, liquids or microscopic particles pass. In reality, no known gases, liquids or particles come or go through skin pores. The invisible openings of sweat glands are accurately called skin pores.
The visible indentations which likely represent openings of hair follicles are also called skin pores. These are the ones about which we complain.
Unfortunately, literature about skin pores is scarce. Very little science describes their incidence, cause or what we can do, if anything, to get rid of them.
One objective study showed that skin pore size does correlate with ethnicity.
Basically, pore size is genetically predetermined and seems to increase with age.
So, When Should I Wash My Face?
Back to the original question…When is the best time to wash your face, before or after the shower?
Many well-meaning people advise you to wash your face before showering. These folks argue that you need to remove everything from the skin surface so the debris does not get “caught up” in the pores that open when you take a hot shower.
The truth is that running water dilutes all the debris on the skin’s surface and washes almost everything down the drain.
Additionally, no science exists that shows pores collect anything when in a shower. Yet, this often is the advice given.
Others say you need to wash your face after showering. They claim hair care products may get into the pores if you wash before the shower.
These “experts” recommend washing at the sink after your shower. Guess what? The overwhelming majority of hair care products used today are water-based and get rinsed away.
How About While in the Shower?
Finally, there are those, like me, who recommend washing their face while showering. It’s fast and it saves time and water. Instead of running water at the sink just to wash my face.
I splash water on my face with my clean hands while in the shower. Personally, I don’t use a cleanser because I don’t need one. No research proves anyone with healthy skin does.
If you’re not a mud wrestler, how much dirt truly accumulates on your face? However, if you apply oil-based makeup and would like to keep your pillowcase clean while you sleep.
I suggest you use a mild cleanser to wash your face in the evening. As I said above, do what works best for you.
One last question though…if you have healthy skin, do you really need to wash your face at all? That’s a question for another day.
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About the Author: Fayne Frey, M.D
Fayne Frey, M.D., is a board-certified clinical and surgical dermatologist practicing in West Nyack, New York, and author of The Skincare Hoax: How You’re Being Tricked into Buying Lotions, Potions & Wrinkle Cream. She specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer and is a nationally recognized expert in the effectiveness and formulation of over-the-counter skincare products. As a speaker, Dr. Frey captivates audiences with her wry observations regarding the skincare industry. She consulted for numerous media outlets, including NBC, USA Today, and, the Huffington Post, and shared her expertise on both cable and major TV outlets. Dr. Frey is the Founder of FryFace.com, an educational skincare information and product selection service website that simplifies the overwhelming choice of effective, safe, and affordable products available. Dr. Frey is a fellow of both the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.