pH Defined

Some skin-care products include information about their pH level. This pH scale, which goes from 1 to 14, simply tells you how acidic or alkaline something is. Something with a pH of 7 is neither acidic nor alkaline -- it's neutral. Pure water, for example, is neutral. A pH below 7 means something is acidic, while a number above 7 makes it alkaline.

Face Washing Water Temperature

For the best results, use warm, not hot, water to wash your face. Hot water might dry your skin too much. After cleansing, use cool water as a final rinse to close your pores.

Along with warm water, use products that are meant for your face, not your body. Also look for cleansers that are formulated for your specific skin type. For example, if you're prone to acne, there are a wide array of gentle cleansers and antiseptic washes available.

Skin is slightly acidic, with a pH around 5.5, and the cleanser you use should have a similar pH. Soap, which is alkaline (the other end of the pH spectrum), can sometimes irritate the skin [source: DermNet]. Soap-free cleansers, on the other hand, such as beauty bars, mild cleansing bars and sensitive-skin bars will have a lower pH and are a good choice, if your skin isn't terribly oily.

A dermatologist may recommend that you use a wax- and oil-free cleanser for very dry or sensitive skin. Some ingredients that might be in this type of cleanser are glycerin, cetyl or stearyl alcohol, sulfate or sodium laurel. Another option for extremely dry or sensitive skin is a cleansing cream, which both removes makeup and cleans the face.

A scrub both cleans and exfoliates (removes dead skin). Scrubs can be too harsh for many people, but there are gentler versions available. Some of the more abrasive scrubs contain ingredients such as ground fruit pits. The alternative is a gentler scrub made of polyethylene beads or sodium tetraborate decahydrate granules -- these options might work for people who can tolerate some exfoliation [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Avoid facial products containing fragrances -- they are a leading cause of irritation from skin products. Fragrances are a common ingredient in body cleansers and just another reason to use a product specifically designed for the face.

Now that you know how to look for a suitable cleanser, read on to learn specific face-washing techniques.