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5
Cleansing

Cleansing is the most basic element of any skin-care routine. It not only removes excess dirt, pollutants and pore-clogging oil from the epidermis so it can remain blemish-free, but it also preps the skin for any subsequent products you'll be using, so active ingredients (like vitamins or sunscreen) can penetrate and be most effective.

But not all cleansers are the same. First, a facial cleanser should always be soap-free; the soap products you use on the rest of your body are typically too harsh for the face. And, as with most skin-care products, you need to pick one that suits your skin type. For very dry skin, you might want to go with a creamy cleanser. Dry and/or sensitive skin should always go alcohol-free, whether creamy or not. An oily epidermis can benefit from an acidic cleanser, like an alpha-hydroxy product, which does a better job of breaking up sebum -- the skin's oily secretion that can lead to clogged pores.

Whichever cleanser is right for you, be sure to massage it into your face for at least 20 seconds so it has a chance to do its job [source: SmartSkinCare].

Cleansing is all about the surface of the skin. Up next, going a bit deeper…

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