Is a washcloth a bad idea for cleansing your face?

By: Jonathan Strickland  | 

Personal Hygiene ­Image Gallery Gentle scrubbing with a washcloth can remove dead skin cells. See more personal hygiene pictures.
© iStockphoto.com/Gewitterkind

Take a quick stroll down the soap and cosmetics aisle in most grocery stores, and you'll begin to get the feeling that you need an advanced degree in either rocket science or brain surgery to get clean. There are hundreds of different soaps, cleansers, astringents, toners and moisturizers on the market. But when it comes down to washing your face, you really just need soap, water and a little effort.

Should you add a washcloth to that mixture? A washcloth can help remove dead skin cells and invigorate the live cells on your face. A gentle scrubbing with a soft washcloth once a day will help keep your skin smooth and clean. But there are several things you should keep in mind when using washcloths.

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You should never scrub too vigorously with a washcloth. Removing dead skin cells is a good thing, but if you scrub too hard, your skin may appear red and irritated afterward. A gentle scrubbing is all you need to get rid of dead skin. If dry skin is a persistent problem, avoid using products that contain alcohol -- alcohol will cause your skin to become tight and dry. Apply a moisturizer immediately after washing your face while your skin is still damp.

Always use a clean washcloth every time you wash your face. Hanging a used washcloth up for use later is a bad idea. Bacteria thrive in moist environments such as a wet washcloth. Washing your face with a washcloth that hasn't been cleaned could spread the bacteria on your skin, potentially leading to an illness or infection.

Washing washcloths after every use isn't the most green-friendly practice. You'll consume more water than you would if you washed your face without a washcloth. Most of the time, you can just use some soap and water on your bare hands to wash your face. You can also purchase one-use cleansing pads, though that means you'll be generating more waste as you throw out each used pad.

Washing your face once a day but using a washcloth only occasionally to remove dead skin may be the best routine for both your skin and the environment.

Learn more by following the links on the next page.

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Originally Published: Dec 29, 2009

Washcloth Use FAQ

Is it good to wash your face with a washcloth?
Using a clean, soft washcloth is effective for cleaning your face, but unless you use a new one every day, you should probably stick with using your hands to wash up.
Is exfoliating with a washcloth bad?
A washcloth is a completely appropriate tool to exfoliate your face. Just remember to be gentle and only exfoliate a few times per week.
What are the drawbacks of using a washcloth?
Bacteria thrive in moist environments such as a wet washcloth, so you really need to use a fresh washcloth every day. Even though washcloths aren't one-time use, this means that you'll have to clean up to 14 a week if you wash your face twice a day! Additionally, if you scrub too vigorously, it can make the skin red and irritated.
Should I dry my face with a towel?
You can dry your face with a towel, but be sure to gently pat water off. Don't rub it, otherwise you may irritate the skin. Also, replace the towel with a fresh one every few days to manage bacteria that may grow in the damp environment.
Is microfiber cloth good for face?
A microfiber washcloth is great for washing your face - much better than a cotton one in fact! Microfiber is antimicrobial, removes makeup, and absorbs dirt, grime, and oil without the use of chemicals.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Flare. "Beauty you ask." Jan 2006. Vol. 28, Issue 1, p. 54.
  • O'Connell, Meagan. "A warning about washcloths." Health. Sept. 2006.
  • O'Connell, Meagan. "Coming Clean." Health. Nov. 2006. pp. 27-28.
  • Preidt, Robert. "Winter Weather Drying Your Skin?" HealthDay Consumer News Service. Feb. 26, 2005.

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