All over the world, people are washing their faces the wrong way. According to a new study from skin-care brand Cerave that surveyed 5,000 people from 11 different countries, only 44 percent of respondents are getting it right. This means that 55 percent of people are either washing their faces too often or not enough, and 40 percent don’t know what type of cleanser they should be using in the first place. But there’s one country in which the majority of people are face-washing wizards: France.
French women are known for their je ne sais quoi approach to beauty, and it all begins at their bathroom sinks. According to Cerave, Parisien women have a strong understanding of the importance of using their cleansing step to both clean and protect their skin. Below are three staple things we can learn from French face-wash pros to make our own face washing routines tres magnifique.
1. Wash your hands
It’s common to assume that cleansing is the first step in a skin-care routine. But there’s actually another very important step that should be done before that: washing your hands, which 73 percent of French women do before touching their faces. Dermatologists agree that this is the best order of operations for the sake of your skin health. “Bacteria is all over our hands,” says Lily Talakoub, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “Your face is a warm home for bacteria, so wash your hands before washing your face to prevent any transfer of bacteria, which can cause acne and skin infections.” Be sure to lather your hands with soap and water for a solid 20 seconds before moving on to your cleanser.
2. Stay away from abrasive scrubs
Derms often say that harsh exfoliants can be damaging to your complexion, and French women seem to have taken this message to heart. According to the Cerave survey, 54 percent of them steer clear of abrasive facial scrubs. Melanie D. Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of Art of Skin MD, previously told Well+Good that “over-exfoliated skin loses too much of the stratum corneum, the upper layer of our epidermis.” This means that your skin becomes more prone to irritation, redness, or unexplained shininess on your forehead. For the sake of getting rid of dead skin cell buildup, opt instead for a gently exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acid, like glycolic, lactic, or malic for best results.
3. Stick with gentle, pH-balanced cleansers
It’s impossible to talk about French face wash habits without mentioning micellar water. The gentle cleanser has been a long-standing staple in most Parisian beauty cabinets and has earned some well-deserved buzz stateside over recent years. “Micellar water is a super gentle method of cleansing skin,” Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology, previously told Well+Good. “The cleanser gets its name because it contains micelles, which are oil-in-water suspensions that attract dirt, bacteria, and makeup—without stripping moisture from your skin.” Because micellar water is non-stripping, it’s a great choice for anyone with dry skin, and can be particularly helpful during the winter months when cold air increases every complexion’s risk of dehydration.