How Long Should I Leave Cleanser On My Face?

Facial cleanser is a product that cleans your skin of grime while setting up moisture and hydration, but how long should you leave it on your face? We've checked in with beauty experts to see what they have to say about the subject.

For maximum effect, a cleanser should be left on your face for 30 to 60 seconds. The entire process should only take between 1 to 3 minutes. To completely and efficiently apply your facial cleanser, you'll want to take the following steps:

  • Wet your face
  • Apply facial cleanser
  • Use the tips of your fingers or a soft cloth to gently massage the cleanser over your skin
  • Rinse with lukewarm water
  • Follow up with serums, moisturizer, and makeup as you choose

So let's take a quick look at what cleansers are, how best to use them, and what type are best for which skin. Later in the post, we'll talk about the difference between face cleanser and facewash and whether you need both. Without further ado, let's get to it.

Beautiful young woman washing her face with facial cleanser, How Long Should I Leave Cleanser On My Face?

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Using Facial Cleanser

Facial cleanser is an alternative to soap and water. Cleansers are made to suit different skin types and often have hydrating properties along with cleansing agents. They are a gentler way to clean your skin. Experts recommend, at a minimum, to cleanse your face in the evening to remove the day's makeup and grime. For extra care, use your cleanser in the morning to clean up any accumulation of oils and sweat from the night's sleep.

The process of using a facial cleanser is rather short. Only a few minutes are required to apply the cleanser, massage it into your skin, and rinse it off. No matter how dirty you think your skin is, don't let the cleanser sit on your skin for more than 2 minutes. Spending 30 to 60 seconds massaging it into your skin will suffice.

A cleanser doesn't have additional benefits the longer it stays on your skin. Depending on the ingredients in the cleanser, leaving it on too long could actually cause skin irritation, dryness, or other sensitivities.

The Cleanser Process

Follow these simple steps to properly apply your cleanser:

Wash Hands And Wet Face

Using lukewarm water (hot water is drying) splash moisture onto your face and onto your hands. This allows for the smooth application of the cleanser and makes it easier to glide across your skin. And be sure your hands are pre-washed so you don't transfer dirt and oils from your hands to your face.

Apply Facial Cleanser And Massage Into Skin

Now is the time to use your facial cleanser per the instruction on your product. While you're applying it, take a moment to give your face a little massage. Rub circles with your fingertips or a soft cloth allowing your cleanser to reach every part of your face. Repeat the process if you've had a particularly grimy sort of day.

Facial cleansing brushes are also popular for skincare. They often come with different types of attachments for use on different areas of the body. Remember to use soft brushes on your skin when cleansing.

Click here for this product on Amazon.

Rinse Your Face With Lukewarm Water

As we mentioned above, hot water can have a drying effect on the sensitive skin of your face. So turn up the cold water a little and wash the cleanser off your face with lukewarm water. You can either splash it on to your face or use a washcloth. But be sure to rinse it all away because leftover cleanser can also have a drying effect.

Follow Up With Serums, Moisturizer, And Makeup As You Choose

For some people, a simple face cleansing is their only routine. For others, there's the addition of serum, moisturizer, and makeup. This is the time to follow the rest of your facial routine for night or morning. (Click here for more on this: Do You Use Moisturizer Or Toner First?)

Facial Cleanser For Oily Skin

This purifying cleanser from LaRoche-Posay is made for normal to oily skin. It's formulated with Prebiotic Thermal Water, Ceramide-3, Niacinamide, and Glycerin. This foaming cleanser has a gel-like texture. Use it as a daily face wash, morning and/or evening.

Click here for this product on Amazon.

Facial Cleanser For Normal Skin

First Aid Beauty makes this sensitive skin cleanser with antioxidants for extra protection. The powerful botanical antioxidant blend helps protect your skin while reducing irritation and inflammation. The vegan & cruelty-free face cleanser is also allergy-friendly, gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, soy-free, nano-free, and safe for sensitive skin.

Click here for this product on Amazon.

Facial Cleanser For Dry Skin

This hydrating cleanser from Ktchn Apothecary is non-drying and gentle for the skin. The rich, creamy natural face wash activates with water, lightly-foaming to gently wash away excess oils & impurities, revealing skin that’s supple, hydrated, & refreshed.

Click here for this product on Amazon.

What Happens If You Leave Cleanser On For Too Long?

Cleansers often contain salicylic or glycolic acids. If left too long on your skin, it can cause your skin to become dry and irritated. A few extra seconds isn't a big deal, but if you disrupt your facial rinse to answer texts, do something on the stove, or take your dog outside, you could end up damaging your skin. So rinse that cleanser off fully before you move on to your next task.

Should You Wash Your Face After Using Cleanser?

Cleanser and soap really do the same thing. Some skin types do better with cleansers and others do fine with regular soap. But there's no need to wash after you use a cleanser as they both achieve the result of cleaning your skin of built-up grime from makeup and environmental factors.

Though we all love our towel sets, it's a good investment to have separate facial washcloths. This way you don't worry about makeup stains or not having one on hand.

Luxury Bamboo Face Washcloths

This set of six facial washcloths is made from hypoallergenic bamboo fiber that is gentle on the most sensitive skin. It's also a great gift for a friend or hostess.

Click here for these washcloths on Amazon.

Does Cleanser Or Face Wash Come First?

These products are two different things. A facewash deeply cleans your pores. A face cleanser soothes, hydrates, and wipes away grime. The facewash will create more of a lather, the face cleanser will be more liquid or milk-like. Some people only use one of these products (If you have very dry skin, you might want to stick to a cleanser). But you can use both. In that case, use facewash first, then cleanser.

One option is to use the gentle cleanser in the morning and the deeper cleaning face wash in the evening. This duo from Clean & Clear gives you both of those options in one package.

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Can You Just Use Cleanser And Moisturizer?

It's always a great idea to moisturize your skin after you wash it. And since cleanser acts in a similar fashion to soap or facewash, there's no problem with a simple cleanser and moisturizer combination. It's a great way to set your face up for glowing, beautiful skin.

A good moisturizer is worth its weight in gold. This hydrating Water Cream from Tatcha is a perfect quench for your delicate facial skin. Japanese Wild Rose visibly tightens pores and smoothes skin texture. Japanese Leopard Lily helps control excess oil and clarify skin by encouraging natural skin turnover. A touch of 23K gold adds a subtle glisten to your skin.

Click here for this moisturizer on Amazon.

The Most Important Thing Is To Cleanse Your Skin

Regardless of the product you choose, and at what time of day you do it, one of the main things we can do to keep our skin looking vibrant and healthy is to cleanse it. Remember at a minimum, cleanse in the evening. But twice a day is acceptable and recommended as well. Too much more than that may dry out your skin.

For other wonderful posts on skincare here at, please check out the following posts:

How Often Should You Use Retinol Serum?

Can You Use Day Moisturizer Overnight?

One comment

  1. Most of the environmental impurities and cosmetic products our skin comes in contact with are not water soluble, so washing the skin with water isn’t enough to remove them. Skin cleansers remove dirt, sebum, oil and dead skin cells—ideally without damaging or irritating the skin. helps remove excess oil, makeup, sweat, dirt and dead skin cells from your skin. It refreshes your skin and gives your complexion a chance to breathe

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