The best way to wash your face

During a recent facial (a treat rarely enjoyed), my aesthetician -- who uses only plant-based products -- asked me what I did to take care of my skin. I sheepishly said, "nothing." Of course I know I should at least wash and moisturize, but I'm accursed with laziness. Aesthetician: "You've been lucky -- your skin looks nice -- but it won't last forever." (Evil words!) She then gave me tips for the best way to wash my face -- it's far easier than I thought. I immediately went out and spent a half hour reading labels at my local natural market. Most of the products I bought are from ZIA Natural Skin Care, which I found to be super affordable yet clean of nasty stuff like parabens, alcohol, etc. Here is my aesthetician-suggested regimen.

Step 1: In the morning, do not wash your face. Over the night, your skin has regenerated a protective oil layer that will help form a barrier from environmental toxins. Before applying makeup, use a moisturizer with an SPF of around 25. Be sure that its sun-protective elements come from physical blocks, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Don't forget to slather the sides of your face by your hairline, as well as your neck (and chest, if exposed).

Step 2: Wash your face at night before bed. During the day, particles from makeup and the environment build up and form a pore-clogging layer. Washing before bed removes that layer so that it doesn't get mashed deeper into pores while you sleep or get locked in by newly generated oils. First, gentle rub on a light, milky cleanser. After scrubbing with your fingers for 30 seconds, rinse your face with warm -- not hot -- water. Then smooth on a thin, no-SPF moisturizer that contains some kind of hydrating nutrient, such as jojoba, shea butter, or almond oil. (I bounce around with my moisturizer; right now I really like Weleda Almond Moisture Cream. It's for sensitive skin, but it smells and feels so good!) Remember: Your neck is part of your face and needs the same treatment as you give the rest of your face. I extend this advice to my chest, as well.

Step 3: Once a week, use a gentle exfoliating scrub while you're in the shower. Scrub with your fingers for about 30 seconds and wash clean. Then apply moisturizer as you normally would. A word from the wise: Talk with an employee about finding a scrub with small, gentle particles. Big particles can feel harsh and abrasive. I would highly recommend searching out an exfoliant with rice bran -- it scrubs away dead cells but is gentle enough to feel good.

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