Four years ago, my cleansing routine worked like this: I would wet my skin with some water, foam up my cleanser, rinse that off, and then finally, pat my face dry with a towel. Standard procedure, right? Little did I know that I was actually doing something that my dehydrated, acne-prone skin disliked.
According to an old magazine article I read during a salon visit, towel-drying your face is not the ideal way to wrap up your cleansing routine; in fact, it could be doing your skin more harm than good. The article warned about it transferring germs from your bathroom onto your skin (yikes!) and causing dryness, among others. Acne-prone me obviously got freaked out, so I dropped towel-drying almost immediately. More than three years have passed since, and it did give me visible effects.
First, it helped address the tightness (read: dehydration) issue that my skin always had post-cleansing, which I appreciated the most. I also found that skin care products are better absorbed when applied on slightly damp skin, especially water-based products.
Dr. Windie Hayano of The Skin Inc. Dermatology and Laster Center agrees, telling us,"Applying moisturizers on either damp or dry skin is okay, but you will probably get more moisture in with the former." She adds that she personally prefers to moisturize over damp skin as well, but this also depends on what you're using. "An oily or thick barrier moisturizer can seal in moisture which is good for the skin," the derm explains.
Not towel-drying had me worrying less about bacteria causing my acne, too. However, Dr. Michael Chua of Imperial Dermatology thinks this could probably be a placebo effect. "There's no medical significance [to towels causing acne]," he says. "As long as the towel is non-abrasive and is dabbed gently to prevent exfoliation, there is no issue at all."
But how about germs? The derm continues, "Hygiene is of prime importance as well, but the good bacterial flora on the skin is enough to control the 'bad' bacteria should there be any, unless the person is immunocompromised." Hence if you're certain that your face towels are sanitized, skipping them for acne is up to preference!
Now for the real question: If I don't use a face towel, what do I do after cleansing? Do I just go straight to my skin care? Not really. Here's exactly how I do it:
After cleansing, I pat away the first layer of water on my skin with my palms. The motion I use is similar to how I apply an essence. What this does is it lets some of the moisture from the water stay on my skin while drying it off at the same time. My goal is basically to leave my skin slightly damp instead of dripping wet or bone dry. When I reach that point, off to my toner and essence I go!
This technique is surprisingly popular in the K-beauty realm as well, with the pros at Soko Glam sharing about their own towel-free method. Watch the video below and try it at home:
The change will be worth it, promise!