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Julyne Derrick

Simple Face-Washing Tip: Use a Washcloth

By April 3, 2008

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A great way to gently exfoliate skin is simple: use a washcloth. The fabric naturally rids face of excess oils, dirt and build-up. I don't use washcloths every day because I have to cart laundry two blocks away (oh, the joys of West Village living) and you don't want to re-use a washcloth too many times (my friend Laura keeps a stack of washcloths on hand and uses one a night -- good for her, bad for the environment). But I do treat myself with a warm washcloth every once in awhile (the warmer the washcloth, the more spa-like the cleansing). You can even get fancy with special peppermint oils. A quick nuke in the microwave and that scented washcloth will make you feel like you're in Sedona, Arizona, getting pampered for $1,000 a day.

See "How to Exfoliate" for more information.


April 7, 2008 at 1:47 pm
(1) Kathy says:

I discovered very thin, almost baby size washcloths–25 for less than $5. I don’t care if they get makeup stained, and they don’t take up room in the washer or dryer since they are lighter weight than a regular washcloth.

April 7, 2008 at 2:32 pm
(2) Susan says:

I have used washcloths to clean my face since I was a little girl. I get compliments on my skin all the time, and I just turned 60. I don’t use any kind of soap…I use a water based cream cleanser (Nivea). The last time I went for a facial, the lady said she was going to concentrate more on hydrating and moisturising since my face was so clean. I feel lost when I can’t use a washcloth, and I always pack them when I travel. I use a clean one every day to avoid bacteria.

April 7, 2008 at 3:11 pm
(3) Brenda says:

We used wash cloths back in the day and no one had acne! I guess there is something to be said for going back to the old way of doing things.

April 7, 2008 at 4:54 pm
(4) Kathleen says:

I’ve used a fresh washcloth daily my entire life and I consider it crucial to clean skin. I live very near Sedona, Arizona and the weather here requires exfoliating and moisturizing regularly. I have little glass spray bottles I fill with water and drops of lavender essential oil which I spray directly on my face (I have them all over the house and in my purse) and I also spray my warm or cool washcloth with it while cleansing.

April 7, 2008 at 5:27 pm
(5) Doreen Twarkins Licensed Cosmeticiand says:

I am 62 years young and I used a washcloth every single day of my life for all of my life and my skin is gorgeous. I bought 14 baby washcloths and only use those on my face. I PAT my skin dry never rub. Sometimes I don’t even dry my face at all. I don’t EVER re-use the washcloth because of bacteria. The baby washclothes are tiny so I don’t think it will affect the environment. I do like your idea of peppermint on the washcloth. I enjoy your articles so much.

April 7, 2008 at 5:33 pm
(6) Doreen Twarkins Licensed Cosmetician says:

I forgot to add that the cleanser you use is NOT important. I went through a phase when I was younger and only used very expensive cleanser but then I got tired of spending the money and switched to a very inexpensive cleanser and my face isn’t any worse for it. Actually, when I run out of cleanser, I use hand/body lotion and it does the trick. Read the ingrediants..they are almost the same. I DO NOT USE SOAP.

April 7, 2008 at 7:12 pm
(7) Virginia Cooke says:

I too use a washcloth (or flannel as they’re called here in Australia), and I find the older and thinner they are, the better! I don’t like the thicker ones, they don’t seem to work as well for me in getting rid of the makeup that gets into my pores. I rinse mine out well and hang it on the towel rail to dry, and use it a few times. Sometimes I’ll just handwash in the basin with soap after I’ve washed my face and it’ll dry quickly enough. Water is liquid gold here in Australia and when you live in a place where you have to bucket water from your shower on to the garden, you DON’T add facecloths to your wash every day!

April 7, 2008 at 9:45 pm
(8) Rita says:

I’ve used washcloths all my life…..I am 60. I never had a problem with bacteria and using a new one every day is not really necesary. Many people ask how i keep my skin looking so nice. I tell them use sunscreen (I do every day) and exfoliate with a wash cloth. Moisturize morning and evening and never go to sleep with makeup. Really very easy

April 7, 2008 at 10:03 pm
(9) Tat says:

I’m 15. Obviously many teenagers have acne…I have certain times when I do…usually around my time of the month (if you know what i mean). But i use several diverent cleansers and acne pads…they dont always work. I’m not sure if I can believe that something as simple as a washcloth will clear my face…but I’m willing to give anything a try…!

April 7, 2008 at 11:13 pm
(10) JKA says:

I love the idea of baby washcloths. I often just touch the edge of my washcloth with baking soda, a great exfoliant, then rinse well. I live in coastal VA. Never had acne, but knew lots of people who did, when we all used washcloths.

April 8, 2008 at 7:01 am
(11) Brenda says:

To JKA: I had many girlfriends and we all used washcloths and none of us had acne. I don’t know why. Maybe your friends did not use clean washcloths all the time. That could be the answer.

April 8, 2008 at 2:36 pm
(12) Angela says:

Back to the basics! Amen. That is what I used growning up with my grandmother along with Ivory soap and I never had acne until I was in my last year of high school. That is when I started using 50 million acne washes and what not and none of them actually worked.
Sometimes simplicity is the best!

April 8, 2008 at 10:50 pm
(13) Sunny T. says:

WOW! SO my dear sweet mother was and has been right all along….I’m 33 now and insist on using a washcloth. In college, I was terrible about using anything but a bath puff. But yep, mom was right! The washcloth is the best.

Thanks Mom, you’re the best!

April 10, 2008 at 11:47 am
(14) Janet says:

Jane Iredale makes a really nice, thin but rough (soft rough, it does the job without being harsh) mitt. It’s billed as something that removes makeup without soaps/cleansers, and it does, but I use it with cleansers. It’s easy to wash it under running water with a little liquid soap — and then hang it up to dry. I like the material the company used, and it’s likely you could find something similar to it and make several little mitts (maybe even the microfiber towels, but they’re softer so probably wouldn’t be as helpful).

April 16, 2008 at 8:44 am
(15) Anum says:

I’m 16, and i’ve a bout of acne fever monthly (if you get my drift) I have yet to find anything that works effectively, but I’m definetely willing to give this a try! Thanks for the tip…

January 12, 2009 at 12:31 am
(16) Annie says:

Peppermint is extremely irritating to the skin.. so it’s definitely not the best thing to use a peppermint oil washcloth. I’m surprised that this isn’t common knowledge to everyone. As well, lavender oil can be problematic for the face due to its aroma, and there is some research indicating that lavender oil can cause cell death.

But as far as a basic washcloth go, I find it surprisingly effective as an exfoliant: my skin always feels baby soft when I’m finished!

I saw another commentor’s posting below about using a washcloth to get rid of acne. I believe it’s not as effective as using a well formulatd BHA product.

February 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm
(17) Summer says:

if u do use a washcloth daily than what u do is that after washing your face u dip the cloth in hot water make sure to get all the soap and what not. then u hang is up to dry and that night when u wash your face u use the sameone… also u can u the thiner kitchen wash colths as well the work the best

July 3, 2009 at 9:31 pm
(18) brynn says:

I am 59 and have very few lines or wrinkles. I too have used a washcloth all my life and never had breakouts, large pores, etc. Another nice scent for end of the day cleansing is a drop of Lavendar (essential oil). I get home from work at 11:30pm and it used to be hard to settle down. Now, while in my nightly shower, I use the Lavendar and bingo! Very nice.

July 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm
(19) Carolyn says:

I am still using old, old THIN washcloths that I used to buy at KMart, etc. For years I haven’t been able to find the thin washcloths anywhere. They are all thick and fluffy. I am trying the baby washcloths now out of desperation. I can’t understand why the stores do not carry the thin cloths anymore. I wish I could find some place to buy them. My skin is in great condition too. I’ve ALWAYS used a washcloth.

August 6, 2009 at 7:53 pm
(20) Katie says:

I’m 18, and lately my skin’s been quite bad. I noticed I started having skin problems AFTER I started using cleansers like Clearasil, Neutrogena, etc – as it got progressively worse I went to harsher products, but all the while I always wanted to do something more natural! Finally I’ve started using only water and changing my diet a bit (It went awol for a while) and now I’m just using a flannel (wash cloth as you guys call it) with water – feels wonderful. =] I think it’s far better than having hundreds of chemicals all over your skin upsetting it! Especially for us teenagers – our skin’s far more sensitive to these harsh products.

August 17, 2009 at 7:31 pm
(21) Deseree says:

Carolyn, you can find the thin wash cloths at Big Lots!

October 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm
(22) lucy says:

I do this too…I recently bought 12 washcloths for about $5 and I use a fresh one on my face every day. When I’m done with my face I might use it on the rest of my body if any not – too – grimy parts need a scrubbing. I have enough washcloths that I can rotate them in the weekly laundry. I never use one twice. Once the used washcloth is dried, I throw it in the hamper.

I used to use face soap but found that dried out my skin. I tried the usual face cleansers and found that made my skin bumpy. I tend to do better with very gentle natural soapless cleansers such as Burts Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser, but I found I couldn’t use them by themselves or I would break out or get buildup on my skin and the bumps would reappear. Using washcloths to exfoliate lightly stopped all that.

I get in the warm shower, get my face wet. I apply the cleanser and rub it into my face and neck and let it sit there a minute or two. Then I use the wet, warm washcloth to wipe it off.

My complexion has been radiant, and blemises and acne much reduced, ever since.

October 23, 2009 at 1:05 am
(23) beauty says:

Hi Lucy, I’m so glad to hear how well washcloths are working for you. You’ve inspired me so much I’m going to start using them on a regular basis again.

December 31, 2009 at 2:20 am
(24) TruthNotBelief says:

Hi! I am sure that many of you one here who are not prone to acne – have small pores, regular sebum production, regular or dry skin, are female, have no genetic predisposition to acne – will think that using a washcloth helps to exfoliate and prevent acne. It is true that there is exfoliation involved, but at the same time you are tampering with the integrity of your skin, which destroys the protective barrier that your epidermis creates when it is intact.

People have to understand the science behind things in order to “visualize” what goes on in the microscopic world. Creating micro-abrasions by rubbing your skin with a rougher object, even if it seems to be soft will actually lead to more (severe) acne and other skin breakouts. As you diminish the protective skin barrier you are also introducing bacteria and other harmful chemicals, like alcohol, detergents, chlorine, calcium, etc., which in effect will cause acne in those prone to breakouts.

Here is a good site for you guys to take a look at it. It is the American Academy of Dermatology’s site.

Unless one is a Dermatologist one should not assume that what they do for their skin will work for all people and skin types. Stress and testosterone levels also contribute to acne formation. Even if the person making the recommendation is an R.D. or R.N. their knowledge is very limited when it comes to the microbiological and histological intricacies of your skin’s health. They just do not have a true medical background, hence the monikers “nurse” and “dietician” vs. “physician.” Don’t let me get started on some layman’s opinion about skin care…

Don’t scrub or use harmful abrasives or chemicals on your skin. Exfoliate by massaging with your fingers or by using an exfoliant scrub without alcohol or soap in it once-a-week. I wish I would’ve known these truths earlier and I could have prevented a lot of psychological grief in the late teens and twenties. Good luck and remember moderation in ALL things… :-)

February 24, 2010 at 11:14 pm
(25) cindy says:

can someone please go over the steps how to use a washcloth pleaseee?

February 26, 2010 at 3:07 pm
(26) allnatural says:

To Truthnotbelief: In a way, you are right. If you have horrible acne all over your face, you won’t want to scrub it off with a wash cloth. I had horrible acne at one time… you do have to be careful and gentle. The site you recommended is good, but I am finding out so much more about using Ayurvedic remedies. Do a search on this. I can recommend Bindi.com, they have wonderful stuff for acne. I am also reading so much about using sesame oil. Dermatologists believe in all oil-free products, but there are some oils that don’t clog pores. Do a search on sesame oil too… Must be organic, cold pressed. If you use a wash cloth, the idea is to use a gentle one (like the small baby ones) and use it gently! Don’t rub too hard. Again, if you have multiple white heads and cysts, leave out the washcloth or go super gentle. The other thing is to realize that what you eat and your stress levels are a HUGE part of acne. Do some research on the concept of whole foods. I practice Ayurveda and my skin is clear!!!! Good luck!

March 30, 2010 at 4:16 pm
(27) Jill says:

Hi Lucy (and everyone else!) I just bought the same Burt’s Bees cleanser as you but haven’t tried yet…I’m excited to though!

I also bought the peach/willowbark pore scrub and the night cream.

I will be picking up one or both of the body washes (can’t decide) that are available at my Walgreens…which are https://www.burtsbees.com/natural-products/body-washes-soaps/radiance-exfoliating-body-wash.html and https://www.burtsbees.com/natural-products/body-washes-soaps/extra-energizing-citrus-ginger-root-body-wash.html.

I totally want to become a BB convert! ;)

I believe in using the most natural things in/on your body.

September 21, 2011 at 8:03 pm
(28) ruthanneg. says:

The best washcloths for exfoliating can be found at Big Lots…very inexpensive.

Hope you have a Big Lots in your area.

November 3, 2011 at 10:48 pm
(29) jas says:

HI, need your help. i have a very ugly face. my face got so many pimple and scars and very dull. i have a combination face. my tzon always oily. my aye area got so many lines..can u suggest to me which product should i used for all the 4 face care step.

November 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm
(30) DR says:

I’ve had acne since I was 11 yrs old, (I’m now 34 yrs) and I’ve used washcloths my whole life. Acne is caused by bacteria under the surface of your skin- washing with a certain cleanser or tool (like a wash cloth) won’t get rid of it. Food has nothing to do with acne (read the research). Some people just have an over production of bacteria- it is genetic. A prescription gel that kills bacteria is the only thing that has ever worked for me. Wash cloths are probably good for exfoliating, but they don’t prevent or cure acne.

January 18, 2012 at 12:55 am
(31) Leah says:

@DR: I disagree. Research and studies can be flawed and are often biased (depending on who’s funding them, etc). I have found that when I eat healthier, my entire body is overall healthier, including acne. Our bodies are made up from what we eat, and if you eat something that is unhealthy for you, the toxins may be expressed through acne. Different foods affect different people in different ways, but it definitely has at least some effect on the health of your skin.

Cleaning your skin in the most natural way possible is definitely optimal for skin health – our bodies weren’t designed to be exposed to so many chemicals. Washcloths are great – they may not be enough for everyone, but they do cleanse skin to some degree, simply by rinsing off sweat and dirt, and also by removing dead skin cells that can prevent your skin from breathing. Although it should also be kept in mind that there are different causes of acne – bacteria, oil, sweat and dirt can all clog pores, and different methods may be required in order to remove each one. Based on that, I would think that washcloths can prevent some causes of acne, but not all of them.

April 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm
(32) Carol Hyde says:

Does anyone know if I should NOT be using a polyester washcloth to wash my face?

April 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(33) beauty says:

Hi Carol,

What’s important is how well the washcloth works to exfoliate the face. If it seems to do the trick then you’re fine.


August 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm
(34) Jenna says:

I am considering using a wash cloth in my routine as nothing else has helped clear my skin. So my question is, what kind of soap or cleanser should I be using to wash my face with. I don’t think simply using a warm cloth will be enough. A cleanser that is soft and not too drying perhaps?

August 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm
(35) beauty says:

Hi Jenna,

It depends on your skin type. If you have oily skin, you should opt for a non-creamy clear cleanser that’s formulated for oily skin. If you have dry skin, you should try a creamy cleanser. It sounds as if you have oily, acne-prone skin. Here’s a good list for you: http://beauty.about.com/od/acne1/tp/Best-Salicylic-Cleansers-Scrubs-And-Peels.htm.


September 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm
(36) Laina says:

I’m 10 years old and I’ve had some pretty bad skin problems before. But after I started using clean and clear I’ve had clean skin. All I do is get those tiny throw away cups u use in the bathroom and feel it with cottonballs. I wash every night and morning. And the good part is u can see how much dirt u have rubbed of. If u have oily skin u might want to go for the oil free. I bought at walmart.

October 17, 2012 at 5:49 am
(37) Ruth says:

Thanks for the write up i have always had that using sponge on the face is bad, but i didnt get the conviction i needed then. But now thanks to this write up i have gotten the conviction i needed and a better way of doing the face washing.

October 18, 2012 at 4:12 am
(38) belle says:

I used to have pimples/ acne all over my face since I was 13 yrs old but when i get to start using face towel, I had a much clearer face!

December 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm
(39) Gabby says:

When I was younger I had very pretty skin. I am 15 now and my skin is uneven and medium to harsh acne blemishes on my face. I am African- American with a caramel skin tone. No I am not being racist but do you all have any suggestions for me? because one can do something for one race while the other may not. Once again this is not meant to be racist. Please help.

February 6, 2013 at 6:25 pm
(40) Alex says:

do you guys use typical cleansing/heavily commercialized products like neutrogena? do relatively cheaper products like St.Ives work for y’all?

March 5, 2013 at 10:49 pm
(41) annabelle says:

My dermatologist advised against exfoliating my skin because he said it is thin and exfoliation would damage it. I’m approaching my 45th birthday and for years, I’ve used Dove soap or Cetaphil for normal/oily skin and my fingers to wash. I’ve had acne in the past and typically deal with monthly breakouts, with large painful bumps under the skin, and slight oiliness during the day.
Recently I began to follow the advice in a book written by a dermatologist who advised using a washcloth to cleanse the face. I apply Cetaphil to a washcloth and GENTLY wash, avoiding the eye area, After rinsing, I apply moisturizer for day or night. I have seen a dramatic difference! My face feels and looks MUCH better! My skin is soft, clear, doesn’t get oily during the day and there’s not a pimple in sight. I am amazed and will continue to use a washcloth. It sounds silly to me to even say that but it appears to be working quite well.

April 2, 2013 at 3:58 am
(42) Puddintame says:

My grandmother had beautiful skin until the day she passed away at 90.
She used washcloths but the most important step to cleaning her face was the last one. That was to splash cold water on her face after it was clean. The cold water has an astringent action and closes pores without drying skin out.

May 2, 2013 at 3:58 am
(43) baby boy says:

i hope i get clear skin !!!!i always dreamt of clear skin and i am sure through the grace of jesus i am doing the right thing and getting the clear skin i need!!!!! am gonna use wash clothes as well.amen!

May 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm
(44) BELEN says:

Only today i learned for washclothes, thank you all for this advices. I have a normal to combinated skin. Sometimes my skin is oily, sometimes is dry. I dont understand very good my skin type, but it dosent look clear and healthy. I am very worry for that. I am 23 years old and i try to eat healthy, I am using avenč products(eau thermal).
I like very much talking for beauty, now Im going to use washclothes

May 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm
(45) rosi says:

I started washing with a cloth and hot water 3 months ago. I am 53. At first I scrubbed harder to exfoliate but no longer need to. I use no soap. My pores have become smaller. Skin is smoother and tighter. I sometimes use a bit of coconut oil or Olay if I feel dry. Prior to this I had no regime. Just showered and washed my face with my hands and shampoo as I did my hair. The hot cloth stimulates circulation and has brought a more youthful glow. The wrinkles are less deep but I don’t mind them anyway. Like others above said the cloth on the whole body is wonderful too.

May 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm
(46) mars says:

Can any body tell me how to use a wash cloth for exfoliating the skin…procedure pls….thnx

June 6, 2013 at 10:49 am
(47) beauty says:

Wet face. Apply cleanser to face. Wet the washcloth and wring it out. Massage the washcloth into face in a circular motion clockwise starting anywhere on the face. Rinse washcloth. Rinse face with washcloth. I like to apply coconut oil to washcloth instead of cleanser because I have dry skin.

August 29, 2013 at 9:19 am
(48) USHA says:

Kindly give answers to Gabby problems as my daughter has the same poblems. BEAUTY

August 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm
(49) beauty says:

Gabby & USHA,

Unfortunately, simply cleansing skin with a washcloth is not going to help acne scarring and an uneven skin tone due to acne. It will make your face more dewy by getting rid of dead skin cells, but you need more potent help to even out your skin.

This Website is chock-full of advice for African-American skin that’s been scarred by acne and is now uneven: http://blog.zenmed.info/how-to-treat-acne-scars-on-african-american-skin-2/. I also recommend seeing a dermatologist. Lasers can fix acne scars but they’re pricey. To cover up the scars, you will need the right concealer and foundation. I recommend hitting a Sephora or a department store and asking for a full coverage foundation. First, apply concealer over the uneven areas and then follow with a full-coverage foundation. Dust powder to keep the shine down.

Good luck,

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