How To Clean Your Face: Part 1

Washing one’s face, like brushing one’s teeth, just kind of happens. It’s intuitive: make yourself clean already! But if you think about it, here we all are, with our cabinets full of carefully researched and invested-in products, making a lot of assumptions about how to apply them.

When I first visited NYC facialist Isabelle Bellis a couple of years ago (read about that here), I was impressed by her Saint Germain-des-Prés-meets-Sound-of-Music ensemble and her zen studio, sure, but what really stuck with me was the way her hands moved, and, at the end of the day, the attention she shows to skin. If she’s the woman who lovingly hand-washes and hangs up her intimates, I’m the girl who throws everything in the machine and calls it a day.

In the first of a two-part video series, Isabelle shows us her way around a cleanser (next up is moisturizer). She begins with thermal spring water to soften skin, then massages on cleansing milk using gentle, rapid circular motions. After that, she washes her face with tepid water, dabs it most of the way dry with a towel, gives her face another spritz of thermal water, and dries it off further with tissues. And as a final step to prep her skin for moisturizer, she sweeps on a creamy toner.

It doesn’t really matter if your cleanser is a milk, gel, foam, cream, or oil—follow her lead. Or at least, aspire to it, and “treat your skin like silk" if you don't already. There is a right and a wrong way to wash your face, according to Isabelle (and her clients, like Anja Rubik, who I bumped into in the waiting room), and though the effects may not be immediate, perhaps your neck will be a little tighter at age 50 if you start using upward motions at 20 or 30. Here’s hoping! And at the very least, you’ll get that circulation going.

—Emily Weiss

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Hannah Walker Finnie

    Amazing voice. Very informative...

  • Josef Šlaich

    I love this! Thank you ITG.

  • Beckidoo

    For some inexplicable reason I find videos of people washing their face absolutely soothing, it's like a beauty video hypnosis. I love this!

  • Lilly

    This was great. Never knew about the SWIM part, and definitely, I never treated my skin like silk! I can't wait for the second part!

    • Jackie

      I don't think i even understand the SWIM part!

      • Tyler Eustice

        Those are called 'butterflies', the circling of the eyes. I approve of not beginning with tap water but the thermal water, however I wouldn't have rinsed with the tap water, but soaked cotton with thermal water to remove cleanser.
        Tap water has so many terrible minerals and chlorine that can leave build-up on your face so I rinse with Voss water or thermal water.
        Tap water never touches my face. Great video!

        • jackie cohen

          Thanks Tyler! I'm not sure how i could avoid tap water when removing an oil cleanser. Mine is homemade and has nothing that would enable it to rinse off. BUT i am going out today to buy some thermal water. Also, what do you think of rosewater as a toner?

          • NeenaJ

            I hooked up a water filter to my bathroom tap - works great. Before I did that, I kept a gallon of distilled water to soak my washcloth. My regular tap water is highly chlorinated. Had to get a special filter for the showerhead, too.

          • Tyler Eustice

            Rosewater is nice, but if you rinse your face with tap water, don't spray toner/rosewater onto your skin, as you're just diluting the chlorine and actually "pressing" the minerals, etc. from the water into your skin.
            Apply toner with GAUZE pads and WIPE your face to get the deposits off.

          • jackie cohen

            ok so how about what Isabelle does in the video? Rinses with tap water, sprays with thermal water, then toner ...

        • katie

          Who has money to never use tap water on their face? Must be nice ha!

        • LGandaB

          How do you shower if tap water never touches your face?

          That's the question I have after watching this video- how does this fit into a morning routine that starts with a shower?

  • cca.

    what are the brand name of products used?
    This Video is so informative, Thanks!

    • CFH

      gotta be Joelle Ciocco

    • Holly

      It looks like Lait Onctueux Capital and Lotion Lactee.

  • jackie cohen

    I use a homemade oil cleanser which i guess can be adapted to this method except for the rinsing. I remove it with a muslin cloth ....
    Her skin is beyond amazing.

  • Shara

    Wow now I'm glad I have some bottles of thermal water lying around. I wonder how big of a difference thermal water makes.. I'm somewhat clueless / indifferent but I know there are quite a lot of skeptics out there.

    • Angela_E

      I just happened to have bought some La Roche Posay thermal water for the first time last week. Since watching this video, I've washed my face three times with this method (same cleanser, toner, moisturizers I usually use), and, for some inexplicable reason, my skin is much calmer looking (less irritated and red) than when I normally wash it using plain old tap water. So, I wonder if there is something to this thermal water thing...

    • Semara Simu Shahin

      My answer may be 2 years too late, but I tried this and my blemishes were significantly reduced and with no redness from inflammation :)

  • Erinn Thompson

    Thank you! I was so happy to see this today! My feedback was answered. Yeah! :)

  • Madeleine

    If washing your face like that can make me look like her, sign me up!

  • CFH

    I use toner every day with cotton pads, and I'm getting a little self-conscious about how much trash I'm generating. Anyone know of an eco-friendly alternative?

    • NeenaJ

      I bought a pack of untreated cotton baby washcloths (flannels) online. They're cheap, washable, super soft and really thin so they don't absorb a ton of product.

    • Domenicus

      I pour a bit into my hands, rub them together and gently press onto my face!

      • Cat

        I've thought about doing this too, but often the cotton pads with toner remove pollution left after washing (you can actually see it in the pad!) so I don't know...

        • Mallory Reed

          if anything the residue left over on cotton is dead skin cells. its a sure way to tell if your cleanser is doing its job and if you are exfoliating enough for your skin type!

    • blondegordon

      I use those little cloth eyeglass cleaners. They hold the toner nicely and you can just wash them and air dry them as needed.

    • Kathryn Lawrence

      idk if isabelle would approve, but i work at lush and our toners are in spray bottles, so you just mist them on to open the pores &etc instead of applying them with cotton pads. all of our packaging is recycled as well, which is nice. i'm not a skincare expert, just a sales person, but i like them a lot and they've always worked for me!

  • micky519

    What does Isabelle Bellis think of the clarisonic?!?

    • Cat

      "Think your skin is like silk, very very delicate".

      (I joke. I have no idea.)

      • Sandi

        This comment made my morning. Thank you for the giggle, Cat.

  • Stacey Nishimoto

    I think I watched this like 50 times. Her voice, the lighting, the spraying. Her jumpsuit.

  • Silvy

    love her!! amen on the soothing effect. please keep more videos coming! they are absolutely beautifully shot always. (skin care are my favorite though)

  • Letitia Elizabeth

    Now this is the kind of video I like to see. I learned this from my facialist back in 2009 or so, and have trouble making it a habit but can attest to its secret magic!

  • Heather P.

    This was the most relaxing thing I've seen all day! I have tried to get into a better routine with skincare, especially now approaching 30, but this...this might be worth trying out! It just looks so calming!

  • softy

    ouch. just the thought of that...

  • Amy {Voguette}

    I love this video! Thank you so much ITG.

  • Alexandra

    Favourite thing on ITG ever!

  • Kara

    how does she feel about those who wash their face in the shower?

  • juliet

    i'm going to have to watch this a few more times before washing my face tonight to make sure i've got it! these videos are really helpful!

  • Barbara_Barbsye

    Well, after watching (er, obsessively watching) the video this morning I tried her technique and, guys, it bloody works! I don't have any JC product but I've actually just bought the Carita eau lactee which is a milky cleanser, and then I repeated Isabelle's gestures...I can tell you it is utterly different!! I've wanted to try the JC products for a loooong time, but the fact that they are actually custom-prescipted held me from buying them. But think I could give the milk and the moisturizer (can't wait!!) a try, since I have a similar kind of skin , sensitive. Wish I had her features, too, at least those razor-sharp cheekbones...

  • Ellicia

    I liked the video for the cleansing demonstration. However, I am a bit of a skeptic. Why would there be that much residue if the cleanser had worked properly? I have never found a toner that doesn't leave a sticky residue on my skin. It makes me want to clean my skin all over again.

    • Tammy

      That's exactly the point. If it's clean properly there shouldn't be any residue.

    • srw

      Mario Badescu aloe lotion

    • Claire

      Yes...I've had a cleanser (that claimed to also remove makeup) that gave me BBcream residue on my cotton pad soaked with toner before..and there was still residue when i tried wiping it the 2nd time!! i definitely changed that cleanser

  • Lea

    I hope I'm not the only one, but... I don't like to spray my face with water. Even when I was spraying my irritated face with thermal water a couple of years ago, it didn't make a difference, because it contains nitrogen.

    How I clean my face - I take a dollop of Toleriane cleanser, gently massage it in, rinse off with water and pat dry with a tissue paper. It works for me, and my neck and hair don't get wet from washing my face.

    • Caroline Mt

      what is Nitrogen and what is the effect?

      • Lea

        Hi Caroline,

        after my skin became irritated every time I sprayed it with La Roche Posay thermal water, I decided to look what's in this product - it's water and nitrogen. I was browsing Paula Begoun's Ingredient Dictionary and here is what she wrote about this particular ingredient - ;

        And maybe it's not as negative as she says, but I decided to avoid water sprays in general.

        • Barbara_Barbsye

          °_O Our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen... it is an inert gas, used as a propellent for thermal water which is stored under pressure. I believe that what gets you irritated is one of the mineral in the water (for instance, i can't use Uriage thermal water because of the sulfur)

  • laura

    I love this!!

  • alice

    "think your skin is like silk" - she probably wouldn't approve of my daily usage of the Clearasonic ...

  • Charlotte K

    I totally agree :)

    • Lara

      it is called ASMR.

      Look it on youtube. :)

      • babelincoln

        thanks for the 30 minute internet surfing tangent. WHAT THE HELL did I just read.

  • Amanda

    She is amazing.

  • mel

    God its been a while ive gotten a facial... booking one asap now (maybe some day with this wonderful woman!)

  • Becca @ The Beauty Sample

    I was insanely excited to see this post/video. I know how exclusive (and expensive) Isabelle Bellis' time and expertise is so to have these videos featuring some of her tips is just amazing! I love how she refers to that motion of washing as "swimming". I do like to use upward motions on the neck but I've never used that "swimming" technique before. Definitely will do that from now on. And MY GOD--her skin is insane. Seriously insane. I mean, I've seen pictures but to see her face in action is just unreal. She must be doing SOMETHING right!

  • kmakesithappen

    great video, can't wait for part 2. She has amazing skin

  • Hannah

    So you just spray the thermal water over your makeup?

  • champagnesweetie

    can anyone identify Isabelle's jumpsuit?

    • Ekaterina

      Im obsessed with it! So chic

  • daydreamingofparis

    What a great video, so informative. Isabelle is such a doll.

  • Erin Wilkins

    This video is amazing. Very soothing and I imitated her hand motions and I feel so relaxed now!

  • moxtail

    she's so delicate! I wonder how she removes waterproof mascaramp?

  • Behind the Mirror

    That was amazing... while I thought I "the woman who lovingly hand-washes and hangs up her intimates", I just realized I am "the girl who throws everything in the machine and calls it a day..." going to take this tips seriously!!!

  • elle

    Er.... have I missed the video where actual makeup removal takes place?? Eyeliner, mascara, serious concealers, cream blushes are nowhere evident. It's a lovely routine but for me doing this without a makeup remover would result in soggy raccoon eyes! Reading other comments gives me the feeling of the emporer's new clothes- does her face look the same at the beginning as at the end? Because I kind of think it does. I do love my Avene thermal water and will now be using at the beginning as well as the end of my routine.

    • Cat

      If Isabelle is wearing any make up at the beginning, it's very minimal, but that doesn't matter! Just remove your mascara and concealer with a micellar lotion or something similar BEFORE you wash your face like this (for eyes, my favourite is Avene's make up removing eye gel). I use thermal water and milk cleanser after removing eye make up, and this routine works really well for me :)

  • sneezing panda

    how old is Isabelle?

  • Cecilia

    I just purchased thermal water and have been wondering when it comes into play in my daily skincare regimen. This video came at just a great time! Thanks.

  • Michael Fragoso

    This is too much to handle. I live for it!! <3

  • Uma

    I think I'm going to start using a thermal water now...

  • Faridah McCaul

    These videos with Isabelle are a beauty addict's dream come true.

    Every time I watch to try and learn her movements/techniques, I reach the end of the video and come to realise that I've hardly been concentrating on the technique but instead have been in a trance, mesmerised by her voice and demeanour.

    You'd think every time I press replay I'd reset my concentration, but nope...lulled again.

    It's ridiculous how many times I've watched these videos.

    Risk assessing abilities go down the drain too as I watch the video in the bathroom, while simultaneously performing the techniques - tap gushing, water splashing and cleansing milk frothing, all while my poor iPhone endures the tsunami effects of a beauty addict gone wild from reading Into the Gloss.

    Keep it up, ITG Team!

  • Li Wright

    How much freeking dirt does our face collect in one day? I have a friend who swears by witch hazel.

  • Erian Gudmundsdottir

    Just bought the Thermal Water. I use it the way Isabelle showed us. It´s feels so good on the skin. I can tell I´ll be using it a lot during the summer months. It will be in my bag..for sure!

  • Ava


  • Rachel Mosley

    I'm very much into skin care. I love this video. I'll be applying my moisturizer in a upward motion from here on out.

  • Shawna

    Loved this video! It was so convincing that I went out and bought a thermal spray the next day. A little over two weeks in, I have noticed a huge difference in my skin, and so has everyone else. How amazing to have access to tips from experts in the industry!

  • Stacie

    I too really enjoyed watching her do this routine.. It made me wanted to do a better routine on my self.. She is a really beautiful looking woman :-)

  • dl

    you are joking, right???

  • Mihna

    Love this

  • Emma

    Great tips! I've heard rumours that tap water shouldn't go near your face.... but what is the forums opinion on swimming?!? Would any amount of thermal spray make up for all that chlorinated water??

  • Kasia

    Any other thermal water than Uriage shall be pat dry as they do evaporate and suck out the moisture from the skin. All the good stuff like micro elements will get absorbed, so don't worry.

  • Mary Ortega

    Hey look good to clean your face.adding some glamour to you life. Dont be afraid to look nice......

  • Mary Ortega

    Well I think some womans dont care the wey they look...they dont like to adding a new. Look.jaja.

  • J

    Do you wash before or after you shower?


La Roche-Posay
La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water
Dior Gentle Cleansing Milk with Velvet Peony Extract
Mila Moursi
Mila Moursi Cleansing Toner