The Most Thorough At-Home Cleansing Technique


For me, face washing is an unavoidable inconvenience. Sure, I like the feeling of clean skin, and I definitely like the fact that a dirt-and-makeup-free face means fewer breakouts and a healthier overall complexion. But like flossing my teeth or doing my laundry, it’s not exactly something that I look forward to. It’s more of a means to an end.

My typical cleansing routine involves a splash or two of water, a quick rub with some kind of gentle cleanser, and a few more splashes of water to rinse. On a particularly virtuous day, I might add a minute with the Clarisonic—but to put that into perspective, I can't remember the last time I charged it.

However, I have recently learned this is not enough. (It's never enough!) According to the cleansing powers that be, I should be washing my face for 10+ minutes in a very specific method. This method is called 4-2-4. Walk with me.

I first heard about this technique at CAP Beauty. The store’s co-founder Kerrilynn Pamer told me that this process, touted by natural-beauty brand In Fiore, had become her new “thing.” I laughed for a good minute before realizing it wasn't a joke.

The story behind it goes as such: Julie Elliott, founder of In Fiore, had been spending a lot of time working and traveling in Asia and found herself surrounded by flawless skin on women of all ages. She started asking them for their beauty secrets and found that, without fail, every woman had a specific (and often quite complex) cleansing routine. “Whether it was rinsing with water of various temperatures or using only a very specific washcloth, the women looked at face washing as an important ritual,” she said. She started experimenting with her own products and formulating new ones, and a few years later, her 4-2-4 method was born.

Here’s how it works:

For the first four minutes : Oil cleanse. You do this with the Lustra Illuminating Cleansing Essence. As you massage the oil into the skin, it will help remove impurities. Meanwhile, the facial massage tones the muscles and increases circulation. A few times a week, you can add in an extra scrub for exfoliation purposes.

For the next two minutes : Add a cream cleanser. In Fiore's is called the Treate Gentle Cleansing Emulsion. You don’t rinse or wipe the oil off—you just add this right on top and massage it in for two minutes. After six minutes of cleansing, you’re finally ready to rinse.

For the last four minutes : Rinse off with warm water first. Do this for two minutes to help wash away any dirt and makeup residue. Then, finish off with two minutes of cold water to stimulate circulation and revitalize and tighten skin.

After you’ve rinsed (and, if you’re like me, soaked your entire bathroom in the process), finish with a moisturizer or serum (pictured above is In Fiore's Fleur Vibrante Healing Floral Essence). As a side note, Julie suggests you use a toner or a face mist like In Fiore's Vitale Toning Floral Essence after your serums and moisturizers, instead of before, to lock in moisture.

The first time I tried this method, I set a timer on my phone and diligently rubbed my face, watching the seconds go by very slowly. It felt painfully long. The second time, I was chatting on speakerphone to my mom and ended up massaging for almost 12 minutes without thinking about it. But after just a few nights of taking the correct amount of time for each step, my skin not only feels cleaner (no more makeup residue rubbing off on the towels post-wash), but I also feel more relaxed and ready to rest.

That said, I’ll be the first to admit that I probably won’t change my ways entirely. My eco-conscious attitude can’t quite justify splashing water around for so long while some parts of the world are experiencing extreme drought. Plus, after a few glasses of wine, 10 minutes is about nine-and-a-half too many for me to spend standing over the sink. And, as Julie tells me, the 4-2-4 method is more of a guideline anyway. So although my routine looks more like a 2-1-2 most nights, I think it’s safe to say that this is a major improvement.

—Victoria Lewis

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Get more face washing tips straight from an aesthetician. Watch the video here. Read more from Water Week here.