As the first step in what might be a very elaborate routine, cleansing often feels boring. Basic. Obvious. But whether or not you're aware of it, you have your own face washing style—even a non-cleansing routine is a skincare decision in its own right. One only needs to read through a few Top Shelves to see how approaches to cleansing might differ. And who's to say what the right way to cleanse is, anyway? Instead, we organized nine different methods into an alignment that encompasses them all. How do you wash your face? Find yourself below.
Lawful Good: Danuta Mieloch
“I don’t think I’ve ever gone to bed without taking off my makeup—consistent cleansing is my religion. My mom used to say, ‘If you don’t cleanse your skin one night you’ll age by seven days.’”
There’s no drink strong enough, no work day long enough, and no comforter comforting enough to get you to skip cleansing. You’d wash your face if your apartment building had a late night fire drill. You’d probably still wash it if there was a fire. Seriously, cleansing is important to you—the most important step in your entire skincare routine, actually. And that’s why you keep a buffet just of cleansers, never skip a morning or night, take a full minute to massage it in, and all in all handle the task with the gravity and urgency of a professional bomb diffuser. On the other hand, the more effort you put into cleansing, the more you can reap its rewards. It’s all clear skies and skin for you, buttercup.
Neutral Good: Ashley Graham
“I wash my face every morning with the same cleanser as nighttime.”
You cleanse consistently, but you don’t put that much thought into it. Yes, it’s important. Yes, you do it every morning and night without skipping a day. But do you particularly care which cleanser you use, or how long you take to massage it into your skin? Probably not. All that matters is that you get the job done—no need to talk anyone’s ear off about it.
Chaotic Good: Logan Browning
“I need to do multiple steps of cleansing—a triple cleanse that doesn’t strip my skin.”
Cleanser? Good! Two cleansers? Great. Three cleansers? Well, uh, sure! Hey, you do you. Maybe the first step is a micellar water, then a balm, then a foamer—or would the configuration look like an oil, then a milky gel, then Collosol? Whatever it is for you, you’ve clearly convinced yourself that you need three passes of a cleanser to get squeaky clean, grime-free skin and no one’s about to convince you otherwise. At least you’re being mindful of not stripping your skin! Your heart’s definitely in the right place.
Lawful Neutral: Dr. Shereene Idriss
“I never sleep with my makeup on. My favorite cleansers are from CeraVe and Cetaphil.”
You get all your skincare advice from your dermatologist, and, predictably, your dermatologist suggested you go to the drugstore and either purchase CeraVe or Cetaphil. They’re the classic derm recommendations because they’re gentle, simple, and inexpensive (so you have no reason not to cleanse). Maybe you started on this routine after a round of Accutane. Or maybe you like vanilla milkshakes, too.
True Neutral: Andy Baraghani
“I don’t wash my face in the morning. Instead, I’ll wipe it with micellar water, and splash on a little bit of water.”
Nothing fancy, but not nothing. The fluid internationally beloved for literally being a neutral alternative to hard water is the cleansing decision that says, “Cleansing is cool, but splashing my face with water when I’d rather be sleeping isn’t.” Everyone loves micellar water. If this were bingo and not a moral alignment chart, micellar water would be your free square. It’s also charmingly ambiguous—is it a makeup remover? A cleanser? A toner? And, wait, is this bingo?
Chaotic Neutral: Lily Aldridge
“I start by taking my makeup off because I’m usually too lazy to do it at night. I’ll either use Burt’s Bees wipes or coconut wipes from RMS, which are better if there’s a lot of makeup.”
You mean well, you really do. But the fact of the matter is, sometimes you’re tired, or lazy, or you get into bed meaning to just watch one episode of Succession and end up PTFO by the first commercial break, smoky eye still in tact. The fastest way to remedy the situation when you wake up in last night’s lewk is a makeup wipe. See? All clean, just like new. No traces of even sleeping in your makeup at all… except the pillowcase.
Lawful Evil: Jessica Joffe
“I’ve always seen this very conservative German dermatologist, and she says not to wash your face with anything but water.”
Ever hear the phrase “do less”? It’s usually said by insouciant charmers and natural achievers who appear to float through the world effortlessly because, well, they do. If you wash your face with only water, you probably have amazing skin to begin with. Why have an elaborate skincare routine when your skin looks just fine without one? You’ve probably even convinced yourself that messing with your skin’s natural oils actually makes it worse. What are you doing on this website? Did a friend send you this link?
Neutral Evil: Nico Tortorella
“My skincare routine is the type of thing where sometimes I’ll use face wash, or sometimes I’ll use hand soap.”
The Jekyll and Hyde of skincare routines. The Russian Roulette of skincare routines. A skincare routine, if it was devised by the Joker as a torture device for skincare enthusiasts. Sure, 50-percent of the time you wash your face with face wash. As one does. But the other half of the time you’ll use whatever’s on hand—hand soap, shampoo, body wash, bar soap, whatever you use to wash your dog. Usually it turns out fine? You’d rather cleanse than not cleanse, and that’s why you net out to a neutral skin impact.
Chaotic Evil: Charlotte Tilbury
“I sleep in my makeup. At night, I take everything off my face and moisturize—because you have to let your skin breathe a bit—but then I put everything right back on again.”
AhHhHhHhHhHhHhHh!!!! The Top Shelf cleansing routine burned into the minds of everyone who’s read it. Is this your cleansing style? Hey there, Charlotte. It truly couldn’t be anyone else but you.
Photos via ITG.