It would seem like one of the most simple, straightforward routines in the book. But washing your face takes time and attention — and doing it the right way could make the difference between beaming skin and an acne breakout.

“Many believe that you need to only wash your face to remove makeup or when it looks dirty. In actuality, it’s recommended you wash your face twice daily,” says Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist from Scottsdale, Arizona.

However, the amount of times you wash your face may be less important than how the job is done.

No matter your skin type, texture, or current condition, Dr. Haley stresses that a nighttime cleansing routine is especially important.

“Removing makeup, dirt, and grime from the day will help prepare the skin for your skincare regimen, as well as support the skin in its overnight regeneration and renewal processes,” she says.

Do: Properly remove all your makeup first

Use a gentle makeup remover to get the job done before you start actually cleansing — especially before bed.

“Pores are used to purge out toxins overnight and if they’re clogged, everything will be backed up and look congested,” says Dr. Haley. FYI, this applies to all skin types, even if you’ve got quite the resilient outer layer.

Makeup removal guaranteed

  • For clogged pores, try the double cleansing method. This two-step routine uses natural oil (i.e. castor, olive, sunflower) to remove the dirt of the day and then requires a mild face wash to help wash away the oil.
  • Dip a cotton swab into micellar water, makeup remover, or natural oils to remove makeup around the eyes. A cotton swab helps you gently tackle tightly lined areas without tugging on your skin.

Don’t: Bust out the generic bar soap

Unless they’re specially formulated for the face, bar soaps can alter the pH balance of the skin (which allows for more bacteria and yeast growth).

No surprise: Facial cleansers, especially cleansing balms, are made for delicate skin.

“There’s a tendency for people to look for ‘foaming’ ones, because they think if it doesn’t foam it’s not cleansing. But foaming can actually strip your skin of more natural oils,” says Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

One 2012 study confirms this, concluding that surfactants (what allows cleansers to break down oil so water can wash out the dirt) prevent your skin molecules from staying in order — natural and healthy.

Do: Use lukewarm water

Let’s dispel a myth: Pores aren’t doors. Hot water doesn’t open them, and cold water doesn’t shut them.

The truth is water temperature extremes can cause irritation so it’s best to stick to a middle ground. You don’t want to see flushed skin in your reflection when you look up.

Don’t: Go straight for the washcloth

Scrubbing can strip the skin of its natural protective barrier. The best way to clean skin is using fingertips, at least a minute or two.

To exfoliate, look for ingredients in your cleansers that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid or fruit enzymes,” says Dr. Haley.

“Letting these products work their way into the skin for 60 to 90 seconds will do the job, or clearing pores and removing dead skin cells to provide a healthy glow.”

Do: Give micellar water a shot

This is water containing micelle molecules that attach to makeup and debris and break it down.

“Some people, especially those that don’t wear makeup, can get away with micellar water as their cleanser,” says Dr. Haley. “If you’re camping or somewhere without water, micellar water can clean your face and does not even need to be rinsed off.”

Don’t: Go tool crazy

“Studies show the amount of bacteria that builds up on loofah sponges is proof that these may not be a great idea, unless you are meticulous about constantly cleaning them in a bleach solution,” says Ilyas, who recommends simply using your hands as tools.

“After all, once you have soap and water on them they’re clean.”

Do: Give a sonic cleaning brush a whirl

However, oily skin might benefit from sonic cleansing, a technology that uses gentle pulsations to clean pores.

The Clarisonic is a popular sonic cleansing tool, with several brush head types for different goals, from radiance to acne reduction. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to limit how often you use this tool, as it can irritate your skin.

Don’t: Stop at your chin

Your jawline and neck are prone to dirt and debris buildup. And they need love, too.

When giving your face a cleansing massage, gentle rub your fingers in an upward motion to get the circulation going and encourage your skin to stay tight and naturally lifted.

This massage component can help with relaxation and give your face a needed muscle break from a stressful day.