Up there with brushing your pearly whites, cleansing is the twice- daily habit that should never be neglected. While the 'cleanse, tone and moisturise' mantra covers the basics, everyone needs an individual routine they can stick to religiously so their skin reaps the benefits.
OK, you might fall off the wagon every so often and employ a quick face-wipe or leave your make-up imprinted on your pillow but, for enviable skin, it's worth committing to good cleansing habits.
"Your regime plays a serious key function in skin maintenance," says Noella Gabriel, director of product development at Elemis.
"It's the key to skin radiance and aids the absorption of your neck, eye and face creams."
So don't view cleansing as a chore like the washing-up or dusting. View this cleanse and polish as the building blocks for a flawless face.
Never make the mistake of plucking a cleansing bottle from the shelves just because you like the price or colour. Your skin should always be top priority.
"It's very important that at the cleansing stage you are using a treatment cleanser that has the right texture for your skin type," says Gabriel.
While oil cleansers work best on the driest of skins, soaps specifically formulated for the face are suitable for oily types.
Stick to a gel cleanser if you have oily or combination skin that's prone to breakouts or a lightweight cream cleanser is best suited to normal to dry skin types.
Look for ingredients like wheat germ oil, which cleanses without stripping your skin, and glycerine, which attracts moisture to the skin's surface to give you a hydrated glow.
rise and shine
You might think that after a good night's sleep there's no need for another thorough cleanse in the morning. Think again.
The secret to good skin maintenance and squeaky clean skin is a twice-daily cleanse. Applying make-up on top of grimy skin in a no- go.
"In general, I advise cleansing morning and night," says Dr Sue Mayou, consultant dermatologist and Neutrogena advisor.
The action of cleansing mildly exfoliates and encourages cell turnover to promote a fresh-faced look to start your day.
"Cleansing is important to remove make-up, oil, dirt and other impurities from your skin," Mayou explains. "The mechanical action of rubbing the skin with hands, a face cloth or cotton wool helps remove dead surface skin cells and unclog pores, leaving it smoother and more radiant."
Incorporate a facial massage into your morning routine as you cleanse to relax the facial muscles and give your skin a smooth and lifted look for the day ahead.
Whether you're addicted to your make-up brushes or not, the most thorough cleanse regime should always be before bed.
"Cleansing properly every night is the single most important thing you can do for your skin," says Samantha Burlton, founder of So Organic (www.so organic.com).
"Removing grime and make-up before going to bed allows skin to breathe and enables your skin's natural night-time renewal process to work as it should."
Skin that's free from pollutants and make-up can work on restoring its natural balance during your shut-eye time.
Burlton recommends using a muslin flannel to achieve a deep clean feeling.
"Muslins are a great way to save money as you can wash and reuse them, unlike cotton wool, and the gentle exfoliating action might mean you can drop a product from your routine too," she says.
A thorough cleanse should last for at least a minute, and some experts now recommend 'double cleansing' for a deeper wash.
Bobbi Brown offers this step-by-step guide to the perfect cleanse:
* Secure hair off the face with a headband or elastic.
* When wearing make-up, it's often necessary to cleanse using a multi-step process. Start with a make-up remover or tissue-off cream to dissolve much of the make-up, avoiding the eye area.
* Use a make-up remover especially formulated for the eyes. Take a cotton pad dampened with the product, and rest or press it gently around the closed eye. Wipe gently. Don't tug or pull on the eye or surrounding skin.
* Apply the cleanser to the entire face. With a cleanser appropriate to your skin type, massage the product into your face with an upward circular motion. Include the neck and chin.
* Rinse the entire face, including the eye area with warm -- not hot -- water.
* Pat the face dry with the softest natural-fibre towels you can find.