As a beauty editor, I’m constantly learning about the things I’m doing wrong. I used to only wash my face once. That was wrong. I used to skip washing my face in the morning. A facialist told me recently that was wrong. I used to avoid oil cleaners. My skin alerted me that was wrong with a series of tiny zits. Most recently, I’ve been using my hands, Pat McGrath’s favorite makeup tool, to wash my face, but according to Arabella Preston, Kate Middleton’s makeup artist and a former beauty editor herself, that’s wrong too — or at least not advisable.
“It’s all about the flannel,” she explained — not the grunge staple, but what Brits call a terry or face washcloth.
“It’s not really an American thing,” I replied, trying to tactfully convey that I associate face towels with bacteria and gross little brothers. I’ve used muslin clothes, thanks to the Eve Lom cleanser, but not a washcloth.
“Oh, but it’s quite necessary,” she assured me.
According to Preston, a flannel is an essential part to making sure you wash your face cleanly. More gentle than any motorized cleanser brush, the right flannel will allow you to cleanly wipe makeup and dirt from your skin and gently exfoliate. Preston is the the woman who taught Middleton how to do her own wedding makeup, and the co-founder of Votary, a luxury “natural” skin-care line. Who am I to doubt her?
It’s now been about two weeks and I’m more pro-flannel than Portland. My skin looks clearer and better than ever (people have even commented). Normally, despite doing a double-cleanse, I’d still, inexplicably and occasionally, still find traces of beige makeup when I swiped a toner pad over my face. No more!
The secret, I think, is a combination of the flannel, a towel with firm but soft fibers, and Votary’s cult face cleanser, a thin, non-cloying oil blend that you apply dry to the face. Give yourself a gentle massage and rub with damp hands, and even the densest caking of makeup and mascara will easily dissolve. Note that at no point when using the cleansing oil do you actually splash water on your face — you must wet the flannel in hot water and then use it to wipe your face clean. Surrounding your face with a steaming hot towel adds a cozy, therapeutic element to the routine and leaves you with skin that’s naked but not stripped.
Made up of a combination of six oils including apricot and sunflower, the cleanser leaves my skin feeling nourished, and unlike other oil cleansers, doesn’t leave a cloudy film over my eyes — a byproduct that Preston says comes from the “fillers” used in other cleansers. (Hers contains no mineral oils or petrochemicals.) It’s become the only oil cleanser I use in my routine. And the flannel now has its own special spot in the bathroom, in a location where houseguests won’t mistake it for a hand towel and rub their grungy hands all over it.