Washing your face is such a basic ritual, most of us pretty much take it for granted. All you need is a little soap, a little water, and a couple of seconds, right? Wrong! Even if you abide by a meticulous skincare regimen post-wash, the way you splash-lather-rinse-dry can determine what’s going to happen to your skin from the get-go. Do it right, and you’ll probably enjoy baby-bottom smoothness. Do it wrong, and you’re opening the door for surprise breakouts, dryness, inflammation, and possible skin damage.

So, are you washing your face properly? Here’s how to check.

WHAT WATER TEMPERATURE ARE YOU USING?

We’ve all been told a variation of this skincare myth: hot water “opens” your pores, and cold water “closes” them. In truth, pores don’t actually open and close, and water that is either too hot or too cold can have a harsh, drying effect on skin.

For a truly effective wash, use lukewarm water. It’s mild and comfortable, and while it doesn’t open your pores (again, myth!), it will help loosen any dirt or residue.

HOW ARE YOU WASHING YOUR FACE?

Once you’ve got a coin-sized amount of cleanser in your palm, gently massage it into your skin—don’t scrub. Use your fingertips to lather up in a circular motion, starting from the inside of your face and moving outwards and upwards.

Remember, be gentle. Working the product into your skin too aggressively may cause redness and irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin.

HOW LONG AND HOW OFTEN DO YOU CLEANSE?

Resist the temptation to do a quick, sloppy wash, even when you’re beat. To do its job, a cleanser must be massaged into your skin for at least 30 seconds to a minute.

In the same vein, do resist the urge to over-cleanse. You only need to wash your face twice a day—once in the morning, once in the evening. Overwashing will strip the skin of its natural moisture and break down its protective barrier, leaving you more susceptible to bacteria! Ironic, isn’t it?

ARE YOU RINSING THOROUGHLY?

Cleansing products are still products, which means any residue left over from a hurried rinse will build up over time. Any buildup is bad for your skin. So take your time washing the product out, with the same care you took to work it in. Don’t neglect your nose, jawline, and hairline (more often than not, these areas get the least amount of TLC).

HOW DO YOU DRY YOUR FACE?

Never rub—towels are rough stuff! Always pat, pat, pat, until your face is free from water.