I'm diligent about washing my face nightly, but recently, I've been breaking out more than usual. I'm not sure what's caused it (because, really, do any of us know what causes breakouts?), but I figured I would shake up my routine, try something a little bit different, and see if that could help. I searched the Internet for a new intense Korean skincare regimen because I'm definitely a disciple of the Korean beauty movement, and came across the 4-2-4 cleansing method. Apparently, Suzy of Miss A, one of Korea's premiere all-female K-pop groups, swears by this routine: 4 minutes of massaging cleansing oil, 2 minutes of massaging foam cleanser, and 4 minutes of rinsing with lukewarm water without touching the face too much and letting air dry.
I was a little skeptical because of the inherent time commitment involved. Ten minutes is a good chunk of time to spend washing your face. But I tried double cleansing for a week, which is pretty similar, so this seemed like a straightforward enough routine to experiment with. Would the time difference make any difference, or would the results of the 4-2-4 cleansing method be no different from double cleansing itself? Suzy, the K-pop star, has blemish-free skin, and I already had the supplies, so I figured I didn't have much to lose.
Here's what happened to my face after trying the 4-2-4 cleansing method for a week:
I had some light acne on my forehead, between the eyebrows, which is pretty normal for me, and I was eager to try out the 4-2-4 method to see if I could make any improvements. With my iPhone as a timer, I used my go-to cleansing oil and foaming cleanser: Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil and Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser. I've never had trouble with these before, so figured they'd be good controls.
I usually use two pumps of cleansing oil at night, so I used that amount for this first night. But four minutes is a long time, and after one minute of rubbing cleansing oil on my face, it felt like all the oil had been worked in. After two minutes, my fingers were sore. I was working muscles in my hands I didn't know I had. Plus, it felt like all the oil that could be rubbed onto my face had been.
The timer on my iPhone finally went off at four minutes, and I grabbed the face wash, eager to finish this process. Two pumps of the foaming cleanser went into my palm and then onto my face. This, again, is the amount I usually use. But after thirty seconds, all of the foam was worked into my skin and I was left with this sticky layer on top of the cleansing oil. I couldn't wait to rinse it off, but I still had ninety seconds of massaging and rubbing left. The timer finally went off, and I started ferociously splashing warm water on my face. I got water everywhere, but I at least got all the stickiness off. Air-drying my face was less annoying than I thought it would be, since I just sat in bed and read a book until my face was dry.
The zits on my forehead got worse overnight, especially the one right by my right eyebrow. I was already becoming skeptical of this method, to say the least. That night, I went to a gala so I slathered on a ton of makeup in preparation. The whole 4-2-4 method — and double cleansing, more generally — makes much more sense if you're wearing a lot of makeup. You need the oil to really get all of the makeup off, and this time, it took two minutes of massaging to see a result. I also doubled the amount of foaming cleanser I used, and that made a noticeable difference, although I was still left with a tacky layer rather than a lather. Again, the rinsing process felt like it was going on for too long (but so did everything else). I again read in bed until my face air-dried and then went to sleep. My face, at least, did feel cleaner.
I woke up with red skin again, and ended up picking at my zits on the third day, which I know is bad for my skin but was so irresistible because it didn't look like my skin was getting any clearer. I didn't go to a gala so I wasn't wearing any makeup that day, but still used twice as much product as I did on the first day in the hopes of again making both the cleansing oil and the foaming wash last the full six minutes. They did. But, again, my fingers were sore, my face felt sticky, my iPhone got splashed with water. I was becoming quickly disillusioned with the whole process.
I woke up with no improvement on my forehead and dry skin on my cheeks, to boot, so as you might be able to tell from my DGAF hairdo, I was so over the 4-2-4 cleansing method by this point. But I went through with it anyway because I'm a trooper and true to my word. I was also in the middle of listening to a great podcast while washing my face, which helped make the whole thing feel less terrible.
You know what's worse than waking up with no improvement on your forehead and dry skin on your cheeks? Playing skeeball at a bar in Manhattan, drinking a few margaritas while you crush your competition, and then coming home to your apartment late at night with every intention of just putting on your PJs and passing out in your bed, only to remember that you have to go to the bathroom and spend 10 minutes rubbing cleansing oil and foaming cleanser onto your face and splashing yourself with water like you're an orca at Seaworld doing tricks for fish. At least I didn't have to dry my face with a towel once the whole 4-2-4 cleansing ordeal was over, which made me slightly less salty about the delayed bedtime.
You know what else sucks? Trying out a new face washing method to clear up your acne only to wake up on the sixth day with three news zits on your cheeks. I never break out on my cheeks. My T-zone? All of the time. My chin? With some frequency. But my cheeks? No. The 4-2-4 cleansing method clearly wasn't working for me, but I had to power through. Only one day left.
I rarely wear foundation, but today, I felt like I had to slather it on because I had more zits on my face than I've had in a long time. I did not feel the least bit confident, and even though I knew I had to spend another 10 minutes washing my face at the end of the day. I was relieved it was the last day, and I could return to my regularly scheduled face washing routine and hopefully make my skin better again.
The 4-2-4 cleansing method totally did not work for me. If anything, my skin on the last day was in worse shape that it was on the first. I also blew through so much more cleansing oil and face wash than I would normally; in order to have enough product to thoroughly massage into my skin, I needed to use twice as much as recommended on the label. I also wasted what seemed like gallons of water while rinsing my face for four minutes. Ten minutes is a long time to spend washing your face, especially for someone who prizes laziness over most other factors when it comes to choosing beauty routines.
Having said all of that, and complaining about this 4-2-4 cleansing method for the last several paragraphs, I think there's something to be said about taking time to wash your face, making sure all the product is worked in, and the suds are rinsed off. In my laziness, I know I'm prone to accidentally leaving some residual face wash on my face, and that's not good either. This experiment made me much more conscious about how long I should be spending to truly and properly wash my face, and I'll probably spend a bit more time making sure I get everything off. But if there's anything I can say for certain, it's that 10 minutes is entirely too long (for me, at least).
Images: Maxine Builder