Cleansing usually forms the first step of our skincare routine both morning and evening, so it’s important to set the foundation for everything else to follow. Using a poorly formulated cleanser can do more harm than good, causing damage to your acid mantle, the very thin film of sebum (oil), amino acids and sweat which forms an antibacterial barrier. The acid mantle is critical because it protects the skin by preventing cellular water loss (keeping skin soft and plump) and defending against aggressors such as bacteria, pollution and UV rays. Being the living and breathing organ that it is, the skin is constantly in flux. I suggest adjusting your cleansing approach to what your skin desires.
Why is finding the right cleanser so important?
Cleansing performs two important duties to help maintain the skin’s natural balance, aid exfoliation and reduce congestion. Firstly, it removes any debris from the skin’s surface. Think makeup, sunscreen and those aforementioned aggressors. Secondly, it should deep-clean the pores, removing excess sebum and dead skin cell build-up. Selecting the right cleanser is dependent on your skin type and skin concerns. There’s a plethora of textures and formulations to choose from: gels, creams, milks, oils, balms, exfoliating, foaming and micellar water cleansers. However, I tend to steer clear of high-lather foaming cleansers as they can be quite stripping and drying to the skin.
In our evening routine, a double cleanse is where we can use two different cleansers to tackle different tasks. Start with oil or balm as the first cleanse to break down sunscreen, makeup and grime. Follow with a second cleanse using a more active formula with AHAs or enzymes to free the pores of impurities and prep the skin for the rest of your routine. Be mindful of how your complexion is feeling day to day, and adjust your cleansing formulation accordingly.
Cleansing dry skin
A cream, milk or oil cleanser can be wonderfully nourishing when your skin seems thirsty. Avoid harsh ingredients that strip the skin of its natural oils like sulfates (sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate), alcohols (benzyl alcohol, SD alcohol, denatured alcohol/alcohol denat, and isopropyl alcohol) and fragrance (perfume, essential oils).
Cleansing combination skin
Find a good balance with a mix of oil and gel cleansers to both hydrate and balance the skin. When your skin is breaking out or congested reach for an AHA or BHA infused gel-based cleanser which can gently unclog pores and remove bacteria.
Cleansing oily skin
Milk, cream, gel and oil-based cleansers are great for oily skin. It may sound like it’s against logic, but oil-based cleansers used as your first cleanse can gently remove impurities from oily skin while protecting the skin’s natural sebum layer. Then, reach for a cleanser containing enzymes, AHAs or BHAs to penetrate into pores and gently clear out excess oil as your main cleanse. Depending on your skin condition a physical exfoliation cleanser can be used once a week to help with congestion, however its one or the other when it comes to physical and chemical exfoliators. I would steer clear of foaming cleansers as these can disrupt the skin’s pH levels. Likewise, I’d avoid anything marketed as ‘anti-acne’ as these cleansers can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause further inflammation.
When your skin is non-problematic and you want to keep it that way
Seeing as you’re not using your cleanser to target an issue like acne or oiliness, this is a great opportunity to up your cleanser game by using one which promises other nice-to-have perks like skin-brightening or smoothing.
When your skin needs a quick refresh
A few swipes of micellar water with a cotton round is a great option when you’re time poor or your skin just needs a simple pick-me-up.