Cleansing your skin properly is one of the most important things that you’ll do for your face. Choosing a good product, however, can be a trial. Picking a cleanser usually ends up being the one that we like the smell and feel of, that seems to do the trick, but this is an (understandably) flawed method.
Things you should know about cleansers
- Skin conditions can be exacerbated by a shoddy cleanser
- Some medications for skin conditions (like acne) are better tolerated when a proper cleanser is used (making the medication more effective and more likely to be used)
- Anyone with dry or sensitive skin should choose a cleanser very carefully
- If you have problem skin, see a dermatologist for professional advice – it could change everything
Your cleanser options:
- Foaming cleanser
- Cream cleanser
- Antibacterial cleanser
About foaming cleansers
Certain chemicals produce foam and have the ‘best’ cleansing properties – detergents – because they remove fat from the skin’s surface. The issue is that these cleansers strip the skin of their natural protective oily barrier, leaving the skin wide open to issues.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is the most commonly used offender here, and is used deliberately in lab tests to see if it can strip down barrier repair products. Sulfate-free products are now emerging due to the issues caused by SLS in the past. Avoid in a cleanser. An alternative is sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES).
SLES (sodium lauryl ether sulfate) has foaming capacities, but is less likely to cause irritation. A foaming cleanser like this may be used prior to cosmetic injections to ensure no makeup or other debris is injected into the skin, and to reduce the time it takes for the anaesthetic to penetrate the skin.
About non-foaming cleansers
Detergent irritancy is a major problem with any foaming product you use on your body, face or in your mouth, so other products were developed, such as special low-irritant pH-balanced soaps. These cleansers put fats onto the skin – cold creams, cream, milk, and oil cleansers use this strategy. These products have a neutral pH and are best for dry skin types, because people with oily skin don’t feel ‘clean’ after these cleansers are used.
Some cleansers contain certain acids that work well for dry and acne-prone skin, where the low pH helps to make the skin inhospitable to acne-causing bacteria, while acting as a mild exfoliant. These cleansers also skip the drying action, because most are unable to penetrate sebum. These cleansers should only be used under instruction from a cosmetic dermatologist.
Bacteria can make acne treatment difficult, so antibacterial cleansers may be tested out, sometimes with a negative response to the ingredients. Don’t use unless under instruction from a cosmetic dermatologist.
Good choices of cleanser by skin condition
- Acne – depends on whether skin is dry or oily – see your dermatologist for advice
- Rosacea – friction of face washing may cause flushing, so skip morning cleanse if not too oily and use soothing, non-foaming cleanser with anti-inflammatory ingredients at night to remove makeup and dirt
- Eczema – non-foaming cleanser recommended for dry skin