Choosing Your Perfect Cleanser

Proper cleansing is the foundation of one’s skincare routine, but its importance is often overlooked by the newest luxury serums and eye creams. “Cleansing” wipes have become increasingly popular because of their simplicity, creating problems that even the most expensive serum could not counteract. Knowing how to double cleanse with the correct products not only keeps your skin balanced but also leads to other products working more effectively. The selection might seem overwhelming, but when you know what to look out for, it becomes much easier.
The first rule is to know and listen to your skin. There is not one single cleanser that is perfect for each and every individual. For example, those who are dehydrated (lack of water) or dry (lack of oil) should seek milk or cream based cleansers. If dealing with acne, hormonal breakouts or excess oil, choose a non-foaming gel or clay-based product.

Oils and balms are a good choice for almost every skin type—even if you consider yourself to have oily skin. Being oily often means your skin is unbalanced, means it is producing excess oil to compensate.
There is a difference between a skin type (normal, oily, dry, combination) and a skin condition (dehydration, sensitivity, breakouts). This is where knowing and listening to your skin comes into play. If you have normal or combination skin, such as being dry on your cheeks and oily in your t-zone, you have more freedom when it comes to choosing cleansers; however, you should go about picking a cleanser just as you choose clothing in your closet. Different weather conditions, medical conditions, and diet all will impact changes in your skin. The goal is always to balance. If you wake up drier than usual, reach for an oil, balm, or milk. If waking up with hormonal spots, reach for a cleanser containing ingredients such as salicylic acid. If you are on the oily side, reach for a non-foaming gel or clay.
Double cleansing

Double cleansing basically equates to one product removing makeup/ SPF and one product cleansing your skin. Double cleansing is only relevant in the evenings; however, you must always wash your face in the mornings too. Even though you (hopefully) wake up with no makeup on in the morning, at night is when our skin cells regenerate. Your skin is not clean upon waking up. In the mornings, cleansing will remove dead skin cells, re-balance your epidermis and prepare you for the day ahead. In the evenings, you are removing debris and pollution from the day, alongside makeup products that are designed to stick to your skin. Not removing makeup will clog pores, leading to breakouts and premature ageing.

First cleanse P.M. (makeup removers) – These cleansers are used to remove make-up and SPF, often less expensive than second cleansers, and more basic in ingredients. Think oils, miscellar waters and milks.
Second cleanse P.M. / A.M. cleanse (skin cleansers) – These are the cleansers you want cleansing your skin, not cleansing your makeup. These cleansers should be your heavy-hitters, containing many active ingredients. They are often pricier than first cleanses. Think balms, gels, clays, powders, and oils.

The bottom line is that one product is removing makeup, and one product is cleansing your skin.

Common ingredients to avoid

As with all skincare products, you have to pay attention to ingredients, and this doesn’t require you to be a dermatologist. In cleansers, ingredients to stay away from include: sulfates, mineral oil, shea butter (for acneaic skin types), fragrance, and alcohols.

  • Sulfates- commonly seen as sodium laureth sulfate/sodium lauryl sulfate. These are some of the most sensitizing ingredients you can put on your skin, simply because they are detergents, to be saved for dish soap and the washing machine. Think bubbles. Sulfates are what make cleansers foam, leading to dry, tight skin. Dry, tight skin is not equivalent to clean skin. Why? Our skins rest at a balanced pH (close to a neutral 7), which ranges on a logarithmic scale from 1 (very acidic) to 14 (very basic).

When washing your skin with soap (very basic), your skin’s natural pH becomes altered. A more basic epidermis will not only allow more bacteria to be produced but also produce more oil. Your skin wants to be in balance, thus, if it is lacking its natural oils, it will produce more. Unfortunately, sulfates are commonly found in many acne cleansers, which only exacerbate the issue at hand. Never, ever, fight acne or oil with foam or scrubs. This is damaging skin that is already in a sensitive state. Like mentioned above, your skin will produce excess oil in attempt to re-balance itself, continuing the cyclic pattern of breakouts. The only thing sulfates promise is a damaged epidermis and an unbalanced acid mantle. (Note: there are very few cleansers that foam without sulfates, due to the pump mechanism on the bottle. This is rare, but a few do exist).

  • Mineral oil- found in everything from cleansers to moisturizers, mineral oil is an ingredient to avoid at all times. Clogs pores, promotes breakouts.
  • Shea butter- for those with sensitive/acneic skin, stay away from shea butter that is high on the ingredient list. It could promote breakouts.
  • Fragrance - if you see “parfum” or "fragrance" high on the ingredient list, this could easily cause irritation if you have sensitive/acneic skin.
  • Alcohols - SD alcohol 40 (denatured alcohol) will strip your skin, like sulfates, leading to dryness and dismantling a healthy, balanced epidermis.

Specific ingredients to look for

  • If you are dry or dehydrated: oils (such as jojoba, camellia, rose hip, almond, and coconut), hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate, and glycerin (a humectant, which will draw and retain moisture in the skin.)
  • If you are oily: clays (such as bentonite and kaolin), AHAs (lactic acid, glycolic acid), and BHAs (salicylic acid)
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