How often to cleanse continues to be a controversial topic, although most derms agree that over cleansing can dry out your skin, along with wiping out beneficial good bacteria. When it comes to choosing the best cleansing regime for your face, you are the best judge. Here are a few tips to help you find the right balance and products to suit your skin.
Cleansing is an essential step in your beauty routine
Cleansing helps increase the efficacy of other products like your serum and anti-aging formulas; remove the build up of dead cells, excess sebum, cosmetics and dirt that accumulates on the surface layer of your skin throughout the day and night; and unclog your pores to give your skin the ability to breathe and rejuvenate.
How your skin works
The outer layer of skin is made up of a very thin, natural protective film that contains sebum, amino acids, fatty acids, lactic acid, water, and your skin’s own natural moisture. This thin layer, known as the acid mantle, is naturally acidic.
It goes without saying that the acid mantle has an extremely important function in promoting your skin’s health. It helps tighten your skin cells to create a strong protective barrier from environmental pollutants and airborne bacteria; and keep your skin hydrated by preventing water loss.
Your skin’s acid mantle has a pH level between 4.5 and 5.5. The pH level of any solution is a way to measure its acidity or alkalinity. The scale goes from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, and 14 being the most alkaline. For example, water has a pH of 7 (neutral) while soapy water has a pH of 12 (alkaline). Solutions at either extreme can be harmful to human skin.
When comparing the pH level of your skin to that of soapy water you’ll notice a large difference. This is why skin cleansers with high volumes of surfactants may leave your skin feeling super clean but what they’re really doing is changing your skin’s naturally acidic pH to be more alkaline, which can lead to irritation, dryness, excessive oil production and even premature aging. Have you noticed that the more you wash your hands, the dryer they get?
Choosing your cleanser
To get the most out of your cleansing regime, look for a cleanser that is pH balanced for your skin. Cleansers that are properly formulated to be slightly acidic, like your skin’s acid mantle, work with your skin to cleanse without stripping, upsetting, and drying.
In order for cleansers to provide skin-care benefits, they first must minimize surfactant damage to skin proteins and lipids. Secondly, they must deposit and deliver beneficial agents such as occlusives, skin lipids, and humectants under wash conditions to improve skin hydration, as well as mechanical and visual properties.*
Skin products formulated with natural oils work best regardless of your skin type, because they are similar in structure to the skin’s lipid layer, and they are much gentler than detergents. When these natural oils are combined in a solution that is slightly acidic, they result in a gentle formula that your skin will naturally respond to.
Stay away from ingredients like artificial fragrances, parabens and harsh soaps. The cleanser formula itself - whether it’s a cream, lotion, or foam is more a matter of personal preference. If you have slightly drier skin you may prefer a cleanser with added moisturizers, like glycerin or coconut oil, or if your skin is oily, try a foaming solution.
If you wear a lot of makeup during the day, consider double cleansing at night. This method involves using a cleansing oil, balm or micellar water to break down the build up of cosmetics and sebum that accumulates on the surface of your skin, and then following with a deeper water-based cleanse. A second round of cleansing will clean much deeper into the pores to remove any impurities.
If you only have one product, such as a balm for instance, you can still go for a double cleanse: use a larger amount of your product in the second phase, and spend a few more minutes massaging it into your skin, to make the cleansing action really effective.
If you experience dryness or irritation after cleansing, try reducing the frequency or products you’ve been using and monitor any changes in your skin. Once you find the right balance, stick to it. Consistency in your cleansing routine is key. Follow the same approach every day if you want to allow your skin to reap all the benefits of the treatment.