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July 18, 2023
Cleansing is the first and most important step to beautiful skin, but also the one step where many get it wrong, as cleansing the wrong way can be damaging to the skin, and the root cause of many of skin woes. Unfortunately, many people have a lot of misconceptions about cleansing, which eventually lead to irritated and sensitive skin, redness, and even endless cycles of acne, as well as rosacea and eczema flare ups.
Read on to find out how to cleanse properly and effectively for beautiful, ageless, healthy skin.
This is especially common for oily or acne-prone skin, as well as most people during summer, since the natural response is to wash away that oily feeling on the face. Yet, by stripping the skin of its natural oil with harsh and drying ingredients, such as a foaming cleanser with SLS and SLES (which are also skin-damaging alkaline), the skin will struggle to balance its water/oil protective structure, and the skin's lipid barrier will also be damaged.
As a result, the skin will produce excess oil that will clog pores causing congestion and breakouts, in an attempt to maintain the barrier. In addition, the skin's water retention and defence ability in stopping harmful bacteria and pollutants from entering the body through the skin weakens, which leads to dryness, acne, irritations, redness, inflammations like eczema and rosacea, and pre-mature aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
In fact, when you feel that your face is super clean, tight or dry after cleansing you have very likely already damaged the lipid barrier.
| The Right Way
Always choose a gentle, non-foaming, non-stripping cleanser, and avoid anything that contains SLS or SLES. This applies to all skin types, but is particularly important if you have dehydrated, dry, sensitive, rosacea, eczema or psoriasis skin.
Purifying Cleansing Beauty Cream <- Click to shop
Our skin's barrier is slightly acidic with a pH between 4.5 and 6.2, depending on factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, climate, and body part, whilst collected research shows the the skin is healthiest at around pH 4.7. This is because with more acidity, the skin can combat harmful microbes and damaging free radicals that can accelerate the aging process. It also helps with barrier function, moisture retention, and microbiome health, i.e. more good bacteria and less bad bacteria on the epidermis. Natural handmade soap generally have a pH range of 8.0 to 10.0, and generic soap can be even more alkaline, as anything under pH 8 means no cleansing power in soap, which means overtime, they can easily disrupt skin health, and cause dryness, sensitivity, and irritations.
Now, some people may argue that natural handmade soap is good for sensitive and eczema skin. The only reason natural handmade soap could potentially be good for eczema is that it is primarily made up of oils (and no, contrary to popular belief, preservative allergy isn’t all that common so it shouldn't be even count as a benefit). Technically it is better than foaming cleansers, but it still does not mean it is good in the long-term, because:
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If the main reason for using natural handmade soap is because of its seemingly natural formulas, there are so many high quality and highly efficacious natural oil-based and water-based gentle, non-drying cleansers out there these days that are meant for sensitive, inflammatory skin but without the above cons. So why risk it?
MARIE REYNOLDS LONDON
Goji Mallow Cleanse™ <- Click to shop
By exfoliating properly, dead skin cells are removed from the skin surface, and thus can uncover the healthy layer of skin underneath, leaving the skin looking youthful and dewy. Products will also be able to penetrate deeply into the skin and work better in general. However, physical scrub in cleansers, think ingredients like beads, shells, salt grains and sugar, and cleansing brushes, can easily irritate the skin by damaging the skin barrier, as well as cause micro-tears that open up the skin to bacteria and inflammations. All these will lead to acne, dryness, inflammations, worsening rosacea and eczema inflammations, or worse, permanent damages.
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Use cleansing products that contain enzymes, AHAs, BHAs or PHAs instead for exfoliation. Not only can they provide gentle exfoliation benefits without irritation since they are not left on the skin for long, making them suitable for even the most sensitive skin, they also help smooth skin texture, even out skin tone, reduce blackheads and acne.
acid(wash) Lactic Acid Brightening Cleanser <- Click to shop
Most people tend to rub the skin more than it is needed to properly remove dirt and makeup. In fact, the chance of dryness, dermatitis, inflammations and acne caused by over-cleansing with too much friction is much higher than a small amount of makeup residue. All those friction will also cause wrinkles and fine lines down the line.
On the other hand, massaging too little does not allow the ingredients to properly cleanse the skin, while rinsing too quickly means residue may be left on the face. Together, the skin can become inflamed, red, and sensitive, with clogged pores and acne.
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When cleansing your face, remember to use enough product, and gently glide the product on the face in circular motions for around 60 seconds without any pressure to avoid tugging the skin. Also do press the cleanser into troublesome areas, i.e. where you have the most acne and blackheads, so the cleansing ingredients can get into the pores. For cleansers that contain enzymes or acids, leave on for another 2 or 3 minutes to let the ingredients work fully. Then rinse for at least 60 seconds, paying particular attention to the hairline, sides of the nose and jawline area.
For the same reason, it is best to avoid using micellar water or makeup wipes to wipe makeup off, as the repeated wiping motion will irritate the skin.
Bathrooms are humid, making them the perfect place for bacteria to multiply. Using the same face towel for days (or even just morning and night) therefore means you may be putting back bacteria on your face straight after cleansing every single day.
Also, the wiping motion after cleansing is also friction, which can damage the skin barrier, as well as tug the skin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles down the line.
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After cleansing, instead of "wiping" the water off your skin, simply dab off the excess water gently using a soft, clean towel. It is also best to use a different towel everyday, morning and night, but if you can't wash your towels that often, then the next best thing is to use a paper towel, as this would ensure a clean, dry towel is used every time.
Marie Reynolds London
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Cold water cannot close or tighten pores, nor can it properly wash away oil-based impurities. On the other hand, hot water cannot open pores, and may dry the skin out and damage the skin barrier.
Whilst, switching from hot to cold water or vice versa, can put skin into shock, causing sensitivities.
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Water around 36°C - 38°C is the most effective and gentle water temperature to wash the face.
First of all, unless you don’t use any skincare products at all, chances are, there will be residue of products from the previous night left on the skin surface no matter how much they get absorbed by the skin throughout the night, whilst some products are actually designed to form a film on the skin for protection and repair purposes. Now, if you don’t wash everything off in the morning, they may end up clogging the pores, and the ingredients in the morning skincare routine won’t be able to penetrate the skin and do their job. Your makeup will not glide on as smoothly as it should either.
Secondly, your skin enters the most active state of self-repair and cell turnover when you sleep, so although you may not see it, there is likely dead skin cells and unwanted sebum on the skin or in your pores. In fact, there may also be saliva, sweat, or even traces of hand cream, hair oil etc.
Thirdly, circulated air from your fan, air-conditioner or heater can kick up dust, mold and other environmental irritants, They can also fly in from your open windows and land on your face. Let’s not forget bacteria, hair products or dust mites on your pillow case, blanket, or even the person sleeping next to you!
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Water alone cannot cleanse the skin of dust, irritants, and bacteria, nor can it break down oils and skincare products used the night before. Therefore, even if you have sensitive skin, it is ideal to cleanse in the morning as well, so that you can rid the skin of all the bacteria, dirt, dead skin cells, and skincare products accumulated from the night before, to avoid blackheads, acne, sensitivity and inflammations.
The truth is high quality cleansers these days are filled with hydrating, nourishing ingredients, which means, instead of making the skin dry, they can actually add nourishment and hydration back to the skin. Thus if you feel dry or tight after cleansing, it is more a matter of using the wrong cleanser, not because of the cleansing action itself. So do choose a gentle, non-foaming cleanser.
Smooth Operator Purifying Cleansing Gel <- Click to shop
Most people think micellar water is gentle and quick, which it is, but it can leave surfactants and skincare or makeup residue behind on the skin. While most people can tolerate gentle residual surfactants on skin, some surfactants are irritating, and some people may develop an allergy to them with repeated use, resulting in red, itchy, or puffy skin. The same goes for facial wipes, with some even containing drying alcohol.
Moreover, the repeated action of wiping is friction against the skin, which in the longterm, can lead to fine lines, wrinkles and sagging.
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It is much better to use a proper face cleanser in the morning, and a makeup remover at night. Not only do they take about the same amount of time, they are in fact much more gentle for the skin.
Charcoal Peace Calming Cleanser <- Click to shop
Not only are skincare ingredients divided into either water- or oil-soluble, so are impurities and pollutants. For example makeup, sunscreen, oil-based pollutants, excess sebum, and smoke from cooking, and certain ingredients in your skincare products, are all oil-soluble, while sweat and some other dirt are water-soluble. Now, remember oil and water don’t mix well? This essentially means these oil-based impurities, especially during hot summer months where sebum production increases, cannot be fully dissolved and rid of by a water-based cleanser.
When these oil-based impurities do not get properly cleansed off everyday, they will start to build up, clog pores, and cause blackheads and inflammations that lead to acne, irritations, and even worsening rosacea and eczema symptoms. Follow-up skincare cannot penetrate properly either.
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Oil melts away oil, while water can't. Thus regardless of wearing makeup or not, it is always best to start your nightly cleansing routine with an oil-based cleanser, so as to rid of all the excess sebum and oil-based pollutants, irritants, and skincare product residue from the pores and skin surface. In fact, celebrities with flawless skin, like Jun Ji-hyun, Kim Hee-sun, Kim Tae-hee, Song Ji-hyo, Suzy Bae, and Taeyeon, have all revealed that their first skincare step every night is cleansing with an oil-based cleanser.
Now, some people belief that oil-based cleansers are not suitable for oily and acne-prone skin as they might make the face more oily, and that sensitive skin shouldn’t use oil-based cleansers. While it might have been true decades ago, with the modern technology, oil-based cleansers actually work just as well for acne-prone, oily and sensitive skin, as they can actually melt away all the excess oil and unclog pores, which means less blemishes and acne! In addition, they won’t damage the skin barrier but in fact, cushion and nourish it whilst cleansing, making it perfect for sensitive, inflammatory skin.
Just remember to rinse thoroughly, then followed up with a water-based cleanser.
*Cleansing oil and cleansing balm work the same way in breaking down oil-soluble impurities, so it is really a matter of personal preference.
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While hot water or steam cannot open pores, they can help soften the clogged dirt and oil in the pores. If you cleanse first then shower, the softened dirt and oil won't get removed, and would instead harden again and stay in the pores.
In addition, hair products such as shampoo, conditioner and treatment often contain silicones and other ingredients to make hair smooth and soft. That is all good. Unfortunately, more often than not, when we wash our hair, water mixed with shampoo, conditioner, hair masks, and even dirt, can get to the face, and people simply wipe it off with the same towel we dry our hair. These ingredients then stay on the skin, and may cause irritations, redness, or worsen already existing acne and other inflammatory conditions.
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At night, remove all your makeup and sunscreen first, then shower and wash your hair. Once you step out of the shower, use a water-based cleanser to wash away all the clogged dirt, which is now loosened up thanks to the steam, then gently pat dry with a soft, clean towel (not your bath or hair towel) or paper towel, and follow up with a toner within 60 seconds.
Gentle Matter Daily Moisture Cleanser <- Click to shop
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