"Cleansing: Am I Doing It Wrong?"


You probably think of cleansing as the most straightforward part of any skincare regimen. If you’re getting things right cleansing shouldn’t be complicated, but we’ve found that many people start off on the wrong foot, throwing their whole regimen off course. For this reason cleansing is the most important step to get right!

Here's our advice.


There is an emotional element to why we cleanse; we like to feel clean! There aren’t many other things in life that help you to mentally reset and feel like you are starting afresh!

Functionally, we cleanse to remove makeup if present, clear pores of oxidized sebum and dead skin cells, clear excess facial oil, dirt, pollution and germs. Because of that you might think a cleanser that leaves your face squeaky clean would be the best, but you would be wrong!


One of the most common mistakes people make is over-cleansing, stripping away the natural fatty substances your skin needs to defend itself from dehydration, potential irritants and pathogens. Compromising your natural barrier in this way makes your skin scramble to patch its barrier by producing more sebum. But while it is trying to do this your skin may be temporarily dehydrated and irritated, causing sensitivity and even acne. Putting your skin through these swings twice daily risks long-term damage. Gentle cleansing means respecting your skin's ability to look after itself and cleansing as much as your skin can accept without causing harm.


The most common cleansers people start with after puberty are harsh foaming cleansers designed for maximum removal of facial oil and reduction of bacteria. Foaming cleansers contain surfactants (detergents) which break the surface tension of water allowing it to lift away dirt and oils from your skin. The surfactants required for a really rich lather will almost certainly strip too much of your adult natural barrier, upsetting your skin’s balance. Lightly foaming gentle cleansers may be more appropriate. Good quality gentle cleansers with milder surfactants, or lotion cleansers with no surfactants, and therefore no foam at all, will remove dirt and excess oil without damaging your barrier.


Start by confirming what your skin-type really is. You may be selecting the wrong cleanser because you have mis-diagnosed your own skin. We give advice on diagnosing skin-type here.


If you have dry skin your barrier is already weak. Supplement it with a lotion cleanser that cleans but leaves a protective barrier, effectively moisturizing as you cleanse. This will lock in moisture, avoiding that dry period where your barrier is patching itself.


If you have oily skin it might be appropriate for you to use a lightly foaming cleanser because oily skin has a tendency to be thicker and congested, but be sure not to use anything that removes too much oil.


Whatever your skin-type, test a cleanser by cleansing your face with tepid water and leaving it without further treatment for a few minutes. If your skin feels dry, tight or sensitive at all the cleanser is too aggressive and you need to try a more gentle one with more gentle surfactants and less foam.


There are two sulfates which are near ubiquitous in cleansers and shampoos. They are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. They are manufactured on an industrial scale, are cheap, and produce a rich creamy lather that has come to signify luxury. We do not recommend you use any cleanser with either of these two ingredients, especially if they appear within the first 5-6 items on the ingredients list, as they may over-strip your skin.

Take a moment to check the ingredients list of your cleanser.


Our entire philosophy of skincare is based around ingredients and practices that promote the long-term health of your skin. Chronic (long-term) inflammation of skin is at the root of the loss of skin health and skin aging, so we recommend doing everything possible to reduce inflammation in skin. A cleansing regimen that compromises your natural barrier is one of the most easily avoided causes of chronic inflammation. We recommend you review your cleansing regimen.


Seeking balance applies to any situation when your skin condition might change. If you are traveling to a drier climate or as it moves from damp autumn to dry winter, or because your skin is getting drier as you get older, listen to your skin and adjust your regimen to suit!


THE SIREN - Hydrating Cleansing Gel - for slightly dry to oily skin
THE TEMPTRESS - Vitamin Cleansing Lotion - for dry to slightly oily skin

Looking for More Advice?

"About Us"
"Our Formulation Philosophy"
"Our Ingredient Glossary"

"What Do Antioxidants Do?"
"How is Inflammation Related to Aging?"

"How to Assess your Skin-Type?"
"How Products Combine in a Regimen"
"How to Compile a Dry Skin Regimen"
"How to Compile an Oily Skin Regimen"

Our Skincare Blog: "Pilgrim & Pony"

Thanks for reading!

Be sure not to miss any new posts!
Signup for our newsletter by using the I WANT THE NEWSLETTER! link at the bottom of any page of the site or SUBSCRIBE VIA FEEDBURNER

Photo Credit: PUTPUT


Please leave a comment!

Comments will be approved before showing up.