Cleansers Clarified: How to Choose and Use the Right Cleanser

At the end of a long day, nothing feels quite as good as cleansing your face. Removing every trace of dirt, sweat and makeup allows the skin to breathe, repair, and renew itself. Having a spotless surface also helps your other skincare products to penetrate the skin more deeply, and perform their tasks more efficiently. As the first step in your skincare ritual, it’s important to nail this part before even before thinking about your serums and anti-aging creams or face oils.

Cleansing your face and removing all makeup and dirt before bed is paramount, but surprisingly enough, surveys have shown that almost 50% of women skip the bedtime cleansing routine. Celebrity facialist

Maybe we work too hard, or play too hard, or both, and just can't be bothered. But a PM cleanse is really important if you want beautiful, healthy, glowing skin.

Why you should never go to bed without an evening cleanse.

At night, your skin isn’t resting, it’s actually working overtime releasing hormones such as melatonin and cortisol. These hormones assist with night time repair, fighting off free radicals and the oxidative stress of the day. Because the skin's working 24/7, its job is a little less stressful when it has a clean surface to deal with, especially during its most active period – at night!

Your skin loses moisture at night, so having a layer of built-up grime, makeup and sebum aren’t really the sorts of nutrients your skin needs when the air is squeezing hydration from its surface. Removing any eye make-up, followed by a second cleanse (based on your skin type), will create a clean canvas to help the skin detoxify at night, and to increase your follow-up skincare's absorption.

It's vital to start your day with a morning cleanse.

In the morning, a full cleansing routine isn't necessary, especially if you've cleansed thoroughly the night before, or if you have sensitive skin. A rinse in the shower or a splash of warm water with a gentle cleanser is really all that's needed to remove the night time waste, and prep the skin for your morning routine.

About once a week, or more frequently if your wear daily make-up or live in / travel to polluted cities, give your skin a good, deep cleanse by using a gentle AHA peel before showering, or use a deep cleanse antioxidant masque. It balances the skin by resurfacing dead skin cells, soaking up any excess sebum, and decreasing inflammation - all essential for keeping your complexion in pristine condition.

The different types of facial cleansers, decoded.

With so many cleansing options available, and with each one touting different benefits, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or get swayed by false marketing claims. Knowing the difference between each type of facial treatment allows you to filter your options based on your skincare needs, and makes the hunt for the perfect cleanser a whole lot easier. Here's my guide to picking the right cleanser for your skin type:

  1. Gel Cleansers 

Gel cleansers are clear and, as the name suggests, have a gel-like consistency. Generally designed for deep cleansing, they are effective at decongesting clogged pores, removing excess oil, and killing acne-causing bacteria, thanks to their antiseptic and exfoliating properties.

Ideal for: Oily and combination skin.

  1. Cream Cleansers

Cream cleansers are usually thick, creamy, and contain moisturising ingredients like botanical oils. They gently cleanse your skin without stripping it of its natural oils. Cream cleansers can also come in the form of a “milk” or “lotion.”

Ideal for: Dry and sensitive skin.

  1. Foam Cleansers

Foam cleansers are lightweight cleansers that start out as cream or gel and burst into a rich, foamy lather. This type of cleanser removes excess oil as effectively as gel cleansers.

Ideal for: Oily and combination skin.

  1. Oil Cleansers

Washing your skin with an oil or balm cleanser may sound like a recipe for breakouts, especially if you have oily skin, but most experts disagree. An oil cleanser is a gentle way of removing pore-clogging debris – including waterproof makeup – without drying your skin.

Ideal for: Most skin types.

  1. Micellar Cleansers

Originating in France, micellar waters feature “micelles”, or tiny oil molecules suspended in soft water, that attract oil, dirt, and makeup. Another great thing about them is that you don’t need to rinse them off with water. Good for the first cleanse, though I would suggest following this up with a 2nd cleanser to get a deeper clean.

Ideal for: Dry and sensitive skin.

  1. Powder Cleansers

Powder cleansers are nothing new, but they are certainly having a big moment right now. These cleansers are powdery soft when dry, and then dissolve into a creamy concoction upon contact with water, thoroughly cleansing your skin while providing gentle exfoliation. Unlike old-school physical exfoliants such as those containing beads, powder cleansers can contain ingredients including rice starch or chickpea flour, which are kinder to the environment. 

Ideal for: Oily and sensitive skin.

  1. Bar Cleansers

After years of staying out of the skincare spotlight, bars are slowly sneaking back in. This new breed of bar, some containing very little soap, others have none at all, are just as skin-friendly and luxurious as their liquid counterparts. They also offer more skin-friendly pH levels in addition to nutrient-rich, highly moisturising ingredients, such as glycerine and essential oils. They get extra points for being a greener choice than liquid soaps because the packaging materials – primarily paper and cardboard – break down more easily in landfills than plastic.

Ideal for: Oily and combination skin.

  1. Cleansing Cloths, Mitts, and Sponges.

There are cleansing wipes, and then there are cleansing cloths, mitts, and sponges. These cleansers are made with special fibres, some plant-derived, and don’t typically require the use of any traditional cleansers to thoroughly remove impurities and dead skin cells. A few examples are muslin cloths, Kassa mitts, and konjac sponges. 

Ideal for: Oily and combination skin.


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Be skin smart.

Words by Adeela Crown.

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