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Are You Using The Right Cleanser?

Are You Using The Right Cleanser?

We’re not going to lie to you, nailing the exact cleansing routine for your skin's needs isn’t easy. But once you’ve crushed the basics, the rest should fall into place…

Cleansing: not the most exciting part of your skincare routine is it? Especially when you weigh it up against all the other good stuff like applying face serum or feeling smug as you smooth on your sunscreen every morning. But the thing is, cleansing is one of, if not the most important acts you can do to your skin. Without a clean slate, the rest of your skincare routine is pretty useless. Not to mention what you do to your poor old pores if you leave them clogged up with hours or even days (eek!) of oil, sweat, makeup, pollution and goodness-knows-what other kinds of gunk and crud. We can’t think of a better way to subject your skin to a whole life of blocked pores, major irritation and continual acne breakouts.

And we doubt any of these are high up on your skin’s priority list.

OK, so cleansing twice daily is important, you get that, right? Good. Now, there are a few other things you should know...

First up is that treating your skin with the utmost of care is a major deal. And you can nail this by switching out scorching hot water for lukewarm water, while using gentle massage with your hands and fingers as you wash your face. And your drying technique? Yeah about that. First up, don’t use any old hand towel that’s been sat in the bathroom for weeks. Instead invest in a ‘yours only’ cotton face towel and wash it with your laundry at least every other day to avoid spreading bacteria all over your precious visage.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, is the cleansing product you use. The overriding rule here is that whatever your skin type, you must always choose the most gentle, kind-to-skin ingredients you can find. You may think that stripping your oily skin with super powerful, astringent formulations is going to nix your excess oil and have you glowing with the perfect skin in seconds. But this is a mistake and will make matters ten times worse. Guaranteed.

Whatever your skin’s wants and needs, we suggest avoiding potent surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) as they can screw up your barrier function and leave your skin open to everything from itching and dryness to breakouts and redness. Nobody needs those in their life and there are plenty of other ingredients out there to gently cleanse your skin without causing as much upset.

Speaking of which, here’s what ingredients to look out for depending on your skin type and condition…

What You Need If Your Skin Is Dry Or Sensitive

Dry skin and pesky sensitivities often come hand in hand since dry skin lacks the natural oils it needs to keep it naturally protected and lubricated. So what does dry skin look for in its perfect cleanser? Well, one thing you definitely don’t need are potent ingredients (here’s looking at you SLS!) that will strip your skin even further and do the very thing you don’t want. Instead, look for cleansers that are high on moisturization and low in potent active ingredients.

Humectants and emollients are the real friends here because they attract much-needed moisture to the surface of the skin and then help to keep it there. 

Awesome Ingredients To Look Out For: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, vitamin E, oat milk, rice milk, jojoba oil and shea butter.

Try: Soothing Cleansing Milk

Where To Turn If Your Skin Is Oily Or Acne-Prone

While it’s tempting to go all-out with drying alcohols, sulfates and potent, bacteria-busting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, you're way better off erring towards a gentler approach to cleansing oily or problematic skin. Yes, you want to balance sebum production by using non-pore-clogging ingredients but if you strip your skin right back, your sebaceous glands just end up working harder and producing more and more oil to counteract all that dryness.

Our BFF for oily, acne-prone skin is tea tree oil which not only helps tame sebum, but also works hard to fight bacteria and reduce inflammation with less irritation and side effects than benzoyl peroxide.

Awesome Ingredients To Look Out For: Tea tree oil, salicylic acid, witch hazel, MSM, niacinamide and retinol.

Try: Tea Tree Super Cleanser+

What To Choose If You Have Combination Skin

Combination skin is the most common and arguably the trickiest skin type to manage – oily in some places, dry in others, what’s THAT about? – so the key is to choose lightweight, pH-balanced and non-comedogenic formulations to help bring harmony to your skin. Try to avoid skin-triggering ingredients like sulfates, parabens and synthetic fragrance, and definitely don’t use soap as this will make both your oiliness and dryness so much worse.

A fan favorite for combination skin is activated coconut charcoal which gently but effectively draws out toxins and excess oils to help clear out your pores and purify the skin. And don’t forget to use toner which is a real friend for combination skin.

Awesome Ingredients To Look Out For: Charcoal, ylang ylang oil, reishi mushroom, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, squalene and peptides.

Try: Charcoal Clarifying Cleanser

What Dull, Tired Skin Can Rely On

Most of us can relate to skin that needs a kick up the butt every now and again. We’re talking dullness, poor texture, uneven skin tone and, well, you know the drill. Whatever your skin type, a lack of radiance get us all. Sounds familiar? Then brightening cleansers are where it’s at. And look no further than vitamin C.

Vitamin C is one of the most trusted ingredients in skincare thanks to its whizz-bang antioxidant qualities that help fight oxidative stress due to things like environmental pollution, UV radiation, stress, zero sleep and a poor diet. Vitamin C also helps inhibit melanin production which is great news if your skin tone is all over the place and needs help. It’s a veritable go-to for dull, tired skin. And if you’re one of those lucky few with ‘normal’ skin that’s pretty darn balanced most of the time? This is also a great cleansing choice for you.

Awesome Ingredients To Look Out For: Sodium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C), vitamin E, retinol, aloe vera, kojic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid and rosehip oil.

Try: Vitamin C Brightening Cleanser


More About This Article

Georgia Gould

Georgia Gould

Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.