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  • Writer's pictureChin Ling

The Lowdown on Cleansing

Cleansing is one of the most important parts of a skincare routine. In fact, I would say it's as important as moisturising. The reason most people give for not cleansing is time. It doesn't have to be time consuming. If you really are pushed for time, cleansing your face is something that can be done in two minutes.

Why cleanse?

During the day, the oils in our face attract dust and dirt from the air, as does the moisturiser we put on. Every 24 hours, the skin cells in the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) is constantly renewing and leaving a layer of dead cells on the surface. Lastly there's make-up and sweat. Even if you don't wear make-up, you're still going to sweat. If all of this is left on the skin day after day, it dulls the complexion and clogs pores. Think about when you have a bath. After you've come out, what happens if you rinse the bathtub down with only water? Or worse, you don't rinse it at all? You leave a ring of scum. If you do this every day, that ring of scum gets scummier. This is what happens to your skin if you don't cleanse.

There is a plethora of products on the market for us to choose from, so it can be confusing for the 1st time buyer to know what to go for. When I first started a skincare routine as a teenager, I was ill-advised and bought a load of products that were unsuitable simply out of humiliation from the sales assistant. I hope the following list will give you a good starting point.

So, here's the lowdown on cleansing and what you can use.


One of the favourites, but whether you use ordinary detergent soap, or facial bar depends on many factors. If you don't wear make-up, your skin is oily, it doesn't become sensitised or react to products, the water is soft and you're not worried about ageing, then you can use soap and you might be one of the lucky ones who can 'get away with it'.

Normal household soap contains detergents which will clean adequately and this is certainly the cheaper option. If using soap with hard water, then it does not rinse off easily so you are likely to get a scum residue, such as the one you leave in the tub after a bath. If you use make-up, then soap is not good at removing make-up which, nowadays, is formulated to have better staying power.

A lot of people who use facial soap to cleanse are not treating their skin as gently as they think they are. Soaps are alkaline, about pH 7.0 and above, whereas the skin's pH is about 5.5. Soaps remove the skin's natural oils as well as the dirt. In basic terms, this can lead to moisture loss and an entry for bacteria. The skin should be able to replenish its oils within 24 hours and so correct this deficiency but drier skin often cannot do this. Do not be fooled by the soaps that advertise they are the same pH as distilled water and therefore lead you to believe they are not drying. Distilled water is pH 7.0 and is itself drying to skin.

If you are still a die-hard soap and water person and won't be convinced otherwise, then try a bar that is made up mainly of vegetable oils, or a glycerine bar. Oily soaps are less drying but are also less efficient at cleansing because the oily residue left contains some dirt. Glycerine soaps can cleanse well and are also less drying but do not lather well so you tend to use more of it. Facial bars often contain detergents in order to cleanse efficiently, but at the same time, can be drying to dry or sensitive skins. One of the most important things when using soaps, particularly if you are prone to spots, is to keep them dry and clean, so invest in a large covered soap dish with a draining capacity.


These are oil and water emulsions, made to different consistencies depending on how thick a texture you are looking for. These are especially good at cleansing as the oil part removes the make-up, at the same time taking away as little of the natural oils from the skin as possible, while the water carries away the water-soluble waste. I recommend applying the cleanser with your hands, not with cotton wool. This way, you use less of the product and, you can also give a light massage to the face as you gently rub in. Remove with a face cloth soaked in warm water. Do not use a normal thick face flannel, as you will be tempted to rub and the material can be too rough for the skin. Choose something very gentle that will not scratch the skin. Don't use tissues or cotton wool as these may scratch and are not efficient at removing the cleanser.


Foaming gels that lather up contain detergents like a soap and can have the same effect. There are gels which are suitable for drier or sensitised skins and these should not lather up. Gels are often removed by splashing with water, so ideal for you if you wash your face in the shower.


There is not as much choice in cleansing oils or cleansing balms but they are lovely to use. Some companies list them under the name Pre-Cleanser. They are an oil formula that you massage into the skin using fingertips, then remove with a face cloth. Oil formulas are efficient at removing excess oil and grime from the skin, without stripping it. Even if you have an oily skin, one of these cleansers is still going to remove sufficient grease!HOW


Every day! It need only take a couple of minutes. Your moisturiser will work more effectively once your skin has been prepped to accept it. If you live in a tropical or very hot climate which leaves you covered in sweat in the morning, then cleanse twice a day. In the climate that we have in England, I find the best routine is simply to wash the face in the morning with cool or tepid water, then do the proper cleanse at the end of the day. This way, you take off all the day's dirt, sweat, dead skin cells and waste materials.


Could you spare 2 minutes in your day to:

a) surf the web?

b) check e-mails?c) watch tv?

d) read? chat? daydream?

Your skin has to last you a lifetime. Give it 2 minutes a day.


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