Cleansing is the first step in any good skincare routine, and it's critical for many reasons.
Firstly, let's deal with the idea that we don't need to cleanse - that the body is 'self-cleansing'. This idea has gained a little traction in the natural skincare world, because it speaks to our self-worth. It's the idea that it's somehow 'more natural' not to cleanse, and that by doing so, you're 'stripping' your skin.
Because we live in a world filled with pollution and air-borne particles from industry, we literally have to cleanse for healthy skin. If you live in a richly bio-dynamic forest and never venture into town, feel free to ignore this post.
For everyone else, cleansing is a must.
It removes fumes, pollen, plus the excreted waste from your own body.
By removing this junk, your skin has less work to do to ameliorate the negative effects. Less anti-oxidants are required to clean up the diesel particles floating around the city and landing on your face. Less anti-inflammatories are going to be used up in dealing with the inflammation of pollen and low-quality makeup applied each day. Leaving more of that good stuff to trigger collagen, repair and maintain healthy skin. Put simply, cleansing takes a load off.
Beyond mopping up potential damagers, cleansing removes the barrier that our skin secretes to protect us. Natural skincare ethos teaches that we should 'respect' this barrier, maintain it and never remove it. Forget that shit, it's nonsense.
See this barrier has a function - to trap dirt and stop it touching your face. If it performs this function correctly, by days end, it's a veritable sewage film, full of waste, certainly not a pure shield against the outside world.
Removing it is assisting the skin to clear this waste it never wanted on you anyway.
So how do we cleanse?
Cleansing needs to do several things well: firstly, it has to remove the skins natural secretions of oil and sweat. Basic cosmetic chemistry says 'like dissolves like' so it's always easy to get oil to mix with our own skin oil. Hence the popularity of oil cleansers to remove foundations, because many of them are oil based. And I agree, oil pre-cleansing is a great idea.
By mixing oil with oil, you're able to very gently, with very little chemical reaction going on, emulsify and wipe away a lot of the skins wastes.
But is it the full story? No way.
Oil cleansing will always leave a film of oils behind. This film is a barrier to the absorption of serums, creams and corrective steps of skincare. There is only one time you can stop at oil based cleansing, and that's if your skin is currently supremely healthy and hydrated, and you are ONLY doing an oil cleanse followed by a sunscreen. For example, if you're under 18 or you're on a tropical island getaway and your skin be damned.
Oil cleansing should be considered a pre-cleanse, as in fact leaving a film of oils on your skin makes every further skincare step rather pointless, because it simply won't get in.
Any water-based product applied will hydro-plane off the surface, or sit on top of that oil and attract water from the air around it causing a glut of goo on top your skin. Total waste of serum, total waste of cream, and worse - no benefits reaching the skin layers below the surface, where serum is supposed to reach and benefit.
Enter foaming cleanser.
For the first part of my career, in more traditional beauty salons, we were always taught to avoid them and teach clients that they 'strip' the skin.
This language carries an assumption that stripping the skin would be bad. It's not. As described above, you really need to remove that film if you want benefits from serums and creams, which you really do, as they are the ONLY way to deliver nutrients into your skin effectively from the outside in.
'Stripping' is powerful language - it sounds bad. It sounds like something you do to an old chest of drawers to get the ancient paint off. It's also a word that means literally nothing, an adjective and not a scientific, medical or official term for anything.
So I want you to throw that word out of your lexicon and replace it with CLEANING.
Foam cleansers are not all built alike, but the quality ones use a blend of surfactants, many of them naturally derived, whose job it is to break down the surface tension between oil and water, allowing the water to 'wet' the oil, mix with it, lifting it off the surface in bubbles and simply be wiped away.
The foams we are using in the skin health industry these days are mostly derived from coconut milk, and they feel soft, creamy, and have a lower lather the better quality they are.
When you foam cleanse, wet your skin, take a little product and wipe it over. Add water via wet hands, and work in small circles. The areas of congestion you can work a little more, but don't expect the cleanser to be the real solution to blackheads or thickening, unless it has an acid ingredient especially for this.
Work it in small circles, for a little longer than you possibly have before - cleansing should take a few minutes.
Think about the oils coating your face being quite firm about staying there: they need a little convincing and TIME in contact with the emulsifying foam, in order to break them down and let them be easily wiped away.
Cleanser is ideally removed with a cloth. I say this because the mere action of wiping has benefits. People naturally tend to wipe their face in the pattern of lymphatic drainage, I've never seen anyone do it otherwise, so you get a little stimulation of the waste removal system of your body, simply by accident, if you use a cloth.
I love the O Cosmedics Skin Shammy, and I'm a big fan of muslin or linen washcloths for the fibrous ability to 'scoop' waste off the skin. Ordinary facecloths are fine so long as they're changed regularly, and are the softest possible grade of towelling for your precious facial skin.
If you have acne, the more hygienic your bathroom habits the better. Acne bacteria will outlive humanity, it was here before us and will probably be here after us. It can easily survive on your facecloth and hand towel. For you I recommend disposable cloths known as 'fibrella' which we sell in my clinic and all good clinics. They're super soft so they won't knock the tops off active pustules, and you simply bin them after each use.
If you're in a shared house, have a stack of clean hand towels kept in your personal space, take a clean one with you each time you hit the bathroom to cleanse. I would use one a day to dry my face and put them directly in the wash.
Once your first cleanse is complete, it's time to do it again.
A second cleanse gives a chance to remove what the first one didn't, and can yield a greater skin improvement than most other things you'll do. Try it and see.
If your skin feels super dry after cleansing, you're using the wrong cleanser.
If your skin is extremely oil-dry anyway, and you are certain you're using the right cleanser, you can safely skip the second cleanse and go straight onto serums.
There are cleansing devices available, with varying names like 'ultrasound' 'ultrasonic' and variations of that theme. Essentially they're a handheld device with some kind of surface that touches your skin and vibrates, moving the product around in tiny circles. The effect is the same as if you had trillions of tiny hands working on your skin at once - massaging the cleanser in more circles than you ever would give the time to stand there and do yourself.
Choose the ones with a silicone surface over bristles. The base of the bristles are impossible to clean properly and will definitely harbour bacteria over time. The brush heads on these wear out and need replacing, the silicone ones will live as long as you do (batteries & motors may vary of course.)
When you're cleansing properly, like you mean it, your serums are able to penetrate easily, making them better value for money as they can work properly. The right cleansers are typically over $25 for 100ml, and like quality shampoo, last months longer than the cheaper cleansers. This is because they have a higher concentration of the surfactant in the formula, with the water being added by you. This makes them easier to travel with, longer lasting, and easier to customise to the strength of cleanser you need. Less dirty skin? Use less, add more water to your face. Brilliant!
Try this cleansing routine for one week and see the difference it makes in your skin.
If you would like to check if the cleanser you're using is worth it's lather, send us a message or ask in the comments below.