How to Pick A Cleanser for Your Skin Type

Healthy skin starts with the right cleanser. A good cleanser keeps your skin clean, comfortable, and balanced and preps it for all the other steps in your skincare routine.

The uppermost part of the epidermis is called Stratum Corneum. The top part of Stratum Corneum is called the acid mantle (or the lipid barrier). It consists of lipids, amino acids, fatty acids, sebum, and sweat. When our lipid barrier is healthy, it protects our skin from various pollutants and irritants. The sebum production is balanced, and the risk of infections is reduced.

Our skin is naturally acidic, and the pH ranges from 4.5 to 6. If we use a cleanser that is too alkaline, it will disturb the natural pH of our skin. In turn, this can lead to transepidermal water loss (TEWL). When the natural pH of our skin is disturbed, it can lead to all manner of problems – from dehydration and dryness to infections, overproduction of sebum, even acne.

Regardless of your skin type, it is crucial to pick a cleanser that is within the pH range of 4.5 and 5.5. Obviously, as with everything skincare, YMMV (Your Mileage Might Vary). Your skin might tolerate a more alkaline cleanser. However, if you keep using the same cleanser day in and day out, the natural pH of the skin is disrupted.

Foaming cleansers

Many skincare experts will tell you to steer clear of foaming cleansers. But if it is well-formulated (meaning pH friendly and without harsh surfactants) and suitable for your skin type, that is not necessarily the case. Foaming cleansers normally lather well and give a thorough cleanse. That said, they should not leave your skin feeling tight or (heaven forbid) squeaky clean.

Best suited for normal, oily, or combination skin.

Gel cleansers

Our favourite type of second cleanse. Gel cleansers are thicker in consistency and do not lather much. They get your skin clean, but without stripping it of its natural oils.

Best suited for normal, oily, and combination skin.

Cleansing oils

As the name suggests cleansing oils are oil-based. They work to clean the skin by dissolving the sebum and with the skin’s natural oils. Cleansing oils do not strip the skin of its protective layer. They should be removed with a warm face cloth to make sure there is no residue. Cleansing oils are a fab option to remove makeup and sunscreen. If you use them as a first cleanse, you can follow it up with your preferred choice of a second cleanse.

Best suited for all skin types.

Cleansing balms

Cleansing balms are rich in emollient oils. Once they are massaged into the skin, they turn into oil. Like with cleansing oils, it is best to remove them with a warm face cloth to ensure there is no residue left on the skin. They can work as both a first cleanse (to remove makeup and sunscreen) or as a second cleanse.

Best suited for dry and dehydrated skin that needs a deep and nourishing cleanse. Depending on the formulation, cleansing balms can also work for sensitive skin.

Cleansing powders

Cleansing powders are powder-based, but turn into milk or foam once mixed with water. Typically they are formulated with botanical enzymes and give a thorough wash without irritating the skin. Enzymes gently exfoliate as well, so cleansing powders can be a good option for people with sensitive and easily disrupted skin that cannot tolerate chemical exfoliation. Likewise, because they are powder-based, they can be a good option for when you are travelling.

Best suited for most skin types.

Clay cleansers

The main ingredient in clay cleansers are various types of clay. They deeply cleanse the skin to remove the impurities, clarify, and help balance the sebum production.

Best suited for combination and oily skin. Dry skin types can use it as occasional weekly deep cleansing treatment.

Cream cleansers

Cream cleansers are rich in emollients and have a thick, creamy texture. They can work as both a first cleanse or as a second cleanse (for dry and dehydrated skin). Cream cleansers leave the skin supple and nourished.

Best suited for dry, dehydrated, and sensitive skin.

Roberta Striga