The Cleanse: The what & how of skin cleansing

Hello again, lovelies.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, bear in mind that each and everything we do (or should be doing) for our skin is to maintain it’s barrier so it can perform its function. If you need a refresher on the structure and function of the skin, take a quick look at this earlier post.

Lets get into it. This is a overview of cleansing as a principle, with general tips. In future, I will spotlight different skin types and the optimal cleansing/moisturising regimen for that particular skin type.

There are two main reasons why we need to wash the skin:

  1. To remove any products that accumulate on the surface, which have the potential to clog the follicle [this includes makeup, sweat, environmental pollutants, dust].
  2. To prepare the skin for moisturising agents.

The first thing that probably springs to mind when one thinks of cleansing is SOAP. We all know, more or less, what this is. However, I’m going to break it down from a chemistry point of view. [That’s the point of my blog- taking science and bringing it to the masses in a SIMPLE way, so you can make more informed choices in health + skincare ;)].

Before we get into the definition, keep in mind pH- which is a scale that tells us how acidic or basic a substance is.


For those of you who are repulsed by chemistry, please, indulge me for a second.

A soap is a combination of an alkaline substance with fats. The classic soap has a pH of 9-10. Now, this poses a major problem because it can leave the skin feeling extremely dry, and it creates an environment for bacteria to thrive.  Our natural skin pH is between 4.5-6.5, which is acidic. For the skin barrier to function as it should, we need to use products which are closer to it’s natural pH. Cosmetic manufacturers in recent years have woken up to this, which is why these days, we have milder cleansers which contain a lower ratio of pure soap combined with moisturising factors. These soaps also have a more neutral pH of between 5 and 7, which is more suited to the skin. These are what you may see labelled as “cleansing creams,”  “cleansing milks,” or “moisture bars.”

 Some Key Tips:

  • One of the biggest myths is that a skin wash must make you feel “squeaky clean.” Pay attention to how your skin feels after you have used your cleanser: it should not feel stripped, tight or irritated- even if you have dry skin. If so, you need to switch up your cleanser.
  • Avoid using water that is too hot to cleanse. Rather, opt for a lukewarm temperature. Hot water strips the thin fatty surface film, and it can irritate sensitive skins.
  • If you prefer using electric cleansing brushes, opt for silicone bristles. Silicone is  softer and less abrasive. Remember- you want to gently wash the skin- not to strip it.
  • Whatever you use to dry the skin, gently pat it over your skin. No scrubbing and scraping- leave that for your bathroom floor.

The key concept to remember when looking for a skin wash is BALANCE. That thin film on our skin surface, called sebum, may trap unwanted dirt- which leads to problems. However, we still need to maintain that film because it is protective.

If this post seems vague and a tad surface level, worry not friends. There is so much unpacking to be done, based of course, on individual skin types and preferences. For now, lets work on getting the foundations right; lets keep it basic.

Until next time,

Peace & Lovely Things,







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