Your Guide to Cleansing for Every Skin Mood
Listen to your heart - er, complexion.
When a stubborn skin mood appears (heyyy, Monday morning acne) it can be incredibly frustrating, to say the least.
Instinct would often have you researching all the different ways to scrub, wash or exfoliate the blemishes away, but you might want to pause there: these “solutions” may actually be causing the problem to begin with.
Think about it: have you been turning up the heat when you rinse your face? Are you overusing products that contain harsh ingredients (like alcohol, retinol or fragrance)? Or maybe you’re using the right products, but overdoing it just a bit.
We could go on and on with possible causes, but one thing we know for certain is that you’ll need a few good cleansers in your toolkit to help rebuild the damaged skin barrier & remove bacteria build-up from the skin’s surface. Knowing when to wash and which cleansers to use can be tricky, though, and is only made worse by the contrasting opinions throughout the beauty community.
With so much information available, we wanted to help clear up your confusion and your complexion, so here’s our definitive guide on how to properly cleanse your skin.
First, are facial cleansers necessary?
Isn't water enough?
Consider everything that touches your face throughout the day: your pillow, phone, fingers (has anyone else realized just how much they touch their face during this pandemic!?), and a variety of other micro-interactions that go relatively unnoticed during your normal routine.
Meanwhile, each of these actions will leave some form of grime on your skin’s surface, and can be the root cause of barrier breakdown if left untreated. Therefore, using the right cleanser to remove dirt and oil is key to creating a healthy stratum corneum (aka “SC”, your outermost skin layer) to block out harmful bacteria. This is because cleansers contain ingredients that not only remove invasive germs, but also maintain the integrity of the layers beneath your skin’s surface and support the fight against infection & irritation (1). Unfortunately, in most cases, a splash of water at the end of the day just won’t cut it.
How to properly wash your face in the morning
You may already be familiar with the ongoing debate between whether or not to wash your face in the morning. Some suggest that cleansing in the AM strips your skin of the natural oils that develop overnight, while others say that you should wash right away to remove bacteria buildup from your pillow and bed sheets. In our opinion, we tend to agree with the latter - washing your face after you wake up is a must.
Why? First, the presence of indoor allergens and other irritants and bacteria that live in your home and pillowcase are a definite threat to skin health. Additionally, overnight your skin recovers, which means in the morning you have more dead skin cells to slough off. Additionally, if you have oily or acne prone skin, not washing your face can end up in sebum build up and thus, breakouts.
Here’s the thing: if you do decide to cleanse when you wake up, don’t accidentally overdo it and strip the healthy sebum from your stratum corneum. This will leave you with tight, dry skin before you’ve had your first sip of caffeine; not a good combo, 0/10 would recommend.
The trick is to find a cleanser that is ultra-gentle, like a creamy/milky cleanser for your morning rinse. Soft strokes and mild formulas are the name of the game. We suggest that your AM and PM cleansers look differently - your AM cleanser should be extra gentle, and your PM cleanser should be gentle but give your pores a deeper clean.
Don’t skimp on the nightly rinse
It’s been a long day of working remotely/job hunting/baking all of the breads, and you’re practically drooling over the thought of your head hitting that precious silk pillowcase. However, before you indulge yourself in some serious shut eye, don’t forget to give your face some love, too: namely, wash your face with an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser each night (yes, the touted double cleansing method!) to melt away the oil and water soluble stubborn make-up & debri that’s collected on your stratum corneum.
Look - we know it can be hard to muster up the extra energy to do this. It can even feel like an impossible task some days, turning a calming moment of zen into an insurmountable feat. Even still, trust us when we say that it’s SO IMPORTANT to do this every night! When you skip an evening cleanse, the daytime grime mixes with the nighttime grime, which can equal a not-so-fun surprise in the mirror the next morning…
Again, not recommended, unless you’re someone who likes to make things harder than they need to be? In that case, by all means proceed (also, we’ve been #GUILTY of this a time or two ourselves, so don’t feel bad; we speak from love & experience).
A cleanser for every mood
Even if you wash morning and night, your skin can have a mind of its own and create some pretty aggressive breakouts and irritation. Because of this, you should be prepared with a variety of cleansers to get ahead of your every skin mood. Here’s a few common complaints and the cleansers to match:
If warding off premature aging is a goal of yours, proper cleansing is crucial (especially at night).
Overnight, the skin needs oxygen to repair itself. And sleeping with your makeup on deprives it from receiving the oxygen it needs and hinders your natural exfoliating process which can result in dull-looking skin.
Additionally, during the course of the day, your skin is exposed to everything from makeup, to bacteria, to indoor/outdoor allergens, to pollution which can penetrate your pores, inflame your skin, and lead to collagen degradation if left untreated. A proper cleanse (like a PM double cleanse) is crucial for going beneath the surface and helping to clear out your pores.
And speaking of pores - improper cleansing can lead to larger pores as well. Why? Well, once your collagen levels start to decline (even naturally due to aging), pores won't "snap back" as easily once they've become enlarged. And as we mentioned, leaving makeup on can lead to inflammation which can generate free radicals and collagen breakdown. So, even if aging isn't a major concern for you yet, proper cleansing can be a good preventative step in keeping your skin as youthful as possible for as long as possible.
Acne and Oily Skin
If your skin is oily and/or acne prone, opt for a cleanser that can remove all excess sebum without irritating skin. Gentle gel cleansers are your best bet here.
Additionally, DO NOT over-scrub or obsessively wash your face! More often than not, acne appears because of a broken skin barrier, so over-washing and scrubbing will only damage it further. Avoid using soaps, perfumes, or too many exfoliants. and instead oGel cleansers are often best
Don’t forget to moisturize as well since many acne treatments have drying effects, and you’ll need to ensure you’re still supporting natural sebum production (remember, oily skin can be dehydrated, too!)
Forget laughing, smiling or even talking - when your face feels tight & dry, everything hurts. And over-washing, or washing using products that are too harsh for your skin, will only get you into deeper trouble.
To get you back to your happy healthy self, using an oil based cleanser will help remove makeup and debris without stripping your skin of it’s natural sebum in the process. Look for specially formulated oil or cream cleansers that are also non comedogenic, non irritating, and hypoallergenic to avoid prolonged discomfort (2).
Also, did you know that your skin temperature rises overnight, which leads to trans-epidermal water loss (evaporation)? This can cause your skin to lose a lot of water while you sleep, which can lead to dehydration. If you don't wash your face, you can't properly moisturize. No Bueno.
Red/Irritated and Flaky Skin
Above all else, there is one myth we need to bust ASAP: hot water doesn’t open pores (3), so stop using it to wash your face! While it may feel like you’re helping things, you’re actually opening yourself up for potential irritation and redness. Instead, a good rule of thumb is to always use lukewarm water to wash your face, no matter what time of day.
On top of tepid water temp, applying a calming & hydrating cleanser (like the one recommended for morning use) plus a cooling moisturizer or mist can soothe an angry skin mood. Also, give tools like spin brushes a rest until symptoms subside. Even though flakes can make you think that you need to exfoliate, doing so can be painful and exacerbate the situation. If you must, look for an enzymatic exfoliator to gently remove the softened flaky skin.
Less is more, but not when it comes to cleansers
The bottom line: establishing a cleansing ritual will look different for everyone, so your best bet is to listen to your skin moods and react accordingly with the right cleansers. Research the variety of options available on the market & use our guide the next time a new mood appears!
Even better: have you heard we’re concocting our own cleansing formulas? That’s right y’all, we have some exciting things brewing in our lab, and we can’t WAIT to share them with you! Be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay in-the-know on our upcoming launches & latest blog posts, plus we’ll provide some #Quarantainment to keep you smiling.
Written by Adrianne Neal