A Guide to Choosing the Right Cleanser – by Traci Drury

Question:  How often do you come home after a long day (or a night out!) and skip washing your face because you’re too exhausted?  (I hope you said never, but being realistic I would settle for rarely or not often).

The two reasons highest on my list for using a cleanser before bed?  Prevention of breakouts/scarring, and removing dirt and impurities that cause aging.  We are exposed to so many factors during the day that wreak havoc on our skin.  The sun, recirculated air, germs from our phones, pollution, dirt, etc.  You can probably name more, depending on where you live and your lifestyle.

Whether you’re standing in an aisle at the drugstore or a counter at a department store, the choices of skin care products can be overwhelming.  Should I use a cleansing gel or foaming cleanser?  Soap bar or cleansing cream?  Is my skin oily or combination?

In a perfect world you would have the time to look at the ingredients (or at least look at the ingredients near the top of the list).  Searching for product reviews on the internet is also helpful.  Too busy to spend time researching?  Not a problem.  This can be used as a guide for choosing a cleanser (note the word guide), and I have some recommendations based on products I have used, or someone I know has used.

Things to consider/helpful information:

* Keep in mind the climate in which you live.  My skin is dry in the winter and normal/combination in the summer (my climate is dry in the winter and humid in the summer).

* Determine your skin’s needs, then you can consider your product options.

Determine your skin type/needs:

* Oily skin is shiny or oily a couple of hours after washing it.  Pores are enlarged in the oily areas.  Gel or foaming cleansers work best with oily skin.  Kaolin is a good ingredient because it will help remove excess oil.  Note:  Your skin should NOT feel tight and squeaky clean after cleansing.  That is an indicator that the cleanser is removing too much oil which can cause your skin to remain oily, or become more oily than usual.

* Suggested cleansers are listed below *

* Acneic skin may or may not be oily (yes, I know mom told us acne = oily skin, but it’s not necessarily true!).  Salicylic Acid and Tea Tree Oil are two ingredients (of many) that kill bacteria which causes acne.  Other good ingredients are Kaolin, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and Benzoyl Peroxide (a strength of 2.5% should be plenty, and use sparingly since it can dry out the skin).  Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid all have the ability to remove dead skin cells which can also be a cause of acne.  Avoid the ingredient alcohol.  A good choice for your cleanser is gel.  If your skin is not oily, you can also use cleanser for sensitive skin and a very gentle exfoliator.

* Dry skin will have smaller pores, and the skin usually feels tight and/or dry after cleansing.  Avoid products with alcohol and sulfates as these tend to be drying.  Cream, milk or oil cleansers are the best options for dry skin.  Bar soap will make dry skin worse.  Beneficial ingredients include Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid (also known as Sodium Hyaluronate) as they help with hydration.

* Combination skin has areas that are oily and dry (eg:  oily T-zone and dry on the cheek area).  Try a non-foaming gel or cream cleanser.

* Normal skin has no real issues.  I recommend a non-foaming gel, milk or oil cleanser.  Avoid products with alcohol and sulfates as they strip too much oil.

* Sensitive skin flushes easily, may have blotchiness, feels itchy, reacts to products easily.  A person with this skin type should definitely do their research on what ingredients to avoid and which ingredients are good for sensitive skin.  A natural cleanser may or may not be the best choice.  It goes back to the ingredients.  There are some natural ingredients that can irritate the skin.  Look for fragrance-free cleansers and avoid alcohol, menthol or sodium lauryl sulfate.  Look for soothing ingredients such as Aloe Vera or honey.  Glycerin and Lactic Acid are also good ingredients.

To ask for samples or not…YES!  (As long as you don’t abuse it)

A benefit to shopping at a store such as Sephora, Ulta and some department stores is they will give you samples to try before you buy.  Department stores that usually have samples are Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Barneys.  All the stores mentioned above do not mind giving you a sample to use if you’re not sure that you will love the product when you get home, so they are used to this request!  No need to feel uncomfortable asking!  Trust me, after you ask once or twice you will get over the uncomfortable feeling of asking (I had to work in the retail environment before I understood the reason for asking for a sample).

Let’s look at some cleansers that do double duty.  In my opinion, most of us are multi-taskers, so why shouldn’t our products do the same? They should clean the skin AND remove makeup!


Oily or Normal skin:

Kiehl’s- Since 1851, Inc. Clearly Corrective Purifying Foaming Cleanser (5.0 fl. oz. $27)  is a gentle cleanser that lightly foams when water is added (my skin is normal to dry and did not have any problem with dryness after using this product in the summer).  The most recent addition to their cleansers, it includes White Birch, a sugar derived ingredient known for its ability to restore hydration and nutrients to the dermis and epidermis layers of skin, and Glycerin, which provides immediate and prolonged hydration. Department stores:  Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Belk.

Chantecaille Rice and Geranium Foaming Cleanser is a  93.8% botanical formula (2.46 fl. oz., $60).  This has gentle exfoliating properties and is a great cleanser for men to use prior to shaving.  It removes all traces of makeup and impurities without stripping skin.  Rice bran softens and anti-bacterial Geranium heals. Department stores in Charlotte: Neiman Marcus.   Barney’s, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, other specialty stores.

Normal or Dry skin:

Kate Somerville Kateceuticals Moisture Milk Cleanser (5 fl. Oz., $58) removes makeup well and leaves the skin feeling moisturized and fresh.  It includes a creamy, soothing blend of powerful Vitamins, fruit extracts, Orange Blossom, and Orange Peel Extracts designed to clean, hydrate, and brighten the look of the complexion (and it smells great!).  This sulfate-free cleanser is so gentle that it can be rinsed or simply tissued off. Department stores: Neiman Marcus (the Kateceuticals line is exclusive to Neiman Marcus and Kate Somerville’s website).

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (8 or 12 fl. oz., $8-13) ceramides help moisturize, restore and maintain the skin’s natural protective function.  Hyaluronic acid (a humectant) attracts moisture to the top layer of the skin, ensuring skin remains hydrated after washing (I found this to effectively remove makeup while leaving my skin soft). Drugstores.

Normal skin: Neutrogena Naturals fresh cleansing + makeup remover (6 fl. oz., $6.50) completely cleans skin and removes makeup in one step without stripping skin’s natural moisture.  Contains Peruvian Tara seed bionutrient which leaves skin soft and rinses clean.  No harsh chemical sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals, dyes, phthalates.  Developed for gentle eye area. Drugstores

Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash (4 fl. oz,. $32) this sulfate-free, gentle formula is formulated to remove makeup and pore-clogging oil, while helping to maintain the skin’s natural moisture barrier. Skin is left feeling hydrated, soft, and refreshed. Stores:  Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Sephora

Sensitive Skin:

Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash (6 fl. oz., $6) has reviews indicating they are good for sensitive skin and removes makeup.  However, if you wear heavy makeup you may want to use a makeup remover prior to using this cleanser. Drugstores.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (8 or 12 fl. oz., $8-13) ceramides help moisturize, restore and maintain the skin’s natural protective function.  Hyaluronic acid (a humectant) attracts moisture to the top layer of the skin, ensuring skin remains hydrated after washing (I found this to effectively remove makeup while leaving my skin soft). Drugstores.


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