10 Ways Facial Cleansing is Sabotaging your skincare (and how to do it right)

You’ve taken off your makeup, your face is squeeky clean and you’re ready to hit the hay, right? Wrong! Chances are you’re going about your facial cleansing in the wrong way and you’re living in blissful ignorance. If you have very oily skin, acne, irritability, redness, dry flaky skin or dry skin and oily skin at the same time, it could well be that you’ve been making the same skincare mistakes the whole time. If you don’t get cleansing right, this is going to have a knock on effect to the rest of your skincare and likely hamper any progress. 

 Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin- pinnable image
Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin

Here’s a little science- your skin defends itself by producing an acidic substance called sebum. Sebum contains fatty acids, Lactic Acid, Urocanic acids, amino acids and enzymes. It forms the acid mantle which coats the skin in an acidic protective layer. Sebum is your skin’s best defence against infection, mess with it’s balance and you pay dearly. 

The Cleansing Mistakes You May Be Making 

How could your facial cleansing be doing your skin harm?

  1. Not respecting your skin’s pH balance– As I said, the skin is meant to be acidic so try and keep it that way. Alkaline cleansers will alter the delicate balance and cause irritation. Most bar soaps are alkaline (see my review of the Cor Silver Soap), even fancy expensive face soaps. Definitely gives bars a wide berth. I actually keep pH paper in my bathroom to check the pH of cleansers (cost a couple of quid from eBay), I’ve been surprised how alkaline some of them are. Stick to acidic cleansers. This advice may sound counterintuitive if you have dry or sensitive skin, you might think that acids will only irritate further, but it’s the skin’s natural state. 
    Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin- Cleansers on a fur background
    Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin
  2. Only cleansing once– If you wear makeup and sunscreen particularly, a quick once over is not enough at the end of the day. Just wiping makeup off with a wipe is not good enough, you need to melt away makeup with something oily then go again to make sure it’s all off. Some say to Double Cleanse with an oil cleanser first, then a low pH foaming cleanser as a second step. This is fine but I think you can totally get away with using the same cleanser twice if you want to. Just using micellar water or wipes is not enough, they will leave a layer of chemicals which will undoubtedly cause dryness if you make it a regular thing. You should use something that can be thoroughly rinsed away. Of course, in the morning when you haven’t been wearing makeup or sunscreen a single cleanse is fine with a mild cleanser. 
  3. Using scrubs– I used to love a good face scrub, nothing like it for a nice smooth surface to apply makeup. It turns out that scrubs and physical exfoliants are actually no good at all for the skin. You know the St Ives Apricot Scrubs with the sharp bits? They’re the worst. The little particles will create microtears in the skin, cause inflammation and screw up your protective skin barrier. 
  4. Using cleansing brushes– Again, too harsh. I had a No7 rotating face brush which felt like it gave me carpet burn on my face- which obviously at the time I quite enjoyed. I don’t think there could ever be any need to scrub your face that hard. 
  5. Destroying the skin’s moisture barrier– I’m talking about foam. The thread of logic is there- what do you do when you want to clean a greasy plate or a stained top- loads of bubbles!! But your face is way more delicate than you think. Cleansers containing harsh surfactants (bubble makers) will remove your natural protective oils with the grime. Check the ingredients of your cleansers, if it contains Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or SLS (and to a lesser degree Sodium Laureth Sulphate or SLES) you should avoid. For example, Clinique Liquid Facial Soap Mild for dry skin has Sodium Laureth Sulphate atop it’s ingredient list, which doesn’t seem particularly suitable for dry skin. 
    Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin- different Cleansers on a fur background
    Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin
  6. Boiling your face– The temperature of the water you rinse your face with is really important too. It should not be hotter than body temperature, it should feel tepid to the touch. Did you know that increased temperature can cause hyperpigmentation? Not good. 
  7. Being afraid of oils– If you have oily skin you may be tempted to avoid anything oily. You need not worry, skin is meant to have an oily layer. Using oily, balmy or milky cleanser is a great idea. Oily cleansers will remove makeup and sunscreen without drying the skin or altering the pH balance. 
  8. Using the wrong ingredients– I always check Cosdna.com now for potentially irritating or comedogenic ingredients. Even cleansers labelled “for acne” or “for sensitive skin” can have bad ingredients. This is literally the first product I randomly searched-
    Spreadsheet report of clearasil daily wash- 4 ingredients have high acne causing scores
    Cosdna report for Clearasil Daily Wash
    You can see a few of the ingredients rank for acne causing aka comedogenicity. This is mind boggling, an acne face wash that causes spots, say what? But there it is. Always check cosdna, particularly if you have skin issues, it’s very useful. Comedogenic ingredients won’t cause acne in everyone, but if spots are an issue for you, it’s something to be aware of. 
  9. Using dirty cleansing cloths– If you use a cloth to help with the cleansing process, always make sure it’s very soft, like a microfibre cloth or this one from Afterspa. And of course it should be washed on a very regular basis. 
  10. Drying your face– This is another thing I’ve altered in my routine since becoming more skincare conscious is drying my face. You don’t want your face to be properly dry after cleansing, dab gently with a towel and leave skin damp. The dampness is precious hydration that is essential for plump healthy skin. 

How to Facial Cleanse the Right Way

  1. Double Cleanse if you’re wearing sunscreen and/or makeup.  
  2. Use acid and oils, it’s what your skin wants. 
  3. Be wary of skincare ingredients. Cross check with Cosdna 
  4. Be gentle– don’t scrub, foam excessively or overheat 
  5. Never forget to do it!!

The Best Cleansers for Any Skintype

It doesn’t matter what skin type you have, be it oily or dry, cleansing should always be gentle. If you have oily or acne prone skin there is a temptation to give the face a good foamy scrub to make sure it is spotless. What you are doing there is removing the skin’s natural protection and leaving it open to attack. Your skin will go into an oil producing frenzy and bacteria can multiply. You should be treating oily skin like dry skin- with Kidd gloves. So I’m not going to differentiate cleansers into skin type. Here is a selection of cleansers that I rate, there are probably many more that I’ve yet to come across. If you have a winning face cleanser that I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear about it in comments. 

Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin- Cleansers on a white metal plate
Best Cleansers For Acne Prone, Oily, Dry and Sensitive Skin

  1. Lush Ultrabland– Ultrabland is a favourite of mine. It’s very moisturising and rich, non irritating and comforting. 
  2. Hylamide High Efficiency Face Cleaner– And it’s NIOD counterpart LVCE are oily cleansers which dissolve in water. They’re both excellent cleansers which respect the skin’s integrity. 
  3. NIOD Sanskrit Saponins– SS is a thin balm in a metal tube. It’s meant to be used as a second cleanse, not to take makeup off. It deep cleans the pores without causing harm to the skin’s protective layers. You have to read the blurb on the Deciem website, it’s more like a philosophy lecture than a description of a cleanser. 
  4. Clinique Take The Day Off– A melty, unfragranced balm cleanser that removes makeup effectively with zero irritation. 
  5. Neostrata Glycolic Wash– A fab low pH unfragranced foaming wash. A little on the expensive side but one I have personally repurchased for its gentle non irritating acid exfoliation. 
  6. Cerave Hydrating Cleanser– A classic! Cerave is the go to cleanser for acne prone Americans. 
  7. CosRx Low pH– I keep seeing this mentioned whenever cleansing is discussed. A gentle low pH cleanser for refreshing and exfoliating. 

Whatever your skincare issue- acne/dryness/irritation, definitely take a good look at your cleansing routine before wondering why all the treatments you try seem to fail. Happy cleansing ladies and gents. For more Deciem chat, head to the chatroom. This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click and spend, I will get a little bit of money to spend on stuff to review. 


9 Comments Add yours

  1. kathylcsw says:

    This was a well written, informative post. I enjoyed reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LISA redmayne says:

    GREAT post. Really interesting and it’s really made me consider products. I e been quite happy with my cleanse though but you might tell me differently?! It’s the 3 in 1 cleansing water by REN (M&S)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi love! The cleansing water sounds good, do you just use that and nothing else? If it’s working for you then that’s fine xx


  3. Margie says:

    Excellent post! It’s always helpful to get confirmation on the products I am already using and other options as well. After reading your article, I know I need to alter my cleansing routine to be more gentle and effective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Margie ❤️❤️


  4. Chloe says:

    I love your blog, very helpful for the oily skinned! I use the ultrabland as an initial cleanse but find it leaves an oily layer on my skin, what other comedogenic cleanser would you recommend for my second cleanse? Thanks x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I sometimes use the high efficiency cleanser by Hylamide twice. Or for something water soluble/Low foaming check out Simple or Sukin or CosRx. Best to stick to Sulphate Free- always check the ingredients x


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