I think I should start this post by saying that I’m not an expert. I’m a trained and practised Facialist, I’ve worked in beauty branding, trends and PR for 8 years and I read a lot on the topic of skincare in my personal time. That said, I still don’t believe think I could call myself an expert. I think you need experience – and qualifications – tenfold what I currently have before you could label yourself an expert and even then, it’s a continual learning process. So, disclaimer out of the way, I thought I’d put together a series of 101 posts. You might have seen my supplements 101 post last week, but today we’re talking about my favourite skincare topic, cleansing.
Cleansing, in my opinion, is the most important part of any skincare routine. It’s the cornerstone, making every other skincare step redundant unless implemented first. Expensive serums, fancy moisturisers – all useless on top of skin that hasn’t been properly cleaned. I started to write out everything I wanted to say on the topic of cleansing, but it turned into several beefy paragraphs, so I’ve decided to break it down into bullet points to make it easier to digest.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CLEANSING
- I’ve read in numerous different places that you don’t need to wash your face in the morning. I’m sorry, but this is absolute tosh. During your sleep, you sweat, your skin is busy repairing etc. Therefore, it just makes sense to clear all that away before putting anything else on top. I like to wash with an oil cleanser in the morning, but anything, so long as it’s not a foaming cleanser, should be fine.
- If you wear makeup or SPF during the day i.e. products that are designed to stay on the skin, or live in a polluted city, then you’re going to need to double cleanse at night. The first cleanse to remove the makeup/SPF, the second to actually cleanse the skin.
- Your skin has different needs on a daily, weekly, monthly basis so it’s worth keeping a few cleansers on hand to rotate between. I like to use thicker, more nourishing balms in the winter, whereas gel-to-oil cleansers are what I tend to use in summer or when my skin is feeling particularly congested.
- A flannel is your best friend. Use them to remove your cleanser and make sure you use a new one every day. They don’t need to be anything fancy, cheap ones from the supermarket are fine. Also, forget this muslin cloth business – they don’t hold their heat like flannels do, nor do they have the same exfoliating properties.
- Try to avoid mineral oil, if possible, particularly if you have an oily or acne-prone complexion. There are of course exceptions, and if you have a cleanser that contains mineral oil that works wonders for you, by all means continue to use.
- Cleaning your face with soap and water is a big no-no. I’ll touch on this later, but soap is so stripping and ends up making most situations worse. If you’re happy using soap and water and it’s not causing you any problems then again, that’s fine, but in the long run, you’ll probably be doing more damage than good.
- Many people just focus on their face when cleansing. Be sure to take it to your jaw, neck, and décolletage too.
MY CLEANSING ROUTINE
- Quick cleanse with either an oil or balm cleanser (micellar water won’t cut it), removed with a hot flannel.
- Follow with toner (if using), then serum, moisturiser and SPF.
- Remove makeup with micellar water so that when I go in with a ‘treatment’ cleanser, I’m cleaning my skin and not moving makeup/oil around my face.
- Massage with an oil/mud/cream cleanser, working it into the skin.
- Remove with a hot flannel, then splash with clean, running water.
- Follow with toner (if using), then serum, moisturiser/facial oil etc.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLEANSER
MICELLAR WATER – A typically clear water solution that takes its name from micelles. Micelles are tiny balls of cleansing molecules that float in the water. Once you apply the product to your skin, the micelles are attracted to the dirt, oil and pollution on your face, allowing it to be cleared away, usually with cotton wool, quickly and efficiently. Bioderma is probably the most well-known micellar water, and I have to say, it’s what I continue to buy again and again, but there are plenty of cheaper alternatives on the market nowadays. They’re best used in the evening for removing makeup before you go in for a second cleanse. I personally would never use on its own.
Recommendations: Bioderma (HERE), Garnier (HERE).
EYE MAKEUP REMOVER – Some eye makeup is notoriously hard to remove, in which case you’ll probably need to use a dedicated eye makeup remover. Typically they’re oil-based so they’re able to lift away stubborn makeup and waterproof mascara. I very rarely need to use an eye makeup remover, but when I do it’s the Clarins Instant Eye Make Up Remover – a dual phase remover you shake together before applying to cotton wool.
Recommendations: Clarins Instant Eye Make Up Remover (HERE).
FACE WIPES – Convenient and handy? Absolutely. Good for your skin? Probably not. I don’t think there is anything wrong with using face wipes every now and again to remove makeup, but they should never be used purely on their own. They’re typically soaked in all sorts of chemicals to keep them moist for a long period of time. Use as a last resort, not every day.
Recommendations: None, but if you want something you can quickly wipe over your face, soak some large cotton wool pads (Muji is my cotton wool of choice) in micellar water and store in a well sealed Tupperware tub.
CLEANSING BALM/OIL – My favourite way to cleanse, mainly because you can really massage your skin when using one. Oils don’t need to be warmed or melted down between your hands, you can get to work straight away, whereas balms do. You can also use some oils/balms to remove makeup, but I’d reserve the cheaper ones for this. There’s the misconception that oily skin types shouldn’t use oils. I promise that this isn’t the case and that most skin types will reap the rewards of oil/balm cleansing. Just be sure to remove it with a hot flannel and splash with clean running water to ensure there is no residue left over.
Recommendations: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil (HERE), OSKIA Renaissance Cleansing Gel (HERE), Alpha-H Liquid Laser Cleansing Oil (HERE), DHC Cleansing Oil (HERE).
CLEANSING CREAM– Very similar to oil/balm cleansers in that you apply to dry skin then remove with a hot flannel. If you don’t like the ‘oily’ feeling of balms then a cream cleanser might be a good option to try. The most famous cleansing cream is probably Liz Earle’s Cleanse & Polish. It’s a good place to start, but throw the muslin cloth away that you get with it and use a flannel instead – they’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
Recommendations: Clarins Extra Comfort Cleansing Cream (HERE), Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish (HERE).
FACE WASH – Typically you apply to damp skin, massage in, then rinse off. I have a bit of a problem with face washes because I’ve never come across one that doesn’t leave the skin feeling completely stripped. Most face washes foam, which is bad news in my books, as they tend to leave your skin feeling ‘squeaky clean’. This isn’t a good thing and is a sign that your skin’s barrier function has been compromised, making it a breeding ground for any bacteria that might be lurking about. For this reason, I strongly recommend that all, but, in particular, acne-prone skin types, stay well clear of them.
Recommendation: None. Sorry but the Facialist in me just can’t do it.
MUD CLEANSERS – I use a mud cleanser about twice a week as a second cleanse, or if I’ve had a particularly sweaty night (sorry) then I’ll use one in the morning. Due to their high clay content, they’re fantastic at soaking up any excess oil on the skin to leave it feeling balanced and soft. It’s worth noting that there’s no harm in using a slightly diluted mud mask as a cleanser. I do this a lot in summer when my skin is feeling sticky/grimy.
Recommendations: Pixi Glow Mud (HERE), May Lindstrom Honey Mud Cleanser (HERE), Ren Clarifying Clay Cleanser (HERE).
Well, that turned into a bit of an essay, but I think I’ve covered everything. As always if you’d like any more info on anything I’ve mentioned please don’t hesitate to get in touch via commenting below or tweeting me (@leer31).
No affiliate links were included in this post, but there are PR samples present in the photography. All products mentioned are my hand-on-heart recommendations.