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Skin School – Cleansing..

Continuing on with our Skin School series, this post is about cleansing, the first step in any routine and a crucial one too. 

Whatever your skin type, keeping it fresh and clean is paramount. I saw Pauline Hili from Nourish on a Soil Association panel talk earlier on in the year, and she said that cleansing skin was perhaps becoming more important than moisturising. Air pollution is now a major problem for skin – as well as obvious health concerns.

It is not about stripping the skin though, over cleansing can remove your skin’s natural lipid barrier which can dehydrate it and leave it open for other issues. However we do need to remove make-up, daily dirt and excess sebum from our skin at the end of each day to ensure it stays happy and radiant. If we don’t skin can become congested and lose its glow.

What about double cleansing – do we really need it? 

If I’ve been out and about in town wearing sunscreen and make-up, then I’m definitely up for a double cleanse. The first one will break down the make-up, spf, daily grime and pollution sitting on the skin. Think about when you wash your hands after just a journey home on the train, I’m always amazed at what comes off!! That’s on your face too.

I love to use an oil or cleansing balm as my first cleanse. Plant oils are amazing at dissolving grime while nourishing and balancing skin at the same time. It doesn’t have to be expensive – simple kitchen cupboard plant oils can be great to experiment with. Coconut oil is often raved about as a cleanser, I personally prefer something like olive oil mixed with castor oil. Jojoba oil is a wonderful oil for skin too – I have a post here on oils if you’d like a read.

Take the time to massage your chosen oil into your skin, it will break down eye make-up too, so gently work it over that area too. Oil and water don’t mix, so you’ll need to remove the oil with a muslin cloth soaked in warm water rather than simply rinsing off. Make sure that you are removing the oil or balm properly; if I don’t I can actually become more congested, especially if I’m using a balm.

Most skincare brands now will have some kind of oil or balm cleanser, some of my current favourites include By Sarah’s Green Clay Cleansing Balm and Isla Apothecary’s Skin Balm – this also doubles up as an everything balm. Neal’s Yard Remedies’ Rose Wild Rose Beauty Balm is a favourite too. These kind of textures are especially nice going into winter when skin can become drier. Massaging them in at the end of the day feels lovely, and can really help with the condition of your skin too.

In the summer I’ll use a lighter weight oil such as Mono Rose & Cucumber Cleansing Oil or LJ Natural’s Papaya Wash-Off Lighter Cleanser . These textures are great for oilier skins too, who perhaps can’t think of anything worse than cleaning their face with an oil!! Plant oils are actually amazing for helping to balance over active sebum. I’ve just starting using BYBI Beauty’s soon to be released Swipe Clean which is a cleansing oil and make-up remover and it’s lovely. It is great for all skin types, but the fact that it rinses with water and leaves no oily residue, I think oily skins would love it.

Look for oil cleansers that emulsify with water – this means that they will wash off with water easily so you get the best of both worlds. I love to use them with a konjac sponge.

When you do have oily skin, I know the temptation can be to use quite a full-on cleanser, however this can make issues worse; by stripping the skin of all it’s sebum, it will become dry. It can then produce more oil to counteract the dryness and thus the vicious circle begins. If you have an oily skin look for cleansers that will remove excess oil and impurities without stripping everything. Also look for cleansers that have calming ingredients to soothe any breakouts.

Whatever your skin type, gentle cleansers are the way to go.

When I’m doing a double cleanse, I like to use a wash off cleanser for the second part. This second cleanse will cleanse a bit deeper into the pores and remove any last traces of the oil cleanser too. If I’ve had a lazy day at home with no make-up, then I’ll often just do this one cleanse. Remember we don’t want to strip the skin. I’ve currently got Kypwell’s Gentle Herbal Cleansing Foam on rotation with The Gentle label’s new Face Wash. Both are gentle foaming cleansers that you can still do a nice massage with into your skin, they foam because of their packaging rather than foaming agents.

I’d avoid anything with SLS or SLES, these are typical ingredients to make a product or bubble but are known irritants to skin.

2023 UPDATE – My current favourite cleansers are Evolve Kalahari Dream Cleansing Oil – I’m on my third bottle I think! I use it on me and in my facials – the smell is gorgeous and I find it cleanses really well and leaves skin so comfortable. I’m also enjoying Skin and Tonic’s Get Up and Glow which has gentle enzymes to help with a gentle deeper cleanse. I also really like the _Faace Dirty Faace Cleanser which is a gel cleanser, I often use it as a second cleanse after I’ve been in town and had a lot on my face – it’s great for hot sweaty summer days too. The Beauty Cleanse Skincare Superfood Powder Wash is brilliant for this too – I use this one when my skin needs a deep clean. I love the powder formulation which foams up when you add water.

The Rhug Wild Beauty Deep Cleansing Balm is another favourite – it is so nice to use at the end of a long day. Massage into skin to lift make up and grime, it rinses well with water but I like to use a cloth, it leaves my skin feeling nourished and soft.

What about micellar waters?

I might hear some of you ask.. There is a definite time and place for these. I’ve got them in my kit as they are a great quick and convenient way to remove make-up. They are perfect in between make-up looks on a job, or removing it afterwards. They’re great for home use too, remove your make-up at the end of the day with them but they are not a substitute for a good cleanse. I would still do some kind of wash off cleanser to remove last traces of make-up and grime – a double cleanse with different products. Again look for gentle ones with skin conditioning properties. I love Balance Me’s Flash Cleanse Micellar Water and Absolution’s L’Eau Soir Et Matin.

I’ve a post here diving deeper into micellar waters if you fancy a read.

Just to confirm – wipes do not cut it!! Even if you’re using the most natural, organic, biodegradable ones, they’re not great for your face. At 3am in the morning if it’s wipes or nothing than the wipe wins for sure, but they will never clean your face properly. (Also most wipes are made of plastic!)

What about cleansing in the morning?

I personally find that I don’t need to cleanse in the morning, unless I’ve slept in a mask and I need to remove anything that is left, or perhaps in the heat of summer. Generally I’ll refresh my skin with a floral water on a cotton pad – I’m kind of normal but dehydrated. If you are an oilier type then perhaps you might need one – try something very gentle and lightweight in the shower – not shower gel!! I had to add this as I know a few people that did. They don’t now and their skin is happier.

How do I choose a cleanser?

Hopefully the above has helped you, but understanding and listening to your skin is the key. How is your skin? Are you oily or dry? Are you dehydrated?

How does your skin feel after using what you have already? If it feels tight then it could be too harsh. If you’re congested maybe your cleanser is too rich, obviously it could be other things too but if I don’t remove balms properly I find my pores can block. What do you like the feel of on your skin?

Do you live/work in a city? Do you wear make-up? Do you wear a mineral SPF? If yes then your skin would benefit from a double cleanse for sure.

It’s good to have a couple of cleansers on the go as your skin will need different things on different days, you can also double them up for your double cleanse when you need it.

What is in your cleansing routine?

Image for BYBI shot by Holly Wittaker. Make up by me.