Cleansing is one of those things that everyone does (at least, I hope they do) but few people really think deeply about. Or it was possibly just me. Derp!
Now that I've been obsessed with asian skincare for a few years, the way I clean my face has drastically changed.
Included in this megapost:
- Double Cleansing (Pt. I)
- Cleanser Types (Pt. I)
- Cleansing Tools (Pt. II)
- Cleansing Techniques (Pt. II)
- pH-conscious vs non-pH conscious cleansing (Pt. II)
If you've been researching skincare for a while, I am sure you've come across the admonishments on the danger of over-cleansing. Don't discount that; it's a real thing. Your skin needs balance, specifically the balance between hydration (water) and sebum (oil) and most cleansers strip your skin of oils in an effort to produce clean, glowing skin free of dirt and grease. The thing is, your skin needs sebum to function, especially if you are acne-prone, as it lowers the PH of your skin as part of its efforts to fight off acne-causing bacteria, and sebum also keeps your skin supple and moist.
If you strip all that off, usually with harsh surfactants, your body triggers a sebum production response to the deficit and your pores go into sebum overdrive, resulting in a greasy face, blocked pores, and then eventual acne when excess sebum, dirt, and bacteria get trapped together in an unholy trifecta inside your pores. This leads people to misunderstand their skin, and they try harsher and harsher cleansers in an effort to rid themselves of greasy face.
This is pretty much why I hate western skincare aimed at teenagers. When I think of the terrible things I did to my acne-riddled teenage skin, I get so angry at how they mislead people into purchasing horribly harsh products that lock them into a self-perpetuating cycle that will ensure they continue to purchase those products even though it's actually harming their skin.
Anyway, with all that being said, I do support double cleansing but it's something that has to be done carefully and with the right products. If you want to try double cleansing, take a look at your current cleansers. Wave at them. Then put them back in the medicine closet, because they're too harsh for this purpose.
You need ultra-gentle cleansers, in my experience, to pull off this type of cleanse. The usual suspects are a gentle oil cleanser, followed by a very gentle surfactant-type cleanser such as a foaming, gel, stick, or bubble cleanser. In all the products I pictured above, only one of them is gentle enough for this technique.
Some people do really well with just oil cleansing, but I find that the dry areas of my combination skin really absorb the oil and I have to use a foam-type cleansers to get it back out of my pores.
Also, not all oil cleansers are alike. OCM (oil cleansing method) refers to using specific oils (often a DIY blend) and using heat to open the pores (usually with a warm washcloth) and the oil is wiped off the skin rather than 'soaped' off (please don't use actual soap on your skin) with another cleanser.
If you are interested in trying tradition OCM cleansing, please research it carefully and don't just head into your kitchen and start rooting through your cupboards looking for oils. Olive oil, for example, is comedogenic for many people. You also need to remove it properly without over-working your skin.
|Conversely, asian-style oil cleaners are formulated with additional ingredients that react with water and allow the oils to be 'emulsified' (which is a dangerous buzzword) much the same way that mustard or mayo acts as an emulsifier in your salad dressing to bind together water and vinegar, or whatever watery thing you threw in there. Now I'm hungry. Excuse me while I go put this into action for my lunch.|
Mmm, delicious emulsification in salad dressing form.
I don't even care that having avocado and feta in the same salad is a cultural travesty!
Nonetheless, if I don't follow up with a surfactant-type cleanser, I can't seem to get all the cleansing oil out of my pores and I break out as a result. So, after lightly rinsing off the oil (as in, I don't use the mega rinsing technique I will talk about later) until I don't feel it under my fingers, I break out a foaming cleanser to clean off the dirty oil residue and properly clean my skin.
Double cleansing didn't work for me at first because all my foaming cleansers were too harsh. I cannot stress this enough. I thought double-cleanse aficionados were delusional or had skin of steel.
|My foaming cleansers including stick, gel, bubble types.|
Although all my foaming cleansers are perfectly fine for single cleansing, when I paired them with oil cleansing, it was just too much. The only exception is the much-hyped and sadly discontinued Su:m37 fermented and PH-balanced Miracle rose Cleansing Stick, pictured in the centre.
I am currently hunting for a PH-balanced (meaning between 3.5 and 5.5 on the PH scale) foaming cleanser to take the place of this product, so if you have found one, let me know. I do have a bubble cleanser from Missha on its way which is supposedly PH balanced, so crossing fingers here!
The Su:m37 stick is very gentle, and non-drying. This is due in a large part, I believe, to its PH level (5.5) so although it has a smooth, fine-grained foaming action, it's ultra gentle on my skin and pairs well with an oil cleanser.
That pretty much sums up double cleansing- ultra gentle cleansers, one oil to remove makeup and sunscreen, one surfactant-style to remove the oil cleanser residue and any lingering dirt on your skin. I only use this method if I have worn makeup or sunscreen, because it's a pretty deep clean and it's too much for me for daily use, even with the gentlest foaming cleanser known to the blogging world.
I used to think cleansers = foaming. Gel, bar (shiver), stick, liquid, whichever form it came in, it would lather up when you applied water to it. Oh, how naive I was. I have learned that there are cleansing milks, creams, massage gels, balms, sherbets, waters, and even bubble cleansers which are like foaming cleansers but you apply them to a dry face and they react to the air by turning into a frothy foam on your face.
It's hard to categorize them as many of them overlap, but I personally group them into the following:
- Oil-based cleansers
- Water-based cleansers
Although milk-type cleansers sort of overlap between oil-based and water-based cleansers, I am including them here because they're very liquid in texture and don't have a powerful cleansing action. There are actual cleansing waters which are supposedly very gentle and good people with dry and sensitive skin which doesn't need a heavy cleansing. I have not used any cleansing waters as I have oily and congested skin that is bombarded with dust particles all day, but I have used cleansing milks and they just weren't robust enough of a cleanse for me.
- Foaming cleansers
Shiseido FT Sengansenka Perfect Whip Facial Wash
Mizon Skin Turn Around Pore Refine Deep Cleansing Foam
Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick
Skin79 Smart Clear All In One Cleansing Gel
Mizon Snail Repairing Foam Cleanser
Bottom left: Skin79 O2 Bubble BB Cleanser sample size
Bottom right: Eminence Mineral Cleansing Concentrate
The problem with these cleansers is they work really, really well. A little too well. In my experience, unless a foaming cleanser is PH-adjusted for the skin, the alkaline nature of foaming cleansers is just way too harsh and results in stripped, irritated skin that goes nuts with sebum overproduction to compensate and starts breaking out in reaction. Unless your cleanser contains an active ingredient in sufficient concentrations to bring things to the surface of your skin (such as AHA and BHAs), if your skin is breaking out after using a cleanser, it's not purging, it's reacting.
They can also be filled with ingredients that aren't great for your skin, but boy do they produce an attractive lather for that lovely mindclean feeling. They're also excellent at cleaning oils off your skin, so if you can find a really gentle one, it will make a great partner to the oil-based cleanser you removed your makeup with.
All foaming cleansers need water to create lather, with the exception of bubble cleansers like the Skin79 O2 Bubble BB Cleanser (pictured in sample size, which I had 10 or 20 of, and kept the last for posts like this) which is used on a dry face and reacts with air, expanding from it's gel or cream form into a froth on the skin. Bubble cleansers also can be assisted by their dispensers, which I believe mix in air as they are pumped out, resulting in quicker froth. If I've totally confused you, chances are you've encountered this function in a shaving cream, which either froths immediately as you pump it out, or starts as a gel and then converts to froth in the air, resulting in a horrible mess as you look up and see your shaving cream bottle somehow has goop all over which wasn't there 5 minutes ago.
I am leery of foaming cleansers that lather up really dramatically with just water, because I am suspicious of the ingredients that made it possible. On the other hand, since you don't want to use your skin as the scrubbing surface to work up foam and getting a good lather using just your hands can be time-consuming and messy, this brings us to Part II: Cleansing Tools, Cleansing Techniques, and why the pH of your cleansers matter!
Click here for Part II.
*Disclaimer: All products I review are 100% purchased with my own money and my opinions are entirely my own.
Note: As usual, I will be skipping next weekend's review due to this doublepost.