Know Your Cleansers

TACB Student Blogger Lara has all the info you need to understand which facial cleanser is best for you, whether you have oily skin, dry skin or combination. This post is all you need to picking the right cleanser for your skin type!

Did you know that your cleanser is just as important as any other item in your skincare routine?

Cleansing does not have a one size fits all approach. There are a lot of varieties of cleansers and a lot of brands (unless specifically designed for a particular skin type or condition) have several available in their range. So how do you know what’s best for you?

It all starts with your skin type which basically comes down to how much oil your skin produces. A dry skin doesn’t produce enough oil while those with oily skin produce too much. Combination skin varies in oiliness in different areas of the face and normal skin produces just the right amount. However, the perfect balance of oil is very rare, making ‘normal’ skin type almost negligible in terms of skincare. When it comes to combination, it’s best to treat the area of main concern. In my case, my skin is primarily dry with slightly more oil in the T-zone, so I treat my skin as a dry type.

With all this in mind, who can blame you if you ever have felt confused about what to choose for your skin?

So which cleanser is for me?

There are five main categories when it comes to cleansers, the common difference being that some foam and lather and others don’t. Your skin is acidic (pH between 4 and 6), so keeping that pH level balanced can be difficult when you need to also get rid of the day’s dirt and make-up from your face.

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Foaming Cleansers:

Foaming/lathering cleansers are often alkaline on the pH scale. They’re generally based on classic recipes of soap or surfactants [generally sulfates] and they will get you squeaky clean. This is because soap and surfactants create an emulsion (they allow water and oil to mix) to lift dirt and oil together, leaving skin feeling clean. These cleansers can come in solid bars, gels, liquids and creams. Foaming products are all activated by water, however self-foaming cleansers are created by foam dispensers.

Pros: Cleans away dirt and oil effectively, great for thorough cleansing.

Cons: Can be irritating and overly drying, not suitable for eyes.

Skin types: Generally combination to oily skin, but can come in varieties suitable for dry skin.


QV Face Gentle Foaming Cleanser for Dry & Sensitive Skin $13.50

Lush Coalface Solid Cleanser $16.50/100g


Gel Cleansers:

Like the foaming products above, a lot of gel cleansers also form a lather. Gels are water based and use non-sulfate based surfactants and emulsifiers to pick up dirt and oil, whilst not stripping the skin of its natural barrier. Gels are especially good for delivering hydration and are gentle on the skin.

Pros: Gently lifts dirt and oil, leaves a clean feeling.

Cons: Doesn’t remove makeup very well, may require a second cleanse.

Skin types: All skin types, but often specifically targeted towards conditions such as acne and/or sensitivity.


Skin Physics Dragon’s Blood Gentle 3-in-1 Cleanser $19.99

Sukin Sensitive Cleansing Gel $9.99


Milk Cleansers:

Cleansing “milk” is not too dissimilar to cream cleansers, just thinner in texture (and non-lathering) making them easily removed with a rinse of water. These products are generally formulated with glycerine, as well as oils. Milk cleansers are generally aimed at dry, sensitive skin. Some might have a clay component, however, to target oiliness.

Pros: Can effectively remove makeup and cleanse without leaving skin feeling tight.

Cons: May cause breakouts or comedones in acne-prone skin unless the product is specifically designed for acne.

Skin types: Dry and combination, often with sensitivity in mind.


Natio AGELESS Gentle Cleansing Milk $16.95

RosehipPLUS Organic Daily Cream Cleasner $16.95



Balm Cleansers:

Cleansing Balms are the next step up. These products are based on oils and waxes that can take some getting used to as they feel as though you’re trying to wash your face with petroleum jelly. As a rule, they aren’t washed off by a simple splash of water, and require a hot towel or wet cotton pads.

Beeswax, coconut oil and various plant butters are often found in these cleansers, but they still have ingredients that can emulsify. Often coming in tubs, they don’t foam up, but they can clean the skin very effectively, contrary to how they may feel!

Pros: Cleanse thoroughly without stripping skin, leave skin very hydrated after cleansing and are very good at removing makeup.

Cons: Takes some getting use to, must be thoroughly removed with cloth, may contain essential oils that may be irritating to some.

Skin Types: Very dry to combination with dehydration.


Trilogy Make-Up Be Gone Cleansing Balm $36.99

Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm $74.00


Oil Cleanser:

Oil cleansers are proving to be the latest cleansing trend. From saturated (solid at room temperature) fats like pure coconut oil, to blends based on unsaturated (liquid at room temperature) fats like olive, sunflower and jojoba oils, these cleansers work under the “like mixes with like” principle and are thought to balance an over-compensation in oil production (although this hasn’t been dermatologically proven), that may be exacerbated by the use of foaming cleansers. Coconut oil has been a DIY/natural cosmetic lover’s go to as a makeup remover for years, but more intricate blends have now become available. Most oil cleansers on the market tend to be in liquid form.

Pros: Naturally derived ingredients, cheap and easy to DIY, leaves skin very soft.

Cons: Claims of balancing sebum are exaggerated, may contain potential allergens and irritating essential oils, can be tricky to remove, not suitable for eyes.

Skin Types: Very dry to normal, or makeup removal.


Swisse Moringa Cleansing Oil $14.99

Thursday Plantation Oil Cleanser Deep Cleansing $17.99


On a final note, makeup remover cloths and makeup removers are not suitable to use as cleansers on their own. If you use them, you will still need to cleanse your skin properly afterwards. And please don’t use a body soap for your face!

A properly cleansed face will not only prevent and treat breakouts, but will also better facilitate any active skincare you use.

If you are still unsure about the type of cleanser you should be using, speak with a skin therapist who can help create a skincare routine tailored to your needs.

Lara xx


Main Image Credit: Sunday Riley

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