Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cleansing Q&A!

I've been getting a lot of cleansing related questions lately so I thought I'd group them all in one post. There are always exceptions and caveats of course, but this can serve as round-up of some of the more common questions.

How many times a day should I wash my face?
  • As a general rule, morning and evening.
  • If you're working up a sweat, or doing some Bikram yoga in between, then add in a post-sweat (gentle) cleanse.
  • Always wash with a skin type appropriate cleanser. Too much cleansing, or using a cleanser with harsh surfactants (see what to avoid below), can damage the barrier, dry you out, and contribute to inflammation. This is especially important if you're adding in a post-workout cleanse. 
  • Most importantly, evening cleansing is not optional! It is essential to remove the makeup, sunscreen, sweat, oil, dirt and pollutants that accumulate throughout the day. (You know who you are.)

What ingredients should I look for in a face wash?

It's important to cleanse according to skin type and condition. There is no one-product-fits-all solution. Personally, I like to alternate a cleansing lotion or oil in the evening for makeup removal, and a gel cleanser for the shower in the morning. There are a ton of great ingredients and of course they're not all mentioned here. The good news is there are enough options to suit both your skin and you preferences. (In my practice, I currently carry 9 different cleansers to cover all the bases!)
Here's some general recommendations:

  • Dry: Cleansing oils, lotions and milks are great for a drier skin or as a pre-cleanse for makeup wearers.
  • Acne/Clogged: Look for performance ingredients like salicylic acid (or willow bark) or 4-terpinol (a non-irritating tea-tree extract) to assist with clearing and healing.
  • Aging/Mature: Protect skin and keep it supple with ingredients like panthenol,  omega-rich black cumin and black raspberry, and antioxidants.

Which ingredients should I avoid at all costs?
  • SLS/SLES: I recommend avoiding Sodium Lauryl and Laureth Sulfates as they have been shown to be irritating, and can damage the skin's barrier. (For those who LOVE their foamy cleansers, there are milder non-sulfate options such as yucca or disodium cocoamphodiacetate.)
  • Coconut Oil: Steer clear of coconut oil if you EVER get clogged pores or acne,  it's highly comedogenic. Despite being all the rage right now, it's not for everyone.
  • Soap: A lot of people are still using soap. Why avoid it? It's actually more drying and disruptive to the skin's barrier than a lot of the foaming surfactants. On top of that, soap does not rinse cleanly, and can leave a residue that will impede products applied after from penetrating the skin.

Are there any benefits of washing with water alone?
  • In a word, no. :)
  • By definition, cleansing is a process of removing makeup dirt and oil. You need a cleanser to whisk these away, rinsing with plain water just won't do the trick. 
  • There has been a recent boom in "cleansing water" or micellar water, but this is not plain water. In these products, surfactants are suspended in the water to attach to dirt and oil. More of a "cleansing lotion", if you will, that is applied like a toner.

Have a question I didn't answer? Send me an email at or feel free to leave it in the comments section below!