How Your Facial Cleanser Can Affect Your Skin: Cleansing 101

I’ve mentioned this one on of my previous post. Make sure you choose a cleanser than is hydrating to your skin. It may seem as counterintuitive but leaving your skin feeling taut after a wash only indicates that your cleanser is too harsh for your skin.

Even if you have acne/oily skin it is best to use a gentle/hydrating cleanser. This is because by using a harsh cleanser, it would strip away your skin’s natural barrier. Which means the bacterias that are sitting on the surface on your skin fall into it and when you seal it with hydration (to get rid of the tight feeling), you are basically sealing in the bacteria into your skin. This basically becomes a vicious cycle and the breakout seems never-ending.

Even if you do not have oily/acne skin, when you use an astringent/ harsh cleanser- due to the micro-cracks that are formed as a result of such cleansers, your skin will try to fight off the issue and the most natural response is skin inflammation. Therefore, this leads to skin sensitivity/ flare-ups. So when people tell me that they are experiencing skin sensitivity, my first question to them is usually, “how are you cleansing you skin?”

When you apply water to your face, trans-epidermal water loss happens when the water evaporates. Therefore, I would always advise clients with really oily skin to apply cleansers onto wet skin. This is because the wetter your skin is, the deeper the clean. Whereas for those with dry skin, I would always advise to apply cleansers onto dry skin and then use water to wash it off. This is because there is actually less “grime” to break down (as opposed to oily skin which naturally have over productive sebaceous gland). Always remember to thoroughly wash your face at the cleansing stage rather than just doing a wipe-off cleanser. This is because cleansers are designed to breakdown oil, grime, makeup (what have you) and if you do not clean it off properly it will continue to breakdown your skin throughout the day.

It is also important to choose a cleanser that is about 4.5-5.5pH (potential hydrogen). Why? Because our skin pH is about a 4.7pH anything higher than 5.5pH would disrupt our acid mantle (skin’s natural barrier). It is called acid mantle for a reason. Choosing cleansers that are slightly more acidic would help maintain the health of our skin. Due to bacteria-regulating properties, cleansers with 4.5-5.5pH are recommended for those with sensitive skin -whether eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne or dry/itchy skin.

Researchers have found that acne grows well between a pH value of 6 and 6.5pH and when the pH drops to 5.5pH – it has been found that bacteria growth noticeably decreases.  A good indication of an alkaline cleanser is when after you have cleansed your face, your skin would feel tight/dry. By raising our skin’s pH to 6.0 or higher naturally leaves our skin vulnerable to dryness, infections, irritations and in the long-run extremely detrimental to our skin. Long-term use of such cleansers can also result in pre-mature aging and hyper-pigmentation.

Here are some cleanser that are within the “safe” radius:

  1. SEBA MED Liquid Face & Body Wash 5.5pH
  2.  REN ClearCalm3 pH5.2
  3. REN Gentle Cleansing Milk pH5.1
  4. JUICE BEAUTY Blemish Clearing Cleanser pH4.8
  5. IS CLINICAL Cleansing Complex pH5.4
  6. LA ROCHE POSAY Hydrating Gentle Cleanser pH5.5
  7. CERAVE Renewing SA Cleanser pH5.0
  8. INDIE LEE Rosehip Cleanser pH5.5
  9. GLOSSIER Milky Jelly pH4.5
  10. AESOP Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser pH4.7

Here are some offenders within the “unsafe” radius:

  1. PAULA’S CHOICE Skin Balancing pH6.6
  2. TATA HARPER Purifying Cleanser pH6.0
  3. CLINIQUE Foaming Sonic Facial Soap pH8.8***
  4. KORRES Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser pH7.3
  5. GLAMGLOW Thirsty Cleanse pH6.5
  6. LANCOME Gel Focus Deep Purifying Cleaner pH7.5
  7. LANCOME Cream Radiance Cream to Foam pH9.8**** (This is just utterly insane)
  8. LA MER The Cleansing Lotion pH6.3
  9. LA MER The Cleansing Foam pH8.9*** (Seriously guys this thing costs like £70)
  10. OILLE Watermelon + Sea Salt Organic Facial Milk pH9.5
  11. Drunk Elephant Best Jelly Cleanser pH6.5
  12. FIRST AID BEAUTY Skin Rescue pH6.5
  13. Kate Sommerville Detox Daily Cleanser pH6.6
  14. Skin Laundry Hydrating Cream Face Wash pH6.1

*Note: The pH of a product only indicates whether it is acidic or alkaline and by no means is a determining factor of the product’s efficacy. Due to my struggles with facial eczema, I try not to go beyond pH5.5 as this would irritate my skin and potentially cause a flare up. This is because if you have naturally dry skin or suffer from eczema, your skin has a more alkaline pH, in which case these alkaline cleanser can increase your levels of irritation.

Also, make sure you double cleanse in the evening either with a makeup remover or a micellar water. Think of it as creating a clean blank canvas to optimise your skin’s absorption for any nutrients/ elixirs in your next step.

It is also better to use a cream/oil based cleanser because not only could you double it up as a makeup remover by working the product on dry skin but it also serves as a cleanser.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Celine says:

    I have recently contacted La Mer Consumer Care to ask about pH level of their La Mer Cleansing Foam. I wish I could send you a screenshot of their response, but basically they refused to disclose that information to me “due to propriety reasons.”
    Do you mind telling me how you found out the La Mer Cleansing Foam pH level is 8.9? Is the source reliable?
    Your notes actually agree with La Mer representative I contacted, who also told me “a product’s effectiveness is not dependent upon any one particular factor (i.e., pH) or ingredient, but rather the combination of ingredients in a particular formula.”
    Do you think it’s worth it to really use their cleansing foam? Would it be too risky? I have actually been trying their sample of the foam. Although there hasn’t been any bad reaction so far, I’m just afraid over time, I’d be losing my skin barrier given its pH level is so mysterious/high… The reason I’m having so much dilema over this pricy foam cleanser is because it indeed feels so darn amazing on my skin, and honestly cleanses very well. My skin is combination/oily, but I luckily don’t have headaches with breakouts or sensitivity. What is your take on all this?


    1. Hi Celine,

      Thank you for reaching out. It entirely depends on your skin type. A good rule of thumb to see if a cleanser is possibly too harsh for you skin is when it leaves a “squeaky clean” feeling. This is an indication that your skin’s protective barrier has been compromised. When this happens overtime, the product may sensitise your skin.

      The pH level is from a reliable source who has measured it with a digital pH tester several times to ensure its accuracy. I would highly advise against a product with a high pH if you suffer from acne or sensitive skin. It is a very subjective issue. I do agree with you, it is a pricey cleanser considering the ingredients. However, if the product has not caused you any issues and you have been seeing great results; and have the budget for it, by all means go ahead.

      Hope this helps you make an informed decision.



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