Beauty

How to determine the best facial cleanser for your skin type

By: Alexandra Donaldson

©iStock.com/ValuaVitaly Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStock.com/ValuaVitaly

Beauty

How to determine the best facial cleanser for your skin type

By: Alexandra Donaldson
Face cleansing is essential to remove the grime from the day and get rid of makeup residue and excess oil from your face. Since there’s no shortage of product types (or the marketing gimmicks that accompany them), it can be difficult to find something that works well for your own individual needs and genetics—because one size definitely doesn't fit all. We talked with Dr. Sonya Cook, Dermatologist MD FRCPC, to find out how to determine our skin’s needs in the facial cleanser department.

According to Dr. Cook, “the biggest mistake people make with respect to cleansing is not cleansing at all. Water alone will only remove approximately 65% of oil and dirt from the skin,” and leaving behind dirt can contribute to breakouts and irritation. If there’s one thing you need to be doing in relation to skin care, it’s cleanse.

Step 1: Determine your skin type


If you find that your skin lacks moisture and can become itchy and sensitive, you probably have dry skin. If you know that your skin is acne-prone or that you’re hesitant to use moisturizers because you fear excess oil, then you likely have oily skin. Combination skin is dry and oily in certain areas—you may find yourself acne-prone in the central area of your face (the T-zone) and dry on the periphery. If your skin is easily irritated or is often reddened by product, you have sensitive skin. Aging skin can be dry and lack elasticity.

Step 2: Know what to avoid

Fragrance is often an irritant and is a no-no for anyone who doesn’t want to risk irritation. “Do not assume that a product is fragrance free because it is marketed for sensitive skin,” says Dr. Cook. “The term “sensitive” is unregulated in products." Also, avoid soaps and exfoliating cleansers with gritty particles. Both can cause irritation and strip the skin of natural oils.

It’s important not to scrub your skin too hard, which can cause injury. By picking the right cleanser, you'll ensure that the product is doing the heavy lifting—not your fingers. Instead of scrubbing, use your fingertips to gently apply cleanser or use an automated brush with gentle bristles. It is also extremely important that you rinse cleansers thoroughly from your skin. This step can help reduce irritation.

Step 3: Choose the right product

Cleansers come in different variations—cream, foam, gel, oil-based— so there’s no end to your choices. Dr. Cook notes that “liquid cleansers are the best cleansers. They are able to combine the mildest surfactants (which do the work of the cleanser) with emollients that help to maintain the skin barrier and reduce irritation.” Once you assess what type of skin you have, it's time to suss out the perfect cleansing match.

Dry and sensitive skin

“Dry skin requires gentle cleansing to prevent further loss of moisture,” says Dr. Cook, “I recommend that people with dry skin wash their face at night only.” If you have sensitive or dry skin you need to avoid irritants, so look for fragrance-free products. Dr. Cook recommends cleansers that are non-foaming, like creams and lotions.

Oily skin

Oily skin can stand to be washed twice a day and “a liquid cleanser formulated for acne-prone skin” will help control breakouts. If you are prone to acne, you may want to seek a cleanser containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which are gentle exfoliants.

Combination skin

Using a gentle liquid cleanser for combination skin ensures that your face is clean—but remember to apply moisturizer directly on to the dry areas to keep your skin balanced.

Mature skin

Aging skin has an impaired barrier and decreased sebum production so Dr. Cook recommends a “once daily use of a gentle cleanser that is either a cream or lotion.”

Whatever your skin’s needs, there is undoubtedly a cleanser for you. Finding the right one is the first step in ensuring a quality skin-care routine that leaves you looking—and feeling—radiant.

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How to determine the best facial cleanser for your skin type

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