What should you look for in a cleanser?

Cleansing tends to get the short end of the stick in our skincare routine. Find out why that needs to change, pronto

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By Amina Grimen

Published: Thu 12 Mar 2020, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 13 Mar 2020, 1:00 AM

Cleansing is the first and possibly the most important step of your skincare routine. It sets the tone for everything that follows. Unfortunately, it is also the step that often gets the least attention. Sure, it only stays on your face for a couple of minutes. However, cleansers are essential to free our skin of makeup, oils, sunscreen, and unwanted dirt and bacteria. It is the foundation for the skincare that follows. So, give cleansing a leg up in the skincare chain. Here's what to look for:

pH is king
Healthy skin normally has a pH of around 5.5, which means it is slightly on the acidic side. This acidity is known as the skin's 'acid mantle', and it is what protects skin from pollutants and keeps bacteria from flourishing on the surface. For this reason, you should protect your skin's acid mantle at all costs. Stick to a cleanser with a pH of between 4.5 and 6 to avoid stripping your skin of goodness.

Avoid sulfates
Cleansers should never make your skin feel squeaky clean - your face is not a pot! It should feel fresh, but not stripped or dehydrated. If you get that dry and tight feeling, consider this a warning, as it is a sign that your cleanser is throwing your skin off balance. Stay away from cleansers that contain sulfates, which are often added to cleansing products to encourage foaming. Also, avoid products that include the following in their ingredients list: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. Your face will thank you for it!

Avoid granular exfoliants
Regular exfoliation is necessary to clear your skin of dead skin cells and prepare it for active ingredients and hydration. Opt for chemical exfoliants containing AHA and BHA acids (such as salicylic, lactic and glycolic) instead of abrasive granular scrubs. They help to gently remove dead skin cells, but also improve skin texture and work to repair acne scars. If you have acne-prone skin, it is best to avoid abrasive physical exfoliators with harsh grains, sugar or salt, or facial brushes as much as possible. If you have dry skin, you can use a gentle exfoliator with either very fine grains in a creamy, lotion texture or one that's honey-based or that contains moisturising oils.

Double cleanse
Cleansing done twice! We can't stress this enough. Brought to you by Korean women and their gorgeous skin, and now loved all over the world, you begin with an oil-based cleanser or balm to remove make-up, sunscreen and oils, and follow it up with a water-based traditional cleanser, such as a cleansing gel or foam, to remove dirt and bacteria. If you are longing for radiant skin, this is the way to go!

Bonus: Avoid face wipes
We know this is the easy option, but resist at all costs! Cleansing wipes are loaded with chemicals which, sure, will dissolve your makeup - but their surfactants and emulsifiers also aggravate your skin. Not to mention, the scrubbing involved in a stubborn scrap of mascara - all that pulling is a massive no-no around your delicate eyes. Be kind to your skin!
Amina Grimen Cofounder, Powder.ae

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