You're probably using the wrong cleanser and here's why

If you are still using the same foaming facewash since junior year of high school, chances are that you're not doing your skin any favours and it's time to upgrade.

Last week I touted the benefits of using oil cleansers as the first step in the glorious double cleanse regimen – ie a first cleanse that removes makeup and grime, and a second cleanse that cleanses the skin itself. (Check it out here if you missed it.) 

Now we're ready to move onwards and upwards to cleanse numero dos.

You can do better

In my book, the sign of a great second cleanse is one that leaves my skin feeling fresh and soft, not tight or uncomfortable. I tend to stick to mild cleansers with a smooth or milky consistency. In particular, I prefer cleansers that do not foam.

As I learned in a business school case study, we have been programmed by marketers to believe that foam + bubbles = “the product is working!”

While that super squeaky clean feeling is addictive, the chemicals causing it can actually strip the skin’s barrier and dry your face out. Foaming cleansers can also disrupt the pH balance of your skin, leaving it too alkaline and therefore susceptible to bacteria, which of course lead to blemishes. It’s counter-intuitive; you would think that using a foaming product that leaves your skin tight and rubbery would prevent breakouts, and that a mild, milky cleanser wouldn't work, but it’s actually the opposite.

Hey SLS, SLES, and ALS - lose my number

In fact, in order to generate said foamy lather, your cleanser typically contains questionable surfactants – substances that work to reduce the surface tension of a liquid, allowing it to spread across your face more easily and, of course, to generate lots of sexy, satisfying foam.

The cheapest and most common surfactants - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS) - are used in many personal hygiene products and can be quite allergenic, resulting in irritated, angry skin.

Expert tip: the irritation potential of these surfactants is one reason why hardcore skincare devotees avoid getting lather-heavy shampoo suds on their face and will always cleanse properly after showering.

That said, not all foaming cleansers are bad, and hey, if they work for you, power to you. The one piece of advice I would give is not go cheap on a foaming cleanser because the quality of surfactants and formulations can make a big difference in how your skin might react. You just spent £20 on an hour at Barry's Bootcamp, do you really want to risk a red, itchy face tonight over a difference in £10?!

The bottom (foam-free) line

As Justin Trudeau would say, "It's 2015." In my opinion, it's time to wean ourselves off of skincare products that using highly irritating chemicals to make foam. Much better cosmetic science exists now than when we were in high school, sudsing away at our teenage skin. These foamless options get your skin just as clean, but also leave it more nourished and less stripped of its natural protective barrier. OK I'll get off my soap box now (pun! oops). 

To help get you started, I’ve included some of my favourite second cleanses below. As I mentioned in the Oil Cleansers post, you only need to wash your face once in the morning. These guys below are also effective options for your AM routine. Enjoy!



Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (the classic)

£8.99 - Click HERE to Buy


Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel (I use this one!)

£11.95 - Click HERE to Buy


Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser (people are obsessed with Tata)

£45 - Click HERE to Buy


These are just a few of my favourites. What are yours??


By Renee Parker