How To | Cleansers 101

In my previous post about navigating skin I talked about the fundamental steps in cleansing and exfoliating your skin.

Find a cleanser that suits your needs. To determine this, you really need to look at your skin and see the texture of your skin. You can't find a cleanser that does everything - well you don’t really need one. If you think about all the imperfections you have also think how long it took for them to form, you start to realise it can't be undone in a day. Skin care is a process and its very manageable.

If you have 3 things you want to target while cleansing then list them by priority and go from there.

For example:

  1. Acne
  2. Acne scarring
  3. Dryness

Another example:

  1. Blackheads
  2. Oiliness
  3. Pore Refining

Now, which cleanser should you choose?

I decided to put it in a list form based on texture so its nice and simple to refer to - this is how I like to organise things and it keeps me from babbling too much.



A lightweight texture that lathers slightly. Not too drying but lifts off dirt and makeup.

Combination/Oily because the gel won't lift off too many oils but enough for you feel clean.


A rich creamy texture which lathers like whipped cream. Some can be super foamy and some can be milky.

Depending on how it lathers, its great for Combination/Dry skin.


Frothy substance that makes the skin feel squeaky clean. Foam is really lightweight.

Oily. It really helps to lift off the dirt and makeup in your lipid barrier but can be overly drying.


Toner like substance that gently removes makeup. Great for a quick removal. Micelles in the water attract the dirt/oil/makeup in your skin.

All skin types. I would do a double cleanse with this product because you never know if 100% of your makeup is off.


A super smooth texture that doesn’t lather too much. Skin is left feeling soft.

All skin types. Clay cleansers help to attract the dirt and oils in your skin without it stripping too much.


Quite oily, usually a solid balm that melts into an oil. Skin left slightly hydrated almost like you've added a toner.

All skin types. I would recommend this for all skin types mainly because the oils in the balm attract to the oils in your skin. Its also the second best thing in removing makeup.


Quite possibly the smoothest feeling because you're smothering your skin in oil. It gently, but effectively, melts away stubborn makeup and generally leaves the skin supple and smooth.

All skin types, especially dry. The oil emulsifies into a milk. Nothing to be afraid of if you're worried about the cleanser leaving a residue.


Smooth, creamy texture that leaves the skin feeling super hydrated.

Dry/Sensitive. Milk cleansers are like a mix of water and oil based cleansers. Perfect for lifting off dirt while keeping the skin hydrated.


Once you find the perfect texture, you can then search for claims and ingredients. For acne, Salicylic Acid, Benzyl Peroxide, Chamomile, Zinc Oxide etc are great for drying out the pimples and soothing redness. If you're targeting blackheads, clay and charcoal are amazing. For more dryer skin types, looking for cleansers with a mix of oils is a good place to start. For acne scarring, opt for cleansers that soothe and heal the skin.

Now keep in mind that a cleanser stays on your face for maximum 1 or 2 minutes so really its not as effective as products that you leave on your skin. I'm talking about the cleansers that have anti-aging properties in it - don't bother, unless of course you do leave it on for more than 2 mins. That being said, daily cleansing will allow the dirt and oils to unclog from your skin which allows your great serums and moisturisers to absorb better.

I also want to address that overly cleansing is not the best thing either. I understand that when you cleanse to the point that your skin feels tight and dry, it leaves your skin open to bacteria in the air to fall into the crevices = PIMPLES. When that happens, the moisture evaporates and you're left with dehydrated skin that is open to acne-causing bacteria.  What happens when you cleanse to that squeaky feeling is you're removing some of the natural oils (lipid barrier) that keep your skin from losing moisture.

But what if I moisturise straight away?

I know there are people out there that love the feeling of being squeaky clean and have no problems with their skin. That’s fine. This is just what I understand and how I approach introducing cleansers to anyone. Even if you moisturise straight away there is a chance you are just trapping the bacteria into your skin with that moisturiser.

What I took away from learning about cleansers is that there are so many to choose from and that there is no one perfect cleanser for everyone. I believe, with careful observation of your skin after cleansing, you'll be able to notice if something isn't right for you and change that for the better.