It’s 2019, let’s take control of your skin health with the most basic step – washing your face. Do you prefer wipes to balms? Or can’t live without a foam or a gel? Do you swear by oil-based cleansers vs water? Do you wash your face once a day or do you follow the K-beauty triple cleanse approach? Something so simple can get complicated fast with all the different options out there.
We spoke with Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, Mariwalla Dermatology, and Dr. Neal Bhatia, Therapeutics Clinical Research about the best cleansing routine to keep your skin barrier intact and healthy.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when washing their face?
Kavita Mariwalla, MD: Over-washing and using harsh cleansers are the two main culprits. The number one job of your cleansers is to remove makeup, dirt, dead skin cells and leave your skin microbiome intact. Over-cleansing can strip your skin of its own natural oils and actually impair the barrier.
What is the skin microbiome and why do we want to keep it intact?
Neal Bhatia, MD: The skin microbiome is comprised of micro-organisms, considered to be “good bacteria,” that coexist and contribute to the health of your epidermis. The last part is where a lot of cleansers fail –harsh sulfates, potential irritant preservatives, and the wrong pH take can upset the microbiome and strip the skin barrier of its natural lipids. If the integrity of the microbiome is compromised, barrier dysfunction, flares of diseases such as atopic dermatitis, and opportunities for infections from “bad bacteria” like Staphylococcus aureus, can all occur.
What makes a cleanser harsh?
Kavita Mariwalla, MD: Our skin is naturally acidic and has a pH of 5, a traditional bar of soap has a pH of 10. Cleansers that aren’t in that pH 5 range and use sodium lauryl sulfate often wash away your skin’s good bacteria and natural lipids with all your make up – leaving skin tight and extra dry. That “squeaky clean” feeling is actually something you want to avoid for your skin.
What is an alternative to sulfates?
Neal Bhatia, MD: Sodium lauryl sulfate is a strong cleanser that has been around for 50 years and can be found in everything from clothes detergent to toothpaste. The new alternatives are derived from coconuts and gently clean and keep the skin hydrated at the same time. Look for Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate and Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine on the ingredient box of your cleanser.
What is the difference between oil-based and water-based cleansers?
Kavita Mariwalla, MD: Water-based cleansers use water as the medium to deliver ingredients to the skin. They are lightweight and gel-like. Oil-based cleansers use emollient oils as a medium to deliver ingredients to the skin. New research shows that oil-based cleansers replenish some of the fatty acid lipids lost during cleansing – helping your skin retain moisture and strengthen the skin barrier. Because oil-based cleansers can also penetrate the skin barrier, they can give hydration where it really works.
Will oil-based cleansers clog my pores?
Kavita Mariwalla, MD: If you are cleansing with oils that you buy online or in the drugstore, the idea is that you are using oil to dissolve dirt and wipe it away. If you have oily or acne prone skin, this DIY approach can worsen it. However; if you are using an oil-based cleanser that has been clinically tested and validated, the answer is no.
How often should you wash your face and what are your thoughts on the K-Beauty Triple Cleansing Routine?
Kavita Mariwalla, MD: Over-cleansing can damage your skin barrier. You should limit washing to twice a day and after sweating. Wash your face while taking a shower and once more in the evening using a pH balanced, sulfate free cleanser. If you work out during the day, you should wash your face after – as perspiration can irritate the skin. Medicated cleansers can be helpful to address specific problems which can be recommended by a board-certified dermatologist.