Now that we’ve chatted a bit about the layers that make up skin, and how thin this layer is, it is easy to consider just how crucial it is that skin is not damaged during the most important step in skincare – cleansing. Many cleansers, particularly those that foam, are designed to strip oils from the skin. While this can feel wonderful at first, especially if you have an oily skin type, stripping the beneficial oils from your face leaves a telltale tight, uncomfortable feeling. There are also ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and alcohol that can be harsh and damaging to skin. That all of these ingredients are approved for use in skin care does not mean they are good for skin, only that the FDA does not object to their use. Read the ingredients on your cleanser and avoid products containing synthetic ingredients which are not supportive of good skin health.
Because oil is created by the skin, an entire industry has risen blaming any and all skin oil for every malady of the skin – especially acne. However in most cases there is a lifestyle component. For Example: Acne is not the result of oily skin. Most times it is a hormonal condition driven by androgen combining with surface bacteria and fatty acids that are naturally occurring that create pimples and blemishes. This is why most acne cases are typically a condition of teens, in women about a week before menstruation, and person’s under stressful situations.
Milk, alcohol, and high-glycemic foods cause increases in insulin, which controls blood glucose levels, and studies show that insulin influences skin to over produce sebum. There are ingredients commonly used in commercial makeup, hair care, and skin care that have been linked to acne. Sulfates are common in commercial shampoos and commercial detergent bars (I can’t call them soap as they’re just a pressed bar of synthetic ingredients) and are hidden in products using hundreds of different names. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to cystic acne. In addition there are medications that cause breakouts, and genetics do play a part as well as specific medical conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Bottom line is that acne is not all about the oil on your skin.
A vicious cycle that many commercial acne treatments create:
- An acne breakout occurs (actual cause unknown and doesn’t matter.)
- Commercial acne “treatment” excessively dries out the skin to combat the acne, sometimes chemically damaging the skin in the process.
- Skin attempts to regain oil balance by producing oil to lubricate, protect, and heal itself.
- Acne persists – because at no point was the cause of the acne (diet, chemicals, lack of sunlight, hormones) addressed. This acne will persist and most likely will become worse.
One day I hope that a marketing campaign will advocate a good diet, exercise, and non-synthetic treatments as the best acne treatment though there are some of the largest conglomerates in the world with an interest in continuing to tell acne suffers that they need to get rid of skin oil.
Now that we have a handle on acne, let’s take a look at how to cleanse skin effectively and gently. It is my hope to foster a sense of working with one’s skin rather than against it. There are a myriad of facial cleansing product categories. Several are viable alternatives to harsh cleansers, and others masquerade as gentle while only being a harsh cleaner in the disguise of pretty packaging and misleading marketing. Here are the gentle and effective alternate cleanser categories…
Oil cleansing is the most gentle form of facial cleansing available. Oil Cleansing may sound counter intuitive, but don’t be afraid of applying oil to your face. Oil by itself does not create blemishes. Those are caused by many factors such as skin’s own sebum combining with dead skin cells, bacteria, hormones-and in conjunction with each other these factors lead to pimples, blackheads, cysts and other blemishes. Oil cleansing dissolves these hardened impurities from your pores.
While there are oils that will clog pores, Oil Cleansing (OCM) uses non-comedogenic oils (non pore clogging) and warm moisture to soften sebum and the impurities contained within, combines with it, and moves it to the surface of skin to be wiped away. The principle of this method lies in like attracting like. Because skin’s natural oil excess is being naturally removed, skin is allowed to return to its own natural production.
Cats Paw Farm has a full line of skin-type specific OCM products. I’ll be happy to work with you and help you determine the right one for your facial cleansing.
Do you remember Cold Cream? While towards the end of its popularity there were some questionable ingredients slipping into the formulation (petroleum products to be specific), the cold cream of the mid twentieth century was petroleum free. Cream cleansing is very similar to oil cleansing but care must be taken to ascertain noncomedogenic ingredients as there is no warmth used during this type of cleansing to integrate sebum containing impurities with the cleansing. I find cream cleansing to be a great makeup removing step if followed by a step more suited to removing both the cream cleanser and skin impurities. Look to cream cleansers for a surface cleanse, but not to remove trapped dirt.
These cleansers (obviously) contain clay and are renowned for their detoxifying benefits (similar to clay masks.) They can draw out surface particles and impurities from pores but can also absorb too much oil as well. They’re best used infrequently.
Micellar Water Cleansing aka No Rinse Cleansing
Micellars are the lightest form of facial cleansing and can be rather deceptive. Their look and texture is very like plain water though they are created with micelles, tiny molecules of oil that remove dirt. Micellars are usually applied with a cotton pad or ball and do not require rinsing. They’re a great multi-purpose product which can provide light cleaning, remove makeup, cleanse and tone skin.
Cats Paw Farm Micellar Waters are available in a variety of formulas and all are organic.
Facial Bar Soap
Bar Soap designed for facial use is formulated differently than body soap. Facial bars contain more moisturizing and nourishing ingredients and are designed to balance pH levels. If you’re not ready to move away from soap, my suggestion is to go for a soap formulated specifically for facial needs. Cats Paw Farm crafts many facial specific bars and I can help direct you to choices that are right for you.
Additional types of cleansers are available, though they utilize a variety of synthetic ingredients which are harsh and create damage to the skin’s oil balance (even when they masquerade as “new”, “trending”, etc) often causing more problems to the skin than they purport to remedy: Gel cleaners, Foam cleansers, Powder cleansers, and Cleansing wipes.
I hope you are enjoying this series on skin and the products effective in its care. Next week we’ll delve into toners, serums, and elixirs. Thanks for hanging out with me!