Best Acne Cleansers: A Guide

Posted on: August 4th, 2009 | Filed under acne product selection

Nearly all modern day acne regimens call for skin cleansing. During the cleansing phase of you acne treatment, you remove dead skin cells off your face that could potentially clog pores. Cleansing allows for optimal penetration of topical acne medication. Although in theory the cleansing stage sounds straightforward, there is a bit of complexity involved. For one, you need to find an effective cleanser. Even with an effective cleanser, you may be washing your face incorrectly and thus exacerbating your breakouts. In this post, we will be discussing skin cleansing in depth, from what products you should use to how exactly you should use them.

Your local Rite-Aid or Savon drugstore has aisles lined with various skin cleansers. With such a diverse selection, it can often be difficult trying to wade through all the available products. It helps tremendously if you know what to look for. For starters, you need to avoid cleansers that have harsh ingredients such as alcohol. Alcohol is an astringent that removes moisture from the skin. Despite what your prior knowledge of cleansers tells you, they should not be stripping your skin of moisture and oils. Acne cleaners containing alcohol will dry your skin out and eventually irritate it. If you have oily skin, alcohol and other astringents can be especially detrimental. There is indication that sebaceous gland activity is a function of the degree to which your skin is moisturized. Stripping your skin of oils will encourage it to produce more, effectively exacerbating the problem. This topic, however, will be reserved for another post.

Skin does not take a liking to extreme fluctuations in pH (acidity). The acid mantle that compromises part of your skin should have a pH between 4 and 5.5. For those of you that can recall from high school chemistry, this is a slightly acidic pH range. Soaps in general tend to be highly alkaline, or basic. They can disrupt the pH of the acid mantle, leaving it weak in the face of bacteria and other external threats. Although the acid mantle can regenerate itself, it often has trouble doing so. Most of us don’t readily realize the harsh ingredients we are using on our skin, and thus we continue using them. This does not give our skin ample time to regenerate its mantle. Consequently, it remains vulnerable. The moral of the story is to use a cleanser that is pH balanced. pH balanced cleansers often feature a pH of 7 or slightly lower, as to preserve the delicate acid mantle. Acne cleaners that fall into the pH balanced category should be clearly labeled.

For some reason, many have taken an extreme liking to cleansers that feature some sort of exfoliating beads. The beads rub against your skin as you are cleansing it, and supposedly help slough off dead skin cells. People with acne prone skin need to avoid such cleansers at all costs. They are far too irritating for the skin, and will end up agitating your pores, causing more acne. Your face may feel fresh after cleansing, however, it will become red and irritated shortly thereafter. Bottom-line: stick to cleansers without exfoliating particles.

Since we were young, most of us were taught that a lathering effect signifies that cleaning is taking place. Most soap, detergent, and cleanser manufacturers include a chemical known as sodium lauryl sulfate is their products. This compound is a surfactant (substance that reduces the surface tension of a liquid). Essentially, it helps create that lathering effect which most of us are all too familiar with. What often remains unbeknownst to the public is that the same sodium lauryl sulfate found in engine degreasers and other potent, industrial and home-cleaning products, is also found in facial cleansers and the like. The only factor that differs is the concentrations in which the chemical is present in. If this is not enough to disturb you, consider this. Sodium lauryl sulfate has been linked to carcinogenic activity, and is currently classified as a pesticide. A number of skin cleansing products currently available on the market contain sodium lauryl sulfate. One of the primary reasons for its widespread use lies in the purity of water currently available to most in the United States and elsewhere. Most homes in the country are supplied with what is known as hard water. This mineral-rich water has difficulty reacting with soap, forming soap scum as opposed to foam. Sodium lauryl sulfate mitigates this problem, allowing the soap to lather even when combined with hard water. When shopping for a cleanser, be sure to examine its label carefully as to ensure it does not contain this dangerous chemical. Some quality cleansers on the market do feature this chemical, albeit in negligible concentrations. If you are considering such an acne cleanser, be sure to conduct additional research.

Now that we’ve outlined some important guidelines to follow while in the market for an acne cleanser, we need to touch on proper application protocol. The manner in which most people approach cleaning their face is improper and potentially irritating. Before doing anything, have your cleanser dispenser nearby in its open position. Apply some cool (not hot) water to your face, and dab some cleanser on both of your index fingers. Proceed to rub the cleanser in gently with your index fingers, making sure not to apply excessive pressure. Work the cleanser in with a swirling motion, making sure to go over all parts of the face. Only use your two index fingers while doing this. Once your face is evenly covered with the acne cleanser, rinse it off with some cool water. Try not to touch your face while doing this. When the cleanser has been completely rinsed off, Grab a clean towel and DAB your face dry. You should NEVER rub your face dry with a towel – it will irritate it. Your face may feel somewhat moist after you have completed dabbing it. Let it air dry for a few minutes before applying moisturizer or your topical acne medication.

We hope this post has proved insightful in helping you select an optimal cleanser, as well as teaching you how to properly apply it. If you find that you are currently using a cleanser that falls outside the criteria we outlined above, you should do your best to stop using it immediately. It may be jeporadizing the efficacy of your acne treatment. Further, try your best to adapt the cleansing protocol recommended above. You may see an immense improvement in the clarity of your skin as a result of the reduced irritation. Good luck!

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