• Choosing the right cleanser can be an overwhelming task. Cleansing gels, creams, lotions, scrubs, and washes come with botanicals, acids, and various cleansing and moisturizing agents. They can come in milky, no-rinse, oil, exfoliating, and foaming forms. You may end up simply choosing the one with the prettiest packaging. The key when choosing the right cleanser is to choose the mildest cleanser that will do the job without stripping your skin of its protective lipid barrier.

    The next choice you need to make is what you want your cleanser to do. You have two choices – you can choose just a basic, gentle cleanser or one with actives that can help solve some of the skin care issues you may be experiencing. If you are a person who prefers to keep the simplest routine possible, with just a cleanser, sunscreen, and moisturizer, then choosing a cleanser with actives may be a good idea. If your routine is more complicated, with toners, multiple treatment serums, sunscreen, moisturizers, and masks – then choosing a basic, mild cleanser will help to avoid over-stressing the skin.

    The Natural pH of the Skin

    Skin is naturally acidic with a natural acid mantle that protects the skin from bacteria and environmental onslaughts. It also helps regenerate skin cells and trap essential moisture. Its ideal pH is 5.5 – but most people’s skin ranges from 4.5 to 6.2.

    In order to prevent upsetting this balance, it is important to avoid using products with a pH above a 6. Soap has a pH of 9-10, which, if used regularly, will destroy the acid mantle of the skin and leave it dry, irritated, and vulnerable to bacterial infection. Even lowly tap water has a pH of 7, which is why some cleansers for extremely dry and sensitive skin are designed to be removed without the use of water.

    A lower pH is necessary for cleansers with exfoliating or brightening ingredients such as salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids because they need a pH below a 4 in order to be effective. The lower pH is ok for oily to acne prone skin as it does help to ward off bacteria, and as long as skin is not becoming overly dry and irritated. It is best, though, to end the routine with a more pH balanced product so that skin is not left to try and recover all on its own.

    PH strips are available at your local pet store in the fish section – for anyone who wants to test the pH of their current cleanser – or any other product in their routine.

    Daytime Cleansers and Nighttime Cleansers

    Using different cleansers for your morning and nightly routine is not a very popular concept, but it is one that makes a lot of sense. Your skin care needs are different at night than they are in the morning. At night, a cleanser that is capable of removing sunscreen and makeup is necessary. In the morning, people with oily or acne-prone skin type may want to use an anti-bacterial or clarifying cleanser that will help combat blemishes and cut through oil in order to insure a smooth and lasting makeup application.