Outside of daily sunscreen, cleansing is the most important step of your skincare routine. We cleanse our skin to remove excess oils, breakdown makeup/sunscreen and remove debris and environmental pollutants we encounter throughout the day. It’s easy to imagine what might happen if you never washed your face – you’d just continue applying products on top and drive debris deep into your pores.
But before we get into why cleansing is especially important for acne prone skin, it’s important to remember that acne is not caused by being dirty. Acne is the result of some combination of oil (sebum), dead skin cells and bacteria, all of which are naturally found in your skin and are necessary for everyday functioning. However, improper cleansing can disrupt the balance of these things, leading to clogged pores and exacerbating acne.
All skin, even the most acne-prone, needs oil to function – it’s why our bodies produce it! Oil is necessary for skin barrier strength, which is your body’s first line of defense against the outside. It helps fill in the cracks, prevent water loss, soften, and even provide antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial protection. Oil even helps acne lesions heal faster!
Cleansing helps to remove excess oil, but the right cleanser shouldn’t remove all oil. Stripping the skin of its natural oils can exacerbate acne by damaging your skin’s barrier and its ability to defend itself. Cleansing is also crucial to keep your pores clear of particles that overtime can contribute to pore blockages. People with acne prone skin usually find the most success with gel-based or lightly foaming cream cleansers like our Soothe Operator cleanser. Your cleanser should leave your skin feeling freshly cleansed, but not tight or dry.
In the morning, use a gentle, non-stripping cleanser for about 1 minute. The purpose of this cleanse is to remove any leftover product residue, oil and sweat we produce overnight. Gently massage the product onto your skin, careful not to pull, tug or scrub.
Your nighttime cleanse is the most important cleanse of the day because you are also removing sunscreen, makeup and microscopic pollutants/debris that get trapped on your skin during the day. For this reason, double cleansing is a great option to provide the most thorough cleanse. Traditionally, double cleansing involves using an oil-based cleanser first, followed by a water-based cleanser. These days, many water-based cleansers are formulated to be effective at removing makeup and oil, so you can also use the same cleanser twice in a row as your double cleanse.
If using an oil or balm, start by warming up the product in your hands and massage it on dry skin for 30-60 seconds, giving special attention to your congested areas, such as around the nose. Because like attracts like, oil helps to break down both oil on your skin and in products. Add water to emulsify and rinse.
Next, use your water-based cleanser on damp skin for about 60 seconds. This will also help remove any residue from your first cleanse. Pat dry with a clean washcloth or disposable towel. Exfoliating cleansers can be a great way to introduce acids with less irritation, but be mindful if you are also using leave-on exfoliants or retinoids in the same routine.
We mentioned that double cleansing is recommended almost always, but listen to your skin. If you have particularly dry or sensitive skin, cleansing too much can lead to irritation. Just make sure your single cleanse is doing the job!
If you’re looking for a new cleanser, try our Soothe Operator! A silky gel cleanser that melts away makeup, sunscreen and dirt without stripping, it’s formulated with hydrators and calming botanicals for all skin types, especially acne-prone.