How Do Facial Cleansers Work?

Knowing how facial cleansers work can help you choose the right one for your skin's needs.

We all know what facial cleansers do—or so we think. But facial cleansers are as complex as any other chemical cocktail. Knowing how cleansers work on your skin can help you understand the large continuum of cleanser options, empowering you to choose the perfect cleanser for your skin.

How Do Facial Cleansers Work?

How Facial Cleansers Work: The Basics

Facial cleansers contain detergents called 'surfactants' that remove unwanted substances and particles from the outermost layer of skin. These surfactants, which vary in strength and effectiveness, work by attracting oil, makeup, dirt, and debris so they can be rinsed away easily.

Sulphates—common ingredients in shampoos, cleansers, and many soaps—are highly effective surfactants. But sulphates can also strip skin of its natural oils, leaving your face feeling tight and dry. Consequently, many skincare companies are turning away from harsh surfactants and opting for gentler ingredients.

Some cleansers even contain moisturisers, offering a two-for-one approach. Jurlique Rose Moisture Plus Moisturising Cleanser is an ideal choice for dry or combination skin.

What About Cleansing Oils?

You probably already know about the natural oil craze. A few years ago, virtually everyone thought that oil-based products were appropriate for only the driest skin. But more and more beauty devotees are turning to argan, jojoba, and coconut oils to resolve a range of skin difficulties.

Cleansing oils are now among the most popular cleansing options. So how do these oils work? They usually contain a gentle surfactant, much like traditional cleansers. But oil-based cleansers restore your skin's moisture balance with natural oils.

Some oils can also help dissolve dirt and debris. For example, a number of oils are effective at breaking down waterproof mascara and foundation, making cleansing oils an ideal choice for people who love long-wearing makeup.

Ready to jump on the cleansing oil bandwagon? Try Aesop Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil.


How Do Facial Cleansers Work?


Advanced Facial Cleansers

Regular facial cleansers remove bacteria, debris, and excess oil. A number of cleansers go the extra mile to address common skin woes with additional ingredients.

Exfoliating cleansers: Tiny particles, such as coconut husks or microbeads, are sometimes added to cleansers to mechanically slough off dead skin cells. Other cleansing products contain glycolic acid or other chemical exfoliants.

An exfoliating cleanser may eliminate the need to use a separate scrub or peel. These cleansers are ideal for use once or twice a week. If you have very dry skin, exfoliants can slough off dead patches, but overuse can strip your skin of its natural oils, producing more dryness.

Acne cleansers: Some cleansers for acne-prone skin are simply devoid of irritating ingredients and oils. But others directly treat acne with ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Acne-fighting cleansers can be drying and irritating when used too frequently. Start with every-other-day use, and then gradually increase the frequency based on the effects that you see on your skin.