Washing your face is one of the more important steps in your daily acne-fighting routine. Unfortunately, a lot of people with acne-prone skin end up using the wrong kind of cleanser — that leads to dried-out skin, flakiness and new breakouts. For people with eczema or rosacea, using the wrong kind of cleanser may even worsen the condition.
Here’s a rundown of cleanser types.
Anionic surface acting agents (surfactants or detergents) produce foam and display the greatest cleansing potency. Because these detergents remove lipids from the skin’s surface and damage the protective bilayer membrane barrier, they should ONLY be used only by individuals with increased sebum production. One of the more famous examples of this type of ingredient is the commonly-used sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which strips lipids from the skin and irritates the skin. An alternative to SLS is sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) — it exhibits foaming attributes, but is less likely than SLS to cause irritation.
These are creamy and milky cleansers. These products usually have a neutral PH and include ingredients like alkyl glyceryl, ether sulfonate and alpha olefin sulfonates. Non-foaming cleansers are most appropriate for dry skin. People with oily skin often report their skin doesn’t feel clean when they use these cleansers.
Salicylic acid (SA) cleansers are a member of the aspirin family, and therefore confer anti-inflammatory properties. Salicylic acid is lipophilic and can penetrate through the sebum derived lipids into pores. They’re the most effective cleansers to unclog pores, so they’re for people with oily skin, sensitive skin prone to acne, seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea. The exfoliation yielded by salicylic acid also enhances skin barrier penetration and is well tolerated by people with oily skin. People with dryer skin types will usually benefit from the use lower percent salicylic acid cleansers.
Antibacterial cleansers contain ingredients that reduce P. Acnes and other types of bacteria on the skin. These products include benzoyl peroxide (BP), silver and sodium hypochlorite. Benzoyl peroxide cleansers can be irritating and aren’t well tolerated by patients with dry skin.
So, how should you choose the best cleanser for YOU? That depends if you have oily or dry skin. And sometimes, people with combination-type skin will require two types of cleansers — one for oily skin areas and a milder cleanser for the dry skin areas.
Foaming cleansers should never be used on dry, acne-prone skin. Individuals with the acne subtype of sensitive skin should avoid using scrubs, loofahs and other forms of mechanical exfoliation.
Salicylic acid (SA) cleansers help prevent clogged pores and exfoliate dead skin, which helps prevent acne comedones. The anti-inflammatory properties of salicylic acid help prevent the formation of papules and pustules that characterize acne. To have the optimal effect the % of salicylic acid in the cleanser should be customized to the skin type and acne severity of the specific user. Creamy cleansers have an additional advantage since these products are effective at makeup removal.
Knowing which cleansing product to use based on your skin type is critical to treat acne quickly and with minimal side effects!