Why Soap Is Not Enough

A good scrub with soap and water may have done the job when you were younger, but as your skin matures, an effective facial cleanser is essential for soft and supple skin. We look at the different choices of cleansers around.

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A good scrub with soap and water may have done the job when you were younger, but as your skin matures, an effective facial cleanser is essential for soft and supple skin. We look at the different choices of cleansers around
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Healthy skin begins with a good skin routine, and this includes the vital step of cleansing once or twice a day. Failing to wash your face properly can lead to skin irritation, clogged pores and acne breakouts. A quality facial cleanser helps remove makeup and dirt, purifying the skin without stripping it of its natural oils. Cleansers also help to prepare the skin for serums and moisturisers that will deliver hydration, antioxidants and sun protection.

“To me, an ideal cleanser would be one that is fragrance-free, cleanses well but does not leave the skin ’squeaky’ clean and dry,” says Dr Cheong Wai Keong, consultant dermatologist at Specialist Skin Clinic.

Choosing the best cleanser for you largely depends on your skin type, he adds. “Someone who is acne-prone but at the same time has sensitive skin should not be using a facial cleanser meant for acne-prone or oily skin types, as this would worsen their skin condition. Fragrance free cleansers are preferable for those who have sensitive skin.”

For dry and/or sensitive skin, look for cleansers labelled ‘gentle’, ‘soap-free’, or ‘hypoallergenic’. These tend to be milky or cream-based cleansers. Cleansers should also respect your skin’s pH balance, says Dr Eileen Tan, a dermatologist at Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

“Our skin’s natural pH levels are at 4.5 to 5.5, but most cleansers that contain soap leave the skin with a residual alkalinity of 10,” says Dr Tan. “They make your skin feel clean, but it becomes tight and dry afterwards because your natural lipids are stripped from your skin. Most cleansers do not state the pH range of their products, so look for keywords like ‘within the acid balance range’ or ‘respecting skin’s pH balance’.” For oily or acne-prone skin, look for active cleansers that contain ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic acid or lactic acid; beta hydroxyl acids (BHAs), such as salicylic acid; polyhydroxy acids (PHAs); witch hazel; benzoyl peroxide; or azelaic acid. These tend to be gel- or water-based cleansers.

Cleansing Wipes

Makeup remover and cleansing wipes have been popular for decades, particularly because they suit busy women and are inexpensive.

“Although facial wipes can be a time saver and are extremely convenient, they should not replace your daily cleansing routine,” says Dr Tan. “Cleansing wipes may cause skin irritation; hence, my suggestion is to use them sparingly.” If you need to use facial wipes, choose ones that are alcohol-free and gentle on the skin, rinse and moisturise your face after use.

Dr Tan recommends choosing faci0al wipes which are alcohol-free and gentle on the skin, and says you should also rinse and moisturise your face after use. Although most facial wipes are not very eco-friendly (they can clog landfill sites and pollute our waterways), you can find biodegradable wipes from brands such as The Body Shop.

Oil Cleansers

You may think that oil cleansers are an odd way to wash your face as they, in effect, use an oil to remove oil, makeup and dirt. Yet cleansing oils can be a super-hydrating way of cleaning your skin, particularly dry skin. “Oil cleansers are generally marketed according to skin type, and can be useful to remove makeup as well. However, I would be cautious about recommending them for those with very oily skin, especially if they are also acneprone,” says Dr Cheong.

While undoubtedly helpful when used sparingly, oil cleansers can congest the skin and contribute to acne and other unwanted conditions, if too frequently or heavily applied.

Cleansing Milks

These have creamier formulas – made from an emulsion of fats and water – that are light and gentle on the skin. They are great for normal to combination skin, says Dr Tan. “A cleansing milk is much less likely to leave a residue on the skin, unlike an oil cleanser. Milk cleansers are generally mild, and good for removing makeup.”

Micellar Water

With a quick swipe of micellar water on a cotton pad, makeup, oil and dirt lift off the skin. This is because “micelles” (tiny balls of cleansing oil molecules) act as a magnet. “These tiny oil particles draw makeup (including waterproof mascara), sebum and impurities from the skin without the need for harsh chemicals,” says Dr Tan. “Micellar water is easy to use, no-rinse, and gentle on the skin. It’s good for outdoor use, and for travelling.” However, if you have very thick makeup on, micellar water alone may be inadequate, says Dr Cheong.

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Lather up with these daily cleansers to remove dirt, grime and makeup effectively

Should you be double cleansing?

In double-cleansing, the first cleansing product (cleansing oil) removes most of the makeup and dirt from the face, before a second, deeper cleanser (like micellar water) takes away any leftover makeup and oils. “Double-cleansing is beneficial in hot and humid environments (like Singapore), to effectively remove makeup and maintain healthy skin without clogging pores,” says Dr Tan. Dr Cheong also recommends double-cleansing: “Micellar water alone is ideal if you do not want to use too many different products,” he says.

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From Left:
• Sulwhasoo Snowise Cleansing Foam, $52 (150 ml).
• ORBIS Aquaforce Mild Wash, $23 (120 g).
• KENZOKI Amazing Cleansing Water, $52, (200 ml).
• LANEIGE White Dew Milky Cleanser, $34 (150 ml).
• THREE Balancing Cleansing Oil, $68 (200 ml).
• FANCL MCO Mild Cleansing Oil, $30 (120 ml).
• Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser, $50 (150 ml).

• Shiseido WASO Soft+Cushy Polisher, $55 (75 ml).

Traditional soaps raise the pH of the skin, giving a feeling of tightness and cleanliness, but in fact, the skin’s natural protective lipids have been removed.