The cornerstone of any good skincare routine, cleansing is a step that should never be overlooked. The first, and arguably most important element of a beauty ritual, not only do cleansers whip away impurities, they also impact the subsequent skincare steps, as Margaret De Heinrich, founder of Omorovicza, explains: "No serum or moisturiser – no matter the quality – can work its magic if you are applying it over dirty skin and clogged pores."
"Cleansing is an integral part of your skincare routine because it helps to remove oil, dirt and make-up, as well as pollution, debris and dead skin cells," says leading facial aesthetics doctor and founder of MZ skin, Dr Maryam Zamani. "The body’s largest organ and its first line of defence, the skin is exposed to numerous pollutants, viruses and bacteria throughout the day. It’s imperative to remove what becomes a barrier so as to allow skincare ingredients to properly penetrate and be absorbed into the skin."
But with oils, balms, gels, creams and micellar waters all claiming to cleanse skin, which formula should you choose for the best results?
Oils & Balms: Removing Impurities
Oil is heralded as the secret to fully removing pollutants, be that make-up or excess grime. While it’s important to remove debris from the skin to ensure maximum results from serums and moisturisers, it’s also a preventative step. "Pollutants and environmental toxins are known to accelerate skin ageing," says Dr Zamani, and can lead to an inflammatory response, like acne, if they are allowed to accumulate.
Busting the myth that those with oily skin should avoid oil-based products, Dr Brown explains that "sebum, our skin’s natural oil, is lipid soluble, so it only stands to reason it can be better removed with a lipid-soluble (oil) cleanser." As oil dissolves oil, for those wearing a full face of make-up or SPF, or who are exposed to significant environmental factors, oil and balm formulas – like Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil and Eve Lom’s Gel Balm Cleanser – will cleanse pores leaving a blank canvas to nourish skin.
"Never strive for that 'squeaky clean' feel, as it often means the skin is too stripped, which can thin skin over time."Dr Brown
Gels & Creams: For A Deeper Cleanse
Those who don’t wear make-up will benefit most from a gel or cream formula. Generally speaking, gel and cream cleansers are packed with nutrients or high-performance ingredients that penetrate deeper into the skin to kick-start regeneration and healing. Try massaging the product into the skin for extra nourishment; the action of massage alone triggers lymphatic drainage, which can reduce water tension and resulting puffiness.
Focus on ingredients: the Vitamin C in Rodial’s Vit C Brightening Cleanser will help to boost radiance and refresh a dull complexion; Dr Barbara Sturm’s Cleanser is ideal for sensitive skins, formulated with soothing Panthenol, a form of Vitamin B5, and aloe vera; and gentle exfoliants such as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) will remove the top layer of dead skin cells to improve skin texture, tone and the absorption of products – MZ Skin’s Cleanse & Clarify Dual Action AHA Cleanser & Mask does just that.
The Double Cleanse
Somewhat of a beauty buzzword, double cleansing simply means repeating the cleansing step twice. Particularly important for make-up wearers and those exposed to pollution, as Tata Harper explains: "The first cleanse gets rid of all the superficial dirt and make-up – it’s important to use oil for this – and the second cleanse should incorporate a targeted formula, like The Purifying Gel Cleanser, to remove pollution on a deeper level."
Toners: The Final Step
Gone are the days when alcohol-based toners claimed to 'close pores' and would strip the skin with harsh ingredients. "Toners play a vital role in helping balance the pH of the skin and adding extra moisture after cleansing," says Dr Brown, and often contain acids to slough away dead skin cells. Now choose from water-like formulas such as Fresh’s Deep Hydration Facial Toner infused with real rose petals, the likes of which are swept over the skin on a cotton pad, to thicker essences or lotions like La Mer’s The Treatment Lotion that can be left on the skin.