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Everything You Need To Know About Cleansing Correctly
Health and beauty
April 2022
Reading time 3 Minutes

Most of us (hopefully) use a cleanser at night, but how many of us really know how to get our skin squeaky clean?

Recent research shows rather alarmingly that 42 percent of us only use water to wash our faces, which won’t remove make-up, daily dirt or damaging pollution. The right cleanser, and using it it correctly, can make all the difference between good – and bad – skin. Here’s what you need to know.

When you wash…

Don’t use cold water to wash as it won’t remove dirt effectively. Equally, don’t use water that is too hot as it can be damaging to skin and may cause dehydration and irritation.

Do use a microfibre cloth such as a muslin which will help lift dirt and debris with its mild exfoliation effect. You need to remove all dirt, but you also need to remove all traces of your cleanser too so other products can penetrate the skin more effectively.

Do massage your cleanser into the skin to help it lift the daily grime more effectively. Spend a minute cleaning your skin and the same amount of time rinsing it. The massage motion will help stimulate the skin in readiness for a serum or your favourite moisturiser. Pat skin dry – don’t rub as abrasive rubbing can irritate.

There’s always a debate around whether you should double cleanse. Generally skin specialists would say if your skin is dry or sensitive then don’t over cleanse as this can just irritate skin more. For anyone who likes a squeaky-clean feeling, works in a polluted environment, or simply wears lots of make-up, then double cleansing might help improve your complexion. Follow your cleansing balm or foaming cleanser with a gentle gel cleanser or micellar water, but if your skin feels at all tight then that might indicate you are stripping it of its natural oils which help keep it healthy, so take a step back, or swap your cleanser for something less harsh.

Many of us also prefer to cleanse just at night, maybe using a toner only in the morning to wake up skin. If you do like to cleanse skin to jump-start your day then be careful not to use active acids which can effect the skin’s natural barrier. Instead opt for something more hydrating to better set your skin up for the day and help fight those nasty free radicals you’ll face.

Which cleanser is best?

It really comes down to the pH of your skin. If your skin is getting oilier, you are suffering breakouts, or it simply seems unhappy, it may be that your cleanser is disrupting the pH balance of your skin, making it more susceptible to dirt and impurities as the skin’s barrier becomes compromised. If you do suffer from breakouts look for a cleanser that contains salicylic acid. Those with drier skin should seek out a creamy cleanser with squalene. AHAs will help brighten dull skin, but always avoid cleansers containing mineral oil and artificial fragrance, and sensitive skins should go for alcohol-free cleansers without active acids to disrupt and irritate the skin’s surface.

The Ordinary

Best for dry skin

Best for dry skin
This non-comedogenic and soap-free formula changes from a balm-like texture to an oil when applied to skin, trapping and dissolving dirt, whilst active ingredients including squalane help retain moisture and protect skin.
Squalane Cleanser, £6 The Ordinary


Best for skin prone to breakouts

Enriched with actives including salicylic acid and zinc gluconate in a gel-like formula, this cleanser penetrates pores to combat the key cause of breakouts, dead skin cells, bacteria and problematic excess sebum, to balance pH and promote clearer skin in days.
Normaderm Phystosolution Purifying Gel Wash, £13 Vichy


Best for sensitive skin

The gummy texture of this cleanser lifts dirt and make-up easily whilst gently stimulating circulation. Rich in phenolic acid, it transforms into a silky milk on the skin and macadamia and eucalyptus oils help replace vital moisture.
Gummy Cleanser, £24 Oilixia


Best for oily skin

Deep cleansing neem seed oil unclogs and purifies pores without stripping skin, whilst glycolic and lactic acids loosen and lift dead skin cells for a brighter, balanced and healthy-looking complexion.
Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser, £25 Ole Henriksen

Kate Somerville

Best for a second cleanse

Powered by acne-busting 3 percent sulphur, this luxuriously whipped, medicated cleanser helps to clear breakouts, dissolve impurities and minimise the appearance of pores without over-drying skin. The foaming formula penetrates skin without disrupting its delicate balance, calming and soothing with redness-reducing honey and rice bran extracts and sebum.balancing natural oat extract.
Eradikate Daily Foaming Cleanser, £38 Kate Somerville

Liz Earle

Best for normal skin

New from Liz Earle is a gel-to-oil-to-milk cleanser with brightening ingredients such as vitamin C-rich acerola cherry, elderberry seed and black bee honey to remove dirt and make-up, minimise pores and leave skin smoother and brighter.
Cleanse & Glow Transforming Gel Cleanser, £24.50 Liz Earle

What is Micellar Water and why do I need it?

Take a peek inside the bathroom cabinets of models and celebrities alike and you are likely to find a bottle of this clever stuff which looks and feel like water but can remove make-up, cleanse and tone with just a few swipes of a soaked cotton wool pad.

Micellar Water is a combination of purified water, hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin; and low concentrations of extremely mild surfactants and dirt-loving ‘micelles’ which act as a magnet for debris, dirt, and oil. Light and gentle, there’s no need to rinse after use.

The Three Micellar Waters To Try



Specially formulated for sensitive skin, this ultra-mild micellar water works hard to remove all traces of make up and grime, without upsetting your skin. Gentle, soap-free and even suitable for your delicate eye area.
Micellar Cleansing Water, £9 Caudalié



Dermatologist developed, this ultra-gentle water contains essential ceramicides and niacinamide for added hydration and protection.
Micellar Cleansing Water, £19 CeraVe



With organic golden gentian extract to smoothen and soften skin and moringa extract for detoxifying and purifying, this micellar water cleans face, eyes and lips, quickly dissolving all dirt and make-up.
RE-Move Micellar Water, £18 Clarins

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