A facial cleanser is a product used to remove dead skin cells, makeup, dirt, oil, and environmental toxins from the face. A cleanser is preferred for washing your face over generic soap for several reasons. First, soap has a high pH level and can increase bacterial growth and acne. Soaps in bar form include thickening agents that clog pores. Finally, regular soap strips the skin of its natural oils, leading to an overproduction of oil from the sebaceous glands in the skin, known as reactive seborrhea. Many bar soaps include moisturizers as an ingredient to attempt to combat this.
Your facial skin has a delicate pH balance and, when choosing a cleanser, there are several factors to consider. The skin contains an acid mantle, which is a barrier against toxins, germs, and bacteria. It is recommended that the your facial skin has a pH balance of about 5.5. If your skin is too alkaline, it dries the skin and may cause inflammation and can lead to eczema. This may also make it difficult for the skin to protect itself from MMPs (Matrix Metalloproteinases), which are enzymes activated by inflammation and exposure to UV rays. MMPs may lead to the breakdown of beneficial collagen in the skin. This can age the skin because collagen provides skin’s firmness and elasticity.
Cleansers are formulated specifically for certain types of skin. These types include sensitive or irritated skin, oily and acne prone skin, combination skin, and normal skin, which has balanced sebum levels, the goal of a good facial regimen. Each type has very different ingredients.
Cleansers for sensitive skin often include what are considered “Natural Cleansers.” What sets these cleansers apart are the ingredients they do not include. They are often fragrance free, soap free and may free of glycolic acid. Many dermatologists recommend that you avoid certain chemicals in choosing a facial cleanser. These include Sodium lauryl sulfate, which can be harsh on the skin, and is also an ingredient in car washes! Fragrance is another. Although it is difficult to find any product that doesn’t contain scent, it is recommended that you choose fragrance-free when possible. This is because fragrance is a broad term that can represent hundreds of chemicals that could be harmful.
If fragrance is necessary, a natural fragrance is preferred over artificial. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, most synthetic fragrances contain ingredients linked to birth defects and reproductive problems in studies on animals. Another ingredient that should be avoid is commonly found in most products; oils. There are any number of oils and not all are hard on the skin. Propylene Glycol, Mineral Oil, Paraffin, Isopropyl Alcohol, Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS),Petroleum, and Butylene Glycol are the most harmful, while natural plant oils can actually be beneficial to the skin.
Synthetic oils, such as mineral oil, a derivative of petroleum, are used as emollients. An emollient works as a kind of plastic wrap to keep the other ingredients from leaving the skin. This is problematic because it prevents your skin from respiring or “breathe.” However, despite these facts, there is a debate as to whether mineral oil in particular, is bad for your skin. Instead, look for natural plant oils, such as rose or carrot oil, which provide plenty of nourishment without clogging your pores. Other beneficial natural oils include oils from seeds, flowers, and other plants and herbs.
Alcohol is a common ingredient in facial cleansers, and, believe it or not, is almost always present in moisturizer as well. This may sound counter-intuitive, and it is, since alcohol is a well-known drying agent. However, alcohols are often used to thin out the product and breaks down the skin’s acid mantle, allowing other ingredients to work. Yet, it dries the skin and can cause inflammation on sensitive skin as well.
There are many cleansers labeled “natural” on the market, but this doesn’t mean much.
Natural cleansers, in particular, often include ingredients that come from nature, and are less likely to contain harmful ingredients. However, because the term “natural” is unregulated and can be slapped on any product, it is important to know a little about the product’s ingredients.
Want to make your own facial cleanser? It’s easier than you think! There are tons of recipes online, and the ingredients can be found in your garden and kitchen. A popular homemade face wash is made with honey, ideally raw but any will do. Try 2 teaspoons of honey and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (fresh, if possible). Rub the ingredients between your fingers to mix and warm them, and rub over your face. Let it dry, then rinse off with warm water. Honey is a natural antiseptic and moisturizer. It exfoliates the skin with alpha hydroxyl acids and the sugar acts as a natural humectant, meaning it pulls in moisture from the air. Lemon contains plenty of citric acid, which removes dead skin cells and kills off the bacteria that causes acne. Put them together and you have an excellent cleanser. Many store-bought cleansers and beauty products contain honey and/or lemon for these reasons.
Another homemade cleanser for dry skin is a combination of avocado pulp and olive oil, which is made into a paste, left on the skin to dry, then rinsed off. For oily skin, try a combination of cucumber juice and milk to freshen up. Just apply the mixture, no need to rinse.
Finally, plain (preferably organic) yogurt, when applied to skin, exfoliates, hydrates, and detoxifies. Yogurt has lactic acid for exfoliation properties, and protein, which tightens pores and hydrates. Simply massage a thin layer of yogurt, leave on for a few minutes, and rinse off with warm water.
Buying a Natural Cleanser; Your Best Bets
1. Origins’ A Perfect World Antioxidant Cleanser
This product includes white tea, coconut, and antioxidants. It does include fragrance, and may not be best for very sensitive skin. Another concern is the inclusion of wheat protein, which, because facial cleanser is used so closely to the mouth, should be avoided by those with gluten sensitivities. The product is said to be foamy and rich, and has a refreshing fragrance.
2. Nourish Organic Face Cleanser, Moisturizing Cream Cucumber and Watercress
This product contains only organic ingredients. Although the term “natural” is used on everything these days, and doesn’t mean much, in this case it describes a product that has ingredients derived from types of leaves, seeds, cucumbers, and watercress. This cleanser is also free of any of the harmful ingredients listed above, and it is also gluten free and vegan. Of all the cleansers you will find online, this is among the best in terms of truly natural and gentle ingredients.
3. InstaNatural Rose Water Toner for Face
This product states that it is a “100% Pure & Natural Flower Facial Cleanser” on the bottle. The product is free of chemicals, preservatives, and artificial fragrances. Reviews of the product suggest that the cleanser is gentle and effective for most kinds of skin. Toners are slightly different than regular cleansers in that they remove the excess residue left after using a regular cleanser. They also reportedly tighten pores.
There is a large variety of natural cleansers to choose from with different ingredients that can be beneficial to some people, and cause skin inflammation or oiliness in others. First, it is important to identify what type of skin you have. Dry skin can benefit from different ingredients than combination or oily skin. The goal of a good cleanser is to remove debris, oil, and makeup, without stripping away the beneficial oils that are naturally a part of your skin. Finally, when it comes to finding a good, truly “natural” face cleanser, put quite simply, it’s best to seek products that list ingredients that you recognize. If you don’t know what it is, it may be okay, but it’s probably not all that natural. You know what coconuts, honey, and lavender are, but maybe you’re not so familiar with Ammonium Laureth Sulfate.