Gone are the times when we thought of cleansing as simply a step to remove make-up and impurities. To protect their skin from the elements, our predecessors often used clay, honey and milk. Now, thousands of years on, we face a lot more than just dust and UV rays. We live in a highly polluted environment on top of an already stressful lifestyle and inflammatory diets.
On the flip side, however, the progress of science has given us an understanding of the very components that are the building blocks of healthy skin: its acid mantle, microbiome, pH level and the associated defence against free radicals. An understanding of these elements in context of your daily beauty routine can make self-care exponentially more effective and is the ultimate solution to skin ageing.
Some see cleansing as simply a prep stage in the lead up to other treatments. This is a major misconception! Thorough removal of dirt, sebum, makeup and sunscreen products is the foundation of healthy skin. Let us examine three simple key rules which will transform your cleansing ritual into a vital part of your self-care. It is bound to make your skin brighter, plumper and more even in tone. In other words, healthy and beautiful.
1/ “No” to sulfates
Check the list of ingredients for sulfates. Safe them for your rugs! While these chemicals are great at removing oil and makeup, they also scoop up the lipids along the way, stripping your skin of its natural protection. Needless to say, this is a recipe for a skin disaster, leading to inflammation, dryness and rosacea.
Even the gentlest of sulfates on the market remain the harsh anionic surfactants that they are. The same goes for olefin sulfonate. Any cleansers without sulfates are bound to be more delicate on the skin, so make it your number one rule to pick products that do not contain sulfates. Ideally, a cleanser should contain 3-4 different surfactants.
2/ pH matters
Knowing the pH level of your cleanser is important. The condition of your skin is very much informed by the state of its acid mantle, a thin film on the outer layer of your skin. Typically, it has a low acidity (with a pH of somewhere between 4.4 to 6) and is your skin’s first line of defence against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
High pH cleansers destroy this mantle like nothing else, making it increasingly more alkaline with each use. For this reason, using such natural products as soda for a DIY peel is an absolute beauty crime. Choose products with a pH similar to that of the skin and never higher than 6. You can either verify this directly with the manufacturers or purchase at-home pH test strips.
A great way to avoid the hassle of clarifying the pH levels of your products is to opt for a cleansing oil. pH is a measure which is only used for substances containing water or ingredients which can be dissolved in water, meaning that this indication simply does not apply to oils.
3/ “Yes” to antioxidants
Choose cleansers packed with antioxidants. If you live in a big city, your skin is constantly subjected to oxidative stress, leading to the formation of free radicals. Given that they form on a molecular level, they cannot simply be rinsed away. While surfactants do remove dirt and oil, antioxidants can neutralise free radicals which form as a result of a chain reaction.
Thankfully, many natural extracts and oils are full of antioxidants, so long as they are fresh and have not had the chance to become oxidised. Some are of the opinion that extracts, enzymes and oils are unnecessary in a cleansing product, which is only in contact with our skin for a short period of time. However, a few seconds is enough time for the antioxidants to do their work. It literally takes moments for them to counteract oxidative stress.