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Which Cleanser To Use For Your Skin Type?

Which Cleanser To Use For Your Skin Type?We are all evangelists for the Korean beauty double cleanse method, but it can be daunting with literally hundreds of skin cleansing options. How do you figure out which one is 'right' for your skin type, and what exactly is your skin type? For this post, we turned to tips from Dr. Anthony Youn, a respected plastic surgeon with sixteen years of experience researching all the skin care secrets.

First let's find your skin type. To do this, here's a simple test:

Clean your face thoroughly with a gentle cleanser (your regular one will do), then let it dry completely for 60 minutes. Take note of how your face feels, then take a tissue and gently blot your face. Examine the tissue and compare your results to the skin types below.

  • Dry Skin - Your skin feels tight and there is no oil on the tissue
  • Sensitive Skin - Your skin is slightly red or itchy or has an uncomfortable tingle
  • Normal Skin - Your skin feels slightly tight but comfortable with no itching, redness or irritation. There is no oil on the tissue
  • Oily Skin - Your skin has a sheen and there will be some oil on the tissue from most  areas of your face
  • Combination Skin - There will be oil in a combination of areas of skin like your nose, your forehead, in between your eyes, cheeks (this is the T-Zone) with no oil in other areas

Great, now that you know your skin type, we can take a look at the different types of cleansers and which one is suitable for which skin type. Just a note, no cleanser should leave your skin feeling tight, irritated or uncomfortable regardless of your skin type. If it's stinging or itchy or red, then most likely you have sensitive skin. Sensitive skins don't do well with alcohol laden products, acidic astringents or fragrance. It's important to test cleansers before deciding on one. This is one of the reasons the BomiBox will always have deluxe sample sized cleansers, or ones that are suitable for all skin types. On to the different cleansers for different skin types.

Dry Skin - Surfactant-free, no-rinse cleansers work best for dry skin types. A no rinse cleanser would be one where no water is required, and you simply wipe it off with clean facial tissues or cotton balls. Examples would be Banila Co's Clean It Zero Purity or a drug store dupe Ponds Cold Cream Cleanser. A surfactant is also known as a detergent, a cleansing agent that degreases oil or any other fatty substance so it can be washed away. One well known surfactant is sodium laurel sulfate which is also the worst thing you can put on your skin or hair as it's the most irritating and drying. If you're going to do a double cleanse,  avoid all cleansers with sodium laurel sulphate if you have dry skin. Sodium laureate sulfate is fine. I found that my hair and skin is dryer depending on the water I use, so it makes sense that tap water can also affect your skin if you suffer from dryness. After wiping off the cleanser, or using a gentle foam cleanser, use a hydrating water mist.

Dry and Sensitive Skin - Creamy cleansers that look like lotions work best if your skin is both dry and sensitive. It cleans your skin, but still leaves it moisturized without irritation even after rinsing it off with tap water. Look for creamy cleansers that contain ingredients like ceramide and hyaluronic acid, both of which are known for their water retention abilities - they create or restore the skin's barrier and both attract and keep moisture in the skin. Examples of a creamy cleanser would be Etude's Happy Teatime Milk Tea Cleansing Cream, a drug store version would be CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. It should always be rinsed off. Use after your preferred cleansing oil.

Oily/Normal/Combination Skin - Foaming cleansers may work best.  Foaming cleansers should definitely not be used by those with sensitive or dry skin as it's a more aggressive cleanser and can be irritating and drying to other skin types. An example of a good low pH cleanser is The Face Shop's herby 365 or CosRX Low pH Good Morning Gel. 

There are other types of cleansers as well, such as bubble, gel, powder, water, milk, exfoliating etc. It's always important to look at the ingredients and identify any that will affect your skin type.

For very sensitive skin types, or those prone to cystic acne it can be a landmine trying to find products that don't irritate your skin. Below are ingredients that are in many, many products, but it's worth knowing which might be possible irritants if you have sensitive skin.

Known irritants to overly sensitive skin:

  • Propylene Glycol - Propylene Glycol is a common humectant (attracts moisture) in cosmetics but is also a skin irritant.
  • Mineral Oil/Petrolatum/Petroleum/Coal Tar - Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Petroleum and Coal Tar all form an oil film on your skin, thus holding in moisture. Unfortunately it can also dry out sensitive skin when the product is wiped off. If your cleanser contains mineral oil, it's even more important to rinse thoroughly and use super moisturizing products afterwards.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureate Sulfate - SLS is a skin irritant and also dries out the skin due to its detergent effect.
  • Glycerin (synthetic) - Glycerin draws moisture from inside the skin, and holds it on the surface for a better "feel." Because it’s drawing moisture from inside the skin, once the Glycerin is off, the  skin is left bone dry. If you live in a dry climate and use products with Glycerin as an ingredient, it would be a good idea to get a humidifier to keep moisture in the air and on your skin.
  • Lanolin - Lanolin is a common skin sensitizer, which can cause allergic skin rashes. It contains pesticides and dioxins used on sheep and wool.
  • Laramide - Lauramide is often used in cosmetic products to thicken and allow the product to lather. It can cause skin irritation and was declared a carcinogen (poison).

As with all things, test different cleansers to see which one works best for your skin.

Use this helpful tool to take a skin type quiz:

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