Many people have been cleansing their skin with soap or cleansers containing soap for years, and could be unknowingly causing skin problems by disturbing the skin’s balance. Our skin has a specific pH and is rich in protective oils which self regulate themselves (and is also why over moisturising can cause skin problems). Soap acts as a detergent and degrades these important surface oils; stripping the skin and causing skin dryness, tightness and redness. As these skin oils are a key factor in retaining moisture for hydrated skin, consistent disruption of the skin oil balance could lead to premature ageing as hydrated skin is less prone to lines and wrinkles.
Additionally, some experts claim that antibacterial soaps in particular and excessive cleansing may disrupt the ratio of naturally occurring good and bad bacteria. This in turn could reprogram our immune systems to treat the beneficial bacteria as detrimental.
How do I know if I should change my cleansing routine?
After cleansing, your skin should never feel tight or sting when you put moisturiser on, and a more gentle routine would be recommended. When you wash your face with a foaming cleanser (a formulation containing soap/SLS/sulphates) this draws moisture out of your skin cells, and you may need to over use moisturiser to compensate. This can continue a problem skin cycle of dry and tight skin due to harsh products use, over use of moisturisers and subsequent clogged pores. Instead, opt for gentle, soap free cleansers and adopt a “less is more” approach; your skin is a sophisticated organ which can largely self regulate.
What can you expect if you stop using soap in your cleanser?
Some people find that their skin becomes less reactive, and may have less breakouts. However gentle, exfoliation is still needed to assist cell renewal and remove dead skin cells, and a sulphate free cleanser is recommended to remove dirt and makeup, without over-stripping the skin.
What ingredients constitute as “soap” in cleansers?
In general, well formulated cosmeceutical cleansers will label products “soap free” and formulations with ingredients labelled as SLS or sulphates.
What should be used instead of a cleanser containing soap?
Specially formulated cosmeceuticals containing naturally produced poly-hydroxy-acids ( derived from sugar cane or fruits) such as AHAs and PHAs will gently exfoliate and are formulated with skin conditioning and skin calming ingredients to support the skin’s oil balance while sulphate free cleansing lotions can remove makeup.
What about conditions such as acne, where sebum production needs to be controlled?
For acne, a cosmecutical routine with 4% Salicylic acid (a BHA) has been shown to be beneficial in clinical trials. Eliminating the root causes of acne such as diet, lifestyle, stress and hormonal factors can also improve acne symptoms and reduce sebum greatly.