Whether you use a foam cleanser, a balm or even a wipe, for most of us cleansing is a twice a day task that is given very little thought – once you’ve found your go-to formula of course. That is unless you’re a beauty aficionado and follow the hoard of experts and brands who recommend double cleansing. Then you might find yourself cleaning your skin four times a day, albeit it in two sittings with several different formulas and textures.
But at a time when we’re exploring and learning more about the importance of our skin’s microbiome, is it possible that we’re cleaning our skin too much? “In general our society believes that cleaner is better, and generally that is true, especially for acne-prone skin. But anything can be overdone,” explains board-certified dermatologist and celebrity beauty expert Dr. Anna Guanche.
For those not au fait with the term microbiome, it is found on the top layer of our skin and is essentially a diverse range of bacteria that protects our skin against environmental aggressors and helps to maintain its carefully balanced pH (the optimal being 5.5). Abrasive cleansing and exfoliating, as well as over-using active ingredients can affect the balance of the microbiome.
“Many people over cleanse with lipid stripping cleansers and toners rendering the skin too de-greased and vulnerable,” says Dr Mervyn Patterson, cosmetic dermatologist at Woodford Medical.
Should you double cleanse?
So, should we ruling out double cleansing? Well, it depends what type of skin you have. “Double cleansing with mild cleansers, or a cleanser and a toner, are OK for normal and oily skin types but not if you have rosacea or dry skin,” warns Dr Guanche. Instead, opt for gentle, fragrance-free formulas such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which helps to remove make-up and cleanse without leaving your skin feeling tight or sore.
If your skin tends to veer towards oily or you battle with regular breakouts, then it would be wise to opt for an acid-based cleanser, such as Derma E Very Clear Acne Cleanser as it contains salicylic acid, which helps to unblock pores and wash away excess oil, or QRx Labs Glycolic Acid Gel Cleanser, which offers a gentle exfoliator. Use it twice if you wear a lot of make-up, or once with a gentle toner to refine pores and wipe away any leftover product.
What about cleansing gadgets?
Those who employ cleansing brushes should avoid using harsh acid-based formulas alongside them as it could be too much, especially for thinner or more sensitive skin types. If you like to use some form of tool during your routine try a good, old-fashioned flannel. They work particularly well with oil-based cleanser as the cloth retains the warmth to help wipe away the formula.
Dr Patterson also recommends using a warm flannel before you apply your cleanser: “make sure it’s not too hot but just more of a comfortable heat. This helps to start the cleansing process by opening up the pores slightly,” he explains. “Don’t do this every night, just once or twice a week.”
Can you cleanse once a day?
At the other end of the cleansing spectrum you have those who take a very lax approach to their skincare routine. Cleansing usually comprises of a wipe to get rid of make-up and the dirt and grime that has built up over the day. The idea of doing it again in the morning doesn’t even cross their mind. Some might argue though that if you change your pillow cases regularly enough and thoroughly cleanse, with more than just a wipe, in the evening your face shouldn’t be dirty.
Very few experts would actively recommend this approach and even fewer of us might like to admit that we’ve considered skipping the step in the morning, let alone actually doing it. But, with more evidence pointing to our microbiome being vital to healthy skin, we might find that our ethos of ‘cleaner is better’ is a thing of the past, only time will tell.