I’ve had an on and off relationship with cleansing my skin. I think generally, we over cleanse our skin, which is actually much worse than not cleansing at all. (You may have noticed that people who don’t go out of their way to use cleansing products tend to have much nicer skin.) I guess the cleansing saga began long ago when I was in middle school. I had terrible acne for many years, and the general wisdom is to strip your skin with cleansers and acids like a mad person. Awful idea. Your skin is already irritated and out of wack; terrorizing it with products can only make it worse. Your skin is pretty smart and balances itself, regulating its own delicate pH. Obviously, out of wack skin is not able to do that well, but stripping the top layers of your skin only makes it more vulnerable and less able to function on its own. So, look internally and not topically if you have acne. You can usually find a culprit in your diet if you’re attentive. Even when I got rid of my acne, however, and started using nice gentle cleansers, I still felt that cleansing threw my skin off. I’ve found a good balance, though, which I’ll get into below. But why bother cleansing at all then? If we all lived in an ideal world and frolicked in the fields all day, the air were perfectly clean and no one polluted or smoked, there would be very little reason. We don’t. Cleansing your skin takes off all the gunk that accumulates on it during the day. They say also that it helps to remove the dead skin cells, which it does, but I like to think that our skin is smart enough to be able to do normal things like that without products. Taking off all the other gunk is really important, though, because it oxidizes, or damages our skin, resulting in discoloration, acne, wrinkles, etc. So cleansing keeps your skin in tip-top shape for longer.
Here is what’s worked for me. First, cleansing twice a day is too much. In the morning, I splash my face with rose water and call it good. The cleansing action goes down at night to get rid of the pollution and cell phone germs that have accumulated throughout the day. Second, I don’t generally use a “cleanser” as such. I find that they usually just make me break out or dry me out, no matter how gentle. Most nights, I use a washcloth dipped in warm water to which I’ve added a few drops of the Dr. Hauschka Lemon Bath you see in the white and blue bottle above. (They’ve actually changed the packaging and name.) It’s not necessarily a cheap product, but it lasts forever because you only use a few drops every day. If I’m diligent about using this every night, it truly improves my skin. I think it’s the lemon, but my skin is firmer, brighter, and breakouts go away. If I want to get fancy, or I’m wearing a lot of makeup, I oil cleanse. You take a small amount of oil, and massage it into your skin. The type of oil your skin likes may take some experimenting. A lot of people use a mix of castor oil and jojoba oil, but I have dry skin so castor oil was too much for me. I’ve had good results with sesame oil (above, bought at Whole Foods), jojoba oil, avocado oil, or almond oil. Then take the washcloth soaked in the lemon water and press it over your skin for a minute or two. Finally, press and wipe your skin gently to get rid of residue. Here is a great video tutorial of oil cleansing from one of my favorite YouTubers, CloudyApples (oil weirdos unite!). If you want to get even fancier and add another step, or replace the oil cleansing step, honey makes a great cleanser/mask. Manuka honey is made from tea tree pollen and is supercharged with the antibacterial properties that all honeys have. Honey is a great healer and can even be used on wounds. It also won’t dry out your skin. Last note, always be gentle with your skin! Don’t ever drag or pull on your skin with your fingers or a wash cloth. Just press and wipe gently. Happy cleansing, and I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences!