Choosing the right cleanser: 9 things you should consider

Despite a messy dinner of a canapes, a chocolate muffin and champagne due to a work event and the fact I should probably be wallowing in guilt, today is a very exciting day for me. Last night I tried pumping out the last dregs of my cleanser and all that came out was a few gel-based bubbles. Hurrah! An excuse to buy a shiny new cleanser.

Recently I’ve made a promise not to buy anything unless it’s necessary and in turn have made a promise not to restock on skincare unless I run out or if my skin is reacting. So it’s a been long wait for a new facial skincare product which has given me time to think about makes the ideal cleanser to get my skin glowing.

1. Think about what you want your cleanser to do

Although this sounds fairly simple, there’s a lot of cleansers on the market that don’t do what they’re supposed to. A cleanser is actually a pretty difficult product to get right.  For myself, It needs to be able to remove embedded heavy make-up like layers of cream foundation and yet be gentle and safe to use around the eyes (I admit I am too lazy to use an eye make up remover). At the same time I want it to make sure it doesn’t strip away the surface’s acid mantle (the skin’s protective barrier), meaning it can’t be too alkaline or too soap-like. Afterwards I want my skin to feel clean but not tight. I want it to be water-soluble and not leave a greasy film or residue over my face. High expectations much? I will also add brightening properties would be a lovely bonus!

2. Set a budget of how much you’re willing to spend

Most of us mix and match our skincare brands, a cleanser from a department store brand, maybe we’ve picked up our moisturizer at the salon. The thing is that most brands create their lines to be used in conjunction with other products from the same line i.e if you’re using an anti-ageing moisturizer, brands recommend you use the serum from the same anti-ageing range. The reason behind this is that they combine similar active ingredients to create a layering effect and therefore make results more noticeable if you use more of their products. This is pretty void if the products themselves have minute levels active ingredients and are made up mostly of emulsifiers and ingredients that give it a nice slip and feel good on your skin but don’t do anything (which is most brands).

That being said think about if you were to adopt the the rest of the products into your routine. Would it be feasible? How much does the cleanser cost? Is it worth it? How about the most expensive product in the line (usually the serum), how much is that? The good thing about a cleanser is even though it’s an important product and essential to your routine, it stays on your skin for a very small amount of time so usually you don’t really need to buy the rest of the products. The only time I would advise against this is if the cleanser contains chemical exfoliants (AHA’s, BHA’s, Retinol etc), you wouldn’t really want to be slapping on a supermarket or department store moisturizer that is full of fragrance that might irritate the skin. In this case, it’s best to buy a moisturizer from the same line or at least a quality product.

3. Go for the product not the brand

Sometimes I imagine the big cats who own the big brands in the departments laughing heinously while toasting us silly customers for buying into marketing. Most products on the market are made on the cheap with synthetic carriers and low levels of active ingredients and overpowering fragrances. They usually have decent textures so they feel good when they’re first applied to the skin, they may have artificial colours in there too. Just because it feels nice, doesn’t really mean anything. I think we buy into these brands because we’re not biochemists or dermatologists, we put our trust into the “experts” (the skincare brands) who care less about our skin and more about the big bucks. The best thing to do is unless it’s a cosmeceutical brand or the ethics of the brand might appeal to you, to try and forget about the brands and look at the individual product and how it will work for you. What are the active ingredients and how do they work? If you’ve got particularly sensitive skin, I would put a little bit of the product on the nook of your elbow and behind the ear, leave it be for at least 24 hours and see how your skin goes. Even better is getting a sample first and using it sparingly for a few days to see how your skin goes.

4. Have a feel of the texture

Now just because I’ve criticized the big companies focusing on texture and not results, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Getting the balance right is difficult. Even though I’ve got oily skin, I prefer a heavier cleanser that really melts into my skin and then washes off clean.I really enjoy using oil cleansers that change textures upon water and rinse off completely clean. They dissolve oil based make-up and don’t leave the skin dry.

5. Be aware of artificial fragrance

Personally I believe fragrance is the worst part of buying skincare products at the supermarket, drugstores and department stores. Yet it’s one of the most appealing things about a product. As human beings we are attracted to scent, it helps create an experience for us.Now I don’t think all fragrance is evil, in fact I adore essential oils and am a strong supporter of aromatherapy. Even a little bit of artificial fragrance is okay. But too much added fragrance can be very irritating especially to particular skin types, especially for more mature skin types suffering from rosacea.This is more important when finding a moisturizer since it stays on the skin but it’s still something to consider when choosing a cleanser.

I don’t mind using unscented products but I do like essential oils in my skincare.Artificial fragrance is usually listed as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’ on the labels. Keep in mind some natural fragrances may use the generic term ‘fragrance’ as well but in most cases they will be transparent about individual ingredients.

6. Think about packaging and weight (especially when travelling!)

This is one of the things I forget when I buy a cleanser. There is nothing worse than having to cull your skincare or buying smaller bottles, transferring and labelling the smaller bottles and disposing of the original packaging when you move on.It’s not only wasteful but it’s another thing to do before taking on a big trip. My preference for packaging is a lightweight tube with an attached cap that you can flip open. Although I don’t mind pump bottles, I don’t like the hassle of locking them or continuously putting on a lid. If the product was worth it, I would be willing to overlook this.  Another option to consider is to see if the cleanser comes in a travel size. Usually it’s cheaper, more compact, lasts a long while and gives you an opportunity to try the product and see if it works for your skin.

7. Think local

One of the best things about travelling is exploring brands out of the ordinary. I know how easy it is to just turn to a brand you’re familiar with. But if you’re not happy not with that brand, why not consider using something local? Check local pharmacies and department stores when travelling while keeping in mind pointers about fragrance and active ingredients.It will give you another memory of where you’re visiting without purchasing a traditional souvenir. If you’re afraid it will work for you and you won’t be able to restock when you need it, I would check with the company itself. Most brands will ship overseas.

8. Check reviews

I will rarely buy a skincare product without checking reviews first. Although I won’t rely on them entirely, I will definitely take into account other people’s experiences with a product.This is especially good when the cleanser’s a bit pricey and you can’t get a hold of a sample. Most of the time others have tried, tested and done the sampling process for you.

9. Avoid SLS like the plague

Sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl esther sulfate is a detergent that helps foam up a cleanser. It’s a harsh surfactant and is very drying and can irritate some skins.This is an extremely common ingredient that is present not only in facial cleansers but in soaps and body washes too. It makes the skin feel parched which makes you reach for your moisturiser therefore making you buy more.

Skincare should work in harmony with your skin, not against it. Not all cleansers are created equal.

I will choose wisely when buying my shiny new cleanser and will keep you updated.

Much Love, Sush xoxo


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