To clean or not to clean, that is the question. The answer? To clean, but be careful not to make it too clean. While cleansing your face is a good thing, washing away irritants, dirt, dead skin cells, excess oil and make-up, over-cleansing your face can affect our skin microbiome and can cause skin barrier damage. This article sheds light on the delicate balance between cleaning our skin and the preservation of our skin’s essential health giving properties.
The human microbiome refers to all microorganisms that reside in and on our bodies. Most of you may know the term microbiome in regard to the gastrointestinal tract, but our skin also has a microbiome of its own with millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses that call our skin home. We all should be kind to our skin’s microbiome as it is our first layer of protection against invading pathogens and plays an important role in the education of our immune system, whereby our skin can discriminate between harmless commensal microorganisms (‘good’) and harmful pathogenic microorganisms (‘bad’). You can imagine that a disruption in our microbiome – when the balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is disturbed – can result in irritation, inflammation, dry, itchy skin, dermatitis and can worsen some dermatological diseases such as eczema, acne, psoriasis and rosacea.
Over-cleansing not only affects our skin’s microbiome but can also damage our skin’s lipid barrier by eliminating natural oils. This is mainly due to soap- and surfactant-based cleansers, that cannot distinguish between skin debris requiring removal and intercellular lipids required for barrier maintenance. The elimination of natural oils can result in excessive drying of the skin, which leads to excess oil production by the oil glands and eventually oily, greasy skin.
Cleansing your face washes away most things that can clog your pores, reducing skin inflammation, preventing breakouts and often assisting specific skin conditions. However, as our microbiome and our skin barrier structure and function are crucial to our skin’s overall health, choosing the right cleanser is important, as well as knowing how to cleanse your face properly. Let us help you by giving some cleanser and cleansing tips:
+ Acidic to neutral pH
As barrier damage is influenced by cleanser pH, use a cleanser with an acidic to neutral pH level of 5-7 to minimize barrier damage
Oil-based cleansers are suitable for all skin types. As already mentioned in this article, natural oils are eliminated by soap- and surfactant-based cleansers over time. Oil-based cleansers, however, gently clean the skin while retaining original moisture. The cleansers are developed using ancient Japanese wisdom that ‘oil dissolves oil’, therefore not clogging your pores
Contrary to soaps, for example, liquid cleansers often include moisturising ingredients which helps prevent dryness.
Solid cleansers are the hottest trend in sustainable skincare thanks to their serious eco-friendly cred! But these solid bars of skincare gold are not only a great option for the planet. Their highly considered formulation and high active ingredient to water ratio means that they are also a great option for your skin.
Here are some great options for cleansers your skin will love:
Nourished Daily -
Biologi – Bc Refresh Cleanser
Eco Tan - Super Citrus Cleanser
Sans [Ceuticals] – Goji Body & Face Cleansing Oil
Black Chicken Remedies - My Face Natural Cleansing Oil
+ Don’t cleanse your face too often. We recommend cleansing your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser: in the evening, even if you don’t wear make-up, and in the morning
+ Use lukewarm water and try not to scrub your skin as this irritates the skin
+ Do not rub, but pat dry your skin with a soft towel and if needed, add a layer of hydrating or moisturising products.
Some of our faves are:
Nourished Daily - Daily Moisturizer
Biologi – Bf Hydration Face & Body Serum
Sans [Ceuticals] – Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil
Find your ultimate natural cleanser in the Nourished collection.
This article was written by guest contributor Drs. Coco Dekkers. Coco lives in Amsterdam and is a PhD medicine - dermatology student.
+ Byrd AL., Belkaid Y., Segre JA. The human skin microbiome. Nature Reviews | Microbiology. 2018;16(1):143-155.
+ Mukhopadhyay P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian J Dermatol. 2011;56(1):2–6.
+ Diaz D. Ditre CM. The effect of cleansers on the skin microbiome. Practical dermatology. 2020;62-65.