Skincare Philosophy [Pt. 1b: CLEANSING]


In part 1a of this post, I talked about the importance of cleansing the skin and my preferred method of cleansing. *coddles face cloths* As a follow-up, I will be discussing the different formats of cleansers, when it is best to each type, and how.

Even though it might be possible for one cleanser to do it all (I can think of a few do-it-all cleansers, actually), I don’t think any cleanser should have to do it all. Cleansing balms, for example, are great for a facial massage, but their inherently oily texture is also great at melting away makeup. Now, being a pricey item typically full of stellar ingredients, I’m not sure why you would want to use something so luxe and chockfull of goodness to take off eyeshadow and mascara. Leave such tasks to inexpensive (yet effective), joyless products.

If makeup and/or sunscreen is/are part of your morning routine, double-cleansing the skin in the evening is imperative. A good tip is to start your evening skincare routine as soon as you get home, if you know that you won’t be going out again that night. Think about it – would you rather oil, makeup, sunscreen chemicals, grime, and air pollution nesting in your pores for 5 more hours, or would you rather your nighttime-specific skincare products have an additional 5 hours to work their magic? Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Double-cleansing the skin is exactly what it sounds like—cleansing twice. The purpose of the first cleanse is to take all the previously mentioned junk off the skin, and the second cleanse is to thoroughly cleanse and treat the skin itself. Cleanse 1 should always be done with an inexpensive, joyless product that simply gets the job done. Just make sure it emulsifies. Think Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm/Oil, The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Oil, The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter, or even a cheap cleansing oil from the drugstore.  Something you can use with reckless abandon that will set you up for cleanse 2. Cleanse 2 can be literally anything that cleans the skin well. This is the step I would employ the hot cloth method, with a balm or creamy cleanser. If you’re into cleansing devices like the Clarisonic, paired with a gel or liquid cleanser, now is the time for that. Good skin cleaners (not a spelling mistake) also work brilliantly as morning cleansers, because there is no need for makeup/sunscreen removal when you wake up, provided you haven’t slept in your makeup (sin).



Liquids to be used on cotton wool pads or with water. The ones to be used with cotton may or may not have the word micelle/micellar on the label. Micellar solutions are often touted as makeup removers, but because of this, I think the world—especially the Western world—has lost sight of what a proper cleanser is. Please wash your face properly. Cleansing liquids that do not have the word micelle/micellar on the label might be good for a pick-me-up in the morning, or as a hydrating toner. Two notable examples are the Clarins One-Step Facial Cleanser with Orange Extract, and the Clarins Water Purify One-Step Cleanser with Mint Essential Water. Liquid cleansers to be used with water tend to have a foaming aspect, which dry-skinned individuals should be cautious of in some cases.

Best used as: Morning cleanse (foaming or cotton, but should not be a micellar water); toner (cotton or micellar solution); second cleanse – evening (foaming)



Cleansing oils typically have some kind of plant oil as a base. They may or may not contain emulsifying agents that help rinse the oil away cleanly with water. Inexpensive emulsifying cleansing oils are best used as makeup/sunscreen removers as a first cleanse. Non-emulsifying oil cleansers are better for a second cleanse using the hot cloth method. I don’t see the point in using a cleansing oil in the morning.

Best used as: First cleanse – evening (emulsifying); second cleanse – evening (non-emulsifying)



There are two classes of exfoliating cleansers: Class 1 is a standard cleanser with added exfoliating acids; class 2 is a standard cleanser with added exfoliating agents that physically polish the surface of the skin. Both classes of exfoliating cleansers are controversial. Class 1, because most people argue that specialized ingredients, like exfoliating acids, are wasted in cleansers that are just washed off the skin after a few seconds. These cleansers also tend not to be formulated at the correct pH for the acids to actually exfoliate the skin. I have used class 1 exfoliating cleansers in the past, and have had mixed results. The best one I’ve used to date is SKINN’s Sulfate-Free Rapid Exfoliating Cleanser. Noticeable results with that one. The exfoliating “bits” in class 2 cleansers are what make them controversial. Round plastic beads have a negative environmental impact. Jojoba beads are mild/weak – so much so that they are almost wholly unnecessary. Crushed fruit seeds, powders, salts, sugars, and anything else with an irregular edge, scrub well, but can cause micro-lacerations to the skin. These types of cleansers have been scrutinized for doing more bad than good—people who believe this avoid them entirely; people who don’t believe this quite literally scrub their faces off.

Best used as: Second cleanse – evening; morning cleanse



Cleansers that contain clay. Kind of like washing your face with a clay mask! Good for mopping up excess oil when you’re having a greasy day. Can be in a creamy base, like REN’s ClearCalm3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser and Diptyque’s Multi-Use Exfoliating Clay; or as a runny gel, like Sunday Riley’s Ceramic Slip Cleanser. I’d say most, if not all, of the cleansers in this category can double as a mild clay mask.

Best used as: Second cleanse – evening; morning cleanse



A rare form of cleanser; few and far between. Loose powder that you mix with water to form a gritty, exfoliating paste, or a creamy emulsion. Most of them contain clay and sodium bicarbonate, which results in foaming. Some examples are the Kanebo Sensai Silky Purifying Silk Peeling Powder and the Diptyque Radiance Boosting Powder for the Face.

Best used as: Second cleanse – evening; morning cleanse



Runny cleansers that resemble milk. These cleansers have more moisturizing ingredients than your bog standard liquid cleanser. I find I don’t see a lot of proper cleansing milks on the market these days. A lot of products labeled cleansing milk are actually misnomers, and lean more towards the lotion and cream categories. True cleansing milks *shakes head at my beloved Clarins* are free-flowing spill hazards… like milk! (Get it? Spilt milk? Ahhh.) Some examples are the Sisley Cleansing Milk with Sage, Sunday Riley’s Charisma Crème, and Weleda’s Gentle Cleansing Milk.

Best used as: Second cleanse – evening; morning cleanse



Again, two classes of gel cleansers here — foaming gels, and oily emulsifying gels. Same look, different function and performance. Gel-to-oil formulas, like the Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel, may be used for makeup removal, whereas foaming gels, like Dermalogica’s Special Cleansing Gel and Kate Somerville’s Gentle Daily Wash, may not. Oily gels also work great with the hot cloth method as a second cleanse.

Best used as: First cleanse – evening (oily gels only, for makeup/sunscreen removal – try to stick to cheap ones here); second cleanse – evening (both – oily gels with the hot cloth method and foaming gels manually or with a device); morning cleanse (both – oily gels with the hot cloth method and foaming gels manually or with a device)



Viscous lotions (examples: the Clarins Cleansing Milks, LUSH 9 to 5, REN Evercalm Cleansing Milk) that will get your skin cleaner than it’s ever been. ONLY TO BE USED WITH THE HOT CLOTH METHOD! Don’t ever try to splash-off a lotion cleanser, especially if you have clog-prone skin.

Best used as: Second cleanse – evening; morning cleanse (with cloth)



Rich, dense creams. My notes for lotion cleansers also apply here. Some notable examples: Guerlain Secret de Pureté Cleansing Cream, Liz Earle Cleanse + Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, REN Rosa Centifolia Hot Cloth Cleanser. Hot cloth only.

Best used as: Second cleanse – evening; morning cleanse



Cleansing balms are balms that are solid at room temperature and melt when they make contact with the skin. These are the most luxurious out of all the cleansers previously discussed. They are typically made with the highest quality essential oils and plant waxes. Cleansing balms add the slip necessary to engage in a lengthy, indulgent facial massage. They are pricey items, but worth every penny. Cleansing balms should always be removed with the hot cloth method.

Best used as: Second cleanse, and to aid in facial massage


As a sidenote to this post, I’d just like to say that when removed correctly, no type of cleanser should “cause” acne. People with oily or acne-prone skin tend to freak out at the thought of using anything but a foaming gel cleanser. Conversely, no type of cleanser will “cure” acne. Life is too short to only use one type of cleanser twice a day every day for the rest of your life, so you should experiment with and luxuriate in all the world of cleansing has to offer!


2 thoughts on “Skincare Philosophy [Pt. 1b: CLEANSING]

  1. Bobby, you have covered everything under the sun!!! This makes me so happy :-))))
    I love cream and exfoliating acid cleansers (no gritty bits, please :-D) These are so much easier to work with.
    I have been wanting to try the REN clay cleanser, but am not sure if my skin would like it. I just have an oily- T-zone. A clay cleanser just for the T-zone would be too much of a luxury …. 😀 What do you suggest ??
    I reserve my balms for days when it gets cold…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found it interesting! ❤ The REN clay cleanser is NOT drying at all, so you'd probably like it! I'd use it with the hot cloth method. 🙂 If you're looking for something more luxe, maybe the Diptyque Multi-Use Exfoliating Clay or Sunday Riley's Ceramic Slip. The Paula's Choice Hydralight Cleanser is also amazing if you don't mind using something fragrance-free/joyless (it's a gel!). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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