Cleansing with Integrity

05.12.22
A Guide to Gentle Cleansing Practices

The skin care products we use today will profoundly affect the health and well-being of our future skin; this is especially true when it comes to cleansing. A proper cleansing product is highly dependent on one's individual needs, and variations of gels, creams, and balms all work to clean the skin. Regardless of the product used, the outcome should be the same—proper cleansing translates to healthier skin. 

One's daily cleansing protocol should gently and effectively lift impurities and remove excess residues and debris, leaving behind a balanced, hydrated, and soothed surface. Daily cleansing protocols should not disrupt the skin’s natural protective barrier nor leave skin dry and tight. If this is your experience, you are using an incorrect cleanser or misusing the product based on your current skin condition.

pH levels and healthy skin
What is pH and why does it matter in cleansing?

pH is the measure of acidity in a substance. A neutral pH level is 7.0 - which is the pH level of pure water. When it comes to skin cleansing, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and even many products that are very high or low PH, claiming skin benefits. 

Substances with a pH of less than 7.0 are considered “acids,” while those with a pH level above 7 are considered “bases.” The lower the pH, the stronger the acid, and higher the pH, the stronger the base. When cleansing, you will want to avoid putting very acidic or very basic substances on your skin, because this can be irritating. A neutral pH level for the skin is slightly below 5, so just on the right side of acidic. 

Cleansers that are either too alkaline (like baking soda-based cleansers) or far too acidic (lemon juice, lots of citrus ingredients) have the potential to disrupt your skin's ideal pH levels. Keeping these levels healthy is critical for maintaining a healthy skin barrier. 

Some cleansers are formulated to be at or near the exact alkalinity of your skin. This is a better option. However, a cleanser boasting a neutral skin pH level alone doesn’t mean it will work for your skin type. It’s more complex than that - cleanser formulation plays a BIG role in how your skin will react to the formula. Overall, factors like the surfactant used, the heat of the water, how much of the product you use, and what skin type you have will all impact how the cleanser works for your individual skin. 

Many people prefer a mild cleanser, or one that does not strip and leave that “tight, squeaky clean” feeling. The cleanser you prefer may differ from someone else who has a different skin type. But the bottom line is that the pH level of a cleanser alone may not determine a positive cleansing outcome for your personal skin- you need to look at the whole picture and assess which ingredients work best for you. 

As a general rule, though, I am going to advise you against using very acidic or very basic cleansers on your facial skin. Keeping a more balanced pH level on your skin can help: 

Balance the good skin bacteria & micro-biome of skin 

Respect integrity of skins naturally occurring and healthy pH 

Prevent product-driven dryness, sensitivity, and irritation 

For delicate facial cleansing, avoid ingredients like soaps, lye, baking soda, and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is a surfactant often used to make cleansers “bubbly.” These harsh ingredients can harm the skin barrier and lead to eventual damage that can’t be seen by the naked eye. 

The Ideal time to cleanse your skin is…

“What is the best time to cleanse?” We get this question often, and our answer is almost always the same: It depends on your skin type, condition, and personal preferences. 

Ideally, you’ll cleanse twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. However, if you conduct a thorough cleanse each night, then your morning cleanse can simply be cool water and a gentle pat dry.

Most of your overnight skincare products don't need to be washed off; in fact leaving them on can help your skin keep moisture throughout the day. If you struggle with dry or dehydrated skin, it may be worth experimenting with skipping your morning cleanse altogether. 

Regardless of your skin type or condition, getting into a consistent cleansing routine every night is invaluable; even one night of impaired cell regeneration can harm your skin’s fragile ecosystem and healing process. Consistency over time ensures a healthy, balanced microbiome, allowing your skin to learn to count on you for support.

"If you want to get better at something, you must practice consistency." -Klur

Why your night cleansing matters

It’s no surprise that our bodies require sleep for optimal function, and skin is no exception to this rule: our largest organ relies on this restorative downtime to repair cell damage and heal itself. Good sleep is critical for your skin’s natural regeneration processes, but going to bed with a dirty face can seriously get in the way of that healing process. 

In other words, cleansing your skin properly before bedtime is absolutely essential for optimal skin health. 

If you go to bed with a non-cleansed face, you might wake up with new blemishes, dry skin, enlarged pores or just very unhappy skin. If given the chance, skin irritants like pollutants, makeup, environmental aggressors, and free radicals - can sink in overnight and disrupt your delicate skin repair time. This can be catastrophic for your skin’s microbiome and cellular regeneration processes, which is why it’s so important to instill a cleansing habit before bed. 

Ideally you want to cleanse 1-2 hours before you go to sleep so you don’t re-accumulate pollution on your skin’s surface before bed. This is especially important, if you live in a polluted city or smoggy area, particulate matter permeates the skin, yes even if you’re inside. You could choose to shower shortly before bed, which would extend the detoxifying benefits of bedtime cleansing to your whole body. Cleansing and prepping your skin for sleep will set you up for overnight success. With clean, moisturized skin, your cells will regenerate properly and your skin barrier can remain strong and flexible.

How to cleanse your skin properly 

Our recommendation for daily cleansing is Gentle Matter, a non-foaming gel cleanser designed to be customized so you can use it four different ways. This nourishing multifunctional formula conforms to even the most sensitive skin types to effectively dissolve surface debris and excess particles while supporting the healthy barrier of skin. 

Gentle Matter was formulated with optimal skin health in mind and a low pH level and gentle surfactants to cleanse the skin with no irritation or dryness. 

Before we get started: Be sure to grab a clean cloth and wash your hands well. 

Best 3 ways to cleanse with Gentle Matter 

1. Direct-to-skin gel cleanser

The direct-to-skin route is best for those with combination, oily, or normal skin because it removes all impurities while maintaining a baseline level of moisture. 

Guidance: Apply 2 pumps of the cleanser directly to your skin, which can be dry or damp. Massage the gel in a circular motion for 40-60 seconds without pulling or tugging the skin, and be sure to include your neck, then rinse the cleanser away with lukewarm water. This method will work well for you if you are wearing non-waterproof sunscreen and light makeup.

2. Gel and oil mixture

This method is excellent for those who struggle with dry skin or are looking to infuse extra moisture into their cleansing experience. This requires mixing Gentle Matter with a carrier oil, like jojoba or grapeseed oil, to create a moisturizing “cleansing creme.” We recommend jojoba because of  its excellent compatibility across skin types and conditions.

Guidance: To cleanse with this method, deposit cleansing gel into your palm. Add 3-5 drops of the oil into the mix, and gently warm up the mixture between your palms. Apply the creamy cleanser to your skin and rub gently for 60 seconds then rinse with lukewarm or cool water, and pat your face very gently with a clean towel. 

3. Gel after oil or balm cleansing

Traditional double cleansing works really well for anyone who needs a deep and complete cleansing. This  method  begins with an oil based cleanser, which removes sunscreen, pollution, heavy makeup, waterproof mascara, and anything else that may be lingering on your skin’s surface. 

Guidance: Gently warm up the oil based cleanser between your palms, and apply it to your face. Rub gently and be sure to watch for signs that your makeup and waterproof substances are breaking down product pigments. It’s important to thoroughly remove all stubborn substances before going in with the cleanser. The gel needs to actually make contact with your skin to “cleanse” it, so the pre-cleanse oil clears the way for an adequate cleansing.

No one feels motivated all the time, so getting in the habit of doing something is the best way to make sure you do it!

Remember: The most important part of creating a new skin health practice is to simply begin. Some nights are easier than others - but this is a practice in committing to yourself. Keep a reminder on your phone, set an alarm, or set a note in your bathroom and make a dedicated commitment to good cleansing practices. 

You might find it helpful to create a night ritual by lighting a candle, breathing deeply, and engaging in slow, purposeful skincare before going to bed - maybe even with a little aromatherapy worked in (this is what I use for a very comforting scent). Set the tone for a relaxing evening and peaceful sleep with some self-care that is also caring for your skin health. Try this new routine out for a few weeks, and see how you feel in the morning. 

You deserve consistency, first and foremost, from you. 

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