From pH to pollutants, we’ve got you covered

Here beauty expert Bee Shapiro looks at the best way to look after your skin 

Face cleansing used to be the most boring part of a skin-care regimen. Want bells and whistles? Better to look to the pricey moisturiser that comes in a faceted faux-crystal jar. Need targeted skin-care solutions? Look to potent serums and masks for results.


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The ideal cleanser

Don’t get distracted by slick marketing campaigns. According to Barbara Sturm, an aesthetic medical doctor in Germany who has a namesake skin-care line, the function of a daily cleanser should be straightforward. It’s “to remove dead skin cells, oil, dirt and other pollutants from the skin, unclog pores, prevent skin conditions such as acne, and prepare the skin for the next step in your skin-care regimen.”

What’s the deal with pH?

The idea is that if the cleanser mimics the skin’s naturally acidic pH (5.5), it will be more gentle on your skin’s acid mantle (the protective, slightly acidic layer made up of natural oils, dead skin cells and sweat). The acid mantle is what maintains skin health and staves off bacterial infections, said Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist in Manhattan.

Oil vs. water

If your skin is oily or prone to breakouts, Barbara suggests, look for a water-based gel or foam cleanser. The foaming aspect need not rely on sulfates. There are gentler surfactants available (like decyl glucoside, which is often found in baby shampoos). But even if the product is gentle, she said, “it is important to quickly apply moisturiser to avoid moisture loss through osmosis.”

What’s with triple cleansing?

Double and triple cleansing are ideas that sprang from the Korean and Japanese beauty crazes of recent years. The traditional K-beauty scenario involves using an oil-based cleanser to break down makeup. And because some makeup, especially waterproof and long-wear formulas, is oil-based, it breaks down best with oil. If you have dry skin and want some oil residue use a water-based cleanser to get the grime off, then use the oil cleanser.

Really, should you wash just once a day?

You should not be washing your face morning and night. Many people who have sensitive skin may simply be overwashing. “The industry is trying to sell as much as possible,” Barbara said. Over-cleansing, she said, “takes the skin’s lipids away and destroys skin barrier function, which in turn allows bacteria to enter and cause breakouts, redness, irritation, neurodermatitis and decreased natural resistance to UVA and UVB rays.” Everyone should wash once a day, she said, and twice only if your skin tolerates it well.

To exfoliate or not to exfoliate?

Over-cleansing and over-exfoliating go hand in hand. Be wary of cleansers loaded with acids, “It’s completely gimmicky to add all those acids, because cleansers are a rinse-off product, and you’d want your glycolic acid, for example, to have the chance to penetrate,” says Tiffany Masterson, the founder of Drunk Elephant. Barbara takes an even more conservative approach, noting the abuse of exfoliators. You should be exfoliating only one or two times a week no matter the form, she said.

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Media: New York Times News Service, Getty, Supplied. 

Words: Bee Shapiro