SKIN CARE DIARIES: Updated Cleansing Routine & Favorites

by - June 26, 2019

It's been almost 3 years since I've talked about my skin care routine and I feel like a lot has changed for me in that time. Back in 2016 when I talked about it, I was just really getting into skin care. At that time, everyone seemed to be hyping up the really intense Korean skin care routines and I had fully jumped on board. These days, for several reasons that I'll delve into more in other posts in this series, I've really pared down my skin care routine and honed in on the types of products that really, really work for me, so I decided I needed to do a bit of an update on that post. I also decided that I want to do a (hopefully) weekly Skin Care Diaries post where I delve into my own routine, what has worked for me and what hasn't, as well as round ups and comprehensive looks at skin care ingredients. Stay tuned to see what I have to come! But of course, I'm going to start where my routine starts with one of the most important, fundamental steps - CLEANSING!

Keep reading for more!

I grew up in the days of face wash commercials featuring hot, young celebrities foaming up their faces and then splashing with water to reveal perfect skin. It was a time of microbeads and foaming face wash and Oxy pads. And it was definitely a time when we all believed that squeaky clean was how your skin should feel after cleansing. It actually wasn't until I was in my late 20s that I realized just how badly my skin reacts to harsh cleansers that leave it feeling tight and stripped - or squeaky, if you will. The biggest game changer for me has definitely been a double cleansing routine using really gentle cleansers that effectively remove dirt, oil and makeup without compromising my moisture barrier.

When I first really started getting into skin care - and honestly, probably the reason that I got really into it, was that I really, really damaged my moisture barrier in my late 20s and the fall out was... kind of traumatizing. At its worst, my skin was red, stinging and flaking, but I can really remember a long period leading up to that when my skin was sensitive, oily but also incredibly dehydrated, and I was experiencing really painful periods of adult acne. Honestly, I really believe that focusing on a gentle, thorough and non-stripping cleansing routine was what started changing my skin for the better and when I fall off on maintaining that routine, I really do see the fallout in the overall look and feel of my skin, regardless of the serums and moisturizers that I use. 

Step 1: Removing Makeup & SPF
For me, the best products for this step are cleansing oils or balms. I know a lot of people really, really love their wipes, but I've personally stopped using them myself because they can be rough and cause you to pull at your skin unnecessarily, but I also find that they just don't work as well at really removing the makeup and it's wasteful to use a disposable wipe when you could be using a washable face cloth. I really, really hope that the days of cleansing wipes are on their way out. These days, I tend to prefer cleansing balms because I prefer the texture and the experience of using them, but I also enjoy a rich cleansing oil as well.

Using dry hands, I scoop out a little bit of cleansing balm onto my finger and then work it between my hands for a couple of seconds to melt it before I start working it into my face. I generally apply a little bit to my eyes and then leave it there without rubbing while move on, just letting that product sort of start to break up my mascara while I work the product into the rest of my face. Once I feel like my face makeup has been sufficiently broken up, I move to my eyes and use a very gentle back and forth motion with my fingertips, breaking up the product without tugging at my eyes. To remove, I get a clean wash cloth, soak it in warm-but-not-hot water, squeeze it out and then press it over my face to pick up the product. I usually do this a couple of times to really make sure that I get all of the product off so that my skin is ready for my next step without having to rub and pull at my skin.

I have to say, when it comes to cleansing balms I do prefer a higher end product - though that could be because there aren't enough options in the drugstore yet. I do think they're coming though! My personal favorites are the Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm and the Dermalogica Precleanse Balm. That being said, I think you really can't go wrong with the Physicians Formula The Perfect Matcha 3-in-1 Cleansing Balm or The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter if you're looking for a lower cost option.

Step 2: Cleansing The Skin
When it comes to the second step in my cleansing routine (or my single morning cleanse), this is where I'm both really picky about what products I use and always really, really excited to try out new products. In the past, it was definitely this step that really messed up my skin because I was always using those intense cleansers that were leaving my skin squeaky clean, disrupting and damaging my moisture barrier, and ultimately leaving my skin stripped and compromised. And honestly, I don't care what skin type you have, I don't think anyone benefits from a too harsh cleanser, I really don't.

Now, I know some people won't use anything that foams at all - and until recently I've been very much the same way - but I find that there are some cleansers that do foam up that don't leave my skin feeling stripped and I've really been enjoying them for my morning cleanse. If I'm using more a creamy cleanser or a milk, I get the product on my hands and then work it into the skin using gentle circular motions. If I'm using something that foams, I actually foam it up in my clean hands first so that I'm not actually sudsing up on the skin, and I find that somehow this helps my skin from feeling tight afterwards - don't ask me why, could be all in my head. Generally, if I'm going to use a foaming cleanser, I always check to be sure that it doesn't have SLS in it, because that is definitely one ingredient that absolutely doesn't work for my skin. I don't scrub too hard or pull at my skin because I feel like you just don't need to. Gentle motions will still work to cleanse the skin without the tugging that can contribute to signs of aging. I also use a warm, wet washcloth to remove my skin cleanser because I prefer not to have to splash my face, but you can also do that. Either way, a good cleanser will leave your skin feeling really fresh, without any residue or that tight squeaky feeling.

Now, this is one category where I feel like you really don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great product. My absolute favorite from the drugstore is the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, which does a really good job of cleansing the skin but also really, really leaves my skin feeling fresh and hydrated after washing. I've also really been enjoying the Pixi Rose Cream Cleanser which is a really soothing creamy cleanser, and the CosRx Low-pH Good Morning Cleanser, which is a gel cleanser that foams but doesn't leave my skin feeling dry or tight.

When it comes to choosing a cleanser, I think there's probably a little bit of trial and error but it's also just about figuring out what works for your skin. When it comes to makeup removing cleansers, I think it's more likely to be a matter of taste - whether you prefer a cleansing oil or a balm - but I do think that an oil based cleanser works for all skin types and is the most gentle and effective way to remove makeup and SPF. If you have oily skin and you're still worried that oil based cleanser isn't right for you, you really needed worry. Like attracts like and an oil can actually really help to remove excess oil from the skin to keep you more balanced. When it comes to actual skin cleansers, I think that's where it becomes more about skin type with preference coming second. If you're someone with an oilier skin type, I'd highly recommend looking for a gel cleanser or a cleanser that contains a 2% salicylic acid to really help to clean out the pores. For drier skin types, I would recommend a cream or a milk cleanser to really hydrate while you cleanse. 

What I think you're looking for after a good cleanse is for skin that feels fresh and clean without being overly tight or uncomfortable, though dry skin will likely feel a little bit tight no matter what and I recommend following your cleanse immediately with a humectant like hyaluronic acid while your skin is still damp to really lock in some hydration and prevent transepidermal water loss. 

Like I said - and as I'm sure you've gleaned by the sheer volume of words in this post - I really do think that an effective and gentle cleansing routine is one of the most important steps to keep your skin healthy and balanced. I think sometimes washing our faces can seem a lot less important than fancy serums and oils, but the reality is that those products are only going to be at their best if we're starting with a base that's clean and ready to accept them.

If you've gotten this far, thanks so much for reading! I'd love to hear what your favorite cleansers are in the comments - I'm always looking for new ones to try out!

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