How to choose the best cleanser for your skin type

Phoebe Tonkin no makeup

Plus, discover what happens to your skin when you use the wrong one

Beauty Crew Beauty Writer / May 31 2018

Cleansing is probably the one area of your skin care routine you tend to overlook. Sure, you wash your face every morning and night, but it’s likely your serums, treatments and moisturisers are the stars of your skin care show.

And while those products are definitely important, it’s time you prioritised your humble cleanser to ensure your skin is reaping all the amazing benefits it has to offer.

To find out why cleansing is so important, what formulas work best for different skin types and whether cleansing tools are necessary, we spoke to beauty expert and owner of her own self-titled clinic, Jocelyn Petroni, as well as Dermal Clinician at Skin Clinic Blyss, Jodie King.

Why cleansing (and double cleansing) is so important

“Cleansing the skin removes impurities and build-up caused by dead skin cells, dirt, pollution and bacteria. With a double cleanse, the first cleanse removes surface cosmetics, while the second allows the cleanser to reach the skin’s surface, cleansing pores and removing any residue,” explains King.

Double cleansing in the evening is so important because “at night, the skin rests, restores, regenerates and absorbs more than during the day, so we want the skin to be super clean at night as this will optimise the repairing process and product absorption of our active night skin treatments,” adds Petroni.

In a nutshell, if your skin isn’t clean, your other skin care products won’t be anywhere near as effective!

What formulas work best for different skin types

Cleansers fall under a variety of categories: micellar waters, oils, gels, lotions, milks, balms, creams, foams, bars and pads – all of which work differently on different skin types.

According to Petroni, “the drier your skin, the more oil you need in your cleanser and the more oily your skin, the less oil you need in your cleanser. So, dry skins should use an oil, cream or milk cleanser and oily skin should use a foam or gel cleanser.”

If you have combination skin, King explains that your cleanser of choice “will depend on the season and how the skin is feeling. Often a combination of a cleansing lotion and gel can work well.”

Petroni adds, “once you have this main category of cleanser type sorted, then you can start to treat skin concerns like dehydration, sensitivity, etc.” For instance, if your skin is oily but also gets dehydrated, then choose a foam or gel cleanser that is also hydrating.

If you’re after a gel cleanser, we’d recommend Ultraceuticals Ultra Balancing Gel Cleanser, Cosmedix Purity Solution if you prefer an oil formula and Nuxe Comforting Cleansing Milk if you skin is on the drier side and you need a milk cleanser.

Ultraceuticals Ultra Balancing Gel Cleanser

Cosmedix Purity Solution

Nuxe Comforting Cleansing Milk

What happens if you use the wrong cleanser?

Thankfully, it’s quite easy to tell if you’re using the wrong cleanser for your skin type. Petroni breaks it down like this: “if your cleanser is too oily you many start to breakout from the oil residue left on your skin. If your cleanser is too drying it could strip your skin of natural oil resulting in sensitivity, dryness and dehydration lines.”

Are cleansing tools necessary?

Cleansing tools and brushes have become increasingly popular as technology has developed over the years, with many devices claiming to cleanse the skin many times more effectively than your hands alone. And while these tools are effective, both King and Petroni note they’re not essential.

If you’re finding your hands aren’t quite cutting it when cleansing, a cotton washcloth is a great alternative to a cleansing brush. The cheaper and more hygienic option (you can simply throw it in the wash after each use) will remove all makeup and dirt while gently exfoliating your skin to remove any dead cells that have accumulated throughout the day.

Ultimately, aside from choosing the right formula for your skin type, Petroni notes, “the most important factor when it comes to cleansing is the method used. Cleansing should be a 60-second process. A quick slap-dash cleanse does not deep clean the skin or even remove all the surface dirt and pollution. Take the time to massage your cleanser into your skin, sloughing away dry and dead skin [from the surface], while stimulating lymphatic drainage to internally clean the skin and feed oxygen-rich blood to the skin’s surface.”

Want to learn more about the essential steps in your skin care routine? Then discover the surprising product replacing toners and find out the top serums beauty editors can’t live without.  

What’s your Holy Grail cleanser? Let us know in the comments below.

Main image credit: @phoebejtonkin

Kate started working for BEAUTYcrew in early 2016, first as a contributor, and was then named Beauty Writer in 2017. She loves picking the brains of the industry's top experts to get to the bottom of beauty's toughest questions. Bronze eyeshadow palettes are her weakness and she's forever on the hunt for the perfect nude nail polish to suit her fair skin. Her words can also be found in Men's Health magazine, and she now works in PR.