In this post, explore the effects of harsh cleansers on the pH balance of your skin.
Yes, you heard right. Another great misconception developed by the big powers-that-be in skin care. Unlike how we’ve been programmed to think, “squeaky clean” is actually the last thing you want for your skin. Your skin is the largest organ of the body, and as such has a very big job to do. One thing it does is help regulate your body temperature. It does this by allowing you to sweat or to flush when you are too hot. Another very important task: your skin’s main function is to lock in moisture and to keep dangerous germs out. To do this job, your skin relies on its natural oils and the delicate pH balance of the epidermis, which is on the acidic side. This very superficial protective film is called the acid mantle. When you use harsh cleansers to wash your face, it strips away your skin’s natural oils, leaving it squeaky clean. Stripping away these oils disrupts the pH balance and shifts it to a far more basic state. When skin is more basic, it’s also more irritated-looking and becomes more susceptible to bacterial overgrowth.
I never, ever recommend soap. Soap is a combination of oil (either vegetable or animal fat) water and lye. Yes, I said lye. What I recommend to my patients is to use a liquid facial cleanser that leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth, not squeaky. For sensitive- or dry-skinned people, those washes typically will not foam or lather. These are more like cleansing lotions that gently rid the skin of dirt and excess oil from things like touching your face throughout the day. For my patients who are not dry or sensitive, I typically recommend a cleanser that is only mildly foaming. Heavy lathering washes tend to strip away more of your natural facial oil than just the excess oil you've accumulated. I also do not recommend washing your face more than twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening is plenty...unless of course you have food or visible dirt on there, then by all means clean yourself off!
Savy Guthrie is a dermatology PA with 17 years of patient care experience and is the founder of Theoderma Skin Care.
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