Ever since my teenage years I’ve always chosen the squeaky clean feel of a freshly washed face over a cream cleanser or balm.
But as our understanding of how best to support the skin’s barrier increases, so the idea of ‘squeaky clean’ becomes less appealing.
That’s because detergents used in traditional face washes can strip away the moisturising oils in your skin leaving it dry and irritated.
And if after washing and drying your face you find it feels tight and in instant need of moisture then you might want to look at a gentler alternative.
For the die-hard washer (of which I’m one) there are soap-free foaming cleansers that give the feel of soap while being kinder to skin.
Cerave’s Foaming Cleanser is the best I’ve tried, outclassing Simple’s Moisturising Facial Wash in my view, which I used for several years, in terms of washing your skin well without leaving it overly dry.
But better still, is a face balm.
‘Washing’ without stripping your skin
I’ve talked in this column previously about the advantages of conditioner-washing (co-washing) your hair instead of using shampoo.
The co-wash (I love the As I Am range) gently removes dirt and oils without stripping your hair – and face balms offer a similar solution.
These oil-based cleansers take a bit of getting used to but, used correctly, will effectively remove dirt and make-up, yet your skin will feel soft and nourished afterwards.
I’ve been using a balm-gel cleanser from Harborist in recent months and love the difference that balm-washing makes to my skin.
I wet my hands slightly before massaging the cleanser into my face, taking time to work it into my mascara.
From there I use a face cloth to remove my eye-make up fully and then splash my skin to wash off the remaining balm.
Any cleansing balm from Elemis is a real treat because their products are so beautifully formulated and delicately fragranced, but you don’t have to spend much to find good options.
Priced under £10, it’s not hard to see why the Holy Hydration Cleansing Balm from e.l.f is an Amazon best-seller. Formulated with non-comedogenic sunflower oil, it’s unfragranced and praised by consumers for breaking down make-up quickly without drying skin.
Not so nutty about coconut oil
I’ve seen a few beauty influencers talking about how they use coconut oil to cleanse and moisturise their skin.
While I love the sound of using a natural, single ingredient like this, I have to share a note of caution.
Coconut oil is very rich is oleic acid which makes it highly comedogenic and that means it’s more likely to clog our pores, especially when it’s used as the sole ingredient to cleanse or moisturise.
For some skin types this is less of an issue, but for oiler skin that’s prone to congestion like mine it’s a non-starter.
It took me some years to figure out that certain skincare ingredients were disrupting my own oil (sebum) output on my skin and causing closed comedones, those annoying whiteheads which are hard to get rid of.
But by using non-comedogenic oils in my skincare such as sunflower, grapeseed, hempseed and squalene, it is now almost completely clear for the first time in my life.
Ironically, adding more oils (just the right ones) into my routine has been really beneficial in terms of balanced hydration and smoothness.