The Skin Nerd: How to get active when it comes to cleansing

Exfoliating cleansers are the first step in upgrading your skincare routine.
The Skin Nerd: How to get active when it comes to cleansing

The basics of skincare, if you ask me, includes a thorough double-cleanse, a serum with ingredients such as hydrators, antioxidants and vitamins, and an SPF. As I’ve said, these are the basics, for those who are perhaps moving from a micellar water and a moisturiser and want to improve their general skin health. And this 3-step routine of cleanse, serum, SPF will help to hydrate and protect your skin – absolutely – but it may not go the extra mile towards targeting the skin concerns that you want to target!

What will work to create more a visible difference are the “add-ons” to these absolute basics, products that I myself consider necessities for my skin but may not be your first port of call. I’m talking active cleansers, targeted serums and the very occasional mask. Active cleansing is actually one of the simpler modes of adding that bit of nerdieness to your routine.

I’m going to break down what I would consider to be the differences of a “passive” and “active” cleanser. You have your mild, “passive” cleanser that still contains fantastic ingredients that will soothe and nourish your skin, the type of cleanser you can use twice or even three times a day without needing to think about it.

As well as that, you can have an active cleanser, a cleanser that cleanses and all the while actually introduces ingredients to your skin that can target your skin concerns and bring about exfoliation.

There is not a “one-ingredient-fits-all" approach when it comes to active cleansers, and although most people may be able to use the same mild cleanser, the distinction between active cleansers may be more pertinent. If you’re oily or spot-prone, you should be looking for a salicylic acid cleanser like Skingredients Sally Cleanse (€25, and selected stockists), or a blend of salicylic acid with something like glycolic acid or lactic acid like the Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser (€42, and selected salons). If you have dry skin, pigmentation and/or want to target fines lines and wrinkles, for the most part, a glycolic acid cleanser like the Neostrata Foaming Glycolic Wash (€30, selected stockists) will be the recommendation.

For sensitive skin, or very dry skin, you may need something gentler (and perhaps your exfoliation does not come from an active cleanse but another product). Lactic acid is ideal for sensitive skin, so perhaps you’d opt for the Gallinée La Culture Foaming Facial Cleanser (€16.50, selected stockists). Enzymes are also a very skin-respectful mode of exfoliation, so for you, your active cleanse could be step 1 with your everyday cleanser and step 2 with something like the Declare Soft Cleansing Enzyme Peel (€25.95, selected stockists).

So now you have two cleansers, what do you do? With acid-based cleansers, use them every second or third night (specifically night, as high amounts of acid can make our skin more sensitive to light) after cleansing with your mild, “passive” cleanser. Sometimes the packaging of these cleansers will recommend using them nightly – in this case, begin with every 3rd night and then move up to every 2nd after a week if your skin doesn’t become dehydrated.

As acids work to speed up skin cell turnover, skin dehydration can happen if you overuse acid exfoliants, so you’re better to go slow and then move up cautiously! With enzymes, on the other hand, you probably wouldn’t see any issues from exfoliating with enzymes every night.

Before you use an exfoliating cleanser, ensure your skin is clean with a pre-cleanse like the Cleanse Off Mitt (€6.50, selected stockists) or a pre-cleanse oil or balm, and cleanse with your mild cleanser prior to using your active cleanser. And remember to wear SPF daily, especially when using acids, due to the aforementioned light sensitivity your skin may experience.

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