GET THE LOOK: Summer's best skin cleansers

This season’s best cleansers leave skin clear and comforted. Rachel Marie Walsh reports

Should I avoid oil cleansers if I have oily areas?

Not because they contain oil. Even the most emollient oil-based cleansers contain surfactants for the removal of makeup and other debris. Oil clings to oil, so excess sebum is also easily rinsed away without the drying effects of a soapy wash.

The oil cleansers to avoid are those containing potential irritants. Alcohol and heavy perfume are irritating additions to any cleanser, and can exacerbate excess oil production and acne inflammation.

Dior HydraLife Oil-to-Milk Makeup Removing Cleanser, €35.50 (far right), is my favourite oil-cleansing launch this season. The sweet almond oil-based formula eases makeup off quickly, foaming to a milky lather and rinsing residue-free.

My dry-skin cleanser is soothing but does not prevent blackheads. Help!

Blackheads have a grimy look easily attributed to improper cleansing but their dark colour is not dirt. Blackheads, or comedones, occur when hormones cause excess oil production in a pore not adequately shaped to accommodate its natural flow to the skin’s surface.

Trapped, this backed-up oil (sometimes mixed with dead cells) turns black through oxidisation.

Regular use of a beta hydroxy acid product can both remove excess oil and refine the shape of the pore lining. You could swap your dry skin cleanser for a BHA wash but the choice of these in Irish stores is very small and the choice of those I found to be potential irritant-free is non-existent.

I recommend sticking with the dry skin cleanser you like and wearing a BHA treatment like Paula’s Choice Skin Perfect 2% BHA Liquid, €30 at, overnight once or twice weekly. Beta hydroxy acids are oil-soluble and (in a fragrance-free formula with the correct PH) can cleanse inside the pore lining, reduce inflammation and make the complexion look more uniform. It can also help prevent ingrown hairs.

Prevention is better than cure but individual blackheads can also be tackled with a comedone extractor like Tweezerman Face Skincare Tool, €12.60 at

Enzyme cleansers — can I use one instead of a separate cleanser and exfoliant?

Enzymes act as exfoliants in skincare, encouraging natural activities that have slowed because of ageing or UV damage (eg, cell turnover, post-spot healing).

They work in a manner similar to alpha hydroxy acids: by breaking down the connecting structures that hold surface cells together, resulting in mild resurfacing. Papein and bromelain, pineapple extracts commonly used in enzyme cleansers and treatments, are also antioxidants.

An enzyme wash such as Trilogy Active Enzyme Cleansing Cream, €33.45, is certainly preferable to facial scrubs or harsh exfoliating devices, both of which can irritate skin or damage the hydrolipidic barrier.

However, while some types can find daily exfoliation sensitising, even the sensitive or rosacea-prone benefit from a combination of gentle daily cleansing and weekly applications of a topical exfoliant.

Normal, sensitive and oily types get on best with a beta hydroxy treatment while dry and sun-damaged skin looks brighter and feels softer after using a glycolic or lactic acid lotion. Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 10% Moisturiser, €33.80 at, is a good fragrance-free choice.

I hate spending ages on skincare at night. Which one product will remove all my makeup and get my skin clean?

I have never had a facial without the aesthetician telling me it is best to “double cleanse” at night, either by washing my face twice or using a separate pre-cleanser and cleanser. I understand the inclination (urban environment + makeup = double the debris) but am mindful of skin’s natural moisture barrier.

I use balm or lotion cleansers and soft cloths to remove makeup and am far from alone. Liz Earle’s Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, €19, is an editors’ favourite that has won over 100 beauty awards.

The mint-coloured cream has also inspired a bargain alternative, I love Paula’s Choice Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser, €25, which removes makeup fast and softens without leaving a residue.

The formula suits all skin types. Eau Thermale Avène Fluide Démaquillant 3-in-1, €15 (above), launching July 1, is more widely available and also comforting. ‘3-in-1’ refers to its efficient cleansing, soothing and makeup removal.

GET THE LOOK: Summer's best skin cleansers

How can I protect my sensitive skin with SPF50 without spoiling my makeup?

SPF50 products provide only about 1.3% greater UVB protection than those with SPF30, so if you already use a broad-spectrum version of the latter there is not much need to shop. Sun protective moisturisers are often incompatible with makeup’s texture or colour. Creamy sunscreen formulas can make makeup pill, shine or slip.

Skincare companies typically counteract this effect by adding alcohol (making a formula thin and watery) or silicones (creating a silky serum). The silicone option is eminently preferable: Alcohol dehydrates and sensitises skin while silicones are harmless even around the eyes (an area especially vulnerable to alcohol irritation). It is true that silicones are synthetic but marketing insinuations that this renders them toxic or simply a less conscientious skincare choice for you or your children are groundless.

Silicones are both economical and present in a wide variety of vigorously-tested consumer goods ranging from food to building materials to toys.

There is some suspicion that silicones’ filming-forming nature causes spots but their use in such a wide variety of both acne and wound-healing products should reassure (wounds, in particular, need to breathe and the film formed by silicones is more accurately pictured as mesh than purely occlusive).

Moreover, the alcohol employed in alternative oily-skin formulas both exacerbates excess sebum production and slows the healing of post-spot marks over time (as does going without broad-spectrum sun protection).

Colour change is particularly problematic for sensitive skin, as the gentlest sunscreen actives have a whitish cast naturally. I am very impressed with Murad’s new City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF50, €51 (main image, left).

Not only is the lightweight (silicone-based) formula comforting, smooth and quickly layered, it also contains significant amounts of lutein and Vitamin C, both brightening antioxidants that work to repair existent sun damage. A peach-based tint conceals the sensitive skin-friendly white oxides but is sheer enough not to alter your foundation. I would not deem it bold enough for colour-correcting (I even use City Skin Age Defence on my hands without smudgy consequences).

The formula is free from fragrance and anything else likely to irritate sensitive types. There are no shine-control ingredients but if you are after those your makeup is likely mattifying anyway.

The packaging is an opaque screw-cap bottle, which keeps the contents stable. My sole complaint is the amount you get per euro, the bottle is far too small.


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