Q: Why is using just
water on your face not enough to wash it?
A: Sometimes it is, but most of the time we need a little more help. Let me explain why.
Your skin has a protection barrier called the acid mantle that is made up of your
body’s natural oils and moisture. It is
slightly acidic with a pH of 4.5 - 5.5. Both
the acid mantle of the skin and its pH are vitally important in keeping your
skin healthy. The acidity of your acid
mantle helps to protect against bacteria and environmental pollutants, as well
as hold in lipids and moisture. On the
pH scale the difference of 1 number is to the power of 10 (4 is 10 x’s more
acidic than 5; 3 is 100 x’s more acidic than 5; 2 is 1000 x’s more acidic than
5). Water is a 7 on the pH scale, a pH that is 1.5 - 2.5 higher than your skins
pH. Meaning your skin is dramatically
more acidic than water and that washing with water alone still disrupts the
acid mantle and can leave the skin dry and vulnerable to external factors.
Those who have dry, dehydrated, or mature skin may not want to wash in the
morning (assuming they went to bed with a clean face). Dry skin produces less
oil, so washing the face in the morning may unnecessarily strip away whatever
has developed of the acid mantle during the night and compromise the barrier on
the skin. Just rinsing the face with
water and then rebalancing it by applying a moisturizer can be a more
beneficial morning routine. Another possibility (and my preference) would be
use a milky cleanser in the morning.
Milky cleansers help keep the skin pH balanced by leaving a moisture
barrier down to restore the skin to a more normal state.
For all the rest of us, we need to wash our face twice a
day. Excess oil production and dead skin
cells block the pores and need to be removed regularly in order to keep the
skin functioning properly. If you are
acneic it is even more imperative that you cleanse twice a day because your skin
produces more dead skin cells than the average person so washing assists in
removing the surplus and helps prevent breakouts. The use of treatment products
at night, like benzoyl peroxide, acids, or retinols, can have adverse reactions
if worn throughout the day so you want to remove those and start the day off with
fresh, clean skin. If you have eczema,
acne, or rosacea, using a medicated cleanser will actually do more for your
skin than not washing at all!
The temptation to scrap it all and only use water is a
direct result of using products that are too harsh for the face. Many cleansers are highly alkaline and many
topical products are extremely acidic, especially those for acne or anti-aging.
Skin that is too alkaline cannot protect
the body against bacteria, which leads to breakouts and water loss. Products that are too acidic permeate further
into the skin causing burning and irritation.
When high alkaline cleansers or products that are too acidic are coupled
with other irritants like sodium laurel sulfate or menthol, either in the product
itself or applied after, it causes even more damage because the disrupted acid
mantle allows the irritants to penetrate deeper into the skin.
Most of us are not getting that dirty throughout our normal day so quit being
so rough on your face! Your skin does not have to be “squeaky-clean.” Using
countless exfoliating creams, scrubs, and brushes (even those fancy, expensive ones
that spin and vibrate) on a daily basis breaks down the skins protective
barrier causing your skin to become over sensitized making you react to every
product that touches your face.
looking for a cleanser keep in mind that cleansers that foam up are for oilier
skins and milky/creamy cleansers are for dryer skin types. Milky cleanser will not be enough to sufficiently
cleanse oily skin. Foaming cleansers may
be too harsh and stripping for those who have dry skin. Everyone should wash their face for 30-60 seconds
so that the cleanser can properly remove any dirt and makeup from the face; as
well as allow for any active ingredients time to penetrate and do their stuff!
If you feel like you have tried everything and have given up
or are afraid to try something new I would suggest you see an aesthetician. A
well-trained aesthetician knows ingredients, understands the pH scale in
regards to the skin, and knows how products affect the skin. An aesthetician can help you get back on the
right path to great skin.