By Dr. Josh Zeichner
The drug store soap aisle can literally contain hundreds of options, but do you even need different cleansers for your face and body?
The answer is yes. True soaps often contain harsh detergents and an alkaline pH, which can effectively remove dirt and oil from your body, but can irritate more sensitive facial skin. Plus, you’ll often find that true soaps contain additives such as fragrances, which mask the natural, unpleasant odor of the soap. (Mild soaps are free of colors and fragrances, so they are less irritating; soap-free cleansers are made up of synthetic detergents, known as syndets, with a pH that is more acidic.)
There are various cleansers formulated specifically for your face and skin type, so start by figuring out what kind of skin you have:
Slightly slick to the touch? You have “oily” skin.
Use: Liquid cleanser, which removes excess sebum from the skin better than cleansing bars.
Itchy, flaky, rough-feeling or red? You have “dry” or “sensitive” skin.
Use: Lipid-free cleanser, which offers minimal cleansing (but does not remove dirt and oil as well as other cleansers). Lipid-free cleansers can leave a moisturizing film on the skin after it’s removed.
Not particularly oily, dry or sensitive? You have “normal” skin.
Use: The most common type of cleanser, bar cleanser, which happens to work best on normal skin.
Beside these basics, shelves are filled with many more cleanser categories designed for specific functions:
Cleansing cream (or “cold cream”)
What it does: Washes and moisturizes. Cleansing cream removes heavy oils, like those contained in makeup. It also moisturizes, but it should not be left on the skin for long periods of time because it can cause irritation.
What it does: Exfoliates dead cells from the surface of the skin while cleaning it. The granules in scrubs can cause redness and irritation, so you should avoid these if you have sensitive skin.
Disposable cleansing cloths
What they do: Release a foaming cleanser when you get them wet. The cloth itself can exfoliate the skin, and may contain added emollients to moisturize the skin. (These are available for different skin types.)