How are skin cleansers evaluated?

Skin cleansers come in many varieties, but how are they evaluated? See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.
Skin cleansers come in many varieties, but how are they evaluated? See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.
© Close

The world of skin care is large and complex, and full of a seemingly endless variety of products. Each claims to perform a special task, whether it's labeled mild, pH-balanced, hypoallergenic or noncomedogenic.

Because skin types vary, not everyone will react to skin cleansers in the same way. Complications, such as irritation or redness, can occur if someone uses the wrong product. For this reason, there are several factors companies take into account when evaluating a cleanser.


Skin cleansers typically use a surfactant, which lifts dirt away from skin so that it can be rinsed away. There are many types of surfactants, and how the surfactant works makes a big difference on how strong the cleanser is. A cleanser with "mild" or "gentle" on the label is one that cleans your skin without stripping away all of the natural protective oil on your skin. These often have nonionic or silicone surfactants that are extremely gentle. And if you see a cleanser labeled "noncomedogenic," that product claims to keep pores unclogged.

A cleanser that is hypoallergenic has been tested and found to produce little or no allergic reaction. Many of these cleansers do not contain preservatives or fragrances that can irritate skin and cause allergic reactions in some users.

Another important consideration is the pH of a product. Your skin has a pH of about five, which is slightly acidic. Even water has a slightly higher pH of seven, so using a product that changes the pH of your skin isn't recommended. Skin cleansers that specify a neutral pH, or that claim to be pH-balanced, are better for skin [source: DermNet NZ].

Based on the needs of oily, dry, combination, acne-prone or sensitive skin, many product lines may also feature a unique product for each skin type. These products usually contain a combination of moisturizers, surfactants and other ingredients targeted.

For more information about skin cleansers and skin care, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • DermNet NZ. "Soaps & cleansers." Aug. 29, 2009. (Sept. 25, 2009)
  • Skin Care Guide. "Skin Cleansers For Various Skin Types." April 1, 2008. (Sept. 25, 2009)