Do mild cleansers still get you clean?

They may be less likely to cause irritation, but do mild cleansers clean your skin as well as harsher formulas? See more getting beautiful skin pictures.
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Clean is -- as homemaking maven Martha Stewart might call it -- a very good thing. But if your delight in disinfection extends to your body, you might be doing damage to your delicate skin.

Although your bathroom might benefit from a scouring, your face won't. The trick with skin, especially the more sensitive skin on your face, is to remove dead skin cells and excess oil as well as the dirt and grime your skin accumulates over the course of the day. Think of your skin as a wall between the outside world and the important inner workings of your body. That outside world is full of pollutants, bacteria, fungi and other things you don't want in your body. So, although your skin helps keep these things out, some of them do stick to its surface and need to be cleaned off.


However, other "good" elements should be left intact to ensure soft, supple skin. Sebum, protective oil naturally produced by glands in your skin, is necessary for maintaining overall moisture and shouldn't be scrubbed away.

So, in the case of cleansing your skin, there is such a thing as "too clean." For healthy skin, you want to avoid the squeaky-clean feeling that a harsh cleanser would leave. You wouldn't use a tub-and-tile cleaner on your face, would you? Maintaining healthy skin isn't about stripping it. A cleanser that takes off too much of the good stuff will, in the long run, lead to dry, wrinkled or irritated skin. A mild cleanser, conversely, is made to remove only the bad stuff while leaving enough sebum to keep skin feeling soft and smooth.

Mild cleansers are usually recommended by dermatologists, especially for delicate facial skin. Harsh cleansers irritate skin and cause breakouts, which would be a very bad thing, indeed.

To learn more about mild cleansers, check out the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Bouchez, Colette. "Oily Skin: Solutions That Work -- No Matter What Your Age." Web MD (Accessed 8/30/09)
  • DERMADoctor. "Oily Skin: The Good, The Bad & The Oily." (Accessed 8/30/09)
  • Skin Care Guide. "Mild Cleanser Basics: Why Cleanse?" (Accessed 8/30/09)