Skin Cleansing Formulas

Unusual Skin Care Ingredients Image Gallery Today, there are many alternatives to soap. See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.
Unusual Skin Care Ingredients Image Gallery Today, there are many alternatives to soap. See more pictures of unusual skin care ingredients.
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Like many Americans, you may spend a fair amount of time working on your appearance. Whether you're getting a pedicure or running on the treadmill, you probably do whatever you can to look your best.

One of the basic principles of beauty is clean, unblemished skin, and although you may be able to achieve this look with concealer and foundation, most people prefer to have the real thing. The easiest way to clean your skin is with soap and water, but harsh bar soap can strip the skin of its oils, which can cause dry, flaky skin [source: PG Beauty Science]. But today there are plenty of alternatives to a basic bar of soap and a washcloth -- there are numerous cleansing solutions on the market that can treat a variety of skin types. Not only do these products cleanse your face, but some of them can also moisturize your skin, prevent acne or help you fight wrinkles [source: Consumer Research].


Regardless of whether you have dry, sensitive, oily, aging or acne-prone skin, there's a skin care formula that's right for you. Keep reading to learn what skin care products are gentle enough for sensitive skin.

Skin-cleansing Formulas for Sensitive Skin

People with sensitive skin are more likely to have allergic or irritant reactions to ingredients in skin care products [source: MedicineNet]. Because people with sensitive skin can have such negative reactions to cleansing solutions, they must use skin-cleansing formulas that have fewer -- and weaker -- ingredients. For example, most sensitive skin cleansing products are unscented because fragrances can often cause allergic reactions.

The best types of sensitive skin cleansers are frequently soap-free -- or contain mild soap -- and water-soluble. If you have sensitive skin, look for products that contain lactic acid, glycerin or hyaluronic acid -- these gentle ingredients help skin retain moisture [source: Consumer Research]. Although many of these ingredients are safe on sensitive skin, each person reacts differently, so try several formulas to determine which one works best for your skin.


Although finding the right skin care products for your sensitive skin can be challenging, people with oily skin face just as many difficulties. Read on to learn what causes oily skin and what skin-cleansing formulas work best to fight it.

Skin-cleansing Formulas for Oily Skin

In order to know what skin-cleansing formulas are best for oily skin, it's important to understand what causes oily skin in the first place. Oil in the skin is known as sebum, which is created by the skin's sebaceous glands. Everyone has these glands, but people with oily skin produce excessive amounts of sebum. Too much oil can make skin overly shiny, and the sebum can mix with dead skin cells to clog hair follicles and cause acne [source: Mayo Clinic].

If you have oily skin, you need a thorough but gentle cleanser. You may instinctively want to use the strongest cleanser available, but oil is produced to protect the skin from irritants, so using strong cleansers can actually cause the skin to produce more oil. Look for skin-cleansing formulas with a low pH level -- lower pH levels will be gentle on the skin while still removing excess oil. Products that contain glycolic acid or salicylic acid are good choices for oily skin -- they gently exfoliate the skin's surface while reducing sebum buildup [source: Web MD].


Some people with oily skin will be tempted to wash their face repeatedly throughout the day. However, washing more than twice a day can remove too much of the body's natural oils, which will cause the body to increase sebum production [source: Web MD].

Oily skin can be frustrating, but so is its opposite. Read on to learn about the different types of skin cleansers available for people with dry skin.


Skin-cleansing Formulas for Dry Skin

While people with oily skin overproduce sebum, those with dry skin don't produce enough of it. Most cases of dry skin are exacerbated by external factors such as harsh soaps, dry or cold air, certain medications and frequent hot showers. And sometimes dry skin can be a result of a disease like diabetes or psoriasis. Dry skin may not seem like a serious problem, but it can be painful and itchy, and it can make your face appear red and flaky [source: Web MD].

Because people with dry skin have little oil to protect their skin, they should look for a gentle, moisturizing cleanser that won't further dry the skin. Harsh soaps and astringents can remove oil from the skin and cause irritation, but a gentle, moisturizing soap will cleanse the skin and help it retain moisture. Choose mild soaps that have added fats and oils, and avoid antibacterial and deodorant soaps -- these can be especially harsh on dry skin [source: Mayo Clinic].


Keep reading to learn what skin-cleansing formulas work best for acne-prone skin and aging skin.

Skin-cleansing Formulas for Problem Skin

People with acne or wrinkles have an especially difficult time finding the ideal cleanser for their skin -- they must find a cleanser that battles their skin problem while also taking their skin type into account.

Acne occurs when excessive amounts of sebum mix with dead skin cells and clog hair follicles. Once hair follicles are clogged, bacteria can become trapped underneath the skin and cause inflammation, which results in a pimple, whitehead or blackhead [source: Mayo Clinic]. Acne cleansers work in a way similar to cleansers for oily skin -- they remove excessive amounts of oil and wash away the dead skin cells and dirt that clog hair follicles. These cleansers often contain harsher ingredients -- such as certain alcohols, menthol or peppermint -- that dry the skin and can sometimes cause irritation [source: Consumer Research]. If you have acne-prone skin, look for skin care products labeled noncomedogenic -- meaning they won't clog pores -- that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid [source: WebMD].


Wrinkles form because as you age, your skin thins, dries and loses its elasticity. Genetics are a major factor in wrinkle formation, but external factors, such as sun exposure and smoking can make wrinkles worse [source: Mayo Clinic]. Wrinkle-fighting cleansers work in a similar way to dry skin cleansers -- most include moisturizers that soften the skin and help it look younger. Some cleansers also have exfoliating properties to help remove dead cells on the skin's surface and reveal the younger, fresher skin underneath [source: Mayo Clinic]. If you have wrinkles, look for skin care products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids, retinoids or vitamin C. Alpha-hydroxy acids help lift the top layer of dead skin cells to reduce the appearance of fine lines, and these acids may also stimulate collagen production. Retinoids reduce the appearance of wrinkles and repair sun damage, and vitamin C can increase collagen production and protect skin from ultraviolet rays [source: Bouchez].

To learn more about the different types of skin-cleansing formulas, see the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Bouchez, Colette. "23 Ways to Reduce Wrinkles." (Accessed 9/22/09).
  • Consumer Research. "Cleansers for Sensitive Skin." (Accessed 8/30/09).
  • Consumer Research. "Facial Cleansers: Full Report." (Accessed 8/30/09).
  • Libov, Charlotte. "Adult Acne: Why You Get It, How to Fight It." (Accessed 9/22/09).
  • Mayo Clinic. "Acne: Causes." April 30, 2008. (Accessed 8/30/09).
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry skin: Lifestyle and Home Remedies." November 26, 2008. (Accessed 8/30/09).
  • Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkles: Definition." January 27, 2009. (Accessed 8/30/09).
  • Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkles: Treatment and Drugs." January 27, 2009. (Accessed 8/31/09).
  • MedecineNet. "Sensitive Skin: Causes and Treatments." (Accessed 8/30/09).
  • P & G Beauty and Grooming. "Skin Cleansing." (Accessed 8/27/09).
  • Scirrotto, Julia. "Soothing Solutions for Sensitive Skin." (Accessed 9/21/09).
  • WebMD. "Acne Vulgaris: Topic Overview." (Accessed 9/22/09).
  • Web MD. "Oily Skin: Solutions that Work." October 19, 2007. (Accessed 8/27/09).
  • Web MD. "What's Causing Your Dry Skin Problem." March 6, 2009. (Accessed 8/30/09).