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What should men look for in an all-in-one cleanser?

It might be time to think beyond using a regular bar of soap to wash your face. See more personal hygiene pictures.
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There was a time when most men didn't give a lot of thought to washing their face. If it felt or looked dirty, you just used whatever soap happened to be nearby. There was no thought to buying a special facial cleanser. These days, however, more men are becoming interested in skin care. If you just use regular bar soap, or a standard body wash, you might not be presenting your best face.

The skin on your face is often more sensitive than the skin on your body, so soap can be irritating. Many basic body soaps can also be very drying, so if you already have dry skin, it'll only exacerbate your problem. Oily skin might end up feeling even greasier if you're using a really creamy, moisturizing soap. In addition, if you have acne-prone or sun-damaged skin, you can benefit by using something special for your face. Men have 25 percent thicker skin than women, and it's also more sensitive, so an all-in-one cleanser formulated just for them is a good idea [source: Baran].

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But if you start looking at skin care lines for men, you might feel overwhelmed by the multiple products and steps required. There aren't just cleansers, but toners, exfoliating scrubs and moisturizers. You're in luck, though -- many companies now make all-in-one cleansers, which can save you both time and money. Next, check out the many different types of all-in-one products available.

 

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Now that you've decided to buy an all-in-one cleanser, you should know that they're not all created equal. Some are made for specific skin types, while others claim that they will work for anyone. There are also variations in what they do besides the actual cleansing: They may tone, exfoliate, moisturize or all of the above. Finally, there are some all-in-one cleansers that can be used to wash your face, body and even your hair. You don't have to spend a lot of money, either; good products are available for under $10 at your local drugstore, or you can check out higher-end brands sold at specialty- and department-store counters.

All-in-one face and body cleansers are designed to make life simpler -- just use them in the shower and you're done. Don't confuse them with regular soap, though; they're formulated especially to be used on the face, as well as the body. They come in bar form and liquid, and some companies make different varieties for your skin type. Dove makes cleansing bars and washes for use on both the face and body. All of Dove's products are moisturizing and designed to combat dryness, but there are different varieties. For example, one deep cleans through exfoliation and another is meant especially for sensitive skin. Some companies, such as Jack Black, even make all-in-one cleansers for face, body and hair.

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If you're looking for just a face cleanser, though, you have lots of options. Some cleansers are two-in-one, removing dirt and oil as well as toning. Toners are designed to tighten your skin and reduce the appearance of pores. There are also three-in-one cleansers that combine the three basic steps of a skin care routine: washing, toning and moisturizing. Philosophy is one brand. If acne is a problem, anti-acne cleansers include both a wash and an ingredient to treat and prevent acne. Some all-in-one cleansers are specifically created to prepare your face for shaving by sloughing off dry skin and lifting facial hair.

Another thing to keep in mind: You don't necessarily have to buy a product from a men's skin care line to cleanse your skin properly and avoid smelling too feminine. Several companies make neutral cleansers. One popular brand is Cetaphil, which makes a gentle fragrance-free cleanser for sensitive skin that also moisturizes.

Many all-in-one cleansers don't reveal themselves by their names; you have to look at the description and ingredients to figure out if one will work for you or not. Read on to learn about the ingredients used in all-in-one cleansers.

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What makes cleanser different from soap? It's all in the ingredients.
What makes cleanser different from soap? It's all in the ingredients.
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You may notice that in talking about all-in-one cleansers, the word "soap" is nowhere to be seen. There's a good reason for this: Most companies want to set their product apart from the basic, traditional soaps used to clean your body. The real difference, though, is in the ingredients. True soaps are made from a purified fat cooked with an alkali, which creates a chemical reaction resulting in a product that will remove dirt. Some alkalis used in soap-making are very strong, which can give you a harsh soap that dries out and irritates skin.

Many all-in-one cleansers use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or other similar synthetic surfactants to dissolve oil and dirt. However, if you would prefer natural, organic ingredients, there are also cleansers that use derivatives from plant material. Decyl glucoside, for example, is a surfactant made from sugar, corn starch and coconut. It's used in cleansers for people with very sensitive skin, so if this is a concern, you may want to avoid sulfates.

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All-in-one cleansers with toners often contain astringents such as witch hazel, which is extracted from a shrub. Toners can also include alcohol. If you have oily skin, these can dry your skin. If you're concerned about dry skin, however, look for milder toning ingredients such as green tea or carrot extract. Acne-fighting cleansers may contain salicylic acid, which opens pores and works to keep them from clogging again. Exfoliating cleansers, which may also use the word "scrub" in the name, contain abrasives to remove dead skin. These may include anything from silica grains to ground walnut. Avoid these if you have sensitive skin because they'll only irritate it further.

Even if you do have oily skin, it can benefit from an all-in-one cleanser with a moisturizing ingredient. Look for words like "noncomodogenic" (nonclogging), "light" and "oil-free." Examples of oil-free moisturizers include those that contain propylene glycol and glycerin. For dry skin, look for ingredients like petroleum and lanolin. These retain moisture, while the other ingredients attract moisture to the skin.

Finding an all-in-one cleanser isn't complicated once you know what's available and which ingredients to look for based on your needs. Hopefully you'll soon find yourself with clean, soft and clear skin.

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Sources

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." Revised 2004. (Jan. 9, 2011) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/general_cosmeceutical.html
  • American Cleaning Institute. "Clean Living: Soaps & Detergent History." ACI. 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/clean_living/soaps__detergent_history.aspx
  • Baran, Robert. "Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology." Taylor & Francis. 2005 (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Beers, Mark H. and Jones, Thomas V. "The Merck Manual of Health & Aging." Random House, Inc. 2005.
  • Cetaphil. "Cleansers." Cetaphil. 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://www.cetaphil.com/Products/Cleansers.aspx
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Understanding the Ingredients in Skin Care Products." (June 12, 2007 (Jan. 9, 2011) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/skin_care/hic_understanding_the_ingredients_in_skin_care_products.aspx
  • Dove. "Men Men+Care: Product Details." Unilever. 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://content.dove.us/mencare/Products.aspx
  • Jack Black. "Jack Black Cleansers." Jack Black. 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://www.getjackblack.com/jb/catalog.nsf/display!openagent&p=cleansers&loc=c
  • Jaret, Peter. "Lookin' Good: A Man's Guide." WebMD.com. 2010 (Jan 11, 2011)http://men.webmd.com/guide/lookin-good
  • National Skin Care Institute. "Skin Types." National Skin Care Institute. 2009. (Jan. 9, 2011)http://www.skincarenet.org/skin-types.html
  • Philosophy. "Purity Made Simple." 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://www.philosophy.com/skincare-cleansers/purity-made-simple-product
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Salicylic acid." Household Products Database. June 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=2200&query=salicylic+acid&searchas=TblChemicals
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Sodium laureth sulfate." Household Products Database. June 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=134
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Witch hazel extract." Household Products Database. June 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=2258&query=witch+hazel&searchas=TblChemicals

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