Will skin cleansers dry my skin?

Dry skin can be painful, so don't choose a cleanser that will make it worse. See more personal hygiene pictures.
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Your skin is a wonder of chemical ingenuity. It creates a protective film of oils and sweat to hold moisture in place and keep itself soft, pliable and protected. If that layer is washed away, the surface of your skin will start to lose moisture through evaporation, leaving it dry and causing irritation. The best way to avoid dry skin problems is to protect your skin's natural oily barrier by using gentle skin care products that help keep your skin hydrated. Skin cleanser can be an important part of an effective skin care regimen.

Using the wrong skin cleanser is one of the fastest ways to cause dry skin problems like flaking, itching and discomfort. Using the right cleanser, however, can be an effective way to help remove dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells; restore your skin's pH; and deal with extremes of oiliness or dryness.

The first step toward making sure you're using the right cleanser is to evaluate your skin type. You may have normal, oily or dry skin. You may also have combination skin that's oily in some spots, and dry or normal in others. At different times of your life, your skin type can change, even from one extreme to another, so it's important to reevaluate your skin and skin care products periodically.

If you suffer from dry skin, your cleanser should be strong enough to remove dirt but still leave your skin's natural oil barrier intact. You should also look for products that contain humectants and emollients. Humectants attract and retain moisture to hydrate your skin's outer layer, and emollients help restore and repair the thin oily film that acts as a barrier between your skin and the elements.

If your skin is oily and you have problems with acne, you may want to control breakouts with a cleanser that contains detergents and antibacterial agents. Look for ingredients like: sodium lauryl sulfate, triclocarban, triclosan and benzoyl peroxide. Beauty bar soaps use a combination of mild detergents that can help treat acne prone skin. If your skin is very oily, you may need strong ingredients that either change the skin's pH balance or remove natural skin oils during the cleaning process. Cleansing is still important, though, and applying a rehydrating moisturizer right after your cleansing routine will help combat the effects of strong cleansers.

Finding the right cleanser for you may involve some trial and error. Skin care manufacturers typically offer product lines that target a range of skin care challenges and work in combination with moisturizers, toners, exfoliants and creams. With some experimentation, you can find a product, or combination of products, that will clean your skin without drying or irritating it.

There are ways you can help your skin cleanser work more gently and effectively, too. Wash your face in tepid water to avoid drying it. If you do experience persistent problems with skin sensitivity, breakouts, flaking, redness or cracking, consider consulting a dermatologist. You may have a mild allergy to some common ingredients in skin care preparations, an undiagnosed skin condition or even have a different skin type than you think you do.


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