Cleansers often don’t get the respect they deserve in our skincare routine. It’s just a quick way to wash off dirt and makeup, right? Not so fast. How you cleanse is actually a vital first step towards getting clearer, healthier, and glowier skin—plus, no moisturizer, serum, toner, or treatment will do its best work if you’re putting it on top of skin that hasn’t been properly cleaned to meet your complexion’s needs.
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So, how exactly are you supposed to find your perfect match? We spoke to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach, MD, to help us break it down.
Know Your Skin Type
Dr. Rabach says that the right cleanser will provide your skin with the right amount of moisture, make sure pores are cleaned out, and remove dead skin and debris so that active ingredients can penetrate.
Skin generally falls into the following categories:
So take a second to think critically about your type. Does your skin get greasy shortly after you wash it? Is it easily irritated by new products or changes in the weather? Is it tight and peeling immediately after you cleanse? Is it greasy in some places with patches of dryness? Once you identify your skin type, you’ll be able to figure out which ingredients will work well with your skin and which won’t.
Neutrogena has just come out with a line of cleansers made specifically for your skin type, so it’s easy to design a personalized cleansing routine. Each one is developed to treat your skin in specific ways to live up to its brightest, smoothest, glowiest potential.
Read Your Labels Carefully
Dr. Rabach says that a basic understanding of a cleanser’s label helps you figure out how to optimize your results. Scan labels for words like “non-comedogenic” (meaning it won’t clog your pores) and “mattifying” if you have oily skin. “Hydrating” and “gentle” are terms you’re going to be looking for if you’re dry. And if you’re sensitive, make sure it’s free of parabens, soap, sulfates, phthalates, alcohol, and dyes.
Figure Out What Texture and Consistency Is Right For Your Skin
Cleansers also come in different textures and liquid consistencies.
For oily or combination skin:
- Clay cleansers: These help to soak up excess oil like a sponge.
- Gel or gel-to-foam cleansers: These are super lightweight and won’t clog pores.
For dry or sensitive skin:
- Milky or cream cleansers: These are silky smooth and hydrating.
- Oil-based cleansers: These remove long-wear and waterproof makeup very well.
Once you’ve settled on your perfect cleanser, make sure to use it religiously morning and night. You might see your skin reacting well to a new product right away, but it typically takes a few weeks to see real results, so stick with it. It’s called a routine for a reason!
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