Thursday, November 7, 2013

Facial Soaps and Cleansers 101

Photo Source: dusky |
The Basic Function of Soaps and Cleansers

Facial soaps and cleansers are the most basic personal care product we use for our face. They are essential for removing dirt and excess oil from our skin. In order to cleanse the skin, soaps and cleansers must include surfactants. 

Surfactants are ingredients that have special properties of being attracted to both water and oil. This enables the surfactants to bind with the oil and dirt found in the skin while lathering. The act of rinsing allows the water-loving end of the surfactant particles to bind to the water, bringing the oil and dirt along and down to the drain. Examples of surfactants that can be found on facial soaps and cleansers are: sodium laureth sulfate, sodium cocyl isethionate, and cocamidopropyl betaine.

However, there are downsides with the cleansing abilities of surfactants: they can be drying and irritating. In order to balance the effect, moisturizing ingredients are added into the soaps and cleansers for better outcomes. Glycerin, propylene glycol, and mineral oil are some of the ingredients that you may find for a more comfortable feel on the skin.

Ingredients for Acne

For acne concerns, two common ingredients may also be added on the products: salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid has the ability to cut through grease, thus loosening the clogged pores and effectively cleaning the skin. Benzoyl peroxide deals with bacteria that causes acne. However, these two substances have side effects to some people especially those with sensitive skin. They may cause peeling, redness, and dryness. Salicylic acid can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun (In this case, applying sunscreen after using products with salicylic acid is a must).

Bar Soap or Liquid Soap: Which is Better?

Now you may ask, which is better, bar soap or liquid soap? For many, they prefer the liquid form for washing the face. Although liquid facial wash costs more, it is milder to the skin. Bar soaps have a bad reputation for having a high pH level. In addition, used bar soaps may contain bacteria residue, but they do get washed away after rinsing anyway. If you are sharing your facial soap with other people, you will find the liquid form to be more hygienic. However, more and more bar soaps are becoming better. Many of these manufacturers are concentrating on formulating bar soaps that are gentle and lower in pH level. Nowadays, it is the matter of which type of vehicle you prefer, liquid or solid.

Preservatives in Soaps

A soap or cleanser without preservatives is hard to find in the market. Microorganisms love to thrive in water, thus, a soap or cleanser without preservative will be a paradise to them. Preservatives come in many forms, some of these are: parabens, DMDM hydantoin, methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone. Parabens are highly controversial preservatives, which are found to mimic our hormone regulation. Despite that, only a small amount of the substance are used in cosmetics, which is far below the level needed to cause danger on the body. DMDM Hydantoin is another preservative with unwanted effect. It is known as a formaldehyde-donor, a substance necessary to prevent spoilage, but is irritating on the skin. Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone have recently raised some issues about its skin sensitization potential. In my opinion, I trust that manufacturers would be responsible enough to use these preservatives within the safe levels dictated by cosmetics standards.

Which type of Soap is for Me?

After learning all these ingredients of soaps and cleansers, ultimately, we also need to know which works best for our skin type. For the normal skin type, an ordinary soap or cleanser would suffice. For dry skin type, go for formulations with added moisturizers, and wash less frequently. For the oily skin type, go for foaming facial soap or cleanser to remove extra grime, and don't wash more than twice a day unless after sweating. For the sensitive type, go for liquid soaps that are clear in color and fragrance-free, or bar soaps that are similarly fragrance-free and low in preservatives. For acne-prone skin, as mentioned above, look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, but use only as needed because of their drying and irritating effect, and don't forget to put on a sunscreen.

Can Soaps and Cleansers Remove Makeup?

For women who love makeup, a good news for your wallets: soaps and cleansers are enough to remove them. Of course, you need to first check if your soap or cleanser is good enough. After washing with your chosen soap, get a cotton pad with toner, then see if the cotton gets some stains. If the cotton pad looks clean, then your soap is sufficient.


Last Updated: July 31, 2015
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