Oily Skin 101: Cleansing (Part 2 of 4)


This is the second installment in my series on caring for oily skin. If you haven’t already, you can read the first installment here.

The first major change in my skin care routine that led to significant improvement was changing my cleanser.

I will confess, I never used to be very fussy about cleansers. I also never imagined that cleanser could make such a huge difference to the health and condition of my skin. I’ve tried countless different cleansers over the years; most were some form of water soluble foaming facial wash. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I put two and two together and realized that cleanser was at least partly to blame for my clogged pores and breakouts. How can that be? It’s only on your skin for a brief moment. It’s meant to clean and purify. Breakouts are caused by things like makeup and heavy creams that stay on your skin for long periods of time….or so I thought.

How did I come to the realization that cleanser was causing problems? About two years ago, I stopped using it altogether. For about a year, I washed my face with nothing but warm tap water and a washcloth. I still used eye makeup remover, but only warm water on the rest of my face. As time went on, I started to notice fewer blocked pores and blemishes. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but there was definite improvement.

About six months ago, I started to worry that using only water might not be good enough. I just had a feeling that I was probably going to bed with traces of makeup left on my skin, and it ended up being a nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. So I decided to buy a new cleanser. I went for a different type of cleanser though, one aimed at sensitive skin:


On a whim, I picked up Marcelle‘s “Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel” and gave it a try. I’ve been using this cleanser morning and night for about six months, and I love it! Although it’s called a gel, I’d describe it as a gel/cream hybrid. It’s light and glides over the skin like a gel, but it has a creaminess to it as well, and I find it very hydrating. I love how my skin feels after I use this. It feels clean and refreshed, but not dry and tight. Seriously, this is the only cleanser I have ever used that doesn’t leave me with that uncomfortable tightness. It removes excess oil and makeup, but it doesn’t strip your skin of all its natural moisture.

I think the key to this cleanser’s seemingly magical powers is that it does not foam. I’m now beginning to suspect that foaming cleansers are just too harsh. They strip the skin to the point that it freaks out and produces even more oil to compensate for the sudden drought. I am now a firm believer that cleanser should not make your skin feel tight. Tightness is a sign that your cleanser is too harsh and is probably exacerbating any skin issues you may have. In my case, the extra oil my skin was producing to protect itself lead to more blocked pores and breakouts.

And here’s the kicker. Nearly all of the cleansers that are marketed for oily skin, are the foaming variety that strip the skin and lead to a vicious cycle that ultimately makes oily skin even worse. If you have oily skin, ignore cleansers that say they’re for oily or acne-prone skin. Instead, look for ones that are meant for sensitive skin. Also, keep an eye out for sulfates. Sulfates are ingredients that are used to make cleansers foam. (Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are really common ones to watch out for.) Sulfates are bad news for oily skin. They’re just too harsh. I’ve also switched to a sulfate-free shampoo and have noticed improvement in the condition of my hair as well.

Since I switched my cleanser, I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in bumps and blemishes.  It’s still oily, of course, but at least now I can rest assured my cleanser isn’t making things worse.


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