In all my years of teaching, in that lesson when I go through the importance of cleansing, I will always (without fail) have the student that comes up to me after and says ‘I don’t do any of that, I just use soap and my skin’s fine!’ (how to make me itch in just one line…). I just smile sweetly and tell them how very lucky they are. But if that’s the case then why is the skincare market flooded with such a variety of cleansers, when we could all just use soap and save (quite a few) pennies at the same time?
Truthfully, it all comes down to science. Our skin is acidic; it’s our first line of defense against bacteria, viruses and any other potential contaminants that may land on us. The acidic pH of our skin (ranging from pH 4.5 to pH 6.2) is created with a careful balance of just the right amount of sweat and sebum (oil). Quite simply, soap is alkaline (the complete opposite). Using this on our skin completely unbalances its pH and therefore affects its ability to function as a protective barrier. Normally what ensues is an unhappy mix of tightness, dryness, and over production of sebum (in compensation for the dryness) and red/itchy/sore sensitivity. It takes a fair amount of time to rebalance the damage that this does but obviously there are those that will escape unscathed…
Of course, there are plenty of people who love the convenience of a bar of soap; the lather it creates and the way it leaves them so satisfyingly squeaky clean (don’t get me started). So some clever and considerate brands have come up with perfectly skin-kind cleansers in bar form, just to satisfying that neck of the market, like this one from Lush. But if you are at all the dry, sensitive or dehydrated kind, I would steer well clear of any cleanser that foams (which can be very stripping) or that requires removal with a flannel (sometimes too much friction)… perhaps a topic for another day!
Being a combination skin type, I’ve always been conscious of absorbing or removing excess sebum (relying heavily on my trusty blotting sheets around about lunch time) and so the temptation has been to use stripping cleansers and, I’ll admit, I did use soap, once upon a time. I loved the feeling of being oil free for a change (even if it was only for minutes, before my skin fought back with a vengeance) but all it did was cause more oil production, which caused more breakouts, which caused more pigmentation… In my ripe old age (of 32), I’ve taken a bold leap of faith and actually focused on ‘feeding’ my skin, nourishing it and avoiding harshness (like friction, heat, stripping products, etc.). This was once a terrifying thought and the idea of adding more moisture to my oiliness made me (and my make-up) shudder. But my skin’s repaid me in dividends: I don’t feel at all tight after cleansing (typical of dehydration, caused by stripping products), my oil production has reduced significantly (no more over-production in compensation for stripping products) and my pores are as refined as they’re ever going to be (they’re never going to disappear, I’ve got to get over it).
As a skincare therapist, I am on a constant mission to educate others about their skin concerns and to (naturally) slow the signs of ageing. If you use soap and your skin is unhappy in some way, then try swapping the soap for something gentler and see how you get on. I really hope it’s a game changer for you and I believe it will be. Let me know how you get on…
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