Dermatologist: What to Look for In a Skin-Cleansing Product

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From the heat and humidity to lathering your skin with sunscreen, you may have the tendency to wash your face more often during the summer months. And then comes the moisture-deprived winter months. Hartford HealthCare dermatologist Dr. Meagan McCusker talks about the proper techniques when it comes to cleansing and moisturizing your skin. 

Q: Is it possible to over-wash your skin – particularly your face? 

A: Yes. The skin is a natural barrier, so the key is to NOT over wash it. When you think about our skin barrier, it’s actually a sophisticated network of proteins and fats. On top of that, we have our natural moisturizers that we produce from sebum and also from our sweat. Many of the cleansers that we use run the risk of over-washing our skin, raising the Ph, and then not allowing our skin to actually form that barrier, which leaves us dry, leaves us itchy, and leaves us prone to irritation. It also leaves us vulnerable to infection. Some of the soaps we use on our bodies — particularly the bar soaps — were originally designed to wash clothing. I usually tell people reserve those for washing your clothes on the washboard.

Some of the cleansers that we’ve moved along to are what we call syndet bars. They were developed for use on human skin. Dove actually revolutionized this market in 1957 by making the Dove beauty bar.

Q: How often should people wash their face? When is the best time of day to do so? What are the best facial cleansers? 

A: Once a day is actually probably fine, and the end of the day is probably the best time to do it. We’ve moved a lot to liquid syndets, which are the facial washes. In doing that, we’re having an oil-and-water based product. It’s good and bad. It gives us the opportunity to add some good components, but then manufacturers can also add some things that, as a dermatologist, that we don’t want to see in our face washes.

Things that you might look for in your face wash are natural humectants: hyaluronic acid along with some vitamins. These bring water into your skin. Then there are the emollients: squalane or other ceramides that will hold that moisture in.

Q: If a person has dry skin, which do you use? If they have oily skin, what should they use?

A: As a dermatologist, there are some things that we want to look for in a product — and other things that you want to avoid. For example, there are certain preservatives or humectants that can be very irritating. Propylene glycol, for example, is a common humectant, but can also cause a contact allergy.

For more information or to make an appointment at the Hartford HealthCare Skin Care Center, click here or call 1.855.255.6181.


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