In our fast-paced, busy lives, multitasking products can be real lifesavers. They cut down on primping time and make us save some money too. But not all multi-tasking products are as useful as they seem at first sight. Exfoliating cleansers, for instance, are very tempting. We all need to cleanse our faces and why not exfoliate it at the same time?
Exfoliation is, after all, one of the most important steps in our skincare routine because it removes all the dead skin cells on the surface, preventing them from clogging our pores and avoiding breakouts, and exposing the brighter skin underneath, giving us a healthy and younger-looking complexion.
But do exfoliating ingredients do a good job when used in a cleanser?
Cleansers with chemical exfoliants are useless
Chemical exfoliants work by dissolving the “glue” that holds the skin cells together, thus allowing them to slough off. The most common types are HAHs and BHA. HAHs, which include Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, don’t just exfoliate skin, but also hydrate it and stimulate collagen production, making them a great choice for those with sensitive and sun-damaged skin. Salicylic Acid, a BHA, is instead more suitable for those with oily skin because of its ability to penetrate inside the pores, removing all traces of dirt, excess oil and dead cells from them, thus preventing breakouts.
Because of this, if you have acne, oily skin, or don’t like using exfoliating beads, and want to save some time in your daily skincare routine, you may think that a cleanser with these ingredients will solve all your problems. Sadly, that’s not the case. That’s because these ingredients need to stay on the skin for a lot more than the 15-30 seconds that it takes you to wash your face. When you rinse the cleanser off, these chemical exfoliants will end up down the drain too.
Although some dermatologists recommend to massage Salicylic Acid on the skin for a couple of minutes to increase its efficacy, it still won’t work as well as when it is used in a leave-in product. Glycolic Acid instead is completely neutralized by water, so it doesn’t matter for how long you keep it on your skin, it simply won’t work at all when used in a cleanser. So save your money. Applying a separate cleanser and exfoliant may take a bit more time, but your skin will thank you for it!
Cleansers with physical exfoliants actually work
But not all exfoliating cleansers are useless. Cleansers with physical exfoliants, ie those which contain small grains or particles, don’t need to remain on the skin to work. Instead, as you massage them onto your skin, they will mechanically remove the dead skin cells on the surface. However, their efficacy depends, not just by how long they are massaged onto the skin, but also by the size and shape of these particles. Nut shells and fruit pits can, for instance, have uneven surfaces that can tear up the skin, doing more damage than good. Remember to be gentle when using a physical scrub and discontinue the product if it irritates your skin.
The Bottom Line
Although chemical exfoliants are gentler and provide more predictable results, they just don’t work when used in a cleanser. Physical exfoliants instead are effective even when used in rinse off products, but they can be rougher on the skin, so use them with caution.
Do you use exfoliating cleansers?