Cleansing 101 Part 1: Sorry, why are you making a fuss about cleansing?

Back to Basics with Sachi School

Skin Education | 


Written by: Farah Latreche


It’s no secret that cleansing is the first and fundamental step in skincare, though often overlooked in favor of finding the perfect treatments or moisturizers, sometimes even forgotten after a long night out - Yet, a perfectly prepped skin makes for a great skincare routine (face or body) and this starts with choosing the right cleanser.


But first, what exactly is a cleanser?

Cleanser is a product that contains surfactants (cleansing agents) that bind to makeup, dirt, and other impurities helping remove them alongside any shedding skin cells. In turn, the act of cleansing helps unclog our pores preventing the onset of blemishes for those who are acne prone, removing pollutants that may otherwise aggravate sensitive prone skins or cause hyperpigmentation all whilst gently exfoliating the top shedding layer of your skin. 

So, how do we get this first step in our skincare routine right?

Cleansing usually takes place either AM or PM and throughout the day depending on events (think pre/post exercise routines). Our choice of cleanser is impacted by many factors, especially the condition of our skin. Let's first look into the time of day we reach out for a cleanser.

AM Cleanse: 

During the night while you’re asleep, an accumulation of sweat, bacteria, oil residue and dead skin cells tends to settle on the skin’s surface. Cleansing in the morning removes the oily, flaky buildup, allowing your skin to fully absorb your subsequent skincare products. Usually opting for a very gentle cleanser at this time of day is key as you have no makeup and SPF to remove.

PM Cleanse: 

This is where you really need to take the “day off” from pollutants, SPF, makeup, excess oil and dirt. Opting for a deeper cleanse targeting pores and eliminating impurities ensures clear, healthy and radiant skin. Without it, your skin becomes more susceptible to acne breakouts, dehydration, irritation (leading to hyperpigmentation in some cases) and premature ageing.

Throughout the day/Post and Pre Gym Cleanse:

Heading for a gym session, yoga, run, spin or anything else, working out with makeup and sweat running down our faces can make us feel “icky” and uncomfortable. Cleansing pre-workout helps us feel fresh, comfortable and prevents pores from becoming easily clogged. At the same time post-workout, our skin can feel hot, flushed and sticky. Cleansing, rehydrating and calming the skin post-workout is also a great way to rebalance excessively sweaty, oily and flushed looking skin. 


Now we know when we are most likely to use a cleanser, what are some of the benefits of cleansing?

It boosts your skin's hydration levels

Your skin undergoes a natural shedding process every 28-30 days, ridding your skin of built-up dead skin cells that can potentially cause acne, blackheads, and textured skin. As we age, this natural process takes longer to occur. Skipping cleansing also allows dead cells to accumulate, leading to dry, unhealthy skin. 

Cleansing (and exfoliating) can help rejuvenate and naturally speed up cell turnover to reveal fresh, healthy skin. This enables the barrier to function at its optimal level in preventing TEWL (transepidermal water loss).


It enhances the absorption of your other skincare products

You know all those serums and creams you’re obsessed with? Well, in order for you to achieve maximum results with those products, you first need to ensure you have a clean slate to apply them on. 

Neglecting cleansing can impede the seamless absorption of your other skincare products if your skin still has residues of last night's products or oil and sweat accumulated

It reinforces your skin barrier

Harsh cleansing and over-cleansing can lower your skin barrier integrity, but skipping cleansing can also do the same. 

When you skip cleansing, you weaken your moisture barrier by leaving it susceptible to environmental stressors. Cleansing on a routine basis with gentle, non-stripping, hydrating products will help reinforce the outer layer of your skin, protecting it from bacteria, pollution, microbes, and other impurities. You just need to make sure you are not over-cleansing and drying out your skin.


What is double cleansing and what can we learn from ancient cleansing rituals?

Double cleansing has been a skincare trend in recent years. But did you know it is actually deeply rooted in many ancient traditions, including Ayurveda? Dinacharya is the Ayurvedic practice of having a daily self-care routine and with cleansing this usually means primary detoxification with warming oils followed by a natural soap based cleanser.  

It is the ritual of cleaning your face twice, first with the help of an oil-rich  cleanser and then following up with a water-based gentle cleanser.

Oil-based cleansing helps break down more stubborn makeup, chemical sunscreens, pollution, and accumulated grime for flawless skin. It also helps in retaining the moisture of the skin and keeps it hydrated.


Subsequently, a water-based cleanser helps remove any leftover residue on the face, residual oils from the first cleanse and  deep-seated impurities from the pores. Enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids can be great to refine pores during this step. This ensures nothing is left on the skin and helps maintain balanced PH levels.


So, do we need to double cleanse?

This depends on:
  • The amount of makeup you use
  • Is your makeup longwear/waterproof
  • Are you wearing an SPF
  • Do you live in a polluted city
  • How long do you spend actually washing your face
  • How dry does your skin feel after cleansing
  • Do you use a micellar water as a first step
  • Do you use a “gentle” facial cleansing too
  • Do you have a great one step do-it-all cleanser

Most SPF and makeup are heavy in oils (natural, organic, clean makeup even more so). Since like attracts like, in other words cleansing oils help dissolve and attract fats and oils in SPF and makeup, these cleansers make the skin cleansing process a lot more efficient and effective whilst also being tremendously hydrating for drier skins.

Drier skins may appreciate the hydrating residual film left behind by some non or low emulsifying oil cleansers however most skins prefer to double to cleanse to remove any residual oils from oil/balm/cream cleansers



Need more tips?

Head over to Part 2 of our Cleansing 101 Series to learn how to choose the right cleanser for your skin.

Internal reference notes:
“Ayurveda in its dinacharya description, clearly states primary detoxification with abhyanga oils, followed by udvartana (natural soap-based cleanser).” - Dr. Zeel Gandhi (Bachelor Of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

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