Updated: Feb 8, 2021
How to choose the best cleanser for your skin.
When creating a skincare routine, choosing a cleanser is an important step. I figured I should consult an expert for this one, so who better to chat with than the cleanser queen herself, Emily Parr! Starting off with using a St. Ives scrub and a drying toner, Emily has come a long way in skincare. Now the co-founder of her own skincare brand, she knows a good cleanser when she sees one.
Emily is the co-founder of HoliFrog, a skincare brand that specialized in situational cleansing. Their six different cleansers give the consumer the ability to tailor their skincare routine based on situational skin needs. Now, I keep mentioning the phrase "situational" and you might be wondering what that even means. Well, Emily broke it down for us like this:
"Situation Cleansing is giving your skin what it needs when it needs it." Emily went on to explain that skin changes throughout the day, for example, your skin would not feel the same when you wake up in the morning versus when you're about to go to bed after a long day. This means your skin has different needs based on the time of day and the activities you participate in.
I completely agree with Emily when it comes to the importance of tailoring your skincare routine to meet the needs of your skin in the moment. Take some time to assess your skin and notice how it feels throughout the day. Does it feel dry at night? Oily in the morning? Give it what you think it needs.
How do you know what it needs? Well, Emily reminded us that there are essentially 8 different types of cleansers: oil, foam, gel, milky, scrub, jelly, powder, and balm. Each one has its own properties/functions and levels of surfactants (surface active agents AKA: cleansing agents).
Foam cleansers tend to have the highest concentration of surfactants in their formulas and can cause quite a bit of irritation and damage to the skin. This means they're packed full of well, essentially, soap. And you might be thinking, "Don't you need soap to clean your skin?", and the answer isn't really all that simple. You need to clean the skin for sure but 30-40% surfactant levels in a cleanser are honestly... way too much.
The HoliFrog face washes feature formulas with as low as 3% surfactants. So technically, as Emily mentioned, you could wash your face with Shasta (their AHA Refining Acid Wash) 10 times a day and still have less surfactant exposure than most water-based cleansers.
With all that being said, choosing more than one cleanser for your routine is encouraged! Personally, my routine includes three different cleansers for three separate skin situations. I have dry skin with mild hormonal acne, so I tend to reach for balm cleansers and milky cleansers because they are hydrating and nourishing. I also use a powder cleanser for when I need a little exfoliation.
Ingredients & Common "Mistakes"
When it comes to ingredients to avoid, the main goal is to stay away from any known irritants. Emily filled us in on a few additives you should try to keep away from your skin if you're worried about irritation. Essential oils, silicones, and drying alcohols are among a few additive ingredients in skincare that are known to cause irritation for many people.
When I asked Emily how they choose formulations, she explained by saying "We always use the best possible version of whatever you need for a specific function. Why use cheap mineral oil in your formula for hydration when you can use squalane or apricot seed oil." This is the HoliFrog approach to formulations that we skincare fanatics love! Putting quality over cost is the "clean" mentality that just makes sense.
Skincare Tip from Emily Parr
Something that Emily stressed to me during our conversation was that she thinks it's important to "Press brands for percentages of surfactant contents in their products and ingredient percentages in general." Brands need to be more transparent about what they are putting in their products, so make sure to reach out and get the information before investing in a new product.
This is especially applicable to cleansers because surfactants can be extremely stripping to the skin's barrier. Make sure you know the percentage of surfactants in your cleanser. A higher surfactant percentage means that a cleanser will be more stripping to the skin.
Still unsure about what cleanser(s) to choose for your routine? Check out the HoliFrog website to learn all about situational cleansing, types of cleansers, and how to properly wash your face. You can also take a look at my personal favorites via Instagram!