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Best Acne Cleansers

Updated on August 8, 2009
A quality skin cleanser is paramount in an effective acne treatment.
A quality skin cleanser is paramount in an effective acne treatment.

Cleansing Acne-Prone Skin

Regular cleansing of acne-prone skin helps reduce pore blockages by clearing the skin of dead skin cells as well as removing dirt and other contaminants. Although you may be religiously cleansing your face and applying acne topicals per instructions, acne can still occupy your face. Choosing a quality acne cleanser can make a tremendous difference in the health of your skin. Most cleansing products are far too irritating, stripping oils off the skin with dangerous ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate and alcohol. Without the right product, you can essentially guarantee yourself a life-long battle with acne. To hopefully mitigate this scenario, this hub will describe what ingredients to look for in a quality acne cleanser.

Skin and pH Levels

Some of you may be surprised to learn that our skin prefers a slightly acidic environment. As a matter of fact, optimal conditions call for a pH that falls between 4 and 5. Any product which we apply to our skin has the potential to disrupt the pH balance which our skin needs to maintain. One of these products is cleanser. Cleansing products in general tend to be highly alkaline, or basic. This means their pH far exceeds 7. While the skin is usually able to reverse isolated incidents of pH disruption under less than 24 hours, it becomes difficult to restore the acidic environment when we are constantly applying basic substances within that short time frame.

A change in skin pH can be risky in that our skin is no longer able to act as an effective barrier against the outside world. Bacteria can roam more freely and thus breakouts become more of an issue. You can keep your skin at its best by using a pH balanced cleanser. These cleansers often have a neutral pH of 7, which provides minimal interruption to the skin's acidic environment. Cleansers that are neutral are generally labeled as such, so it is important to keep your eyes peeled while you shop.

Skin pH Analysis During Professional Treatment

Astringents in Cleanser

Most people are immediately attracted to cleansers that leave their skin with a dry, tight feeling. They are under the illusion that this signifies that the cleanser has accomplished its task. Regardless of what you may have heard in the past, cleanser is not designed to dry your skin out. Leaving your skin stripped of moisture can cause immediate and more long-term discomfort. The immediate effects of using a product containing astringents generally encompass the uncomfortable, tight feeling mentioned above. From a more long-term perspective, this lack of moisture can cause breakouts and even oily skin.

Anytime your skin is not properly hydrated, it is more or less irritated. The slightest amounts of irritation can trigger breakouts in acne-prone individuals. Although a harsh cleanser may be serving part of its purpose by removing dead skin cells and contaminants, it is also doing you a disservice striping your skin of oils that lock moisture in. If you want hydrated skin, steer clear of astringents.

There is also evidence that suggests astringents contribute to the development of oily skin. Although oily skin on its own is not a risk factor for acne, it becomes one when other variables are present, such as an accumulation of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. The theory is that the body overproduces sebum when it detects dwindling moisture levels. Sebum is designed to seal moisture in. Since astringents deprive skin of moisture, they may directly feed the development of reactive reactive seborrhoea, as the condition is known.

So what are some common astringents found in cleansers? One of the more familiar ones is alcohol. Witch hazel may also be familiar to some of you. When shopping for a cleanser, skim the product labels carefully, looking for such astringents. If you find them, you should consider purchasing another product. 

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is a cleaning and foaming agent found in a plethora of skin care, hair care, and industrial products. It allows products such as soap to work effectively in hard water, which would otherwise react with the minerals within the water so form soap scum. SLS is commonly found in toothpastes and shampoos, where a foaming effect is often desired. Its widespread is believed to be responsible for various conditions, including hair loss and acne.

SLS is a skin irritant (as confirmed by tests conducted by reputable government agencies) and an EPA-certified pesticide. Yet, the FDA continues to inform consumers that it is a safe additive. SLS is likely responsible for a large number of acne cases that have proven unresponsive to available treatments. Products such as shampoo often make contact with our acne-prone skin, causing irritation and eventually more breakouts.

If you intend to keep your skin acne-free, you should best avoid products that contain SLS. Most cleaners often contain SLS for a harsh cleaning effect, to the detriment of most acne sufferers. If a product label lists this ingredient, it is not a good fit for you, or anyone for that matter.

More on Choosing a Cleanser


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    • Bredavies profile image

      Bredavies 8 years ago

      Nice hub! It applys to and helps out a lot of people. Well done!