there are, for me, four major must-dos when it comes to skincare:
. drink a lot of water
. cleanse all that day off before you go to bed
. moisturise, no matter what skin type you have
. SPF every single moment you’re outside. because obviously.
today I’m going to talk about cleansing, my favourite products, and some extra steps – like exfoliating.
cleansing, in my opinion, isn’t just about taking your makeup off, but really making sure that your skin is as clean as possible – never dry, stripped, or tight or it will end up overproducing oils to counter balance – so that it can soak in all the goodness from the products you will (probably) put on afterwards, and so that your beauty sleep happens in all its glory.
because of that, I’m a fan of double cleansing (remove your makeup with a makeup cleanser, follow by second cleanse with the same or other cleansing product), and I feel that combining the right formulas according to how my skin is behaving is the right way to do it. I don’t force myself to the same routine every single day, changing up the combos according to how it feels and needs, and also weather and those annoying but unavoidable hormonal… hiccups.
with that said, I have as many lazy days as I have those in-the-mood-for-a-spa days, so I really love products from all ranges. the only common thing they have is that, in my book, they’re amazingly effective.
Makeup Removal without water
These kinds of makeup removers are, in my opinion, great aids/complements for the other cleansers and should not be used alone as your cleansing routine. They help to remove most of the makeup, but I wouldn’t rely on just them to go to bed fresh faced. They are great as on-the-go resources, or to correct makeup mishaps. Nevertheless, they are powerful little makeup removing elves. Also, if you find your regular cleanser doesn’t clean everything off as it should, you could give these guys a try before (as a first removal) or after (as a way to further clean the stubborn areas) said cleanser.
Micellar Water is something I’ve been using for so many years now, and it’s a staple on my vanity. I don’t use it daily, but it’s great to correct those little makeup booboos like smudged liner or mascara, or to make the quick day-to-night change of makeup when you need to remove almost everything and start anew.
Except for that one night a year when I can’t drag myself to the bathroom after a loooong night out, I wouldn’t use it as my only makeup remover before going to bed because 1) I don’t find it to really deep cleanse, 2) I find it needs several swipes to take everything off, which ends up taking the same time I would spend with a cleansing oil, and 3) my skin is far too sensitive to handle the softest of cotton pads for more than a few swipes.
The only one I use, I don’t care how many dupes there are on the drugstore, is Bioderma Cleansing Water – which we can easily get at pharmacies in Portugal.
I have very sensitive eyes, so I never rub them, even with this very gentle product. I just saturate two cotton pads with plenty of this product, place them on my eyes and let them sit there for a while, doing its job. After 30 seconds or so, I gently swipe down and out and most of the makeup will be on the cotton pad (and down my face). I then cleanse my face with another soaked cotton pad. If I have some very stubborn makeup around my lashes, I use a cotton bud soaked in micellar water and gently sweep it between the lashes.
Oil Based Eye Makeup Removers — In order to be waterproof, usually this kind of makeup is oil-based, and the only thing that dissolves oil is… oil. Those bi-phase half “water” half oil makeup removers that you have to shake are my best bet to take off over the top waterproof makeup.
Again, my technique is to saturate the cotton pads and press them gently against my lids and lashes for about thirty seconds before gently swiping down and out.
My tried and proved options are the Sephora Waterproof Makeup Remover and The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye and Lip Makeup Remover. They come at very similar price points, and your criteria to decide which one to get should probably be: which shop is closest to you.
Cleansing oils are the best. It’s something I’ve come to love and use on a daily basis. They’re quick and easy and they remove every single bit of makeup, no matter how heavy or how waterproof (again, oil dissolves oil). You shouldn’t fear cleansing oils at all, most of them are perfectly fine for acne prone skin, I can attest to that — also, because they don’t sit on your skin for long enough and you wash them off. They are somewhat of an all-in-one product, because if I’m on a lazy night, I don’t feel guilty of not further cleansing my face with anything else.
I just draw one or two pumps of oil to my palms and work it gently onto my face and eyes, massaging it in. It will immediately start to dissolve all the makeup, and I like to work it gently on my lashes for a bit: they will very soon start to feel like plain makeup residue-free hairs, without being pulled out.
Lastly, I take a muslin cloth soaked in warm water and take off all the left over product, and I’m left with a perfectly cleansed face.
My favourite products are also from Sephora and The Body Shop and, again, they’re very similar in price and results.
The Sephora Cleansing Oil (which I can’t seem to find on the American website but is widely available throughout Europe) and The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil are both equally effective and gentle on the skin, removing every trace of the most stubborn waterproof makeup without any effort, and leaving your face feeling clean but never stripped, and not at all oily. The The Body Shop one gives you a bit more bang for your buck, because it has more product — and it has no mineral oil in it, in case you’re allergic.
The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter is a mix of balm and oil — quite like coconut oil: as soon as you start massaging it in, it becomes a thin oil that really melts every makeup residue. It is basically the same as the Camomile Cleansing Oil, but in a solid formulation in a tin, and so it is the finish on your skin. I should say that if you want to opt between this one and the Cleansing Oil, go for the cleansing oil just because it will last longer, and it is more hygienic to use (no dipping your fingers in the product). The end result is exactly the same – I’ve actually tried each one on half of my face at the same time.
Oh how I love a cleansing balm… It is perfect for a more deep, relaxing and pampering massage, and it is worth it to take my time with these guys. I love them to do a double cleanse: first I go in with the cleansing oil, remove it with the damp muslin cloth, and then with the cleansing balm.
Cleansing balms work essentially the same way as the cleansing oils, but their texture is more thick and creamy and there is just something extremely luxurious about them. That said, I have yet to test out a really high end one, but still the one that I’ve tried is really delicious to use.
I use the same technique of massaging it in and then removing everything with a wet muslin cloth.
Lush’s Ultrabland is a dream. It has very few ingredients and only two are (safe) chemicals, meant only to preserve the product. Yet it is so luxurious and creamy and thick and moisturising, it dissolves the face makeup really quickly (if you’re using it for that) and has a really soft and non-invasive scent. I use this one either as a second step cleanser, or on its own when my skin is dry or breaking out or has some dry patches or even any kind of sensitiveness symptom that I want to calm down. It is just miraculous – don’t fear its thick texture: after you’re done taking it off with the muslin cloth you’ll be left with the softest and supplest of skins, no trace of oiliness.
The only downside is it doesn’t take off the eye makeup as effectively as other cleansers — not good for waterproof at all. Surely other cleansing balms will have that double duty capability. Will let you know if I decide to try some new ones out.
Of course ther’s also room for a classic cleanser. I’m not a big fan of foaming cleansers because they strip the skin too much (sulfates do that to you), but something simple when you’re not in the mood or need of makeup removing oils and balms, that gently cleanses your skin in the morning without stripping it too much, is a must-have.
My favourite is the First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser, it has a soft cream-to-whipped texture that feels amazing on the skin and gets the job done of removing any dirt and grime from your face without drying it out. It is great for super sensitive skin and doesn’t aggravate any irritation I might have — it actually even slightly helps to calm it down. They say it can remove makeup, but I haven’t tried it for that purpose. It is said to have anti-oxidant boosters, yet for something that is not going to stay on your skin, that’s just… *shoulder shrug*…
Exfoliants and Scrubs
Some people like physical exfoliants — the gritty textured facial scrubs that you massage onto your skin and buff away those dry patches; others are more for the chemical exfoliants — packed with gentle yet very effective acids like glycolic and/or lactic that softly, and with continued use, help to eat away those dead skin cells, speeding up the skin renewal process.
I find both of them have their merits and both all around help prepping your skin to soak in all the skincare you may want to feed it.
When you have very evident dry patches, a physical exfoliant or face scrub will visibly remove them through the buffing process. In the long run, for quicker cell turnover, the chemical ones are a blessing, and really help to fade any scars you may have from previous breakouts. I use the latter on a regular basis, and the first ones as a spot treatment (for non-inflamed dry patches). I just don’t do both on the same day, and go with what I think my skin may be in the mood for.
Physical exfoliants come in two different kinds: the scrubs that you massage onto your wet skin, and some tools that you can use.
As tools, the simplest one is the muslin cloth: it has a slightly rougher texture than a wash cloth, which is great for a soft daily exfoliation while buffing in or removing your cleanser. You can totally control the intensity of the exfoliation to almost nothing, so it doubles as a wash cloth, basically. They’re affordable, you can find them for instance at The Body Shop, and if you wash them with a bit of glycerin soap right after using them, you’ll find it easier to make those makeup stains disappear, and you’ll have them ready to use right the next morning.
Another tool that has been totally raved about for years now is the Clarisonic. This is basically kind of like a big vibrating electrical tooth brush for your face. You can buy different heads for different skin types (and one for you body, depending on the model), it has a timer that allows you not to over-exfoliate, you can use it in the shower, and it is potent.
I would never use or advise using anything else than the sensitive skin brush head with this, and I use it usually once a week (instead of a scrub), with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser (NOT the one that comes with it — EVAH), and only when I know my skin needs it and can handle it. I’ve never had a bad experience with it (some people complain of severely irritated, almost bruised-like skin and breakouts), but I use it sparingly and oh-so-gently. At the end of that one minute, my skin is soft and supple, no dry patches in sight, but in need of some serious hydration.
Again, hygiene with this sucker is super important: a brush that you have to let air-dry… sigh… Just make sure you wash it really well after using it.
It is super-obscenely-expensive (I wouldn’t trust any rip-offs in the market either), and I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy it if they have a history of extra sensitivity. Maybe you can ask a friend who already has one to give it a serious try before you jump on the bandwagon.
The scrubs come in so many shapes and sizes. Use them according to your skin’s needs (usually two times a week when you have dry patches) and you’ll feel the instant gratification of softer supple skin. You can even make your own with some finely granulated sugar and/or salt, or even oats, honey and coconut oil mixed in with your cleanser or balm… Yet there are a few that deserve a mention:
Burt’s Bees Peach and Willowbark deep pore scrub has those little grains of ground peach stones that may not please everyone, but let me just say in its defence that it is amazing in buffing out the dead skin cells and I find that if I don’t apply too much pressure (duh), those grains are not at all aggressive. The formula of the scrub itself is really supple on the skin (with grape seed and coconut oils) and the Salicylic Acid in it (from the willowbark) really works as an anti-inflamatory to clear out any breakouts.
Avéne Cleanance Mask and Scrub is a two in one. You apply it as a mask on dry skin, leave it in for 5 minutes, and then dampen your face and gently massage it onto the skin before rinsing. You can also use it solely as a scrub. It has a mix of AHA and BHA’s, which are those chemical exfoliants I told you about that deeply cleanse and exfoliate, AND it also has that kind of gritty texture that helps to release the dry patches off your skin. It is more for acne prone or oily skins, but used sparingly it is a beautiful all-rounder for any skin type.
Lush Ocean Salt is another tried and true facial scrub that just does what it says: massage it gently onto damp skin and it will take care of you dry patches. Just make sure — as with any other scrub — that you moisturise afterwards.
Chemical exfoliants are nothing you should be scared about: the amount of acid is nothing compared to the painful acid peels one gets to do in a dermatologist’s office, and some (like the ones I swear by) are gentle enough to use daily. They are amazing at speeding up the cell turnover, which makes them the best allies when it comes to deal with hiper-pigmentation and scarring.
My true love comes in a white and blue pot, and it’s the First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads. These guys are super gentle (I never even experienced any tingling sensation on the first applications), and they can be underestimated because it feels like they’re doing nothing. You swipe a pad on your face, neck and chest and all the goodness that it is soaked in will do its thing in its own time. With continued usage, you’ll notice your hyper-pigmentation start to diminish, and your skin feels really plumped. It has the perfect trifecta: Glycolic, Lactic and Hyaluronic Acids, which not only act deeply to eliminate dead skin cells and improve cell turnover, but also to plump up the skin with a boost of not-at-all-greasy hydration.
It is perfect to use at nightime on itself, or (as I prefer it) to prepare the skin for your oils, serums and/or moisturisers.
On the other end of the acid-at-home spectrum (and in a bit of a mix between cleansing and treatment), comes Alpha-H Liquid Gold. I would strongly recommend this to those of you who suffer with severe hyper pigmentation and acne scarring, and also for more mature skin with sun damage. This is a mild — and safe — Glycolic Acid peel that you do at home. After cleansing, you apply a few drops of this liquidy serum on a cotton pad and just smear it on your face and neck. Yes, it tingles for a minute, but it is not that burning sensation you may be afraid of. They say it is safe to use even with active acne — I have and it’s all good —, but if you have very inflamed sensitive skin, please do a patch test first.
I use this as a treatment, so I apply it once every other night on its own (no moisturiser or serum), for about a month, and it’s incredible how it speeds up cell turnover and brightens the skin. My scarring subsides really quickly. Make sure to amp up your SPF when using this! — I prefer to make most of my “treatments” in the winter time just because it is far less likely to have aggressive sunlight around.
Phew, that was a long post… Any thoughts, doubts or tips, leave them in the comments! I’m preparing a skincare video soon!