Over cleansing, and what it means for your skin

Girl cleaning her skin with cleanser

Yes, sometimes your face can be TOO clean.

Cleansing has become a crucial part of our daily routines. We’ve probably all used a bit of Garnier’s Micellar water in our time. We may put it on our faces every day but, do we actually know what it’s made from or if we’re using it correctly?

Cleanser is used for removing makeup, oil, dead skin cells, dirt and any other types of pollutants from our faces. Using it daily helps to unclog your pores, keep your skin clear, and prevent breakouts. So it’s good for us right? Well, yes, but Dr Yusra Al-Mukhtar, skin expert and founder of www.dryusra.com, told us that cleansing too much or using the wrong
cleanser can cause more damage than good.

This is called over cleansing, and “if after you have washed your face, your skin feels tight, sore, dry and sensitive – you’ve most likely over cleansed” Dr Yusra explains. 

Your skin actually has its own barrier, made of natural oils, that will keep out most of the bad stuff like dirt, makeup and pollution. Over cleansing can strip these natural oils and damage the barrier. Dr Yusra tells us: “Disrupting this barrier can result in the skin reacting by over
production of oil or allowing bacteria in and this results in breakouts.”

“Damage can start to show with red blotches or rashes, adult acne and even Seborrheic Dermatitis – flaking red scales on the face.”

So how often should we actually be cleansing?

According to Dr Yusra, it’s really dependent on your skin type. For oily skin a morning and night cleanse is recommended. But for dry skin, once in the evening is just right – unless your skin has been exposed to more pollution or sweat than usual (from that sweat sesh in the gym, or running for the tube).

Huda Beauty

What should we be looking for in our cleaners?

It’s important that we pick the right cleanser to make sure we get the most benefits and the least damage. “The cleanser you use should be suited to your unique skin type – it’s not a one size fits all”. So we can’t just grab the first bottle of micellar water that we see, we need to be reading the packaging.

For oily, congested skin, Dr Yusra recommends salicylic acid based cleansers. “Salicylic acid is a gentle but effective exfoliant which dissolves oil and decongests the skin, leaving it fresh and clean”. This acid is a chemical exfoliator which generally is better than physical exfoliants (cleansers with beads in). Physical exfoliants require you to scrub your skin to manually remove the dead skin cells and dirt. Sometimes this can be quite abrasive and, if not done properly, can actually damage your skin. Chemical exfoliants can get deeper into your skin and will break down the ‘glue’ that holds your cells together for a deeper cleanse, making your skin appear brighter.

Garnier Pure Active Gel Cleanser Oily Skin

This revitalising cleanser is specifically designed for oily skin. It deep cleans your pores and leaves your face feeling soft.

Vichy Normaderm Deep Cleansing Purifying Gel

A soap-free gel formula which will clean your pores and get rid of excess sebum without leaving your skin feeling tight and dry.

Caudalie Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser

Caudalie’s cleanser will gently exfoliate your face to reveal an even skin tone with unclogged pores.

Ceramides are great for dry skin, as they help the skin retain moisture. Dr Yusra explained that they also “help to maintain the elasticity of your skin” and will “replenish the lipids lost due to pollution and excess exposure to the sun”. These cleansers sensitively clean without irritation and leave your skin feeling soft.

Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Cleansing Face Oil

Enriched with oil, this cleanser deeply nourishes your face whilst removing makeup and any impurities leaving your skin glowing.

PIXI Retinol Jasmine Cleanser

Formulated like a cream, Pixi’s cleanser firms and smoothes your skin with Vitamin A, and moisturises with Ceramides to make your skin more radiant than ever.

CeraVe Smoothing Cleanser

This smoothing cleanser literally smoothes your skin by retexturising the appearance of bumps and uses ceramides to deeply moisturise.

All skin types will benefit from a cleanser with humectants which work to help your skin retain moisture. Glycerin is a common humectant added to cleansers, often referred to as a ‘skin identical’ ingredient as it is naturally found in your skin. This ingredient “leaves your skin free from pollutants and excess oils without damaging the skin’s own natural moisture contents”.

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

The Ordinary has formulated this cleanser to apply like a balm and effectively unclog pores and remove makeup whilst repairing your natural skin barrier.

SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser

As the name suggests this cleanser is gentle enough to use multiple times a day to calm and clean skin.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser

Perfect for even sensitive skin, this cleanser strips away dirt and makeup without stripping any moisture leaving your skin feeling soft and comfortable.

Are there any ingredients we need to avoid?

Dr Yusra advises avoiding alcohol, soap and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. Alcohol and soap are extremely drying on your skin and can cause an overproduction of oil to compensate which can lead to breakouts.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is an ingredient often added to cleansers to make them foam. However, it is far too strong for your skin, in fact the ingredient can also be found in engine degreaser. Not even the oiliest of skins need that!

To ensure that you get the healthiest, glowing skin, you should make sure that you know your skin type and can pick the best routine, and products to suit you.

Tags: advice, cleansers, cleansing, dr yusra, dry skin, oily skin, over cleansing, sensitive skin, skin, the femme

Related Posts

Co-founder and Editor. Sweet Chilli Sensations enthusiast, lover of all things skin care, professional snack stealer.
Previous Post Next Post


  1. Avatar

    I have not checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂 Greetings from Decaar Türkiye https://decaar.com.tr

Comments are closed.
Paula's Choice UK