Cleansing 101: The Best Way to Clean Your Skin

Sebameducation, Skin Care 101 July 25

Remember when you first learned how to take care of your skin? Maybe you were bathing yourself for the first time under your parent’s careful supervision. Maybe you picked up your favorite wash cloth and scrubbed the surface of your skin like you’d seen your parents do. Either way, chances are you were cleansing your skin before anything else.

cleansing baby

Fast-forward to now. In today’s busy world, skin care can feel like just another task you have to complete. Slap a little soap on your body, rinse, apply moisturizer, and go. It’s a lot of going through the motions. But, it shouldn’t have to be! If you take proper care of your skin, you can improve your overall health. Proper skin care all goes back to proper cleansing. So, let’s break it down! Here’s everything you need to know about washing the skin you’re in.

What is Cleansing?

Let’s start off with a simple definition. A quick Google search tells us that to cleanse is to “make something (especially the skin) thoroughly clean.” Makes sense, right? When we cleanse the skin, our goal is to rid its surface of impurities and irritants. But, what if we told you that the cleanser you’re using might be an irritant itself?

mind blown

Many cleansers and soaps on the market today do more harm than good. This may surprise you, but these products are full of harsh chemicals that damage your skin with each use. We’ll get into more of that later. First, let’s consider all the ways to cleanse your skin.

How Can I Cleanse my Skin Effectively?

Cleansing the skin might seem simple enough, but there are actually three different ways to do it. Plus, only one of these three methods is both effective and physiologically sound, meaning it won’t damage the skin barrier.

Mechanical Cleansing

Mechanical cleansing is pretty self-explanatory. Essentially, you rub the surface of your skin until the dirt is gone. If there’s more dirt, rub harder. Depending on how long it’s been since your last cleanse, you might end up rubbing your skin pretty hard. Not to mention the dirt and impurities you can’t see. Mechanical cleansing is the simplest method of cleansing, but it’s also the one that causes the most damage to the skin. It’s a no from us!

no no no

Oil Cleansing

We all know about the power of water. Using water to cleanse your skin can be very effective. Think of being at the beach and standing under the shower to remove the sand from your skin. It totally works. But, what if the impurities on your skin are oil-based? We also all know that oil and water don’t mix. This means that oil-based dirt won’t dissolve in water and won’t be washed away, unless the water is at an extremely high temperature, which in turn damages the skin Who wants a bunch of oil sitting on their skin? Not I.

Here’s where oil cleansing comes in. Popular in ancient times, oil cleansing removes oil-based dirt, but can often leave behind a sticky residue. The whole reason we cleanse our skin is to feel refreshed, and oil cleansers won’t give us the feeling of freshness we want. Plus, oily skin may not respond well to oil cleansing. We’re not really big fans of this method either.

no thanks

Synthetic Detergents

If you’re looking for the best way to cleanse your skin, this is it. Synthetic detergents, also called syndets, are composites of oil and water, called surfactants. Surfactants provide thorough cleansing of the skin at reasonable temperatures, no rubbing needed! They also don’t leave behind sticky residues, making the skin feel refreshed. Because surfactants are part oil and part water, they can eliminate both oil-based and water-based impurities from the surface of the skin.

Now, there’s a huge difference between soaps and syndets. Soaps are alkaline, which means they have a pH level of greater than seven. Because the pH level of healthy skin is around 5.5, alkaline soaps are harmful to the skin’s natural barrier. A weakened skin barrier leaves you vulnerable to skin conditions. Furthermore, soaps are not compatible with water that contains calcium, magnesium, or sodium.

Syndets, on the other hand, cleanse your skin just as effectively as soap, without causing damage to your skin barrier. They are compatible with all skin types and all kinds of water. So, this makes them the best choice for efficient cleaning and healthy skin!


How Do I Know if Soap-Free Cleansing is for me?

We have a simple answer for you. It is. It’s for everyone. As we mentioned before, your skin has a natural barrier, responsible for keeping the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. This barrier has  a slightly acidic pH, so it doesn’t mesh well with alkaline soaps. Traditional soap may help clean your skin, but it’s not a good long-term option. Repeated usage of harsh soaps wears down the acid mantle over time. Without its natural barrier, your skin isn’t protected against irritants. You could very well end up with a problematic skin condition as a result.

If you’re looking for a thorough cleanser that won’t damage your skin, syndets are for you. Soap-free cleansing is for you. It may seem counterintuitive, but embracing soap-free products is the best option for healthy skin. Bonus points if you choose a formula that balances your skin’s pH level.

Which Other Ingredients Should I Watch Out For?

Never underestimate the importance of reading ingredient lists while shopping for skin care! You never know what hidden dangers or irritants might be lurking. In addition to soap, we recommend avoiding these five ingredients when searching for the perfect cleanser.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Not to be confused with Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an active wash ingredient with an incredibly high irritancy rate. In fact, it’s often used as an irritant in dermatological patch testing. SLS is also known to irritate the lungs and eyes, and when combined with other chemicals, can cause the formation of carcinogens. Yeah, you don’t want that on your skin. Sodium Laureth Sulfate, on the other hand, has been proven to be non-irritating in dermatological tests.


Many skin care products on today’s market claim to be paraben-free, but what exactly is a paraben? Parabens are well-established, highly effective preservatives used to prevent microbial contamination of cosmetic products. In the past, toxicology studies showed parabens to be a safe option. However, in vitro testing has proven that parabens may have hormone-like effects. They sometimes mimic estrogen, and have been linked to the onset of breast cancer. We recommend looking for cleansers that contain safer preservatives, such as sorbic acid or sodium benzoate.

Paraffin Oil

Paraffin oil is an emollient made from mineral oil. There have been concerns about paraffin oil in the media due to its occlusion effect on the skin. Occlusion of the skin refers to the skin being 100% covered. While this may sound good, like the skin has a good layer of protection, occlusion doesn’t allow the skin to breathe. You also aren’t able to sweat, which means that the humidity will eventually soften the surface of the skin. This makes it easier for toxins to find their way into the skin. Though occlusion is only a risk when paraffin oil is applied in extremely thick layers. If you do choose to use a product with it, we suggest treading lightly.

Synthetic Colors

Also known as dyes, synthetic colors are thought to be a human carcinogen and a skin irritant. Many dyes are derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, and have even been banned by the European Union. If you take a look at your skin care’s ingredients lists and notice FD&C or D&C, run for the hills! Besides, wouldn’t you prefer a product that shows its true colors?


Ready for this one? Phthalates are a group of chemicals that increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. Yes, you read that right. Plastics. Anything used in the manufacturing of plastics is not something I want on my skin. In the realm of skin care, phthalates can be found in lotions and perfumes. They’ve been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, as well as reproductive defects in men and women. Sometimes, companies can get sneaky and not disclose the phthalates in their products by slapping “fragrance” on the ingredients list as an umbrella term. All the more reason to consider going fragrance free.


So, Which Sebamed Cleanser is Best for My Skin?

Not all skin types are created equal. Some of us are more sensitive than others, so the soap-free cleanser that works for your mom might not work for you. Your new favorite cleanser depends on your skin type! To determine your skin type, click here.

Normal Skin

All skin types love our Liquid Face and Body Wash. It’s incredibly gentle, so it’s suitable for all skin types and conditions, but even those with normal skin enjoy using it. Liquid Face and Body Wash is formulated with nourishing vitamins that soothe skin irritation and restore hydration. Plus, it deep-cleans your pores without causing dryness, like harsh soaps do. Fortified with a natural moisturizing complex, it rinses away completely for the smooth, healthy skin you’ve always dreamed of.

cleansing 101

Dry Skin

If you’re used to dealing with itching, flaky patches, and skin that’s rough to the touch, we can safely say that you have dry skin. Applying moisturizer after showering is a good strategy to combat dryness, but let’s go one step further. Try using a cleanser that also moisturizes the skin! Our Olive Face and Body Wash contains olive oil, one of the world’s natural moisturizers. It’s also formulated with pro-vitamin B and botanical starch to help the skin retain moisture. Perfect for those with soap intolerance and skin sensitivities.

cleanser - olive washSuper Sensitive Skin

If your skin is hypersensitive, it helps to know your triggers. A common one for many of us is fragrance. Fragrances are often chemically derived, which can irritate sensitive skin. Enter our Fragrance Free Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. It contains absolutely zero trace of fragrance, colognes, scents, or perfumes. Moreover, it also soothes dry skin, giving you all the hydration with none of the irritation.

fragrance free gentle hydrating cleanser

Baby Skin

Baby skin is a completely different beast than adult skin. Babies, especially newborns, have skin that is thinner, less tightly structured, and near sterile. Plus, newborns’ skin has a pH of almost neutral before dropping dramatically to acidic levels. As baby’s skin barrier develops, use products that nourish it! Sebamed Baby Wash Extra Soft is the perfect choice. Its mild formula provides baby’s delicate skin with the care it needs. Baby Wash Extra Soft supports the skin’s moisture balance, naturally softening and soothing with allantoin and squalane. It also aids in the development of baby’s skin barrier for healthy skin from day one.

baby wash extra soft

Oily Skin

Most cleansers for oily skin on today’s market are designed to dry out the skin. Let us be the first to tell you this: eliminating oil is not the key to caring for oily skin. Excess oil is often a hint that something else is going on. Oily skin is thirsty skin; your sebaceous glands overproduce sebum to make up for a lack of moisture. This in turn causes breakouts, and when you use harsh acne products that dry out the skin, the cycle repeats.

Choosing a cleanser that balances your skin’s moisture is your ticket to breaking the cycle. That’s where VISIO Gentle Cleansing Milk comes in. It removes dirt, sebum, and other impurities without drying out the skin. It also soothes irritation thanks to panthenol and calendula extract. Even better? It can be used with or without water!

visio gentle cleansing milk


Combination Skin

Combination skin might be the trickiest of skin types to deal with. When you have combination skin, you have areas of the face that are oily and areas of the face that are dry. If you have two different skin types on one face, what do you do? Fear not! We suggest treating the breakouts first, using acne products that don’t dry out the skin. Our Clear Face Cleansing Foam is perfect for combination skin. In addition to fighting breakouts, it helps to balance your skin’s oil production, which will also help with dryness. Win!

clear face cleansing foam

If you’re looking for your skin’s perfect cleanser, we have you covered! Sebamed offers a wide range of cleansers suitable for all skin types. Each formula is carefully pH-balanced to the level of healthy skin, strengthening your skin barrier and helping protect you against skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Sebamed products are also dermatologically tested and are trusted by skin care lovers around the world. Check out our complete lineup of cleansers here.

Already found your favorite Sebamed cleanser? Shop our other skin care favorites here.

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