2- Cleansing

Cleansing represents the first step of a well-structured skincare routine. Properly cleansing the face helps to maintain healthy skin. The skin, it must not be forgotten, is one of the most important organs of our body and it is fundamental to take care of it.

The Skin

The skin, in fact, is our largest organ and covers the entire external surface of our body. It practically surrounds and contains us, protecting us from physical damage, ultraviolet radiation, and infections. It is a complex organ, composed of three overlapping layers (tissues) each with specific functions.


The first layer is the epidermis, the outer layer that provides a primary protective barrier. It is made up of an actual hydro-lipidic protective film, which is composed of water and lipids (or sebum). Right beneath this film, we find the horny layer, rich in keratin, and constituting about three-quarters of the epidermis. It forms the second protective barrier that helps to make the skin impermeable.

The dermis is the middle layer that contains fibroblasts. They produce collagen and elastin fibers, and hyaluronic acid, which are essential for the skin’s structure. In particular, the proteins collagen and elastin are responsible for the tone and elasticity of our skin while hyaluronic acid contributes to hydration, allowing the skin to resist deformation. Moreover, the dermis contains a network of blood vessels that provide nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells and have a thermoregulatory function, helping to regulate body temperature. Moreover, the dermis contains a network of blood vessels that provide nutrients and oxygen to the skin cells and have a thermoregulatory function, helping to regulate body temperature.

Finally, we find the deepest layer, the subcutaneous layer or hypodermis, which contains adipose tissue that functions in insulation and protection.

We understand from its structure that the skin is an organ that performs vital functions, therefore it is important to keep it in good health. And the first step in maintaining its health is cleansing. Let’s see why.

LipstickPost’s Guides

– Let’s Define the Skincare Routine
– What is a cosmetic
– The Routine
– Customization
-The Advantages of a Proper Skincare Routine
– The Skin
-The Essential Role of Cleansing in Skincare
– Why It’s Wrong to Use Soap to Cleanse the Face
-Double Cleansing
-When to Practice Double Cleansing
-The Advantages of a Proper Skincare Routine
-Top Cleansers Suggested by Lipstickpost

The Essential Role of Cleansing in Skincare

Cleansing primarily aims to remove dirt from the skin’s surface, thus directly impacting the epidermis, and represents a crucial step for several reasons:

Cleansing is pivotal for removing dirt and impurities. Daily, our skin encounters pollutants, dust, and environmental debris. By cleansing, we not only clear these substances but also prevent pore clogging and acne formation.

Cleansing plays a crucial role in regulating sebum production. Naturally, the skin produces sebum, an oil essential for hydration and infection protection. However, overproduction can cause oily skin, acne, and blackheads. Regular cleansing maintains a healthy sebum balance.

Effective cleansing is key to preventing infections. It eliminates bacteria and other microorganisms from the skin’s surface, thereby reducing infection and irritation risks.

Cleansing enhances the performance of skincare products. It removes dead skin cells, allowing deeper penetration of moisturizers and serums, and increasing their efficacy.

Moreover, cleansing promotes cellular regeneration. It aids in shedding dead skin cells, fostering new cell growth, and contributing to a youthful, radiant complexion.

Maintaining the skin’s pH is another crucial aspect of cleansing. It helps preserve the skin’s slightly acidic natural pH, crucial for protecting against bacteria and pollutants.

Finally, regular cleansing improves the skin’s overall appearance, making it brighter, smoother, and healthier. It can significantly reduce the visibility of spots and discoloration.

Considering these varied benefits, it’s evident that cleansing is more than just the removal of dirt; it’s a fundamental pillar of comprehensive skincare.

Proper Cleansing

The correct cleansing of the face is a delicate balance. It serves not only to remove what accumulates on the surface from external sources, as described in the previous paragraph, but also to preserve what is already present on the skin. Incorrect cleansing can lead to significant skin issues.

When we cleanse, it’s essential to remember that our face represents an ecosystem. It is inhabited by thousands of bacteria that naturally reside on our skin. These bacteria constitute our skin microbiota, often referred to as our “good bacteria,” which play a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin. The balance of their habitat, our skin, can be significantly disrupted by improper cleansing.

The Face Microbiota is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms that includes bacteria, fungi, viruses, and mites. These microorganisms live on the skin’s surface and inside hair follicles and sebaceous glands, performing vital functions such as protecting against infections, regulating pH, and modulating immune responses. The microbiota contributes to maintaining the skin’s slightly acidic pH, an unfavorable environment for many pathogens. Some microorganisms also compete with pathogens for resources, helping to protect the skin from infections. Furthermore, they play key roles in various metabolic processes, such as sebum degradation and the production of substances that influence skin health.

To preserve this delicate ecosystem, it is essential to use gentle cleansers that do not disrupt the skin’s pH balance too much or remove the sebum necessary for bacteria to thrive and for our skin to be protected. Cleansing the face should involve avoiding excessive use of antibacterial products and practicing balanced cleansing. Over-cleansing or the use of the wrong products, such as harsh soap, can disturb this balance, leading, contrary to popular belief, to the accumulation of oil, clogged pores, and the proliferation of unwanted bacteria.

It’s not just bacteria that we need to preserve with cleansing but also the natural layer of oil that covers our skin. Using overly harsh cleansers would result in the removal of a part of the skin’s natural oil layer. The sebum we produce plays a crucial role in protecting the skin from bacteria and pathogens, keeping it hydrated, soft, and flexible, contributing to thermoregulation, and transporting antioxidants to the skin’s surface to protect it from free radical damage and ultraviolet light.

Lastly, maintaining the correct pH, or acidity level, of the skin is crucial. Modifying it can not only affect our microbiota but also the elasticity of the skin.

In conclusion, cleansing the face the right way is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. It is essential to use gentle cleansers that do not disrupt the pH, sebum, and microbiome balance. Using the right cleansers is crucial. However, there is no one-size-fits-all cleanser; each skin type has its own balance and specific needs.

There is, however, one wrong cleanser, and it’s one that everyone is tempted to use out of laziness and convenience the classic soap. Let’s understand why using soap is a mistake.


Why It’s Wrong to Use Soap to Cleanse the Face

The use of traditional soap for facial cleansing can be problematic for several reasons:

The first reason lies in its high pH. Soap is produced through a chemical reaction that combines fats with a strong base, such as sodium hydroxide. This process creates an alkaline product with a pH around 9-10, which is higher than the skin’s natural and slightly acidic pH, which is approximately 4.7-5.75. This difference in pH can disrupt the skin’s natural balance, leading to dryness, irritation, and increased vulnerability to bacteria and infections.

The second reason is that soap can excessively remove the skin’s natural sebum, which is essential for maintaining hydration and protecting the skin from external elements.

Thirdly, due to the removal of sebum and pH disturbance, soap can leave the skin dry, tight, and irritated. It can also lead to peeling, itching, and redness.

Finally, prolonged use of soap can alter the skin barrier, making the skin more sensitive and prone to dermatological issues.

This is why it is advisable to use specific facial cleansers formulated to be gentle on the skin, maintain the right pH balance, and preserve the skin’s natural oils. These products are designed to effectively clean without disrupting the delicate balance of the skin.


Soap has a high pH due to its production process, which involves a chemical reaction known as saponification. This reaction occurs between a fatty acid (such as oils or fats) and a strong base, typically sodium hydroxide (for solid soap) or potassium hydroxide (for liquid soap). During saponification, fats are broken down into glycerin and salts of fatty acids, which are the soap molecules.

The strong bases used in saponification have a very high pH, and even though the reaction transforms these bases into a less caustic product, the finished soap still maintains a relatively high pH, typically between 9 and 10. This alkaline pH is effective for removing dirt and oils but can be too harsh for the skin, especially facial skin, which naturally has a more acidic pH, generally between 4.7 and 5.75. This pH difference between soap and the skin can disrupt the skin’s natural acidic barrier, leading to dryness, irritation, and other skin issues.


Soap has been the most widely used method for cleansing the skin since ancient times. With the industrial revolution, various types of cleansing products were introduced to the market, which have evolved over the years and continue to do so thanks to advances in scientific research. We have moved from glycerin soaps in the 1950s to amphoteric surfactants in the 1990s, ideal for the most sensitive skin, to the latest surfactants with eco-friendly formulations. The goal of formulators is to create cleansers that are as gentle as possible to preserve the delicate balance of our skin.

All cleansers are based on the use of surfactants. But what are they? We can think of a surfactant as a little helper that works to clean our skin. Its special chemical structure makes it perfect for this job: one part of its molecule loves water (hydrophilic), and the other part loves oil and fat (hydrophobic).

When we use a facial cleanser that contains surfactants, the cleaning process occurs in two main phases:

Oil and Water Bonding: The surfactant molecule is composed of two parts. One part (hydrophobic) has an affinity for oily substances like sebum and makeup, attaching to them. The other part (hydrophilic) is attracted to water. So when we apply the cleanser, the part that loves fats binds to the dirt and oily impurities on the skin, while the part that loves water remains oriented towards the watery environment.

Removal of Dirt: During rinsing, the hydrophilic part of the surfactant comes into action. Since it is attracted to water, it helps “drag away” the dirt, oil, and other impurities to which the hydrophobic part is attached. This process facilitates the removal of substances that would not otherwise easily dissolve in water.

In summary, surfactants function as a kind of bridge between water and oily substances on the skin. They create an emulsified mixture that, when rinsed off, takes away dirt and oil, leaving the skin clean. This mechanism is particularly effective because water alone cannot easily remove oily substances.



Initially, surfactants were primarily natural soaps, effective but with limitations such as the formation of scum in hard water and some harshness on the skin.

From the 1930s onwards: Synthetic surfactants like lauryl sulfates emerged, improving performance in terms of cleaning and foam production while reducing issues in hard water.

1940s and 1950s: Non-ionic surfactants became popular for their versatility and skin-friendliness.

1960s and 1970s: Attention shifted towards safety and tolerability, leading to the development of gentler formulations.

1980s and 1990s: Amphiphilic surfactants, such as betaines, emerged for their effectiveness and gentleness, making them ideal for sensitive skin and baby products.

Early 21st century: There was a growing demand for biodegradable and eco-friendly surfactants. Options derived from renewable sources were developed.

Until 2023: The industry has focused on sustainable surfactants that are safe and have a low environmental impact.

Surfactants have evolved from simple formulations to more effective synthetic options, then to safer and gentler solutions, and finally to eco-friendly and sustainable products, reflecting the increasing concern for safety and the environment.

So, at this point, one might think that finding the right detergent means the job is done. Well, it’s not like that. There is still one more point to address. Proper cleaning doesn’t consist of a single step but two. It involves two consecutive steps, each with a specific task, better known as the double cleansing technique.

Double cleansing

Double cleansing is more effective than a single-product-based cleaning because it focuses on oil and water in a targeted manner. The first step of this technique removes oily impurities such as makeup and sebum, while the second step, water-based, cleanses the remaining residues and water-based impurities. This combination ensures a more thorough pore cleansing and better prepares the skin for subsequent treatments.

The Chemical Principles Behind Double Cleansing

The chemical principles underlying this technique are twofold:

“Like dissolves like”: This principle states that substances with similar chemical properties tend to dissolve in each other. For example, polar solvents (like water) dissolve polar solutes, while nonpolar solvents (like many oils) dissolve nonpolar solutes.

Polarity: It refers to the distribution of electric charges in a molecule. Polar molecules have an uneven charge distribution, whereas nonpolar molecules have a uniform charge distribution. Polarity affects many physical and chemical properties, including solubility, boiling point, and melting point.

The concept of double cleansing exploits these chemical notions. An oil-based cleanser (nonpolar) is effective in removing nonpolar impurities such as excess sebum, oil-based cosmetics, sunscreens, and fat-soluble pollutants, etc.

A water-based cleanser (since water is polar) is effective at removing polar impurities. This includes all impurities such as sweat, residues of water-based products, environmental pollutants, bacteria, traces of hair care products, soap residues, and some types of makeup.

Double cleansing is based on a clear distinction. Oil and water poured into a container remain separate due to their intrinsic properties: oil being nonpolar, and water being polar. This principle guides the effectiveness of double cleansing, allowing specific cleansers to target different types of impurities present on the skin.


Double cleansing is not just a recent trend, but it has deep historical roots. In Japan during the Heian period, which dates back to 794-1185 AD, women at the court were accustomed to wearing very heavy makeup. Removing these cosmetics was not easy. This is where oils, like camellia oil, came into play. These oils were the perfect solution to dissolve the makeup before proceeding with a water-based cleansing.

Double cleansing had already been practiced in Korea for a long time but gained international attention with the rise of K-beauty. The Korean beauty philosophy emphasizes prevention and the creation of a detailed skincare routine to ensure radiant and healthy skin. It’s in this context that double cleansing found its rightful place. This practice is becoming increasingly popular because it really works well.

The two steps of double cleansing

But let’s delve into the details of how to start this technique.

Oil-Based Cleansing (Oily Phase)

The first step in double cleansing involves choosing an oil-based cleanser. There are various options available in the market, such as cleansing oils, balms, or milk cleansers. These are all oily products capable of attracting and removing oily substances that have accumulated on the face, such as makeup or sunscreen.

Some may argue that this step is not suitable for certain skin types, like oily skin, while others may find oil-based cleansing too heavy. Well, this step is suitable for everyone, as remember that the oil-based product applied to the skin, which some may fear will remain on the face, will be removed with the second step of our double cleansing. Of course, it’s important to choose the product that suits your skin type, and this is why using a single cleanser is not enough. Those who wear heavy makeup may find oil-based cleansers like balms (or cleansing balms) more effective, as they can easily remove waterproof makeup. Those who find balms too heavy can opt for lighter-textured oils. People with particularly sensitive skin can choose textures like milk cleansers.

Once emulsified with a little water, the oil-based cleanser binds to oily impurities, making it easy to remove when rinsing the face. By massaging our oil-based cleanser, we dissolve excess sebum, pollutants that have accumulated throughout the day, sunscreen residues, and, of course, makeup for those who wear it. Anything that clogs pores is dissolved during this phase. The lipophilic molecules in our cleanser will attract the fatty molecules of impurities that clog our pores.

It’s important not to underestimate the time spent on this step. It’s crucial to massage the skin for at least one minute, ensuring that all impurities are thoroughly dissolved. Additionally, this massage brings another benefit:  it stimulates circulation.

Water-Based Cleansing (Watery Phase)

After removing oil-based impurities, the second step of double cleansing involves using a water-based cleanser to remove impurities that water can capture more effectively by exploiting polarity. Water, being a polar molecule, attracts other impurities composed of polar molecules, such as sweat, dust, and certain pollutants, which the oils couldn’t capture due to their nonpolarity. In this context, surfactants in the water-based cleanser come into play. Surfactants, with their hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts, can interact with both water and nonpolar impurities, facilitating the removal of the latter.

Furthermore, the watery phase also removes residues from the oil-based makeup remover. Oil-based cleansers used in the first step are formulated to be water-soluble; they dissolve upon contact with water, unlike pure oils such as coconut oil or olive oil, which don’t dissolve due to the chemical characteristics of oil and water and may leave an excess of oil on the skin. This is why surfactants are crucial in this phase as well: they allow the water-based cleanser to emulsify and effectively remove even formulated oils, avoiding the need for an overly harsh cleanser that could damage the skin’s hydrolipidic film.

The water-based cleanser should be emulsified with water and massaged onto the face for at least 30 seconds, then thoroughly rinsed with water. This step ensures that any residue left from the first pass is removed, leaving the skin perfectly clean and preserving its natural balance.

During this phase, you might be tempted to use an aggressive cleanser due to the oily layer left by the previous step. However, it’s not a good idea. Even the water-based cleanser should be chosen based on your skin type.


After the oily phase, which removes nonpolar impurities such as sebum and makeup, the watery phase becomes crucial. Oils, primarily composed of nonpolar lipid molecules like triglycerides, have an even distribution of electric charge and are not effective at removing polar impurities. Water, on the other hand, is a polar molecule, with oxygen slightly negative and hydrogen slightly positive, making it ideal for capturing and removing polar impurities like sweat, dust, and residues of water-based products. This explains why, after using oils in cleansing, it is essential to switch to a water-based cleanser to ensure a complete and deep cleansing of the face.

When to Practice Double Cleansing

Double cleansing should only be done in the evening. In the morning, there is no need to repeat this intensive process. During the night, the skin develops a protective lipid film that is best not completely removed. Therefore, it is recommended to use a single gentle rinse-off cleanser or, for those with dry skin, a floral water. This lighter routine in the morning helps maintain the skin’s natural balance without overly aggressing it.

Double cleansing remains essential even if you don’t typically wear makeup. This technique is not just for removing makeup but also effectively eliminates excess sebum, sunscreen residues, environmental pollutants, sweat, dead cells, and bacteria accumulated on the skin, ensuring deep cleansing and preventing skin issues.

To achieve the best results, it’s important to consider some details. The water temperature is crucial: water that is too hot can dry out the skin, while water that is too cold may not be effective. The water used for both evening and morning cleansing should be lukewarm.

Furthermore, it’s important to “listen” to your own skin. If you notice redness, irritation, or dryness, or if you can’t effectively remove all your makeup, it’s not the double cleansing technique that doesn’t suit you but rather the products you are using. You may need to consider changing products, such as switching to milder cleansers if your face feels tight after cleansing, or considering using a balm instead of an oil if the makeup removal isn’t optimal after the first step.

The Advantages of a Proper Skincare Routine

Double cleansing not only allows for deep cleaning but also brings long-term benefits to skin health. Our skin is exposed to oxidative stress every day, making it susceptible to premature aging. Double cleansing helps remove oxidative agents, combats the early signs of aging, and keeps the skin looking younger and more radiant.

For those with oily skin, this technique can make a difference. A compromised hydrolipidic film can lead to excessive sebum production and the appearance of impurities. By using a gentle and balanced cleansing approach, it helps restore the skin’s natural balance, supporting a healthy skin microbiota, which is essential for defense against pathogens and irritations.

Furthermore, massaging the skin during cleansing offers additional benefits. The finger movements on the face to remove makeup and impurities, especially during the oily phase, not only help relax facial muscles but also stimulate microcirculation, improving oxygenation and nutrient delivery to the skin. This not only contributes to overall well-being but also optimizes the absorption and effectiveness of skincare products applied subsequently. Additionally, effective cleansing reduces the likelihood of developing imperfections such as blackheads and acne, as it clears clogged pores and prevents bacterial buildup. Finally, well-cleaned skin reflects light better, resulting in a more radiant and even complexion, an aspect not to be underestimated in daily facial care.

Top Cleansers Suggested by Lipstickpost


The Balms – Suitable for All Skin Types, Including Sensitive Skin. Highly Effective in Removing Long-Lasting Makeup.
The Oils – Generally suitable for all skin types. Especially advantageous for those with dry skin.
Cleansing Milk – Particularly suited for sensitive, dry, and mature skin.

Giornalista, blogger e video editor. Dopo aver vissuto in Italia e Germania, si è trasferita in Svizzera, a Ginevra. Nel 2015 fonda LipstickPost dove scrive di bellezza, viaggi, alimentazione e lifestyle.

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