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Cleanse your Skin, Not your Moisture Barrier – Jill Sung

Why should I clean my face, you ask? I just use water, some say. What in fact do I need to clean? Your skin collects oily soils, dirt, sweat, and sebum (natural skin oils) throughout the day. And in fact, just using water removes only about 65% of the dirt and oils; it’s not even effective for removing makeup. Cleansers are designed to remove the dirt, grime and sebum from skin through the action of surfactants.

What Washing Does…

So when we wash our face, we’re really washing the top layer of the epidermis of our skin. That layer is composed of fat and protein structures that create the waterproof moisture barrier of the skin. But while this skin moisture barrier is protective, it also is great at trapping pollutants, smoke, bacteria, cellular debris, sweat and cosmetics. Unfortunately, washing off the embedded dirt with some cleansers also removes some of the outer protective film which can irritate skin.

Why not Soap?

So you use soap, not just water. If it’s worked for hundreds of years, why stop now? In fact, soap works by making fat and oil water-soluble (emulsifies) to be easily removed by wiping or washing. They reduce the surface tension of your skin with negatively charged agents that can act as possible irritants. These anionic molecules affect the natural moisturizing factors and remove the fat and protein structures of the epidermis which disrupt the protective barrier, irritate, and decrease skin smoothness. But also, soap salts are alkaline causing your skin to become more neutral in pH (which can happen with age as well), making your skin a better place for bacteria to live.

When I was a child, I used to always use soap because I didn’t know better, but I definitely saw the results of drying and decreased smoothness in my skin. How about you? Any previous soap users with bad stories? Next we’ll discuss what options we have besides soap…especially as the drying fall and winter months inch forward.

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