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Dermatology Glossary

 

How Cleansers Work

Cleansers interact with the skinís moisture barrier as well as the skinís pH to emulsify dirt and oil for easy removal. As dirt or debris is usually embedded in the barrierís outer layer of oil, removing this dirt can disrupt this naturally protective surface.

The health of the skinís moisture barrier is important as this barrier preserves water and natural oils to moisturize and maintain the smoothness and flexibility of the skin. It also serves as your skinís protection against injury from chemicals or bacteria. Harsher cleansers can disrupt this barrier, as well as irritate the skin and affect the skin surface pH, which scientists believe plays a role in regulating how this barrier functions and protects us from bacteria. Studies show that the barrierís regeneration and repair happens more slowly at a neutral pH than at the skinís natural acidic pH. Changing the skin surfaceís pH balance can increase the skinís sensitivity to potential irritants.

Cleansing with water, soap or a liquid cleanser will affect the skinís moisture barrier, although soap will have the most impact and will make the skinís pH more alkaline. Liquid facial cleansers clean more gently, with less disruption of the barrier and have a smaller effect on the skin pH. Some of the new synthetic detergents will remove dirt and disrupt the outer layer of oil, but then work to ensure the skin barrier is left intact by restoring the oil.