Skin cleansers and toners

Published: Wednesday | December 12, 2012 Comments 0

Arusha Campbell-Chambers, Contributor

In my last article, we looked at one way in which skin can be classified into normal, oily, dry, combination and sensitive types. It's the season when a lot of people want to look their best and put their 'best skin forward'.


So now is a great time to describe some of the products that make up a healthy skin-care routine. If over-the-counter or at-home remedies are not enough, medicated products may need to be prescribed based on the skin's condition.

Today, we'll look at the role of cleansers and toners in skin care. Cleansers can remove dead skin cells (exfoliate), oil, germs and dirt from our skin. Some cleansers can cause our skin to become dry and alter the skin's natural acidity. Other cleansers do not significantly change the skin's acidity. They are therefore said to be 'pH balanced'.

These cleansers may be labelled as gentle cleansers. Cleansers may come in a liquid or solid bar form. Specialised cleansers may be oil-free, antibacterial, exfoliating or abrasive.

Cleansers for oily skin

Individuals with oily skin should use oil-free cleansers which may say 'non-comedogenic' or 'non-pore blocking' on the label. Exfoliating cleansers can also be used in oily skin types. Care should be taken if the individual is using other exfoliating products like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids for treating acne, as the skin may develop irritation if too many of these products are combined. An abrasive scrub should only be used once a week, if necessary, once it's tolerated.

People with combination skin can benefit from a soap-free and oil-free cleanser, while individuals with dry and sensitive skin types should use gentle, soap-free and creamy cleansers. Individuals with sensitive skin types should ideally use cleansers without fragrance which may be labelled 'fragrance free'.

Toners unclog pores

Toners usually contain water and other ingredients to further cleanse, unclog pores and may moisturise the skin. They restore the skin's natural acidity and may make the skin look tighter.

Astringents can be classified as harsher types of toners which tend to contain higher amounts of alcohol and may contain other ingredients that remove oil and dead skin cells. They are most useful in individuals with oily, acne-prone skin and for extra cleansing after using a heavy makeup (however, they should not be used in the eye area. An eye make-up remover or baby oil can be used in this area instead).

Some toners, on the other hand, may be gentler, alcohol free and may soothe and moisturise the skin. These gentler toners may also be called fresheners, for example, witch hazel. These may be used in individuals with dry and sensitive skin once they do not irritate individual's skin.

It is felt by some that with a good pH balanced cleanser and moisturiser, the toner may not be absolutely necessary. However, if the individual likes and safely benefits from it, it's quite fine to use a toner.

Next time we'll look at moisturisers and sunscreens in our skin-care routine. Until then, take care of the skin you're in!

Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.

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