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Are Cleansers and Face Wash the Same?

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Life is full of those little debates we have in our minds. Go for a run or stay in bed for an extra half an hour? Summer dress and flip flops or play it safer with jeans and pumps? An Indian takeaway or a Chinese? Facial cleanser or face wash…?

OK, so the last one might not take up as much of your headspace as some of life’s other small dilemmas, but it’s one well worth considering.

Perhaps you have considered how to clean your face and what to use to do so. Maybe you’re Team Face Wash all the way. Or maybe you’re always on the side of a cleanser.

But if you haven’t ever given it much thought, then maybe it’s time you did? Could your skin be behaving all contrary because you’re using something to cleanse with that it doesn’t particularly like? Would your skin react better to something different?

Here at Sönd, we’re all about working out what suits your skin best, and getting the most from your skin. Especially so if your skin is prone to acne spots and breakouts, oiliness, dryness or any other condition that means it gets easily stressed out.

So here’s our lowdown on the difference between facial cleansers and face washes (hint: they’re not the same) and what might suit your skin type better.

The difference between a facial cleanser and a face wash

Different skin care brands tend to use different wording when it comes to labelling their products.

But as a general rule, a facial cleanser tends to be a creamy lotion that you apply directly to the skin and a face wash tends to be applied to the skin along with water.

Cleansers are also often called cleansing lotions. Face washes tend to foam up as they usually contain soap. In fact, facial washes include simple bars of soap.

How are facial cleansers removed from the skin?

Facial cleansers can either be removed using dry cotton wool or by using water or a clean, damp cloth.

The facial cleansers designed to be removed using cotton wool, and therefore no water, tend to leave a greasy film on the skin. Plus they can leave some of the makeup and dirt they’ve lifted from the skin, on the surface of the skin. Since they’re not being rinsed away, by default, they’re being left behind to a certain extent, along with the dirt they’re meant to be removing.

On the other hand, facial cleansers designed to be washed away using water or a damp cloth are fully removed from the skin, taking grime, makeup, excess oil and dead skin cells with them.

Incidentally, our Clean Slate Cream Cleanser is a facial cleanser that’s designed to do just that. Simply apply our creamy lotion to your skin in the morning and before bed using your fingertips.

Gently massage it into the skin in circular motions to stimulate your circulation for a minute or so. Then, use warm water or a clean, damp facial cloth to remove all of the lotion along with dirt, makeup, oil and other skin dulling components.

How are facial washes removed from the skin?

A facial wash is usually always removed from the skin using water or a damp cloth to remove the suds plus the dirt, grime and makeup.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of facial cleansers and face washes?

Facial cleansers and face washes pretty much do the same thing - they remove dirt and makeup from the skin. But as we saw above, some types of cleansing lotions can tend to leave behind some product and unwanted grime.

If you have oily or acne prone skin, these kinds of cleansing lotions aren’t going to be best suited to your skin as they can lead to congestion, blocked pores, an over compensation of oil production and acne spots and breakouts.

You’re best suited to creamy facial cleansers like ours that nourish the skin, gently lift away dirt, makeup and impurities and are then rinsed away, leaving behind no residue.

If you have sensitive or dry, dehydrated skin, then you’re also best suited to a creamy cleanser like ours. It won’t strip the skin of it’s essential oils, it’ll just gently cleanse without leaving the skin feeling dry or tight.

Facial cleansers also tend to be oil based (in a good way, with nourishing, hydrating oils such as the cacao seed butter and apricot kernel oil we use in our facial cleanser).

This means that they work by dissolving oil based dirt, grime, pollution and make up, since oil attracts oil. (Whereas water repels oil, if you remember from school science lessons, oil and water don’t mix.) So creamy cleansers generally give your face a deeper clean.

Face washes and soaps are less moisturising than creamy facial cleansers as they contain soap which foams. Foaming agents and soaps can change the pH of the skin and strip the skin of the oils that it needs to remain moisturised.

They often contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulphate, or SLS. SLS can irritate the skin, even if you have a normal skin type. They can be especially irritating on sensitive or acne prone skin.

Soap contains compounds called surfactants, that break down oils and dirt so that water can react with them to rinse them away when using a facial wash. These surfactants disrupt the surface of the skin, potentially causing it to become stressed out.

What’s best, a facial cleanser or a face wash?

We would recommend avoiding face washes and bars of soap to wash your face with, since they can disrupt the normal skin pH, irritate the skin with their foaming agents and strip the skin of their natural oils.

So, without sounding too much like we love ourselves (although we adore our products and so do our fans!) we’d stick with a creamy cleansing lotion like ours that’s been designed with botanicals and alkalising silica salts to nourish all skin types.




Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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