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Complete Skin Care - Cleanse

Dr. Bailey’s Complete Skin Care Routine: Step 1. Cleanse

Why is it important to cleanse your skin?

Clean skin gives you the ‘blank slate’ to maximally absorb the important active ingredients in your skin care routine. Achieve the best results when the actives can pass easily through your skin’s barrier (the layer of dead cells called stratum corneum). Cleansing skin enhances percutaneous absorption by removing product residue, sebum(oil), dirt, debris and dead skin cells.

Skin care active ingredients are also absorbed through your pores. This means that your Cleanse step needs to help remove blocked pore matter, which is again, sebum, dirt, debris, dead cells and product. Twice daily cleansing it best and also helps keep pore clear on an ongoing basis.

What is the best way to cleanse your skin?

Traditionally, you think of skin cleansing as done with soaps and pH balanced soap substitutes called SYNDETS (synthetic detergents). These are the mainstay of skin cleansing. They work well for skin cleansing because they are made of molecules that have one end that binds oil and one end that binds water. When applied to damp skin oil, product residue, and entrapped dirt, debris and dead cells are washed down the drain. Your skin is clean and ready to absorb the next products applied.

Can you over-cleanse your skin?

Yes, and you want to avoid over-cleansing your skin! As a dermatologist I want you to know that it is really important to match your soap or cleanser to your skin type. Don't overshoot, which means don’t use a cleanser that over-cleanses oil from your skin. When this happens, the cleanser reaches into your skin barrier and removes precious natural oils that make up your barrier structure. Your goal is to remove oil and debris from you skin surface and pores but not from within your skin.

Did you know that your skin’s barrier is a brick and mortar structure of dead cell protein (keratin) mortared together by lipid? This must be preserved. If your cleanser leaves your skin feeling really dry and tight after toweling dry, then you are removing too much lipid. This will weaken your skin barrier, lead to loss of skin water (increased Trans Epidermal Water Loss), and ultimately skin irritation and chapping.

Excess removal of skin lipid by a cleanser that is too strong for your skin is the biggest reason for cleanser failure. It is why many people are afraid of soaps and skin cleansers. Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey

How do you pick the right cleanser for your skin type?

Prevent skin chapping and cleanser failure by knowing your skin type:

  • Oily
  • Normal
  • Dry, or
  • Combination.

You also want to consider if you have inherent barrier weakness from skin problems such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea. If so, you need to be cautious and use only gentle skin cleansers and soaps.

How do you pick a skin cleanser to match your skin?


  • Oily skin requires stronger soaps and cleansers.
  • Dry skin requires the gentlest cleansers to prevent damaging the skin barrier by the removal of too much natural skin lipids.
  • Combination skin needs either more cleanser applied to the T-zone, back, chest, ears and scalp (areas with greatest activity of oil glands) or very little applied to the drier areas such as the sides of the face, arms and legs.
  • Normal skin simply needs a nice hypoallergenic soap or cleanser for proper skin cleansing.


Can you clean your skin without soap or cleanser?

Soap and cleanser work best to clean skin because part of the product's molecule binds oil and part binds water to help efficiently rinse oil containing dirt and debris down the drain. There are two other popular ways to cleans skin that you will see talked about:

  1. Oil cleansing is popular. It is based on the idea that like dissolves like and a chosen oil (such as grapeseed oil or olive oil) will remove oily debris from your skin. But what will remove the cleansing oil and do you really want it left on your skin? Will it interfere with absorption of active ingredients applied after oil cleansing? Maybe, it depends.
  2. Some people like to just splash their skin with water. This is ok for some days but oil, dirt, debris and dead cells will build up. Having looked at the skin of thousands of patients with magnification over 30+ years of dermatology practice I can tell you this with certainty!

Below you will find my favorite skin cleansers. You will find both bar and liquid options. I have pH balanced SYNDETS. I also have natural soap made from organic ingredients. All of these cleansers and soaps are hypoallergenic.

As a dermatologist, I believe that your skin cleansers should be hypoallergenic to help maintain healthy skin and avoid unnecessary skin allergic reactions. Cynthia Bailey, MD

You’ll also see a beautiful Naturally Hydrating Toner that adds a second gentle cleansing step to facial skin care at the same time it helps to tighten and shrink the appearance of the pores. You will see exfoliating products too because exfoliation is easily done in Step 1 of your Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care Routine - Cleanse! You will also see soaps and cleansers with active ingredients to begin Step 2, which is Correct. This step begins to transform your skin to help your reach your skin care goals.

Sensitive Skin Natural Could be agitiating

Sensitive Skin Natural Could be agitiating