Skincare Routine 101: Cleansers

Welcome to MADEWITH’s first blog post in our Skincare 101 series! This series is meant to help educate you on the products in your skincare routine, how they should be applied, and when they should be applied. Additionally, we’ll tell you what these products do, what their benefits are, and which one is best for different skin states. 

There’s no better place to start than with the first step most common in a regular skincare routine: Cleansers!


It might be obvious, but cleansers are usually the first step in your regimen as they are meant to not only cleanse, but also prepare the skin to absorb the rest of the product(s) in your routine. Cleansing is an important step because it dissolves dirt, oil, and impurities in the skin that might not rinse away with water alone. The style of cleansing product that’s best for you is generally based on your skin state, the skin concern you have, and the type of cleanser preferred. The most common types of cleansers are oil, balm, cream, micellar, bar, gel, foam, clay, or powder.


Best for: All skin conditions!

At MADEWITH, we believe in allowing your skin to maintain as much of its natural moisture as possible. That’s why cleansing oils are our go-to cleansing product. Most people are unaware of the benefits of cleansing oil. As a matter of fact, it is generally the best form of cleansing (even for oily and acne-prone skin).

Why do we love cleansing oil?

1 – They’re easier to use. The newer generations of cleansing oils rinse totally clean and don’t leave behind any residue. It goes on like an oil, then once water is added, it emulsifies and rinses off with nothing but water. (NOTE: its close cousin – an oil cleanser – is slightly different. It is used in the “Oil Cleansing Method” and requires a warm washcloth to remove oil when cleansing.)

2 – They don’t upset the pH balance of the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin). Your skin’s natural state is slightly acidic (between 4.5-6 on the litmus scale). Washing with soaps and foams can cause a temporary shift of the skin’s pH to an alkalinity closer to pH 8, which can trigger inflammation.

3  – They can break down excess sebum (skin’s natural oil) and pore impactions better. The reason they work better for oily skin is that lightweight oils can break down oil in the skin without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. Therefore, it does not trigger the skin to over-produce sebum to replace what is stripped away with foam cleansing.

4 – They remove makeup and cleanse in one easy step. Even the heaviest of makeup can be removed when using a cleansing oil. One and done!


Best for: Combination and oily skin

As much as we love cleansing oils, we know that many people still love their traditional bubbling cleansers. So we have partnered with brands who keep balanced skin in mind and have created a variety of gentle foam and gel formulations. If you’re looking for an intense, rich lather, gel cleansers are your best friend. For a light-as-air, almost-nothing-there experience, we recommend foam cleansers. 

Foam and gel cleansers are mostly for breaking down excess oil and surface dirt and grime from the day; they generally have minimal makeup removing properties. If you do wear makeup, you may want to use a cream cleanser or micellar water to dissolve your makeup first to avoid leaving any accidental residue behind. This method is referred to as a “double cleanse.” Oily and combination (a mix of dry and oily) skin generally respond best to foam/gel cleansers and the double cleanse method. 


Best for:  Most skin states, except very dry

Cleansing bars are a great way to both get healthy oils into your skin and still enjoy a foaming or lathering style of cleanse. Many of the clean brands out there have created beautiful formulations with mild foaming agents, nourishing fats and oils, and even enzymes for gentle exfoliation. While there are oils in these amazing new wave of bar products, makeup should still be removed first. Most skin states respond well to bar cleansers, however, those with very dry skin generally do better with a different option.


Best for: Combination or oily

Clay cleansers are one of the newest kids on the block and are amazing for combination, oily, and/or congested skin (has blackheads and/or whiteheads), especially in the warmer months. Clay cleansers shouldn’t be left on for longer periods like masks. Simply rub a generous amount onto a wet face and rinse after about 60 seconds. 

Clay facial cleansers are formulated to lift away daily dirt and pore impactions without depleting skin’s natural moisture balance. Clay cleansers tend to act as mild physical exfoliants as well. They also offer the temporary benefit of the appearance of smaller pores. As with most cleansing methods, please remove makeup before cleansing. 


Best for: Most (but some powders are better for specific skin states)

Another form of cleansing formulation to hit the beauty world in the past few years is the powder cleanser. These can be clay powders, grains, rice or oat powders (all of which are considered physical exfoliants) and enzymes within powders such as papaya and pineapple (which are considered acid/enzymatic exfoliants). They all have a mild exfoliating effect. 

When mixed with water, some powder cleansers may produce mild foaming or lathering effects; others may feel more like a creamy paste. These products tend to perform best when used 2-3 times a week in place of your regular cleanser. Oat and enzymatic powders perform well with almost all skin states, while clay and rice work best with combination and oily skin. 


Best for: All skin states

Micellar water has been a favorite in Europe and Asia for decades, and they’re catching on fast here in North America. The ease and convenience of micellar waters are incredibly appealing and safe for most skin states. 

This style of cleanser is usually used with cotton rounds or reusable face cloths. They’re very gentle and equally effective at removing dirt, makeup, and oil. Some formulations can double as a toner – who doesn’t love a multitasker?! While best results are achieved when used as the makeup-removing portion of a double-cleanse routine, they’re just fine when used alone. In fact, we would recommend micellar water and a cleansing cloth over face wipes when looking to clean in a hurry (as face wipes tend to spread dirt/bacteria all over the face and into pores).

*At the time of publishing this article, we are still in the process of finding and testing micellar waters that meet our standards of clean and performance. We will update this article once we have micellar water in stock.


Best for: Combination to dry 

Once considered a relic of the beauty past, balm, cream, and cold cream cleansers have made a comeback as some of the most nutritious and replenishing cleansing formulations around. They can be applied to a dry face and wiped away with a wet cloth or used on wet skin in the shower. They’re excellent at removing dirt and makeup and can be your only cleansing step, if you’re on the normal to dry/sensitive side. If you are a lover of bubbles, cream cleansers can make a great first step in a double-cleanse routine too. Creams work well for most skin states, including sensitive. Balms are best for dry skin, but combination and oily skin may benefit from using them as part of a double cleanse.

 If you’re not sure of the different states of your skin, don’t worry – we spent months figuring out how our software can best capture the different states of your face. Make sure to set up your profile if you haven’t already by visiting our homepage, and we’ll be happy to help you find cleansers that are best for your skin (plus, all of our new customers get a discount off of their first order)!

Hopefully we have made the wild world of cleansers a little easier to navigate, and piqued your curiosity into some cleansing styles you haven’t previously considered adding to your routine. Stay tuned for the next blog post in our Skincare 101 series: MOISTURIZERS!

To see any of the other posts in our Skincare 101 series, click on any of the links below:

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