How many times have we read that facial cleansing is a fundamental step? Let’s find out why.

For all other treatments to be effective, they need to be applied to properly cleansed skin. But what does it mean specifically? How does a facial cleanser affect our skincare routine? How often should cleansing be done and how to choose the most suitable product for us?

Why cleansing is important

Facial cleansing helps to remove not only make-up and dirt, but also dead cells, excess sebum, sweat, cell debris, smog. If not performed, the accumulation of all these elements can help make it dull and thick, can make the pores clogged and cause inflammation.

That’s why it should be done twice a day:

  • in the morning to remove evening skincare residues, sweat, dust,
  • in the evening to remove make-up and dirt

It goes without saying that cleansing and removing make-up are not exactly the same thing, or rather, both actions are aimed at cleaning the skin, but the product used cannot be the same.

A make-up remover is specially formulated to remove make-up, so it will be a cosmetic with a high surfactant content or a lot of oils and butters. Obviously in removing make up, it will also be able to remove dirt.

The cleanser, on the other hand, is not always able to remove make-up as well, both in terms of formulation and consistency. This is why it is necessary that the make-up remover function be made explicit.

Needless to say: water is not enough to cleanse, precisely because it fails to remove the oily part, to which dirt often clings, which only comes away through surfactants.

How cleansing works

In general, cleansers are primarily composed of substances called surfactants which are equipped with a lipophilic head and a hydrophobic tail that arrange themselves around the dirt, incorporate it and with rinsing or mechanical removal are thus able to clean the skin.

Cleansing can thus be divided into two types:

  • cleansing by affinity: it takes place for the concept that similar dissolves similar, oils and butters are therefore able to dissolve sebum and dirt attached to it and remove them from the skin with delicacy. They are sometimes enriched with emulsifiers (surfactants) that facilitate the removal of the product with water and avoid greasy residues on the skin
  • cleansing by contrast: they use more or less delicate surfactants on the skin that absorb dirt (both lipophilic, hydrophilic and solid) and remove it from the skin by rinsing or mechanically.

The two steps can also be performed in sequence, with two distinct products, in this case we speak about double cleansing.

What and how many types of cleansers are there?

There are many types of cleansers and make-up removers, which vary not only in consistency but also in formulation. Here are the most common forms:

  • Oils, butters and ointments: composed of only oils and butters, or mixed with more or less delicate surfactants, they are able to clean the skin by affinity and thanks to accessories or emulsifiers they are easily removed from the skin, without leaving residues.
  • Cleansing milk: fluid emulsion composed of both oils and water. Contains surfactants capable of removing makeup and impurities without the need for rinsing.
  • Cleansing cream: similar to milk, but with a denser consistency, it differs from the milk because it needs water to remove make-up and dirt from the skin.
  • Gel: aqueous, viscous formulation, generally indicated for morning cleansing.
  • Mousse: waters or very light emulsions that become mousse thanks to the pump of the packaging in which they are inserted.
  • Micellar water: soapy water, containing surfactants (micelles) capable of collecting dirt and removing it with a mechanical support (cotton pad).
  • Biphase make-up remover: indicated for the eyes and lips, it consists of a separate aqueous and an oily phase. It should be shaken before use and is indicated for removing long-lasting make-up.
  • Soap: solid detergent made with a saponification process starting from vegetable fats. It generally has a very high pH.
  • Syndet (or non-soap soap): soap-shaped or liquid detergents that differ from normal soaps because they are not produced with saponification.
  • Cleansing powders: they can be composed of clays, starches, cosmetic powders but also enzymatic exfoliants, they become milk or foam when mixed with water.
  • Make-up remover wipes: mechanical support soaked in detergent to remove make-up, dirt and impurities

How to choose the right cleanser

In addition to choosing the most suitable formulation for the moment of cleansing and the type of make-up we usually wear, there is an important factor that can be used as a yardstick to understand if the cleanser is suitable for us: the post-rinse sensation.

The skin should not stretch, burn, redden or have a greasy residue.

It must be fresh, soft and comfortable.


Laura Portomeo

• Make Up Artist – 

• Founder del Network Le Tentazioni – 

• Founder di Lace Beauty – 


  • Penazzi, Come sono fatti i cosmetici, Edra, Milano, 2020.
  • Borellini, Manuale di cosmetologia, Edra, Milano, 2018

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