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What is a Gentle Cleanser for Your Skin Barrier?

What is the skin microbiome and how does it relate to skin cleansing? Just as we have a gut microbiome that you may be familiar with, the skin has a microbiome of its own too. This microbiome, also referred to as the acid mantle or skin barrier, is a slightly acidic protective layer on the skin. The skin barrier includes and is composed of oils, fatty acids, lactic acid, amino acids, and cholesterol. And supports the skin’s own natural moisturizing factor.

The skin barrier functions as a protective barrier from pathogens, viruses and other external toxins that can potentially penetrate skin. In addition, the skin barrier protects the skin from transepidermal water loss, preventing skin dehydration. A balanced skin barrier is the number one external component of healthy skin.

A healthy skin barrier PH (potential hydrogen) of the skin should range between 5 – 5.5. This leaves skin soft, hydrated, protected and keeps skin activity stabilized. A proper skin PH also keeps desquamation, the skin’s natural shedding process, turning over at a healthy rate.

Our skin layers regenerate through a cycle of dividing, protecting and shedding. Improper cleansing and over exfoliating imbalances this process and removes dead skin cells called corneocytes prematurely. These are skin cells that stack like a brick wall and act like a protective barrier to keep hydration and moisture locked inside the skin.

Cleansing products that strip our skin barrier and create an alkaline surface, such as bar soaps, gels, foams, overly astringent ingredients and other heavy sudsing products damage your skin barrier.  Skin should never feel tight, dry, itchy or irritated after cleansing, as this is an immediate sign of skin barrier disruption. These products perpetuate the cycle of breakouts, acne, sensitized skin and a weakened skin barrier.

Gentle Cleanser with White Tea and Carrot Seed

Components of a healthy skin barrier act like natural moisturizers for the skin.

As the skin barrier weakens, skin becomes dry, dehydrated and vulnerable to inflammation and external pathogens. A weakened skin barrier accelerates the aging process due to inflammation and dehydration. Chronically inflamed skin is a killer of tissue and leads to premature collagen breakdown and sagging skin.

In the case of acne, a disrupted skin barrier or skin microbiome leaves the skin exposed to further bacteria-driven breakouts and skin inflammation. I’ve seen acne clients stuck in a cycle of using harsh and drying products for the skin, believing they will cleanse acne away by drying it up. This indeed perpetuates inflammation and quite the opposite approach is needed when treating acne.

Our bodies are always working towards a state of homeostasis. And removing our natural skin barrier triggers skin to produce more oil in order to protect itself. This innate overproduction of oil can clog pores and leave skin feeling like an oil slick by mid-day. Even though the root concern is actually due to a lack of oil from a stripping cleansing process.

If you’re still not convinced of how important gentle cleansers are, studies from the Journal of Dermatology have showed skin with a more alkaline outermost layer of the skin, called the stratum corneum, developed more fine lines, wrinkles and was more prone to sun damage than those with an acidic skin layer. An alkaline surface offers no protection from external aging pollutants and toxins.

With that being said….

What Is A Gentle Cleanser

A gentle and nourishing cleansing process will immediately begin to repair your skin barrier. Time and time again, I’ve watched clients skin transform and clean up chronic skin conditions by adjusting their cleansing process. If your skin is chronically dry and inflamed, the cleansing process must be addressed. And be sure to ditch cleansers that leave skin feeling dry or tight after use. A gentle cleanser keeps our skin microbiome nourished and is a foundational component of healthy skin. Cleansers for all skin types and conditions fall into 3 categories.

Oil Cleansing

I have seen the most phenomenal results with this oil cleansing in restoring clients complexions/acid mantle. Oils hydrate, balance natural sebum levels, soothe and calm skin, dissolve clogged pores and remove dirt and make-up without stripping the skin. Oil cleansing can be used for morning and evening routines.

Healthy fats and oils are the building blocks of cell communication throughout the body. Without fats and oils, cell membranes become rigid and communicate poorly between each other. Resulting in pre-mature skin aging, inflammation and dis-ease throughout the body on a cellular level.

Pure + E.O. Free Oil Cleanser

Marie Veronique Essential Oil Free Oil Cleanser

This oil cleanser is a unique product that has been formulated to mimic the skin barrier in order to replenish and rebuild even the most over sensitized and inflamed skin conditions. This product is superior for peri-oral dermatitis, facials psoriasis, and acne. Plus other inflammatory skin concerns, especially with the presence of dryness.

Josh Rosebrook Herbal Infusion Oil

An ideal oil cleanser with a balanced omega ratio and botanical blend for all skin types. It can be used to remove make-up, and oil cleanse. And also as a daily skin oil, making it a multi-functional product. Formulated with jojoba, hemp oil, calendula, marshmallow and green tea to name a few of its spectacular ingredients, I never saw a skin type in my treatment room that did not welcome their skin cleansed with this phenomenal formulation. 

Cream Cleansers

Creamy cleansers are not only for dry skin. They are sufficient for all skin types. It doesn’t matter what skin type or skin condition you may be experiencing. A well-formulated creamy or milky cleaners is highly capable of cleansing the skin, removing make-up, debris and sunblock.

Luminous Ceremony Cream Cleanser

Ranavat Luminous Ceremony Cream Cleanser

A stunning Ayurvedic infused cream to milk cleanser. Formulated with manjistha, sesame oil and rose essential oil, this cleanser removes make-up while deeply nourishing skin during the cleansing process.

Exfoliating Cleansers

Depending on individual skin, a gentle hydroxy acid cleanser can be beneficial to exfoliate and stimulate skin cell turnover without being abrasive to the skin. These formulations work to remove impurities, prevent breakouts, brighten complexions and also resurface the skin without stripping the skin barrier.

In the case of skin congestion, a well-formulated exfoliating cleanser can be used once a day to assist in unclogging pores. And to lessen breakouts without disrupting the skin barrier. For anti-aging and brightening the complexion, an exfoliating cleanser can assist in diminishing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, keep skin cells turning over at a healthy rate and overall brighten the skin.

Hydroxy acids and other exfoliating products should only be used during nighttime practices. And in combination with an effective sun protection routine. I recommend an a.m. routine of waking up and protecting skin for the day with hydrating and nourishing products. While p.m. routines are ideal for your active and targeted treatment products with exfoliating properties.

If skin is sensitized or inflammation is present, I recommend oil cleansing to begin restoring the skin barrier and microbiome before implementing hydroxy acid use.

Daily Exfoliating Cleanser

Marie Veronique Daily Exfoliating Cleanser

A textured cleanser formulated with adzuki bean powder to gentle exfoliate complexion without disrupting the skin barrier. The combination of gentle texture combined with lactic acid make this the perfect exfoliating cleanser without ever having to worry about aggravating the skin barrier.

After over a decade of treating my client’s skin, I can assure you that a nourishing and gentle cleansing process is the most important external practice for healthy skin. If you are experiencing dry skin, dehydration, inflammation or if skin is left uncomfortable after cleansing, it’s time to adjust your cleansing process.


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