In my days as a practicing pharmacist, I was frequently called upon to give advice to young adults who were concerned about acne and sometimes, associated dermatitis.
There are very good acne treatments available, but I have since became concerned about the role of two products we commonly sell in conjunction with acne treatment – cleansers and toners.
It is obvious that the foaming surfactants and volatile alcohols in many inexpensive cleansers, are extremely good at dissolving and removing lipids or oils.
Acne prone skin is frequently oily and consequently, it is natural to want cleansers that instantly remove oil and sebum.
Unfortunately, the skin responds by producing more, rather than less sebum and lipids, and this encourages an aggressive cleansing cycle that has an inevitable and undesirable outcome – increased inflammation.
If we also consider how sebum and sweat, combine with the phospholipid layer and the keratinocytes to form the protective wall that is the skin’s natural barrier, it is also clear that some cleansers and toners are responsible for damaging that barrier every time they are used.
The outcome of that damage is a greater opportunity for unwanted bacteria to invade, which is exactly what we don’t want.
In this regard, recent consumer research confirmed what we have all observed – that where consumers will spend freely on anti-ageing creams or serums, there is reluctance to spend on cleansing products.
Indeed, the research showed that 48% of the typical spend on cleansers, is on products less than $15, and that cleansers under $24, account for 70% of purchases.
This is a problem because many inexpensive cleansers and toners use aggressive surfactants and volatile alcohols, presumably because they respond perfectly to the misguided consumer demand for ‘squeaky clean’ skin, and a low-cost product.