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Important: About facial cleansing

Katja Kokko | 29.5.2015

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Today we will talk about my current favorite subject: facial cloths and facial cleansing. Possibly my biggest realization when it comes to skincare is: how to clean your face in the gentlest possible way, no matter what your skintype is.

For years I loved cleansers with fluffy creamy foam, because my skin was very oily, with enlarged pores and clogging on the cheeks and forehead. I would get blemishes every so often. At the same time I was talking about the importance of toners and serums, and how maintaining the balance of the hydro lipid barrier – the protecting film on the surface of the skin – is the biggest priority in skincare.

When we treat our skin, we are especially treating the barrier, the protecting film on the surface of the skin. Supporting this barrier is the number one thing in skincare. The surfactants found in foam and gel cleansers wash away the skin’s own oil-in-water emulsion, and even though a toner will restore the skin’s pH balance, there is no need to scrub your skin with these kind of products. They are the cause for many skin troubles, and will cause inbalances in oily skin as well. When you wash away the protecting barrier of your skin, you are asking for trouble – lack of moisture, loss of glow and elasticity and a messed up sebum production.

Many people who don’t have problems with clogged pores and blemishes don’t realize that their skin could be even more beautiful if they used a gentler cleanser – the secret is not always the most expensive serums. I should mention that atopic and extremely thin and dry skin lacks this protective barrier altogether, so anyone with this skin type should avoid foams, gels and soaps. Then again – I think everyone should.

Among cosmetologists, there are many schools of thought when it comes to this subject, but nowadays I definitely root for gentle efficiency. You can rinse out make up and impurities just as efficiently with gentler products, and avoid disrupting the balance of the hydro lipid barrier.

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The main reason consumers love foaming cleansers is that we think skin isn’t clean until it feels “squeaky clean”. As if this is the right kind of clean feeling on the skin, and if your skin is left soft we think it’s oily and dirty. So we think a cleansing milk, balm, cream or oil won’t remove makeup, dirt and sebum efficiently enough. Or we think the product gets clogged inside the pores and we can’t remove it as thoroughly as a foaming cleanser.

Foam contains compounds that lower surface tension, and therefore it will first remove dirt and oil (also the skin’s own, beneficial oil) and after that rinse out easily with water. Nowadays some cleansing milks and oils also contain ingredients that help rinse them out with water easily, but my biggest epiphany is to use a facial towel or a cloth with these gentler cleansing products. In fact, a facial towel is necessary with many cleansing balms and oils. A towel is also the answer when using gentle products for enlarged pores and oily skin – without a towel these products might not feel “that efficient”.

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This is of course not a new invention. Cosmetologists use warm compresses – towels dipped in warm water – to remove products during facial treatments. When I made towels a part of my home skincare routine as well, the wonderful world of facial cleansing opened up, there were fireworks and fairy dust, my skin started to glow like never before and the clogged pores on my cheeks finally disappeared.

You have no idea how stupid I felt when I realized I hadn’t thought of this before. So, dear friends, after this long introduction, let me present to you a couple of different facial towels. Nowadays I have quite a collection for different purposes. Cleansing sponges, especially the very popular konjac sponges, are also good for removing cleansers – though not my personal favorite. Facial cloths remove cleansers all the way from pores and lines, gently exfoliate the skin and work as facial compresses that open up the pores. The cloth should be washed after each use, using soap and water.

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Sometimes clients will say they don’t want to use towels because it takes up too much time. Seriously? Put on a timer and think: are you really not willing to invest a bit of time each day in the well-being of your skin? Spend five minutes less on social media. I always say that if you take shortcuts, you can expect results according to that.

My favorite towels are:

Muslin cloth by The Organic Pharmacy: This is my favorite along with the cloth from Neal’s Yard Remedies. This one by The Organic Pharmacy is thick and the most coarse out of the bunch (but definitely not scratchy). I use this for rich and heavy balms, such as May Lindstrom Honey Mud, The Organic Pharmacy Carrot Butter and Neal’s Yard Remeries Wild Rose Beauty Balm. It’s also good for Juice Beauty Cleansing Oil.

I dip the towel in hot water (naturally not scorching hot), press it on my face and let it sit there for a while, so the warmth will activate the ingredients on the cleanser, open up pores and bring out the aromatic scents – thus turning cleansing my face into an aromatherapeutic session. If your skin is very delicate and sensitive, I recommend using the face cloth by Neal’s Yard Remedies, which is gentler. You should also avoid using a cloth this exfoliating after using a fruit acid peel.

Neal’s Yard Remedies Muslin Face Cloth: This cloth is included when you buy Neal’s Yard Remedies Wild Rose Beauty Balm or Frankincense Refining Cleanser, but it’s also sold separately. This cloth is thinner and gentler than the one by The Organic Pharmacy and it’s suitable for all skin types and all types of cleansers. I use this when I want to use a lighter cloth, especially when removing masks. This cloth is not suitable for removing a fruit acid peel.

Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Cotton Flannel: this organic cotton facial towel is very soft and works like a facial compress. You can use this to remove all kinds of cleansers and masks and use it as an all purpose facial towel (I hope you never use the same towel for your hands and face!). I use this to remove masks, and as an everyday facial towel.

Balmuir linen facial towel: The size of these linen waffle cloth towels (30×30 cm) is perfect for using as an all-purpose facial towel and removing cleansers. This one is very soft and works for sensitive skin as well.

Patyka Cleansing Towel: the towel by Patyka is very soft and smooth, perfect for atopic, delicate and sensitive skin. This towel is the only one I would recommend for removing fruit acid peels, because this will not exfoliate your skin at all, and is therefore gentle enough to use after a strong exfoliating treatment.

So there, I have spoken. Hopefully I didn’t sound too imperative! In the end, everyone should do whatever works for them. Next time I will introduce you to my all time favorite cleansers – though I reserve the right to change my mind if I discover something new in a year or so.

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Pictures Katja Kokko

Translation Eeva Kolu

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  1. This advice is the single best advice I have ever received on skin care. In only 2 weeks my skin looks COMPLETELY different and I haven’t been using any fancy expensive anti-ageing products or serums or anything else. I am amazed! Thank you!

  2. I’m currently obsessed with Cleansing Balms after I was give the Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm as a gift this Christmas. The ritual of it is such a happy time out of the day for just a few minutes but it feels so much kinder on my skin too! Thank you so much for the advice on different cloths too xo

    • Thank your for your comment! I always get so happy when someone is leaving a comment here in the English version of my blog! Haven’t heard before about this brand, but I checked it out. Lot of good ingredients but also lot of synthetic. But happy that you found cleansing balms, they are wonderful cleansers 🙂