which cleanser right skin type

Which Cleanser Is Right For My Skin Type?

There are three basic types of cleanser – 1)soaps; 2) surfactant (or detergent) cleansers; and 3) soap-free (or oil) cleansers. It may be difficult to know which cleanser is right for your skin type, with all of the choices available. Below are the basic differences to help you choose.


Soaps can be divided into bar soaps and liquid soaps. Soaps have been around for thousands of years. Essentially, a soap is classified as a product created by combining an oil or fat with lye, or sodium hydroxide. If this process doesn’t occur, it can’t be called a soap. An example would be WEBA’s Lavender/Rosemary Bar Soap. Soaps tend to be more basic, with a pH between 10 and 12, depending upon how much sodium hydroxide is left behind and whether or not they are “superfatted.” Unlike our bar soaps, which retain glycerin and use premium butters like cocoa and shea, commercial soaps remove the glycerin for sale. It’s important to read labels; not all bar soaps are created equal. Bar soaps travel well and cost less to use than liquid soaps.

Liquid soaps are made by combining fats or oils with potash, or potassium hydroxide. This is a “hot process” reaction – the ingredients are heated for a period of time until the reaction is done, after which water is added. If less water is added, you have a gel. More water produces a thinner formula. These also tend to be more basic. A major difference between liquid and bar soaps is that with liquid soaps, a preservative must be added due to the high water content. Again, read labels to see what preservatives or other ingredients are used.

Soaps, because they clean so well, are generally fine for people with combination or oily skin, although soaps can have ingredients added to them which make them more moisturizing for all skin types. Many also find liquid soaps convenient and more hygienic than bar soaps. It’s really a matter of personal preference.

Surfactant (detergent) cleansers

Surfactant cleansers include detergents (e.g. dish detergent, laundry detergent) and are generally synthetics (made in a lab). Many of the “Beauty Bars” are, in fact, a combination of surfactants formed into a bar under high pressure. Some surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate have fallen into disrepute lately, but there are other naturally-derived surfactants like Coco Betaine, which cleans more gently compared with soaps. These tend to be better for persons with problem skin (acne, ezcema, etc.). This class of cleansers is popular in shampoos, as well, because many have conditioning properties.

Soap-free (oil) cleansers

Soap-free cleansers can include oil-free cream and oil cleansers. They are good for dry, combination and oily skin and are good at removing makeup. Oil-free cleansers consist entirely of surfactants, some synthetic and some naturally-derived, with perhaps a wax and conditioning agents. Reading the labels on these products can be confusing because of the chemical names. What is polyethylene? (A plastic resin). What is Methyl Lactate? (A solvent.) It can also be difficult to determine whether ingredients come from plants or animals. Most have water as their first ingredients, necessitating a preservative. And just because these products are soap-free doesn’t mean that you can’t react to one or more ingredients. Companies are required to provide common names on their labels; you can search for information about an ingredient if you’re not sure what it is.

Oil cleansers are also soap-free, but usually contain a combination of oils along with other beneficial ingredients. Again, check the label if you want to be sure that you’re not sensitive to an ingredient like nuts or certain essential oils. One example of an oil cleanser is our Whole Earth Body Actives Gentle Facial Cleansing Oil and Makeup Remover. Ours is free of essential oils, perfumes and dyes. These also tend to be used exclusively for the face, unlike other cleansers. They tend to be less irritating to the eyes.

Our recommendation? It’s probably best to use a variety of cleansers, depending on your family’s skincare needs and their particular use. For travel, bar soaps are best. When skin is dry, try a cream cleanser. To remove makeup and excess oils, try an oil cleanser. Regardless of which you choose, always check labels so you know what is going on your skin, and to avoid irritation.

Aussie Soap Supplies article on surfactants
FDA webpage on ingredient names and labeling

Can body oils be good for all skin types? Naturally.

Here’s proof that what’s old is new again. Multi-purpose body oils have been on the scene for the past few years, and their popularity hasn’t diminished. From Dry Oils and Face Oils to Massage Oils and Cleansing oils, there’s no denying that an ancient practice is here to stay.

History is full of stories of ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians who used oils like castor, sesame, olive, and sweet almond to keep skin supple and beautiful. They were an integral part of their skincare rituals and some were even precursors to modern formulations like Pond’s Cold Cream.

Some might still believe that oil-based skincare is only good for dry skin, but that’s not so. The vast variety of plant-based oils available today promise benefits to all skin types, from dry to oily to problem skin. How can these oils provide benefits to the skin? I’ll begin with a few major carrier oils:

Dry or mature skin can benefit from olive, coconut, almond and sesame oils. Their fatty acids provide effective moisturization. Coconut oil may clog pores in some individuals, so test them with small amounts to find the one that works best.

Normal and combination skin can benefit from avocado, hemp seed, meadowfoam seed, argan, and babassu oils. These oils can penetrate the skin quickly and nourish skin with oleic and linoleic fatty acids and Vitamins C and E. Argan oil has been used in Morocco for centuries.

Oily skin can benefit from jojoba, pomegranate, flax seed and baobab oils. They help maintain the skin’s acid mantle and help prevent cell membrane breakdown. Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax that closely resembles our skin’s own sebum.

Other oils that have come on the scene can treat specific skin problems. Rosehip oil is rich with antioxidants and can help restore moisture to stressed, tired skin. Black cumin oil is anti-inflammatory and can help with skin conditions like acne. Tamanu oil from Madagascar has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Oils can be good for the hair, as well. While the keratin structure of hair is different from living skin tissue, many problems with frizzy, dry, or flyaway hair can be remedied with just a few drops of a nourishing oil like olive, coconut, castor, or argan oil. You can also find oil combinations that lend various properties to a product. The secret is in experimenting to find what works best for your particular hair type.

There are many ways to use the new multi-purpose oils, which is what makes them so handy to have around. They can be used as gentle cleansers, for makeup removal, and to hair wet or dry. Our own Dry Oil with Lavender and Bergamot oils works as a multi-purpose oil – good for massage, to condition dry strands, or as an after-shower oil. A little goes a long way, saving busy consumers times and money. By trying them out, you’re bound to find one that you love. Find out for yourself why body oils can be good for all skin types.

Intothegloss.com article on face oil