Beauty bi­ble

When it comes to cleans­ing, gen­tly does it

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Lisa Arm­strong

CLEANS­ING. You’d think we all know how to do this. I was given my first cleans­ing milk for my 12th birth­day (fru­gal times, folks) and, bar two nights we won’t go into, I’ve never missed a date with my nightly rit­ual since.

In the in­ter­ven­ing decades, while cleans­ing has, for­tu­nately, never gone out of fash­ion, the po­tions that do the job have come and gone in fad­dish waves. Our grand­moth­ers’ gen­er­a­tion had cold cream and mine had milks, fol­lowed by Clin­ique’s as­trin­gent lit­tle num­bers. Then there were the foamers, the balms, the oils and, lately, the oils that emul­sify into milks.

It’s not the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of a rel­a­tively sim­ple, in­stinc­tive act that both­ers me – many of the lo­tions out there are won­der­ful – as much as the ob­fus­ca­tion of it. In the past 20 years, we’ve been sold all kinds of lore about skin-cleans­ing that isn’t do­ing any good, and ac­tu­ally may be do­ing harm.

The idea, for in­stance, that your com­plex­ion should feel tight or tingly af­ter you’ve cleansed is just wrong. As is the no­tion – al­most a doc­trine, with some skin ex­perts – that you need to re­move lay­ers of cells. Fact: you have 20 lay­ers of cells. Fact: most of them are ei­ther al­most dead or dead. But this doesn’t mean you don’t need them. Skin that’s func­tion­ing as na­ture in­tends takes about 28 days from new cells to over and done with. But many prod­ucts on the mar­ket to­day are de­signed to speed that up be­cause – guess what? – baby cells look fresher than the old dears do on day 27 of their ex­is­tence.

‘All those lay­ers are there for pro­tec­tion,’ says fa­cial­ist Alexan­dra Soveral. ‘If your skin is healthy, its acid mantle – which is a blend of per­spi­ra­tion and se­bum – has a ph level of around 5.5 and it thrives on those dead and dy­ing cells. Un­like your gut, your skin should be slightly acidic. If you start slough­ing off its top lay­ers, you’re com­pro­mis­ing it as an en­vi­ron­ment in which good bac­te­ria can form.’

Soveral gets hot un­der her white lab­coat col­lar about all the retinols, gly­colic acids, ben­zoyl per­ox­ides, fruit acids and sal­i­cylic acids that are in to­day’s cleansers. ‘There are con­sumers who feel that, if they’re not us­ing some­thing quite harsh, they’re not do­ing the job prop­erly,’ she says. ‘The ini­tial re­sult might be smooth, shiny skin, but you pay the price when it sim­ply be­comes thin­ner.’

She rec­om­mends us­ing a creamy or milky cleanser to re­move make-up and daily dirt – ide­ally with a mild, nat­u­ral an­ti­sep­tic such as laven­der. Two or three times a week, coun­sels Soveral, mas­sage with an oil or balm for a deeper cleanse – the fat in it will bind with the lipids in the skin to draw out im­pu­ri­ties. A light mist of a gen­tle toner, and some oil or mois­turiser and you’re done. We’re over­load­ing our skin with chem­i­cals, peo­ple. It’s time to stop.

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