How the skin works

By Bobbi Brown

The purpose of cleansing is to remove bacteria, make-up and the dirt, sweat and oil that builds up on the skin each day. At least once a day, the skin needs to be cleaned with a formula that does not strip the skin of its natural oils.

Familiarity with these options will allow you to make the right choice
based on your skin condition and type. Look for ingredients like wheat
germ oil, which cleans without stripping and glycerin which attracts
moisture to the skin’s surface.


Eye makeup removers – remove eye makeup quickly and easily without harsh tugging or wiping. Look for oil-free, water based formulas gentle enough for all skin types.

Long-wear makeup removers – quickly and gently remove long-wearing and waterproof makeup. Look for products safe for contact lens wearers. They can generally be used for removal of lipstick and mascara or eyeliner.

Cream Cleansers – see below.


Soap – will deeply clean the skin and leave it feeling thoroughly cleansed and refreshed. Look for glycerin or cold cream soaps formulated specifically for the face.

Glycerin – creates a moisture cushion on the skin and a soft feel. Soap is best for oily skin types. Do not use body or bath soaps, especially antibacterial soap. It will strip the skin and leave it feeling tight and dry.

Gel Cleansers – typically foam or lather during use. These cleansers are formulated to dissolve oil buildup and fight blemish-causing bacteria without stripping the skin.They are best for oily or combination skin types that are prone to breakouts.

Cream cleansers – are lightweight, water-based formulas that clean without leaving residue. These products contain oils and emollients along with cleansing ingredients and are recommended for normal to dry skin types.

Oil Cleansers – work best on the driest of skins.

Balm Cleansers – condition and moisturise the skin while cleansing. They leave a moisturising cushion on the skin and are suitable for all skin types except oily.

Exfoliating cleansers – sometimes contain alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic or salicylic acid, and can be used several times a week to encourage cell turnover and dead skin removal. These products are gentle enough for all skin types.

Some exfoliating cleansers contain beads or grains that loosen dead surface skin cells. These manual exfoliants should be used twice a week in place of the daily cleanser.

Treatment masks – provide intensive supplements to the regular cleansing regimen. Oily and blemish-prone skin will benefit from the application of a clay mask, which helps draw out impurities, reduce blackheads and dry up excess oil.

Dry skin, or any skin type that has been exposed to strong sun or wind can be rejuvenated with a creamy hydrating mask.

Masks containing cucumber, chamomile, aloe or calendula are naturally soothing and good for irritated skin.

Steaming the skin – helps to remove impurities, stimulate circulation and opens the pores. Herbs, such as lavender or thyme, added to a steam treatment stimulate the skin. Streaming can be helpful for all skin types.

Massage – stimulates circulation and helps to relax the facial muscles, giving the face a smooth and lifted look.


Toners stimulate circulation in the skin, remove any remaining dead skin cells or greasiness and give the skin a smooth texture.

Toners can be helpful for those who have very oily skin or who wear lots of makeup.

Use a toner after cleansing the skin or as an interim cleanser to remove dirt and oil. During the summer, toners can be especially useful, as the skin is more oily and tends to attract more dirt and bacteria.

Toners help to restore the skins natural pH balance.

While no cosmetic product can change the size of your pores, toners and astringents can make them appear smaller. These products work by very slightly irritating the skin, causing it to swell, making pores less noticeable.

To apply toner, pat the skin with a cotton ball soaked in the product of choice. You can also spray toner onto the face. Of course, cold water can be splashed on the face instead.


Alcohol and water are the major ingredients in many skin fresheners, astringents and toners. Other ingredients can include witch hazel, glycerin, rose water, vinegar, alum, boric acid, menthol, camphor and other herbs.

The major difference in the products is the amount of alcohol they contain.

Alcohol strips the naturally occurring oils skin needs to be healthy, so look for a product without alcohol if you have dry skin.

Cold treatment – with a splash of cold water is the best toner and can be used on any skin type. It closes the pores and improves the skin’s texture.

Skin fresheners – are very mild and contain water, such humectants as glycerin or rose water, and very little alcohol (less than 10 per cent).

Humectants help prevent the evaporation of moisture from the skin. These products are very gentle and are especially good for sensitive, dry and normal skin.

Skin tonics are stronger, containing water, humectants and up to 20 per cent alcohol. Tonics are for normal, combination or oily skin.

Astringents contain water, humectants, up to 60 per cent alcohol and antiseptics. These are drying and only suitable for very oily skin or for application to a specific problem area. Witch hazel is an astringent.


Secure hair off the face with a headband or elastic.

When removing makeup, it is often necessary to cleanse using a multi-step process.

Start with a makeup remover, or cream and remove with a tissue. This will dissolve a lot of the makeup.

Avoid the delicate eye area, which can be easily irritated. There are makeup removers specifically formulated for this area. Take a cotton pad dampened with the product and rest or press it gently around the closed eye. Wipe lightly. Do not tug or pull on the eye or surrounding skin.

Apply an appropriate cleanser to the entire face. Massage the product into your skin with an upward, circular motion. Include the neck, under the ear lobes and the chin.

Rinse the entire face with the softest natural-fibre towels you can find.

Pat the face dry.


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