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“Cleansers that do not foam are not good. They cannot clean just as well as a bubbly skin cleanser or soap.”

If you believe this, you cannot be blamed. Through the years, print ads and TV commercials have been miseducating the public. Products are being sold on the basis of having the most foam. “More foam means more cleaning power,” the ads would claim. Perhaps, but does your skin really need to be squeaky clean? 

Let’s take a look at the science behind skin cleansers. The purpose of a skin cleanser is to clean off the oil, debris, and makeup that accrue during a normal day. To do that, all soaps or cleansers work by a process called “micellation.” Through “micellation,” big substances such as oil or dirt are broken into smaller ones so they can rinse off the skin easily.

Two ingredients make this possible. A fat derived ingredient (fatty acid) attaches to the oils on the skin and dissolves them, while an alkaline substance makes it possible to rinse the tiny particles off the skin. Today, most cleansers use synthetic surfactants which are cheaper and easier to manufacture. The most commonly used surfactants are sulfates, such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Sulfates efficiently remove oils, dirt, and makeup. However, they cannot distinguish between the good and the bad oils on the skin, resulting in over cleansing. They leave your skin feeling dry. Once the skin senses dryness, the oil glands are activated to produce more oil. This disturbs the natural moisture balance of skin. Oily skin becomes even more oily. Dry skin becomes more sensitive.

The better alternative is to use a mild cleanser. DERMAX gel cleansers use natural soap berry extract and coconut derived coco betaine as cleansing agents. They contain no harsh sulfates, no toxic parabens, and no fragrances that can irritate skin.

Another option is to use an oil-based cleanser such as Pure Bliss Squalane Oil. It dissolves the sebaceous oils without harming the skin’s moisture barrier. You can use cotton pad soaked with squalane oil to remove makeup. There is no need to rinse. This leaves the skin moisturized. The skin is not left dry so the sebaceous glands do not have to go into overdrive to produce more sebum.

How can you tell if your cleanser has harsh surfactants? It foams a lot. The sulfates create the foams in cleansers. You don’t need foam from sulfates. You don’t need anything that’s too powerful yet harsh on your skin.

DERMAX Gel Cleansers are guaranteed sulfate-free and gentle on your skin.
Pure Bliss Organic Squalane Oil moisturizes and enhances suppleness. ECOCERT

This article appeared in The Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section on April 14, 2015. The author is Fred Reyes, a cosmetic chemist and scientist, and the CEO of DERMAX and SkinStation, two leading skin clinic chains in the Philippines. He was awarded the Outstanding Professional in Chemistry in 2011 by the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC). He can be reached at
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