Woman Seeking: Cleansers and Exfoliants

Having a proper skincare routine is your first step towards having or keeping a clear complexion, and controlling any issues you might have (at least skin wise!). With the thousands of facial soaps and exfoliating treatments on the market, though, it can be overwhelming. Today we’ll be going over Cleansing 101 with basic tips I’ve picked up over the years.


One of the first things I’d like to address is the dreaded “Over.” I’ve found those with problematic skin are not usually the ones being lazy, but rather overdoing everything. It’s important, just like diet or exercise or Netflix, to keep everything in moderation. Over washing, over exfoliating, and over treating will hurt way more than it will help. So while the urge might be to wash your face once an hour to keep any oil at bay, or to scrub as hard as you can to get baby soft skin, this will generally come back to haunt you.

In my last post, I also mentioned I did a lot of waiting. When trying something new, whether you’re adding a new product or taking away a product you don’t think is helping, it’s a good idea to give your skin enough time to get used to the change. I like to give myself 3 weeks to a month before I start really looking for a difference. Also, especially when trying new products, you may go through what is commonly referred to as a “purging period.” This is usually a good thing, even if it looks bad. For example, when I went off a facial disc that I had been using regularly for nearly two months, my skin stayed in good shape for the first couple of weeks because the discs had done a good job of keeping my skin clean. So it took a few weeks of dirt and grime to build up before I started getting zits. After a few weeks of being off the discs, I realized how much of a difference they made. So I went back on them. About a week later my skin started getting even MORE breakouts. If I didn’t give it time, I would have pitched ’em and that would have thrown my skin into chaos again. Instead, knowing they did work and I was simply in the purging period, I kept with it, and now about a month later, I am nearly break out free. That’s not to say to keep using a product you hate. If you’re having a reaction to a product or can’t stand the smell/feel, discontinue using it, by all means. But if you buy a new cleanser and use it for a week and are bummed you don’t see results, simply be patient. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across a one star review for a product with the writer complaining they used it for a week and were upset because it made them break out even more. I always wonder if they had kept with it, how it would have worked for them. It’s hard and frustrating, but giving yourself time to adjust can make the biggest difference. This is also true when it comes to samples! If you follow my Instagram (womanseekingmakeup, same as the blog!), you know I love me some samples! But I’m very careful to only test them when my regular routine has been established. I also take care to know what products are supposed to give me immediate results (like masks and exfoliants) and which products are supposed to work with regular use (cleansers, moisturizers, eye cream, etc). I may try a sample of a new cleanser, but it is more to get my immediate reaction (do I like the smell? The feel? Is it easy to use?) as opposed to see any difference. If I don’t like a product from a sample, I know not to waste my money for a full bottle to do an actual test. When testing something new, I will only test one new thing at a time. If I test both a cleanser and a moisturizer together, how do I know which thing my skin doesn’t agree with? Maybe the cleanser alone would be fine, but it’s the mix giving me pimples. It’s a slow process, I admit. But it will save you a LOT of grief and money in the end.

To start, it’s good to wash your face twice a day using a mild cleanser. Skin shouldn’t feel tight after you finish washing your face. A mild cleanser helps clean off what you need without stripping your skin. If you strip your skin to the point it feels tight, your skin will go into overdrive and will send bucketloads of oil to you face to compensate. Which will clog your pores and give you breakouts. Whiiich will make you want to try an even harsher cleanser and wash more often. Which will make your acne worse. It’s a vicious cycle. How long you wash your face is also important. If you splash your face a couple times with water, throw on some cleanser, then rinse quickly, your results are going to be subpar. I prefer to wash my face with just my hands (no washcloth or face brush) for at the very least a full minute, which may not sound like a long time but time yourself and you may be surprised! This really allows time for my cleanser to get in and break up dirt and grime, as well as ensure I’m hitting every single area. Remember to not just wash your cheeks and forehead, but nose, sides of your face, and down your neck as well. I also spend plenty of time rinsing. I want to make sure I clean off every last bit of soap and residue. I try to aim for a 30 seconds to a minute of this as well.


I’m a big fan of Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser, as well as their Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. I think they both work well, for me it boils down to a personal preference. I typically use the hydrating formula during the winter months and the foaming formula in the summer months, but clearly this is not a steadfast rule as I pulled the foaming formula out of my shower to take this picture…and it’s January. Another option I really like is Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash. I pay the exact same price for both Purpose and Neutrogena for the same fl. oz., but for those times I’m a little strapped for cash, Purpose also makes a smaller version for about half the cost, so I’ll grab that. All are gentle enough to use both morning at night, and do a pretty good job of removing any makeup I’m wearing, except waterproof eye makeup.

If there is ever a time that is most important to wash your face, it’s before bed. You face endures pollution, makeup, sweat, and everything else all day long. Do you really want it to seep in during the night too? I think not. It’s also really good to rinse off after any kind of workout. Letting your sweat sit on your skin can lead to unwanted pimples and make you itchy! When I go to the gym, I’ve gotten into the habit of doing either an extra long cool down stretching session once I’m finished, or taking a spin in the massage chairs, so that my body has time to cool down and stop producing sweat. Then I hit the showers. You don’t necessarily have to go through your whole routine, that you can save for later, just make sure you rinse off that top layer of yuck. If possible, it’s good to try and have your shower be midrange when it comes to the temperature, too. I know a lot of people are fans of the super hot scalding shower, but remember it’s super hot scalding your skin cells. Ouch!


Now, I am human. There are days I am absolutely exhausted and the thought of getting up and going to my bathroom to splash water and soap on my face is so extremely unappealing. There are a couple of products I use in this situation. The first is facial cleansing wipes. Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of face wipes. I don’t think hey do a great job and don’t recommend them as a regular part of you skincare routine. However, it’s better to use one of these babies than to use nothing at all. Face wipes are also super handy to have for travel when bringing your entire bottle of face wash for one measly night isn’t practical. They’re also amazing to have in your purse for those days you go on a swatching spree in Sephora! On days I am wearing a full face of makeup, I will also precleanse using a facial wipe to remove most of my makeup, before going in and washing my face with my cleanser as I would normally, so my face wash can do a better job and not have to penetrate so many layers. And while I think it’s super important to shower as soon as you’re done after working out or any sports team practice or game, at the very least keep a pack of these handy and wipe down your face, neck, and chest. I know some schools or facilities don’t have showers, so this will help tide you over til you can get home and get a proper shower.


The PuretĂ© Thermale 3-in-1 Calming Cleansing Micellar Solution is one of my favorite products ever. It does almost everything. I can use it before I wash my face as a makeup remover, I can use it after I wash my face as a toner, and I can use it in place of my cleanser for days I’m super lazy, or in the morning when I feel using soap might be a little too harsh. You can also use this to spot clean your brushes. Many times I use this in conjunction with my wipes as well. I really don’t think wipes do a great job at cleaning, so if I choose to use a wipe for some reason (those times I forget to buy a new bottle of cleanser when I’ve run out, perhaps?), I will follow up with this to get anything my wipe may have left behind. Micellar waters, also known as cleansing waters, are starting to gain popularity here in the US, so they are getting easier to find, as well as cheaper than before. They are still more than a typical facial cleanser, so I use this sparingly. They are also supposed to be uber gentle, and don’t require rinsing. Simply put onto a cotton pad and wipe. This is what I use to remove my eye makeup, and it does a terrific job on even my waterproof formulas of mascara.


While cleansing is important, it’s also important to regularly clear away the dead skin cells with some thing a bit stronger than a cleanser. Personally, I prefer a chemical exfoliation over a physical one (like using a washcloth – which is why I don’t use one with my cleanser, it is an exfoliant – or a scrub). That being said, I will use a physical one from time to time. If you can acne prone or sensitive skin, I recommend exfoliating just a one or two times a week, especially when using a scrub. Scrubs can irritate any flare ups you have. When using a scrub or even a washcloth, it’s still important to be gentle. Let the scrub do it’s job. Pressing harder or rubbing more vigorously is going to leave your skin feeling raw and over exfoliated. If you are looking for a daily scrub, however, the Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub is a good bet. While this may not work for everyone, it’s important to find what works for you, and if you have pretty normal skin with light or occasional breakouts, this may be your perfect solution.


If you’ve read my Skin Story, you know it took a while for me to get back into using cleansers. When I did, I started with the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle one I mentioned above. Alone, it helped, but just wasn’t doing all that I needed. I ended up going to a Clinique counter a purchasing all three steps of their system. Now, I loved it. It worked amazing well. It is pricy, but the bottles lasted forever and I felt it was a good deal. There were a couple aspects I didn’t love, however. During the winter, my skin felt a little tight. It also had a HUGE alcohol content. After finishing it up I decided I really didn’t want to use products with such a high alcohol content. I went back to my trusty Neutrogena, and tried their alcohol-free toner. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. I felt like it did nothing. Somehow I heard about the Glycolic Fix line from Nip+Fab. I liked that they had resurfacing as well as brightening properties in their facial pads, and decided to give it a go. Once I had used up the container, I was on the fence. I hasn’t really had any breakouts, but somehow wasn’t sure if it had done anything, so I put off repurchasing. Two weeks later I was getting pimples again, and realized the discs were doing more than I realized. This is now what I use for exfoliating. One side has little bumps, and the other side of the disc is smooth. Usually I use the smooth side and let the chemicals do the work, but occasionally I’ll use the bumpy side if I’m feeling my skin needs a bit of a boost. I also like that they aren’t acne fighting. Sometimes you get too many acne fighting products going and they kill your skin. It says you can use this up to twice a day, but I only use it in the evening.


If I’m really needing a good scrub, I will grab for this, which is actually a mask. Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask is one of the only scrubs I trust. Typically. I don’t like scrubs because not only am I acne prone, but I also have large pores. Having large pores means that occasionally a particle of “scrub” will get trapped in my pore and cause a humongous zit. Unappealing. This mask being made with sugar is great though because it melts down with the heat of my skin. The mask itself is also warming (in a good way, not a tingling way). I put this one and give my face a quick scrub in the shower, and leave it on while I shave my legs or wash my body or whatever, then go back and spend a good minute or so rubbing this in again before rinsing off. When I use this, I do not use my Glycolic Fix pads.


If you can’t tell, I actually finished up this bottle, so I don’t have a fresh one where you’re able to see the product, but this is a cleanser solely for your body. Body acne is special, as the skin on your body is different than your face, so it usually requires a different type of cleanser. If you’re having problems with body acne, it’s best to avoid anything too scented and instead go for a mild cleanser, just as you would your face. It’s so tempting to use the beautifully scented Bath and Body Works lotions and gels, I know, but they aren’t going to be very helpful in clearing your skin. It’s unrealistic for a lot of us to simply never use the good smelling ones, so I try to limit myself to special occasions, days I need an extra pick me up, or want to feel pampered. This A. H. A. Botanical Body Soap doesn’t smell bad, but it definitely just smells like old school soap. It’s not super cheap either, but I honestly haven’t found a good drugstore option. To help get my back, I have a long handled scrub brush from Eco Tools.


Although the grapefruit and papaya extracts in the Mario Badescu body soap will help exfoliate your body, once in a while you may need an exfoliator, just as you would your face. I’ve not come across a chemical exfoliator, although I heard Clinique used to make an amazing spray for your back and body back in the day, so I use body scrubs. The Tree Hut Shea Sugar Scrub is like the Freeman scrub in that it is sugar based and melts down with heat. It smells amazing, which I love yet is also an irritant, so that is a downfall. It leaves your skin incredibly smooth though. This is also good if you are a self tanner loving person, as it doesn’t act as a barrier to your self tan even though it does have skin softening oils (I’ve tested this) nor does it leave you feeling the least bit greasy. I know that many of you are thinking oils are bad for your skin, but that’s not true, and something I’ll address later this week!

That was a lot of information, and I’m sure this is a long post that I’ll probably be updating when I think of something that I forgot to include. To extremely sum it up, keep a routine and be gentle. Baby your skin. While I don’t have acne as bad as I used to, I now also have to deal with scarring that comes from years of abusing my skin. If only I’d known then what I know now. I hope this helps in your your skincare journey. Let me know if you have any questions, or new tips that I can try myself!



2 thoughts on “Woman Seeking: Cleansers and Exfoliants

  1. Pingback: Woman Seeking: Hydration | womanseekingmakeup

  2. Pingback: Woman Seeking: February Empties | womanseekingmakeup

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