Getting down and dirty with cleansers

Image of variety of face cleansers and vases
Image of variety of face cleansers and vases
Cleansing wipes, balms, creams and gels. The choices are endless!

When I was a teen, it was drilled in my head that clean skin was the answer to clear skin and no acne. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Hormones, oil levels and foods can also cause breakouts.

As an adult, I still have breakouts. It really hasn’t gotten better, just different. I no longer get those angry, painful zits that feel like a beacon of light waving at people who go by, but instead small breakouts in different areas of my face.

It’s mainly due to having oily skin. I’ve had it my whole life, and I read once that while it’s a curse to deal with breakouts and the feeling that makeup slides off your face, it’s a blessing in the wrinkles department. And I’ll say that I’m over 40 and besides my laugh lines, I don’t have many wrinkles.

And if my mom is any indication of how my skin will look when I’m in my 60’s, I’d say I’ll take it!

But choosing the right cleanser has been a lifelong battle.

Cleansers for acne or breakouts, can dry my skin out to much or make my skin feel itchy with its medical ingredients. Or ones that claim they are for oily skin types don’t often fair well all the time.

To complicate matters, I’ve learned (the hard way) that my skin is also sensitive. So, what’s a girl to do?

Growing up, I used to use the Clinique bar soap for oily skin or Cetaphil every day. It was gentle enough for my skin and didn’t cause any excess oils. Of course, I didn’t moisturize when I was younger, as I used to think that it caused my skin to be oilier.

Now, I’ve tried more than my share, and spent more money than I care to admit on cleansers, but I think I’ve found my favourites. I haven’t really veered too far from the course on these products. But since I subscribe to many beauty and makeup boxes, I also get to try out samples of different cleansers, giving me many options to a clean face.

A few months ago, I heard a lot about double cleansing. And I wasn’t really sure what that was.

Double cleansing is a method of cleansing your face that involves (wait for it) two steps: first using an oil-based cleanser, followed by a water-based cleanser. Koreans have been doing this forever, and I believe this is the reason we’ve seen a surge in the Korean-based beauty products on the market.

Image of cleansing wipes, and cleansing balm with flowers and vases
Pre-cleanse options include wipes, micellar water and cleansing balm

So, I tried it once with an oil cleanser, and it literally felt like I had applied oil all over my face. I didn’t like it. And was ready to move on. And then I discovered a cleansing balm.

The method involves applying the balm to your face and massaging it all over (including over make-up and sunscreen) and then following that up with a deep-clean with a water-based cleanser. The results leave you make-up free and your skin feeling so clean. These two steps really work; as the balm helps to remove any surface dirt, oil and makeup and the second cleanse helps to really get into your pores to clean out any additional dirt and impurities.

It’s actually pretty genius.

There are times when I’ve had to add an additional step or two – the three-step cleanse or the four-step wipe; especially after a night out where I’m wearing a lot of eye makeup and layers of mascara. I’ll start with makeup remover or micellar water to remove most of the mascara and eye makeup. If the makeup is especially heavy, I’ll use makeup wipes to apply the makeup remover or micellar water. Mascara formulas these days are super concentrated and can be so hard to remove. I’ll follow that up with a cleansing balm and then with my favourite water-based cleanser. The results are squeaky-clean skin. And know I won’t wake up with raccoon eyes, or leftover makeup staining my pillows.

Gone are those clubbing days, where I would just go to bed without washing my face (gasp!). And wake up barely able to open my eyes because my mascara made my lashes stick together! I couldn’t even imagine not washing my face before bed nowadays. And I have already started instilling good cleansing habits in my kids.

So, what are the best cleansers to use? Well, that depends on your skin type and preferences. Here are some of my top picks:

Note, the below does contain some affiliate links.


First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser: This cleanser claims to remove surface oils, makeup, dirt and grime and it does just that. Before I discovered double-cleansing, this cleaner does a great job removing makeup without the need for makeup remover first. It leaves my skin feeling soft and clean and is gentle enough for my sensitive skin. I love the soft fragrance, which isn’t overpowering. And love that all First Aid Beauty products, they are safe for sensitive skin, free from alcohol, irritants, parabens, are gluten-free, nut-free, oil-free, soy-free and vegan.


Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel: Dermalogica holds some nostalgia for me. When I started making money from working, it was a cleanser I used to splurge on. This Special Cleansing Gel is lightweight, washes off easily, and leaves my skin feeling clean and clear. It has a soft scent, naturally foaming and rinses without any residue. It is soap-free, vegan, gluten-free, and contains no artificial fragrances or colours.


Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm: I started dipping my toes into the green beauty with some samples that I have received, and it has me wondering what I am putting on my skin. I would like to be more aware, and with my kids starting to experiment with my products, I feel good knowing that what they are putting on their skin is safe for them also. This cleansing balm melts the makeup away, with very little effort. Once rubbed into your skin, it turns into a milky lather and easily removes all dirt easily. It is free of sulfates, parabens and silicones and is vegan and cruelty-free. It doesn’t contain any polyethylene microbeads and melts with water. It also smells so soft with its blend of lime, bergamot and orange essential oils.


Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser: This is a tried and true formula that I have used as a teen. It’s been around for a long time and is proudly made in Canada! This cleanser is gentle, keeping skin feeling soft and smooth. It is a product that has been recommended by dermatologists and doctors for years, and even recommended for kids. It’s a tried and true cleanser that is gentle on all skin types. It is oil-free, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic and very affordable.


Riversol Hydrating Cream Cleanser: I received this cleanser in a beauty box and it was calming and cooling on my skin. I love that it is a Canadian product and is good for those dry and cold winter days (which can be long and cruel on our skin). It is specifically designed for sensitive skin and contains a unique antioxidant from the Pacific red cedar tree called Beta-Thujaplicin (Beta-T)  which helps calm the skin. It’s available online and the company has an option to order a sample to try out before committing to the full-size bottle.

Image of variety of cleansers for face with vases and flowers
Face cleansers for oily, sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Whatever cleanser you choose, make sure you test it out if you can first. A lot of cleansers come in travel sizes, or at stores like Sephora, you can ask for a sample to try. Ensure it contains (or doesn’t contain) any ingredients you are looking for and is safe for your skin type. Always ensure you like the scent (that plays a huge factor in your continued use).

And give double-cleansing a try. With many options for your first step, such as oil, balm and micellar water, you are sure to find one that is right for you!


Let me know, have you tried double-cleansing? What is your favourite type?

2 responses to “Getting down and dirty with cleansers”

  1. I love this and actually didn’t realize I was double cleansing this entire time. Thanks for all the great reviews, so very helpful.


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