Cleansers work by removing impurities, skincare products, and makeup from the surface of the skin. Some cleansers can enhance the penetration and therapeutic effect of topically applied medications. Many different types of cleansers are available and it’s important to select a product that is best for your particular skin. For example, foaming cleansers containing sodium laurel sulfate work well for individuals with oily complexions and can enhance the penetration of other skincare products and medications. These type of cleansers are too harsh for dry or sensitive skin. Alpha hydroxy acid-based cleansers gently exfoliate while moisturizing the skin and work well for dry and acne-prone skin. They help the latter by lowering the pH of the skin thereby creating an environment that is hostile to the bacteria that play a role in acne. The exfoliating effect enhances penetration of medications applied after cleansing. Salycylic acid-based cleansers penetrate the oil (lipid) layer of the skin and are the most effective for unplugging pores. They are ideal for patients with oily skin and acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis but are generally too irritating for those with dry/sensitive skin. Antibacterial cleansers contain one of several active ingredients. For example, benzoyl peroxide-containing cleansers are helpful for acne patients with the caveat that they are not well tolerated by patients with dry skin.
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