Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hopping on the Low pH Bandwagon: Cleansers Currently in my Rotation

Disclaimer:  I purchased these.
I've seen a fair amount of discussion online regarding the pH level of facial cleansers and how low pH is better for maintaining your skin's acid mantle/moisture barrier.  Turns out cleansers that leave your skin squeeky clean may not be the best thing after all, which seems counter intuitive to this lifelong oily skinned person. Stripping skin of oil and damaging the moisture barrier can lead to more breakouts as the skin is not as resistant to acne causing bacteria, and a rebound oil producing effect by skin trying to get things back into balance.  Now, that's a simplistic introduction and if you'd like a much more comprehensive look at this issue, I recommend this post for a balanced view of the whole low pH cleanser debate.
I've been trying to select cleansers that fall below a pH range of 7.0.  It's not always easy to tell, considering pH is rarely listed in product descriptions and I don't use pH strips to test products. I've been relying on lists I've found online (here's one) or looking for key words such as "gentle" or "protects skin's moisture levels", and looking at ingredient lists.  Also, non-sudsing or low-sudsing cleansers typically have low pH levels, and some cream cleansers can make a good alternative to foaming cleansers as a second cleanser after using a cleansing oil to remove makeup. 
That's how I've been using Estee Lauder's Re-Nutriv Hydrating Creme Cleanser ($60), which I received as part of a GWP back in March.  The Re-Nutriv line is prohibitively expensive (IMO), but I was happy to try it out to see if expensive=better (it doesn't).  Not that this isn't good stuff (it is), but good stuff can be found at much lower price points. I was pleasantly surprised at how the Hydrating Creme Cleanser performed, however, as it did a good job of cleaning my skin as a 1st cleanser in the morning or as a 2nd cleanser in the evenings. 
My skin felt soft and clean and I had no issues with pores clogging or breakouts.  I typically did not use a clarifying or pH adjusting toner afterwards, although I did use one to see if there was any remaining makeup or dirt residue, and there wasn't.  There is a distinct floral fragrance, and while not overwhelming, it's there.  Formal description:
A rich, luxurious creme cleanser that cushions and conditions skin while gently and effectively sweeping away impurities. Three key emollients help restore skin's moisture barrier, helping skin retain natural lipids. Ensures your skin's comfort from the very first step of your skincare routine. This is the pampering cleanser your skin has been looking for.
The Hydrating Creme Cleanser does have lots of interesting ingredients, which helps to support the $60 price.  I do wonder how much of the benefits you will experience considering the short amount of time on your face before it's rinsed off.  This cleanser is marketed as preparing your skin for the rest of the Re-Nutrive products though, so perhaps there is an additive effect:
  • Olive Fruit Oil:  Contains essential fatty acids, including oleic, palmitic, and linoleic acids. It Phenolic compounds also provide antioxidant benefit. 
  • Glycerin: Humectant and moisturizer. 
  • Safflower Seed Oil: contains about 78% of linoleic acid, which is a principal fatty acid which can not be generated by the body.  Helps skin retain moisture.
  • Linoleic Acid: anti-inflammatory,  acne reduction, moisture retention.
  • Green Tea Leaf Extract: anti-oxidant, helps stimulate microcirculation.
  • Barley Extract:  Contains vitamin C, antioxidants, and minerals and helps improve elasticity of skin.
  • Squalane: an antioxidant, prevents UV damage and the formation of age spots, promotes cell growth and is an antibacterial.
  • Sage Leaf Powder:  Antioxidant and antibacterial.
  • Wheat Germ Extract:  Helps support collagen production.
Andalou naturals' Citrus Kombucha Cleansing Gel ($13) is probably my favorite of the 4 cleansers, as it did a good job as a 2nd cleanser and I really enjoy the refreshing citrus scent. I purchased this deluxe sample size as part of the Clarifying Kit and will repurchase the full size when I run out. Here is how it's described:
Fruit Stem Cell Complex and citrus Kombucha, rich in skin friendly probiotics and aminos, replenishes beneficial microflora. Clarifying willow bark and aloe vera gently foam to whisk away excess oil and dull surface cells, maintaining a healthy moisture barrier for clean, clear skin. Gentle and non-drying, for a healthy complexion.

Not surprisingly, Paula's Choice gave this only 1 star, but she and I frequently disagree on what works for me. Key ingredients are:
  • Willow Bark: Astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties soothe skin, neutralize bacteria, and promote cell regeneration.
  • Lemon Juice: Gently clarifies by loosening surface oil and impurities.
  • Sugar Cane: A natural source of glycolic acid, gently exfoliates.
  • Kombucha: Active enzymes; improves immunity, neutralizing germs and bacteria.
  • Aloe Vera: Soothes, oxygenates, and hydrates, advances dermal absorption of beneficial vitamins and nutrients.
Other Ingredients:
Aloe barbadensis juice*, decyl glucoside, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, vegetable glycerin, sodium PCA, saccharum officinarum (sugar cane) and citrus medica limonum (lemon) juices*, saccharomyces xylinum (kombucha) black tea ferment, fruit stem cells (malus domestica, solar vitis) and bioactive 8 berry complex*, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (vitamin C), vitis vinifera (grape seed) polyphenols, lippia citriodora (verbena) extract, salix alba (willow bark) extract*, citric acid, tocopherol (vitamin E), aspalathus linearis (rooibos) extract*†, allantoin, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, ethylhexylglycerin, cymbopogon flexuosus (lemongrass) oil, citrus aurantifolia (lime) oil*
*Certified Organic
†Fair Trade
Hada Labo's Tokyo Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($12) is one of the few low pH (5.5) Asian-brand cleansers that is easily accessible at mass retailers (I purchased mine during an Ulta BOGO sale).  Described as:
Hada Labo Tokyo Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser is a hydrating, gentle foaming, creamy cleanser which purifies skin while protecting and locking in skin's essential moisture, leaving it clean, refreshed, silky smooth and healthy looking. Fragrance Free, Paraben Free, Soap Free, Alcohol Free, Dye Free.
I consider this a work horse cleanser:  it gets the job done, basic with no frills or thrills.  I'm on my second bottle now and have no complaints, but neither am I particularly excited.  
The Jules and Esther Aloe Cleansing Gel No. 1 is something I picked up at Birchbox with my points, and it's my 2nd favorite of the four cleansers.  Sadly, I'm not even sure if it's still available anywhere, as it's no longer available via Birchbox and on the Jules and Esther site the product page link is broken.  Hmm.  Cool brand, but I'm getting the impression it's no longer in production. Fortunately, this is a generously sized 8 ounces and should last me quite a while.
In order to behave, skin needs to be cleansed (but not too vigorously), moisturized, detoxed, protected, and refreshed—every single day. Fortunately, this botanical-based cleanser can handle our skin’s long list of demands, giving it a thorough-yet-gentle clean that removes impurities and preserves moisture, all in a wonderfully sudsy wash.
Ingredients: Aloe barbadensis (aloe vera)*, hydrocotyle asiatica (gotu kola)*, equisetum arvense (horsetail)*, pelargonium graveolens (geranium)*, taraxacum officinale (dandelion)*, sodium cocoyl alkyl esters (coconut soap), decyl glucoside, coco-glucoside, sodium cocoyl isethionate, glyceryl oleate, cocamide dipa (sugar derived), capryl hydroxamic acid, sodium chloride (salt), vegetable glycerin, caprylyl glycol, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, citric acid, sodium pca, sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate, lauryl glucoside *organic ingredient

Bottom line, all of these cleansers worked well for me.  I think a gentle facial cleanser that does not strip my skin is the way to go for me, although I've got an arsenal of pH adjusting toners that I can use when I want to veer outside of low pH territory. 

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