Skin Conditions

Is Our Skin Dirtier Than Ever?

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Dr. Diana Howard April 25, 2019

Modern life is just rife with irony. Today, we keep our breath fresh with strips that dissolve on the tongue, we deodorize several parts of our bodies and we ward off germs with antibacterial gels. Yet – and here’s the irony – most of us are walking through the world with dirty skin. Truly dirty.

Why is Skin so Dirty?

Research conducted at The International Dermal Institute reflects that most women only spend about 20 seconds washing their face, which is odd considering how much time they spend on their hair and make-up in the morning. Simply, 20 seconds are not enough to get skin clean. And remember that our skin is actually “dirtier” than it was in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ times. More recently, we are seeing that the presence of environmental pollutants in the air and cosmetics, such as sunblock and waterproof make-up, combine daily with the skin’s naturally sticky sebum secretions to form a thick, slick, waxy coating on the skin by the middle of the day. Understandably, a splash of water and 20 seconds of cleansing can’t penetrate this layer of oil-based debris that coats the skin’s surface. In fact, even a more thorough cleansing with a surfactant-based cleanser won’t fully melt down this barrier. The sebum / pollutant / cosmetic barrier remains on the skin, preventing moisturizers and other skin care products from doing their work while dulling the skin’s appearance and contributing to congestion.

What Happens When Skin is Cleansed?

When we apply a cleanser, we generally use a gel-based, sudsy or milky cleanser. All contain surface active agents (or surfactants) that provide the primary cleansing action. During the initial cleansing process, surfactants emulsify the fat or lipid debris, such as sebum, make-up, environmental hydrocarbons and sunscreens, allowing them to be solubilized in the rinse water. Meanwhile, the water-based portion of the cleanser solubilizes the water-soluble debris, namely sweat and some of the environmental pollutants.

Considering the amount of material that potentially collects on the skin, one might expect that the initial cleansing will only remove superficial debris and is certainly not adequate for a thorough cleansing. For this reason, a Double Cleanse is always recommended to thoroughly remove oils, dirt and grime from the skin. However, our studies have shown that even if one performs a Double Cleanse with a water-soluble cleanser, there still may be some oil-soluble substances left behind – particularly when cleansing an oily skin. In chemistry, it is said that like attracts like. Fatty, oily substances are best solubilized in lipid solutions. Therefore, to be most effective in removing all oil, one should use a similar substrate.

The unique Double Cleanse routine, developed by the International Dermal Institute, is the technique-based regimen taught to and performed exclusively by skin care professionals – and it is their secret to healthy, ultra clean skin. Therefore, the Double Cleanse, beginning with an oil-based first step, is what’s needed to keep skin clean.

Cleaning with Oil

Cleansers that are formulated with plant-based oils can melt the layers of oil-based debris on the skin; the oil molecules bond to each other, unlike water molecules in the usual cleanser. These oils then emulsify with the addition of water to encapsulate and remove the trapped debris, allowing the second cleanser to penetrate even further than before.

For the most effective double cleanse possible, begin with a light, plant-based cleansing oil that contains Olive, Rice Bran, Kukui Nut and Apricot Kernel oils. The ideal product will effectively liquefy sebum, oil-based make-up, waterproof sunscreens and hydrocarbons from environmental pollutants, but it won’t disturb the skin’s natural barrier lipids.

Oil Benefits Everyone

Most skin therapists have experienced clients who have resulted to stripping their skin with pore wrenching “nose strips” and harsh astringents. We know, of course, to teach them that this is not the ideal way to handle the oil production on their skin. Educate them about how beneficial it is to begin cleansing with oil, and together you will see the results.

Oil-based cleansers are ideal for oily and acne prone skin, as they melt through sebum easily without stripping the protective barrier or causing irritation. However, they are beneficial for all skin types.


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