Washing Our Skin

95% of skincare starts off wrong. Because you asked for it.

Since humans began mixing ashes and grease to use as a cleansing media, the need to have better cleansers has not changed. Around the late 1970’s however the desire to innovate began to level off and by the mid 1980’s skin cleansers (liquid detergents, soap bars, and syndet bars) reached a technical level that has remained static.

Setting aside soap and syndet bars for the moment, the chemistry of personal liquid cleansers and shampoos is fundamentally unchanged since that era. Products today have three primary components: a charged molecule linked to a neutrally charged molecule linked to a powerful wetting agent.

Or, in the language of ingredients: an anionic detergent linked to a amide linked to a betaine. Every one of these components is a skin irritant. Betaines especially. When I see “betaine” on the label, I don’t buy the product. Which makes for a long day because this foaming agent is in almost every cleanser.

The cleansing product chemistry is a foaming miracle. No question. Rich, full bodied lather. The penetration is powerful and can lift debris and oils out of the skin and hair follicle. The squeaky clean feel to the skin is precisely what consumers were looking for in those decades and that has not changed. Squeaky means clean to most. Especially so since consumers now often are layered over with makeup to conceal their broken, inflamed skin and it takes strong cleansers to remove that clay and grease.

By the early 1990’s, secondary components were common in these shampoos and liquid cleansers to counter the often harsh, dry after-feel of the squeaky clean high foamers. These secondary components vary. Proteins, esters, waxes and oils and substances like glycols are all meant to provide a softer, less dry feel after washing.

Jeri Rhedding was a technical innovator/marketer here. He developed several well known brands in shampoos based solely on the additives, usually proteins. Many believed the proteins he added would bind to their skin or hair and become it, as if they were adding muscle. Hair did feel “fuller, richer.”

Other components were added to skin cleansers beginning in the early 2000’s including exfoliating chemicals, to remove the protein(!). Acids like glycolic and salicylic were used remove the top layers of cells on the skin with the intention to stop skin clogging and reduce breakouts. Many acne preparations rely on these acids.

Which makes little biological sense when you consider that 95% of acne is inflammatory and these acids indisputably are inflammatory and easily addictive.

Even more drastic and often highly addictive and inflammatory is the widespread use of benzoyl peroxide in cleansers for acne and blemishes. No stronger free radical generator is available in skincare. Its use points to a fundamental misreading of skin biology and a failure in minimal patient/client care. In the Skin Dork’s experience, disfigurement is not unusual with sustained use of topical benzoyl peroxide.

We have now reached a point where the cleanser chemistry as now evolved cannot help but generate a clinical or subclinical (subclinical: meaning not always visible, but simmering) irritation response and millions of consumers have noticed.

They discover in the mirror that their skin easily flares up, breaks out in rashes, feels dry, has an unnatural sheen and wrinkles are more visible at a younger age. But this same consumer is at a loss to understand what is going wrong and typically looks inward to some dietary change, or supplement needed, or the side effect of a drug regimen.

All of which may be in play but the daily cleansing is overlooked as a primary cause.

It gets better.

It is not merely that the ingredients in cleansers is wrong. Just as important in the skin assault program is the combination with topical products we leave on our skin. Add a highly charged lotion to skin that is already reeling from a washing ordeal and you have “A New You” for sure.

And even better, orally dosed psychoactive drugs (antidepressants lead the way) have become commonplace and these have the often unfortunate side effect of skin inflammation.

Fully 70% of consumers report unstable skin prone to flare ups and rashes. Rosacea was once an uncommon problem associated with some temporary agent that caused irritation. Not anymore. Dermatitis, the clinical endpoint in all this madness is equally on the rise and with lethal consequences not infrequent when no treatment is available.

Bizarre explanations for the rise in this widespread skincare inflammation phenomena look everywhere but the obvious: it’s the products and how they are used.

The medical esthetics practices now in play unfortunately have a shameful record. The use of exfoliating cleansers, benzoyl peroxide lotions, antibiotics, retinoid (vitamin A) saturation, often on the same person has given rise to extraordinary negative skin reactions.

You get the picture. Now what. Are you doomed?

To the plus side, there are cleansers that do not use betaines, anionics or include harsh additives and yet – believe it or not – get the job done very well.

Learn more about cleansers and skincare with a visit to my REFERENCE TOPICS and check out 302 Skincare’s outstanding cleansers. Get skin smart. This is the Skin Dork, signing off for now.

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