Should you cleanse twice a day and are you using the right product for your skin? Facialist Abigail James has the answers

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Washing with water on its own can cause the skin to become dry but a good cleanser will remove surface dirt, bacteria, sweat and makeup to prevent the pores from becoming blocked. The massaging action we use when cleansing also helps bring fresh blood flow to the skin surface, making us look fresher and healthier. While too harsh a cleanser may cause dryness, choosing one that’s too rich could trigger oiliness and breakouts. If your skin feels ‘squeaky-clean’ and tight after cleansing, it’s a sign that your product might be too harsh for you.

Types of cleanser

The cleanser you choose will depend on your preference and skin condition. I like to have two to choose from, according to how my skin feels on any given day.


These offer a more soothing cleanse than a wash. Traditionally these were applied to cotton wool pads and wiped over the face. I suggest putting some into the palm of your hand and working over your face, eyes and neck before removing it with water and a cotton or muslin cleansing cloth. These add an extra, gentle daily buffing to support the removal of dead skin cells for a brighter complexion.


Wash cleansers need to be mixed with water. Traditional foaming cleansers can be harsh, as the chemicals used to make them lather often have a drying effect. Avoid sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)  as it strips and dries and can make the skin sensitive . Some of the newer formulations contain gentler, plant-derived foaming agents that are a much better choice if you need a deeper cleanse.


These are often a gentle, nourishing blend of plant oils, essential oils and herbs that remove makeup – including mascara – easily as the oils ‘melt’ what’s on the skin surface. After smoothing and massaging them over the skin, remove them with a warm muslin cloth to ensure no pore-blocking residues remain. Each cleansing balm  will vary considerably due to the different blends of oils. I avoid mineral oils (petroleum, liquid paraffin) – they are safe but with long-term use pores become blocked , resulting in spots and skin becoming dull.

MORE GLOSS: The best cleansers for sensitive skin


These represent a newer generation of cleanser. They generally come in a gel or oil consistency that transforms into a light milk when you add water. They’re a great way to remove make-up and grime and are best removed using a muslin cloth.


Even though they’re convenient, I’d advise you to steer clear! They’re usually packed with alcohol, synthetics and fragrance, which will irritate your skin, causing sensitivity and redness. Furthermore, they rarely provide an effective cleanse. Save them for festivals, travelling and when you’re really super short on time.


These are a halfway house between a traditional cleanser and a toner that originate from France and are considered a simple, effective method of removing make-up and dirt in a gentle way without the need to wash off. They take their name from micelles, which are tiny round balls of cleansing oil molecules that float in water. Apply it to a cotton-wool pad and swipe it over the skin. You may need a second cleanse. I see these as a make-up remover rather than a proper cleanser; however they can be helpful for eczema and super-sensitive skins that need a really gentle cleanse.

Cleansing the clever way


Should we cleanse once or twice a day? The answer is yes! Whilst a night-time cleanse is essential to remove the make-up and grime of the day, it’s also important to clean the skin when you wake up in the morning. Overnight the skin eliminates toxins via the pores, so starting the day with a clean canvas removes the toxic residue from the skin surface and will make the products you apply more easily absorbed and effective.


How to double cleanse : Use a cleanser to remove the uppermost makeup and surface grime, then another product or the same one again to perform a further, deeper cleanse. For the first cleanse I love using a cream or balm, followed by a gentle wash for the second.

5 steps to the perfect cleanse

1. Warm your cleanser between your palms.

2. Massage it into the face to stimulate blood flow and aid detoxification. Add water if necessary. Work around your whole face, using small circles over your chin and mouth and larger ones around your eyes. Don’t forget your neck, behind the ears and décolletage.

3. Add warm water.

4. Remove the cleanser with a warm cloth.

5. Splash your face with cold water to freshen up your complexion.

This is an extract taken from  Love Your Skin  by Abigail James, £20, Published by Kyle Books, Photography by Jenni Hare

Find out more about Abigail James on her  website  and follow her on Instagram  here