Cleanse, Tone, Moisturise?


Perhaps we can look at this a little more clearly … first through a very scientific lens and then we can get a little emotional. Convention says that we should be cleansing … perhaps double or triple cleansing … before applying toner and then moisturiser. Has anyone asked why? From the perspective of a reformed chemist, there are some alarm bells going off. Replicating human secretions is notoriously complex and we don’t know of a single secretion that has been successfully copied. We have tried very hard to make human breast milk, but we can’t even come up with a half-decent simulacrum of the prebiotics … never mind the rest. The same is true for sebum, the oil that keeps our skin supple and feeds our skin microbiome. There are more than 200 fatty acids in sebum and many of them are very unusual for animals. Replication is, for now, impossible.


So, this is what cleanse, tone, moisturise sounds like to me … you should use a surfactant to emulsify the sebum off your skin at a temperature higher than its melting point (32˚C) and wash it down the drain. Then you should make sure that you got all of it by repeating the process. Once you’re certain that you have stripped your skin entirely, you should spray a liquid that usually contains ethanol onto your skin to disrupt your skin’s barrier function so that the actives in the follow-up products can penetrate. Then you should apply an emulsion of petrochemicals and water to your skin to replace your lost lipids, tricking your skin into thinking that all is well on the surface and starving your microbiome.


But it sure feels luxurious! We’re not sure who thought this through … the client or the multi-national trying to sell more products?


Now for the emotional side. Why have we allowed ourselves to be convinced that we are inherently disgusting and need constant cleaning with foaming products? Are we still stuck on the original sin thing? Are we born guilty? Are we really that physically dirty that we need to clean ourselves with something other than water? The only time that I can see a need for cleansing is to remove color cosmetics (if you wear them). So, here is our recommended routine … wash your face with water (preferably cool water) in the morning and if you need to apply a moisturiser, you can. In the evening, you should remove your make-up as gently as possible and follow it with something that comes as close to sebum as possible.


If you’re interested in anti-aging, the actives should be structured to penetrate on their own, without disruption of your skin barrier.