11 Ways Your Cleanser Might Be Making Your Skin Worse Instead Of Better

Look, if you wash your face every night and every morning, you're already taking major steps in the right direction. Still though, you'd be surprised at how much can go wrong, even if you think you're doing it all right. So, with that in mind, what are some ways your cleanser could make your skin worse?

It's a bit counterintuitive to think that cleansing — something we go out of our way to do to keep our complexions happy — could actually make things worse, but sometimes it can. And, depressingly, there are just so many ways in which things can go wrong — you could cause sensitivity by over scrubbing with exfoliators, you could strip your skin of its natural protective oils with a harsh foam cleanser, heck, you can even throw your skin's pH off by making it too alkaline, of all things.

Still though, there's a light at the end of the tunnel — after all, admitting you have a problem is the first step of fixing it. So, on that note, let's take a look at a handy little list of all the ways your cleanser might be making your skin worse.

1. It's Too Abrasive

Sometimes, there's nothing better than exfoliating your skin — everything feels squeaky clean, shiny, and brand new. Still though, it's important to limit your exfoliation routine to a few times a week, and if you're using a cleanser that includes physical exfoliators, you might want to swap it for something gentler every once in a while.

2. It's Wrong For Your Skin Type

There are lots of different types of cleansers out there — oils, creams, milks, gels, foams, and more. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, but as dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf explained to StyleCaster, creams and milks are ideal for dry skin types, while gels and foams are best for those with oily complexions. Using the wrong type can exacerbate your skin woes, increasing dryness and/or oiliness.

3. It's Not Being Completely Rinsed Off

Be extra, extra sure to rinse well. In Dr. Graf's words, "Make sure you rinse any cleanser off completely. Residue can lead to dryness." Dryness can in turn lead to redness and/or over-production of oil, and it's all pretty much downhill from there.

4. It's Not Right For The Season

What works for you during winter may not work for you in summer. I'll use myself as an example here — this winter, I fell in love with a new hydrating cleanser. As we made our way into summer, though, things became less ideal, with my complexion growing steadily shinier until I switching things up. So, even if a cleanser felt like a match made in heaven one month, it might be time to give it a break during the next season — don't worry, you can always go back once the leaves change!

5. It's The Wrong pH

As Dr. Joshua Zeichner explained to Glamour, pH is hugely important when it comes to cleansers. He says your skin's natural balance is slightly acidic, with a pH of 5 (in case you're in need of a chemistry refresher, 7 is neutral, while 1 is supervillain-level acidic). Your cleanser should aim to keep that balance, because if you make things too alkaline, he explains, "[t]he skin cannot protect itself as well as it normally could, resulting in dryness, irritation, and itching." Harsh soaps can be a culprit here, so it's important to keep your eye out for a solid pH-balanced cleanser to keep your skin happy.

6. It's Packed With Too Many Fragrances


There's nothing more relaxing than a gorgeously-scented cleanser — unless you're sensitive to fragrance, of course. Cleansers packed with too much fragrance can cause irritation for certain people, so it's worth swapping things out if you think that might be the case for you.

7. It's Too Harsh

Back in the days when I was constantly fighting (and losing) the battle to keep breakouts at bay, I used way more acne-busting products than I should have. Keeping up a whole regimen of products packed with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide was way too much for my sensitive skin to handle. So, use caution when reaching for cleansers with harsher ingredients; they can actually irritate your skin even further.

8. It's Making You Photosensitive

Along similar lines, cleansers packed with alpha hydroxy acids and/or retinol aren't for everyone — they work wonders on clogged pores and fine lines, sure, but they also increase your photosensitivity, according to YouBeauty, which isn't ideal if you're someone who's already prone to burning, or if you're someone who spends a lot of time in the sun. Be sure to load up on sunscreen if you're using a cleanser with ingredients like this, and try to limit your sun exposure if possible.

9. It's Not Being Applied Correctly

Depending on the cleanser, there are generally different ways to apply them. In an interview with Shape, celebrity esthetician Dr. Rene Rouleau explained that cleansing creams should generally be applied to dry skin, which "gives the oils in the cleanser a chance to breakdown the oils in your makeup and on your skin." As for gels and foams? They should be applied wet, to dilute their potentially harsh and drying aspects.

10. It's A Wipe

Makeup wipes are amazing, and sometimes, it's hard not to fall prey to their siren call. They're better than not washing at all, but they can't quite hold a candle to a true cleanse — As Dr. Rouleau puts it, "It would be like applying a cleanser and then not rinsing it off."

11. It's Not Strong Enough

LBR, some cleansers just don't pass muster: They don't remove as much makeup and/or dirt as they need to. If you feel like you're not getting a deep enough clean, it might be time to switch it up. If you're up for it, you might even want to give the popular South Korean double cleansing trend a try. That way, you can be extra sure your face is clean, even if you don't have the strongest cleanser.

Images: kylebroad/Unsplash; Giphy (11)