A routine without cleansing?

Why You Don’t Always Need to Use Cleanser

When I was a child, I envied the skin care routines of the women in my life. Looking at them pampering themselves with great-smelling foams and creams made me feel like I was missing out on so much! So when my older sister got her first cleanser, I BEGGED her to let me try it out. She had me stand on the stool in our bathroom and lather it all over my face for the first time. Even though I got it in my eyes which made me cry, I loved the whole experience. The creamy feeling, spending time at the sink, and the luxury of it all. I felt like a Real Adult.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Here’s why:

The pH damage a cleanser can do

Improperly formulated cleansers, like one’s with a high pH or with too many surfactants can wreak havoc on your skin. Especially if you were like teenage me, and used to wash your face twice a day without any moisturiser (eek). The oils that our skin produces are there to protect the skin from bacteria and dehydration. Stripping these can cause a host of issues like acne, dehydration or sensitivity. Not to mention that acne fighting ingredients almost always perform better when used in a leave-on formula. My first routine was packed full of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. They’re great ingredients when used correctly, but in a cleanser they just dried my skin out. Not to mention the god-awful fragrance.

Clean&Clear
If that packaging doesn’t scream ‘unnecessarily clinical’ then I don’t know what does.

I consider my sister and her silver bottle of cleanser the gateway to my long suffering dehydration problems. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many great cleansers out there, but I’ve found that my new routine works even better.

Inconvenience of traditional cleansers

I’m someone who loves to go camping all year. And you bet I’m lugging along all of my skin care for the ride, too. You’ll find me in the tent applying lotions and creams and sunscreen maybe 10x a day. But finding the time and effort to source running water from a portable water tank to wash my face – and not getting my clothes or shoes damp in the process – is a little too much. Plus, Australia gets cold in the winter and the thought of washing my face outside makes me shiver. I also travel via aeroplane fairly frequently, and as talked about in this article about bacteria in plane water, it not something you should put on your face. So, when I travel via air, I much prefer alternate methods of cleansing that don’t require running water or a basin.

Cleansers aren’t always necessary

Also, I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention that some people don’t need to wash their face with a cleanser as often as they are. For example, a quick rinse with water is enough for a lot of people in the morning. I’m a little too oily for that personally, but if you’ve got normal or dry skin, there’s no real dirt to be washing off when you’ve just woken up, so it’s a waste of product and time and puts you at risk of overwashing your skin!

So how do I cleanse?


I hear you. I’m bashing the very essence of every skin care guru’s routine ever. But I’m not an animal – I still cleanse my face. I just do it using slightly different products.

Alternatives to regular cleanser

Micellar Water

If I had the time I could write a 10,000 word post on how much I love this stuff. But I don’t, so this will have to do for now. Micellar water is basically a very diluted cleanser. So much so that it doesn’t foam nor need to be rinsed off. It looks and acts like water because it is, it just also contains micelles, which are tiny oil particles suspended in the water. These cling to dirt, oil and makeup so they are wiped away easily.

Micellar water doesn’t need running water or a basin (perfect for camping!), it’s just poured onto a cotton pad like these ones from Selena and wiped on like a toner. It’s quick, effective, and best of all leaves my skin feeling hydrated. (If you’re into zero-waste living, there’s reusable cotton pads too!)

When I’ve got a load of makeup on, I dissolve that first using Jojoba oil, then follow that with the micellar water to take off the excess. It’s truly a wonder product. My favourite is Garnier’s because of the affordability and simple ingredients list. It’s fragrance free and even comes in tiny little travel bottles – what more could you ask for?

Microfiber cloth

When I’m travelling, camping or sick, I sometimes choose to use my cleansing cloth. It is made of tiny microfibres that are not only very soft but also great at picking up dirt and oil. They cling onto whatever they come in contact with, taking everything off your skin. All you need to do is wet it and wipe your face down. You can keep it in a ziploc bag for a few uses, or take it on a plane to refresh yourself. It’s great for removing makeup and is super environmentally friendly – no waste! That means you can take it camping remotely and leave no rubbish behind. You wash it by boiling it for 5 minutes without any soaps or detergents, how easy is that?

Now that I’ve praised the benefits of these alternative cleansing methods, I hope you understand more about why I choose not to use a cleanser. For those with balanced skin, people who regularly camp off-grid, have sensitivities to common surfactants, thinking outside of the box might be a good idea. And who knows, maybe you’ll ditch your cleanser too!

Essie

Editor’s note: While I still stand by everything I’ve written here, now that this post is a few years old I feel compelled to link you to my current routine which does indeed include a regular cleanser. That’s all!