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Respecting the skin’s barrier function is one of my primary philosophies as an esthetician. Too often, I see damage and irritation caused by harsh cleansers and over-exfoliating, which strip the skin of its protective lipidic barrier. 

With sensitive skin myself, gentle cleansers, like face cleansing lotions, are a staple for me. They soften skin while removing impurities, perfect for mornings or when you only need a mild cleanse.

Here are some tips on using face cleansing lotions and some of my favorite gentle cleansers.

Know Your Skin Type

Before choosing your cleanser, it's good to know what your skin type is on most days: dry, oily, or combination. Typically, I recommend gels and low-foaming cleansers for oily skin and milky cleansing lotions or balms for dry, mature, or sensitive skin. 

However, life is always changing, and so will your skin, whether you're traveling, stressed, or simply adjusting between seasons. This is why I like to refer to the skin's 'condition' rather than 'type' and why I have a variety of cleansers in my collection.

Consequently, even if you usually have oily skin, there will be occasions for a cleansing lotion, especially when your skin is feeling dry, or you only need a quick refresh — which happens to all of us. It's a fantastic product to have in your lineup of skincare.

Check the Ingredients

True gentle cleansers and face cleansing lotions should never have irritating ingredients. Fragrances, dyes, preservatives, sulfates, and alcohol, are some of the most triggering skincare ingredients for reactive skin. Sulfates, like sodium lauryl sulfate, are foaming agents that tend to clear away too much oil, stripping the skin of its protective barrier. 

Cleansers targeted toward oily, combination, or acne-prone skin sometimes have exfoliating ingredients and acids that may irritate other skin types. You shouldn’t see salicylic acid, glycolic acids, or physical exfoliants in a cleansing lotion. Instead, you should see nourishing ingredients like vitamin E, soothing botanical extracts, oat, and natural oils. 
If gentle exfoliation still appeals to you, face wash pads are a suitable way to gently exfoliate dead skin cells without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier.

Consider Your Lifestyle, Habits, and Preferences

Nobody's skin is exactly the same as someone else's. On top of your unique skin condition, your distinct lifestyle, habits, and tastes determine your skincare regimen that day. This is why I always say not to do what your girlfriend does and why I've never performed the same facial twice, even on the same client.

Jennifer Sanchez, an esthetician at our Dallas studio, shared that although she frequently uses and recommends cleansing lotion for the face, there are a variety of gentle cleansers to choose from, and she likes to have a few on hand for whatever her skin is in the mood for. "I have dry skin and also wear makeup, so I always double cleanse. I'll start with an oil cleanser and then go in with a cream cleanser or facial cleansing lotion", says Jennifer. 

Echoing Jennifer, facial cleansing lotions usually won't measure up if I wear makeup, so I will use an oil or balm-type cleanser. These formulas are great for removing makeup and sunscreen and for acneic skin to dissolve excess sebum (oil dissolves oil). I use a gentle gel or a little milky cleanser if I'm not wearing makeup or sunscreen.

Since face cleansing lotions are so mild, they are perfect for the morning when all you need to do is freshen up your skin and remove the residue of any product you applied the night before.

Our Favorite Face Cleansing Lotions and Gentle Cleansers

Cleansing face lotions are just one option in a sea of gentle cleansers. Our expert esthetician Jennifer Sanchez from Dallas understands that lifestyle and skin condition play a big part in product choices. To help us narrow it down, here are her top picks.

This botanical milky face wash cleanses the skin of makeup, impurities, and oil without causing any dehydration. I like to use it in treatment because it’s wonderful on sensitive and acneic skin. 

A soothing gel-to-milk cleanser that gently removes makeup and instantly calms thin, sensitive skin with a nourishing blend of botanical extracts, helping restore healthy microcirculation and hydration.

This luxurious, moisturizing cleanser gently lifts surface impurities while assisting in maintaining the effects of the skin’s natural moisture balance. It’s incredibly gentle and leaves the skin feeling refreshed, soft, and smooth. 

This light cleansing foam containing derivatives of coconut oil is ideal for skin that is hypersensitive and suffering from irritation, dryness, and redness. The creamy sulfate-free formula nourishes, cleanses, and promotes an even complexion without leaving the skin feeling stripped or tight. 

A gentle and balancing exfoliating cleanser for all skin types, even dry and sensitive. The exfoliating beads are made with jojoba esters that melt into the epidermis and give it a nice burst of hydration.