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The Complete Guide to Cream Cleansers

Find out everything you ever wanted to know about cream cleansers right here. What is cream cleanser, how to use one, their benefits, suited skin types, and best ingredients. We cover it all (and more!) in our complete guide to cream cleansers.

How to Use Cream Cleansers

How to Use Our Cleansers: Dampen skin with lukewarm water. Apply a pearl-sized amount of the cleanser to damp hands. Then, massage gently into the skin with an upward motion. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water or remove with esmi's Microfibre Facial Cleansing Mitt.

Cream Cleanser vs Gel or Oil 

What is cream cleanser?

A cream cleanser has a thicker, creamy texture and is formulated with ingredients to help the skin retain moisture, like plant-based oils. Sometimes called cleansing “milks” or “lotions” cream cleansers are gentle - they cleanse the skin without stripping it of its natural oils.

They’re suited to all skin types, especially dry and sensitive skin.

What are the benefits of a cream cleanser vs gel or oil cleansers?

Other types of cleansers include gel and oil cleansers.

Like the name suggests, gel cleansers have a gel-like consistency and are usually clear.

They’re designed for oily, breakout-prone skin, in particular, to offer a deep clean for pores and remove excess oil.

Their deep cleaning action certainly works to get your skin ‘squeaky clean’ but in the process, some gel cleansers can strip skin of its natural oils.

If your skin is feeling tight and dry after washing your face, it’s not a good sign.

Stripping the skin of oil triggers it to produce even more and, over time, leaves the skin barrier compromised. When your skin barrier isn’t functioning at its healthiest, you’ll experience excessive dryness, irritation, itchiness, and sensitivity.

Then, there are oil cleansers.

The oils in these cleansers bind to surface debris to remove it from the skin.

Oil cleansers are gentler for the skin than gels, but not all skin types will be compatible for this type of cleanser.

While they can be a good option for a 'first cleanse', especially if you wear heavy makeup, oil cleansers cleansers aren’t well suited for the second cleanse in a double cleansing routine.

A cream cleanser is not only gentle on the skin, it’s suitable for all skin types - from oily, acne prone to sensitive. It helps maintain the skin’s important oil / water balance and cleanser won’t disrupt the skin’s delicate pH balance.

What to Look For in a Cream Cleanser

Best ingredients in a cream cleanser

We’ve answered the question what is a cream cleanser - now let’s explore the ingredients you’ll want to look for in a cream cleanser formulation.

  • Aloe vera

Containing mostly (95%) water, aloe vera is hydrating and calming for skin. It also has excellent cleansing and very gentle exfoliant properties.

  • Green tea extract

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity with the ability to soothe and calm redness.

  • Stearic acid

Helps cleanse debris from the skin while its emollient properties protect skin's surface against water loss.

  • Capric triglyceride

Helps to reduce skin dryness by minimising moisture loss by creating a barrier on the skin's surface.

Active ingredients to target specific concerns

Your cleanser can also include active ingredients to help target specific skin concerns.

A couple of the best actives and what they address include:

  • Dullness and hyperpigmentation: Vitamin C and pomegranate extract are excellent skin brighteners.
  • Congestion, excess oil, and acne bacteria: Activated charcoal helps to draw out impurities and Tasmanian Mountain Pepper extract has natural antibacterial properties.
  • Redness and inflammation: Tasmanian Mountain Pepper extract is an anti-inflammatory and aloe vera calms skin.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles: Peptides encourage the production of collagen for a firmer looking complexion.

Ingredients to avoid in a cleanser

To avoid stripping and congesting the skin, steer clear of these ingredients in cleansers:

  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES): Causes skin irritation and dryness.
  • Mineral oil or petrolatum derived ingredients: These can ‘suffocate’ skin and lead to congestion and dullness.
  • Isopropyl myristate or isopropyl palmitate: Known to clog pores.
  • Fragrance: Synthetic fragrances can cause irritation.
  • SD alcohol 40: Drying for many skin types.

Is a cream cleanser the right choice for you?

Cream cleansers are an ideal choice for dry, sensitive, and mature skin and dry skin. If you’re dealing with a chronic inflammatory skin condition like rosacea, a cream cleanser is your best bet.

Oily, acne-prone, and congested skin types will also benefit from a cream cleanser. Especially one formulated with active ingredients like activated charcoal to help detoxify and deeply cleanse pores.

How to Use Cream Cleanser

Using a cream cleanser is the first step in both your morning and evening routine for glowing skin.

How to use cream cleanser in your morning routine

Step 1: Dampen skin with lukewarm water

Step 2: Apply a pearl-sized amount of the cleanser to damp hands and massage gently into skin with an upward motion.

Step 3: Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water or remove with esmi's Microfibre Facial Cleansing Mitt.

While skin is still damp, apply your serum, then moisturiser or face oil, and finally, sunscreen.

Cleansing your skin with a cream cleanser in the morning has several benefits. It removes product residue from night time products plus any bacteria which found its way onto your face overnight.

It also gives you a lovely clean base to apply your day time products and boost their absorption.


How to use cream cleanser in your evening routine (double cleanse)

Step 1: Dampen skin with lukewarm water.

Step 2: Apply a pearl-sized amount of the cleanser to damp hands and massage gently into skin with an upward motion.

Step 3: Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water. Then repeat step 2 for a double cleanse.

Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water or remove with esmi's Microfibre Facial Cleansing Mitt.

While skin is still damp, apply your evening serum, moisturiser / face oil or face mask if you’re doing an overnight treatment.

Don’t skip the extra cleanse in your evening routine when using a cream cleanser. A double cleanse makes sure everything that settles into your pores during the day is washed away.

Any sweat, natural oils, debris, pollution, makeup, and sunscreen left on your skin can lead to congestion and breakouts.

What to Expect from a Cream Cleanser

It’s pretty simple really! Using a cream cleanser you can expect your skin to feel clean, supple, and hydrated not dry, tight or itchy.

Switching to a cream cleanser because you’ve been dealing with dryness, dullness or breakouts? You should start to see an improvement in these symptoms in 2 - 4 weeks of consistent use twice a day.

In general, you’ll experience a difference in your skin immediately in terms of it feeling more supple and nourished. No more uncomfortable post-cleanse tightness.

esmi offers a range of cream cleansers suited to different skin types and skin concerns. View The Uncomplicated Cleanser range.

Infographic_ the complete guide to cream cleansers