Friday, January 28, 2022

Are They Right for You?

  • Foaming cleansers create a light, frothy lather when combined with water to lift away debris, dead skin cells and sebum from skin
  • These cleansers are best suited for those with oily or acne-prone skin as they remove excess shine and gently exfoliate to treat and prevent acne 
  • Lightweight formulas that have key ingredients to boost hydration and soothe irritation are designed for dry and sensitive skin

Cleansing your face is an essential first step in a daily skin care regimen. This action exfoliates dead skin, clears away excess sebum and removes dirt and other debris, allowing your skin to better absorb the other products in your regimen. Foaming facial cleansers create a mass of bubbles when combined with water to provide a deep cleaning lather.

What is a Foaming Facial Cleanser?

Foaming cleansers are formulated with surfactants, which are responsible for producing their characteristic foamy lather. Surfactants are chemical compounds that emulsify excess oil and bind with trapped debris to then be rinsed away. 

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant widely used in foaming face cleansers. Other common surfactants include sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) and sodium lauroyl lactylate (SLL).

This type of cleanser provides a more thorough cleanse than gel or cream cleansers due to its ability to penetrate deep within pores.

Choosing the Right Foaming Cleanser

To maintain your skin’s health, it is important to select a foaming cleanser that is formulated with ingredients that target your skin concerns and are compatible with your skin type. 

If you have oily skin, you will benefit from a face wash that contains oil-fighting properties; combination skin would do well with a gentle formula that includes hydrating ingredients. For acne-prone skin, the addition of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agents can help clear acne lesions and protect the skin from further irritation.

Some foaming cleansers contain ingredients that can be harsh on skin of any type, and should be avoided. Such ingredients include artificial fragrances, parabens and alcohols.

Cleansers containing soaps should be avoided as well. Soap is an alkaline ingredient that can cause skin’s pH to become imbalanced and lead to dryness, irritation and worsening acne.

Some surfactants used in foaming cleansers, such as SLS, have the potential to disrupt the skin barrier function. To counteract this, many formulas include a cosurfactant which makes the cleanser less aggressive and minimizes this risk.

Is a Foaming Facial Cleanser Right for You?

Facial cleansers are formulated to gently exfoliate, remove excess oils and clear debris from clogged pores. As such, they are ideally suited for oily, or acne-prone skin.

There are also products formulated for dry and sensitive skin but if you find them too harsh, you can instead opt for a hydrating facial cleanser with a gel, lotion or cream-based formulation. 

Acne-prone skin

Acne is a common skin condition characterized by pores that have become clogged with a combination of sebum, dead skin cells and other debris, resulting in the formation of noninflammatory lesions such as blackheads and whiteheads. 

When bacteria multiplies within clogged pores, inflammatory acne develops in the form of papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.

If your skin is acne-prone, a foaming cleanser that contains salicylic acid can effectively break down sebum on the skin’s surface, dissolve debris deep within pores and aid in acne prevention. 

Acne-prone skin will also respond favorably with the inclusion of ingredients that have bactericidal and anti-inflammatory properties. They can kill acne-causing bacteria and soothe inflammation to reduce the appearance of lesions and the accompanying sensations of irritation and pain. 

Some established ingredients include tea tree oil for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, and its ability to reduce acne count; benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria and reduce acne count; and witch hazel for its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Combination skin

For combination skin, a lightweight cream-to-foam cleanser is an effective approach to meet the needs of both dry or normal and oily areas. Choose a product that contains humectants such as hyaluronic acid to restore moisture levels, and ceramides to protect the skin barrier.

Dry or sensitive skin

Dry or sensitive skin types can opt for a gentle formula that contains emollients such as glycerine and squalene to attract and retain moisture, and antioxidant agents such as chamomile to calm redness and irritation. Lastly, the addition of vitamin E can nourish and soothe skin, and protect against free radicals.

Oily skin

Enlarged pores and excess shine are common skin complaints associated with oily skin. One solution is to choose a foaming cleanser that contains niacinamide, a vitamin B derivative; it has been demonstrated to regulate oil which in turn reduces pore size over time. 

Another option is to choose a cleanser with clay, which works to absorb excess oils.

How to Use a Foaming Facial Cleanser

Use a foaming face cleanser as the first step in your daily skin care regimen. You can use it once or twice a day, as you wish.

To use a foaming facial cleanser, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands to avoid transferring any bacteria or debris to your face
  2. Wet your face with lukewarm water
  3. Apply 1–2 pumps of foaming cleanser to your fingertips
  4. Gently massage the cleanser into your skin with small, circular motions; include the eye area
  5. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water; pat dry
  6. Continue with the remaining steps in your skin care routine


Foaming facial cleansers create a mass of tiny bubbles when combined with water and massaged into the skin. This solution is designed to bind to excess oil and debris, and is then effectively rinsed off.

These cleansers are prized for their ability to reduce oil buildup, gently exfoliate and deeply cleanse pores. They are an excellent choice for oily, combination and acne-prone skin, but may be too harsh for dry and sensitive skin. With that being said, there are gentler foaming cleansers specifically designed for these skin types that contain moisture-restoring humectants.

When choosing a cleanser, look for a product that contains added agents to meet your skin’s needs. Oily skin will benefit from clay or niacinamide; combination skin, hyaluronic acid and ceramides; acne-prone skin, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.


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  • Dall’oglio F, Tedeschi A, Fabbrocini G, Veraldi S, Picardo M, Micali G. Cosmetics for acne: indications and recommendations for an evidence-based approach. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Feb;150(1):1-11.
  • Hammer KA. Treatment of acne with tea tree oil (melaleuca) products: a review of efficacy, tolerability and potential modes of action. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2015 Feb;45(2):106-10. doi:10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2014.10.011
  • Leyden JJ. Efficacy of benzoyl peroxide (5.3%) emollient foam and benzoyl peroxide (8%) wash in reducing Propionibacterium acnes on the back. J Drugs Dermatol. 2010 Jun;9(6):622-5.
  • Srivastava JK, Shankar E, Gupta S. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Rep. 2010;3(6):895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377
  • Wohlrab J, Kreft D. Niacinamide – mechanisms of action and its topical use in dermatology. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):311-5. doi:10.1159/000359974
  • Williams LB, Haydel SE. Evaluation of the medicinal use of clay minerals as antibacterial agents. Int Geol Rev. 2010;52(7/8):745-770. doi:10.1080/00206811003679737

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