Many of us, especially in our teens, have been told to use foaming cleansers that “really clean” off dirt and pollution or combat sebum production when we suffer from hormonal breakouts or acne. Even gentler versions of cleanser that is marketed to sensitive skin is commonly made to be foaming and thus quite harsh and stripping.
The main ingredient in any skincare product – think cleansers, shampoo, toothpaste, bubble bath, bodywash etc (or household product) that creates a foam or bubbles - is called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) plus a few other stealth names. This ingredient is commonly used as both a degreaser and foaming agent in beauty products because it is cheap and works well to create the desired effect. You will often find it high up in your ingredients list which also means most of your product is made up of this ingredient. The problem is that SLS is an extremely harsh chemical ingredient – it is an industrial strength degreaser and strips waxes and oils from anything from floors to dirty dishes and can be highly irritating for any skin but especially sensitive and reactive skin types. Now I don’t know about you, but I think our skin deserves better treatment than that!
Your skin has a delicate balance of moisture, sebum and essential bacteria that makes it your internal organs’ protective layer from the outside world – continuously upsetting and stripping off those protective layers day in and out will over time cause havoc with even the best skin types. If you suddenly find your skin feeling sore or itchy from products you were always fine with before, even without a visible rash, you can be sure you’ve damaged your skin’s protective barrier and have to strip your product use right down to the bare minimum.