The One Skincare Product That Can Make or Break Your Skin

By Sjaniël Turrell

Dry, dehydrated skin? Your face cleanser could be the cause. Holistic make-up artist and nutritional therapist Sjaniël Turrell shares her tips for finding the perfect cleanser and some of her favourite brands.


One of the most regular skin issues I’ve come across when people come to me for make-up or product overhauls is dehydrated or dry surface skin – even for those who identify their skin as combination and oily or even acne prone; flaky bits of dry skin in certain areas, especially around the nose and cheeks or around blemishes – seems to be commonplace. Firstly, covering up flaky, dry skin successfully with natural make-up is very difficult – mostly because natural products avoid silicone which is the plastic-like layer that would even out those bits (but effectively still leave them dry). The only way to be rid of dry and rough skin is through the right skincare (and nutrition of course – drink enough of that properly purified tap water and get in those healthy omega oils!).

The most obvious answer to this problem may seem to be that you need to find the ultimate moisturiser to combat dryness – it certainly seems to be what everyone comes looking for – but what if I told you that your moisturiser is not the product that dictates how dry or replenished your skin looks and feels?

You may be unknowingly dehydrating your skin daily by using the wrong cleanser! The cleanser you use will 100% make or break the moisture levels in your skin and if you’re using something that is too harsh and stripping, well then you will certainly have issues with surface dryness or dehydration.

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. 

How to find the right cleanser 

  • Start by avoiding any products that contain SLS or SLES or similar, the easiest way to do that is to stay away from foaming cleansers. Some organic skincare products do have a little foaming action which, when done right, will be made from plant-based ingredients, most commonly coconut or palm but also other vegetables or fruits.
  • A good rule of thumb to know if your cleanser is too drying or harsh on your skin is whether your skin feels taught after washing and drying. If you have that tight feeling on your skin after cleansing, then it is too drying!
  • Choose a cleanser that is fragrance free as there could be a myriad of ingredients hidden in that one word that is upsetting your skin’s equilibrium.
  • Use an organic oil or balm cleanser with a damp reusable cotton pad or muslin cloth for removing heavy makeup before washing your face with cleanser. Rubbing even a gentle cleanser repeatedly over the eye area is going to damage that delicate skin over time.
  • Use a gentle cream cleanser that emulsifies a little with water and washes off easily. Using a clean muslin or face cloth to wash off and cleanse your face will have the dual action of a light exfoliation and removing any left-over residue on the skin without stripping off essential protective layers. 
  • Not all natural alternatives are better - even some natural surfacants (foaming agents) can increase the pH of the formula, leaving skin dehydrated. My selection below keeps this in mind. 



This is a list of my favourite cleansing balms and oils. These are perfect for dissolving any waterproof or eye-makeup before doing a wash-off cleanse. All of these can of course be used on their own with a damp reusable cotton pad or with warm water and a muslin. When doing a double cleanse, these will keep your skin supple and soft and not dry them out like harsh makeup remover wipes or alcohol-based makeup removers. 

For more natural skincare, see Sjaniël's top 5 facial serums for the changing season.

Pamper yourself with our guide to giving yourself a facial at home...the sustainable way.

See our DIY beauty recipes for face and skin.

The One Skincare Product That Can Make or Break Your Skin