Soap has been an integral part of civilization, from its earliest days, with the earliest versions dating to Ancient Babylon. A more modernized soap with ingredients that we are more familiar with, were used by the Phoenicians. Known widely for originating the prototype of the alphabet, the Phoenicians, as early as 600BC, had made basic soaps from water, goat fat, and potassium carbonate ash. In the modern era, Harley Proctor and James Gamble produced a new soap by mixing air with their soap solution, which was the birth of Ivory Soap, which is still in use today.
While the actual role and permeation of soap is varied and often unclear in ancient culture, in the modern era, soap has become understood as serving an important role in the maintenance of general hygiene and reducing the risk of harmful microorganisms. Modern soaps are made from the salts of fatty acids. Both animal and vegetable fats are common, containing lauric, oleic, palmitic, and stearic acid, which help embed excess dirt from the skin, to be washed away after rinsing. Nowadays, it is understood to have a cleansing effect, which removes dirt, dust, make-up, perspiration, and broken down products of sebum. This is all an integral part of maintaining a healthy, attractive skin surface.
In this age, we have an overabundance of variety and information on cleansers, and it can be overwhelming at times. We hope that this guide will provide you with some information and guidance on what product is right for you. In general, cleansers can be categorized as follows:
1. Abrasive Scrubs:
Abrasive scrubs promote exfoliation of the surface of the skin, mainly through physical, rather than chemical means, and removes otherwise damaged skin surfaces. They often take the form of a sponge or a scrub with abrasive surfaces, which contain cream solutions inside the surface pores. Excessive use can lead to further skin damage caused by the breakdown of the stratum corneum. This is a basic exfoliation tool that is relatively inexpensive, and is helpful in unclogging pores, and revealing a smoother skin.
2. Astringents and Toners:
Astringents and Toners are alcohol-based solutions remove excess oil from the skin, and are especially important for those that suffer from excess oil production or acne, as they help control T-zone oiliness. A tightening of the skin is common after use, and these products are available for individuals with various skin types: Oily, Normal, and Dry. Many cleansing regimens include astringents after soap use, as they have the effect of removing excess alkaline soap particles that tend to stick to the skin. They are frequently scented or perfumed.
3. Bar Soaps:
Bar soaps are made of salts of fatty acids, and is by far, the most commonly used cleansing product. They can, however, irritate the skin, and cause the skin to dry. It can, at times, lead to the breakdown of the skin’s acidity, which help contain certain bacteria and fungal infections. Certain additives can be introduced to soaps including anti-bacterial compounds, coloring agents, fragrances, moisturizers, and preservatives to enhance the product.
Fragrances: Fragrances are common additives to soap, designed to conceal the odour of the soap ingredients. Anti-bacterial products containing triclosna or triclocarban have the effect of inhibiting bacteria, which reduces unpleasant body odours in areas where a large number of apocrine sweat glands exist, such as the armpit or groin region.
Mild Soaps: Mild soaps do not contain additives such as perfumes or coloring agents, which may irritate the skin, or trigger allergic reactions in those with sensitive skin. These products are designed to minimize irritations. They will not cause stinging of the skin or the eyes. While mild soaps can still trigger allergic reactions or become an irritant substance for small children or those who have extremely sensitive skin, these risks are greatly reduced with the use of mild soap.
Moisturizers: Moisturizers are designed to counteract the drying effect that soaps have on the skin. In general, the amount of moisturizers that are included in soap products are often very small, so those who have dry skin should use moisturizers after washing rather than relying on soaps that contain moisturizers. Moisturizing products contain vegetable fats, lanolin, and glycerin. They are an integral part of healthy skin maintenance, especially during the dry and cold winters.
4. Cleansing Creams:
Also known as cold creams, these products are applied to the skin and washed off, and are designed to wash and moisturize the skin. They are usually made of heavy oils, and contain a mixture of mineral oil, water, petroleum, and waxes. They are gentle on the skin compared to most cleansers, and are helpful in removing sebum from the skin. They work best for individuals with dry skin, and are not recommended for those with oily skin or those that have acne. Cleansing creams should not be used as moisturizers as they can become irritants if left on the skin without washing. Cleansing creams serve an important role in removing cosmetics, and maintaining skin freshness afterwards.
5. Facial Masks:
Also known as facials, these products are applied to the skin in a layer and are left for 15 to 30 minutes, and are designed to clean hair follicles and pores, which may serve as a preventative treatment for acne. Although long-term change in skin health is not possible with the use of facial masks, the skin will feel moisturized for some time after use, and it also promotes superficial peeling of the skin, producing a tightening feeling on the skin surface.
Facial masks have several variants. Rubber or vinyl based masks harden, and form a transparent layer, which are later removed. Other masks are applied, and later rinsed with water. These products are made of clay, mud, and other insoluble powders. Gel masks contain substances like tragacanth. Acne treatment facials are designed to absorb oil from the skin, and some for these products can be integrated with peroxides for greater effectiveness.
As with any cleansing product, excessive cleansing using a facial mask, can cause irritation and at times, promote secondary infection. After removal, a moisturizer should be used to minimize superficial peeling. Facial masks serve a variety of cosmetic goals, including deep cleansing, rejuvenation, and revitalization, and are considered a vital part of proper skin care.
6. Lipid Free Cleansers:
Lipid free cleansers are liquid cleansers which contain cetyl alcohol, glycerin, sodium or sulphate, and at times, propylene glycol. These products do not contain any fat, and are effective in the removal of cosmetics, and are particularly useful for individuals with dry skin, or those that have a tendency for eczema. These products will leave a very fine layer of moisturizing film on the skin, and are often preferred for elderly individuals.