A cleanser is a facial care product that is used to remove make-up, dead skin cells, oil, dirt and other types of pollutants from the skin of the face. This helps to unclog pores and prevent skin conditions such as acne.

Many people use a cleanser once or more times a day as part of their skin care regimen together with a toner and moisturizer.

Using a cleanser to remove dirt is considered to be a better alternative to bar soap or another form of skin cleanser not specifically formulated for the face for the following reasons:

* Bar soap has a high pH (in the area of 9 to 10), and skin's natural pH is 5.5. This means that soap can change the balance present in the skin to favor the overgrowth of some types of bacteria, exacerbating acne.

* Bar cleansers in general, soap or not, have thickeners that allow them to assume a bar shape can clog pores, leading (once again) to acne.

* Using bar soap on the face can remove natural oils from the skin that form a barrier against water loss. This causes the sebaceous glands to subsequently overproduce oil, a condition known as reactive seborrhoea, which will lead to clogged pores.

Conversely, in order to prevent drying out the skin, many cleansers incorporate moisturisers.

Types of cleansers

Different types of cleansers have been developed for people with different skin types. Active cleansers are more suitable for oily skins to prevent breakouts. But they may overdry and irritate dry skin, thus making the skin appear and feel worse. Very dry skin may require a creamy lotion-type cleanser. These are normally too gentle to be effective on oily or even normal skin, but dry skin requires much less cleansing power. It may be a good idea to select a cleanser that is alcohol free if you have dry, sensitive or dehydrated skin.

Some cleansers may incorporate fragrance or essential oils. However, for some people, these cleansers may irritate the skin and often provoke allergic responses. People with such sensitivity should find cleansers that are pH balanced, contain few irritants, suit many variating skin types and ones that don't make the skin feel dehydrated directly after cleansing.

'Tight' and uncomfortable feeling skin is often dehydrated, it may also appear shiny after cleansing, even when no sebum is present. This is due to the taughtening and 'stripping' effect some cleaners can have on the skin. Never continue use of a cleanser that upsets the balance of the skin, as cleansers should work with the skin, not against it.

A trial and error approach may be wise, there are also many forums and discussion boards across the internet concerning acne and other skin problems. A trip to your GP may be helpful in acquiring something stronger to keep the acne at bay. For instance, a topical Benzoyl Peroxide cream, which is effective at killing bacteria and reducing sebum. Or an oral antibiotic such as Tetracycline which also fights bacteria.