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tips for cleansing & toning according to experts

The holy grail of washing your face according to your skin type

tips for cleansing & toning according to experts

Washing your face seems like a basic task that we can do with our eyes closed or even when you're a lil tipsy. And, props to you if you religiously wash your face after a night out to avoid mascara face in the morning!

According to Dr. Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara (dermatologist), there's a lot more to washing your face than a splash of water and an old-school scrubbing.

So with the vast array of products on the market and the potential misinformation lurking on the interweb, we asked Dr. Eusebio-Alpapara about the importance of cleansing and toning your face and how to wash your face correctly, according to your skin type.

Keep reading for rules to live by to get that fresh face.


Why is cleansing and toning important? 

There are three categories of skincare products: cleansers, astringents/toners, and moisturisers. A complete skincare routine involves a cleanser followed by a toner then a moisturiser. So what's the importance of cleansing and toning in your skincare routine? First, it's a cost-effective way of maintaining clean, healthy and vibrant skin.

So, understanding the purpose of your skincare products, their ingredients, and your skin type will help maximise the benefits of cleansing and toning.  

Cleansers are designed to clean. They remove dirt, excess oil, dead skin cells, and unwanted microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. Dr Eusebio-Alpapara recommends using cleaners that leave the skin barrier or the lipid barrier intact and not damage it.

The purpose of toners or astringents is to clean further what the cleansers missed and supplement the effects of the moisturisers.



Knowing your skin type and what it needs is one of the most essential tips for face cleansing. There are three basic types of cleansers - soaps, syndets, and combars.

  • True soaps have long-chain fatty-acid salts with an alkaline pH of 9 to 10, which efficiently dissolves sebum and dirt when rinsed with water. However, as efficient as true soaps are in removing oil and dirt, they can also disrupt the natural lipids of the skin barrier. Increasing the skin pH can disrupt its naturally acidic barrier (pH around 5.4), affecting eczema-prone and dry skin types.

  • Cleansers with synthetic detergents or syndets (like sodium cocoyl isethionate) are the go-to cleansers for dry and eczema-prone skin. Syndets are also known as beauty cleansers with less than 10% soap, with a pH between 5.5 to 7.0, preserving the naturally acidic skin pH. 

  • Combars are a combination of true soaps and synthetic detergents milder than true soaps. Still, they can be more thoroughly clean than syndets. 

  • Specialty cleanser formulation: Specific additives can be mixed into each basic cleanser depending on the use and marketing purposes, like acne soaps with salicylic acid, deodorant soaps with antibacterial agents, and oatmeal soaps with finely ground oatmeal for gentle exfoliation. 


Choosing the right cleanser for your skin type

'My skin is generally dry skin and flaky' or 
'I don't wear much makeup and want a gentle cleanser.'
If you are either one of these, go for the syndets either in a bar or liquid form. You may also use lipid-free cleansers or cleansers or those without fats but may contain glycerin, stearyl alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate, etc. 


'I wear heavy, waterproof makeup daily' or 
'My skin is oily and has excess shine.'
True soaps are an excellent choice for these types to remove excess oil and dirt from the skin. Combars or the combination of syndets and true soaps is also a good choice. 

Even with a mild synthetic detergent (Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate), powdered cleansers contain enzymes from pineapple or papaya, which can help lift dirt and oil from the skin. They also have mechanical exfoliants like kaolin and quarts that can remove dead skin cells.


'I have an oily t-zone but mostly combination skin.'
Something in the middle of a true soap and syndets are great for this purpose. Those with a combination skin type have damaged skin barriers, making their skin dry, with some areas oily. Cleansers for this skin type must have enough surfactants to clean but are less damaging than true soaps. 


'I have acne-prone skin.'
Specialty cleansers with salicylic acid, sulfur, resorcinol, or benzoyl peroxide can be used by those with acne-prone skin. 



Just like cleansing, knowing your skin type and the product's ingredients are essential tips for face toning. They are mainly used to remove oily residue after cleansing the face and can either be alcohol or non-alcohol-based. In addition, they may contain additives that are appropriate for either dry or oily skin.  


Choosing the right toner for your skin type

'My skin is oily; what is the best toner to help?' or
'I have acne-prone skin, are toners suitable?'
Toners for oily and acne-prone skin are designed to remove excess oil from the face after cleansing. At the same time, they deliver other agents that can dry up pimples and unclog white and blackheads, like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and witch hazel. 


'My skin is generally dry skin and flaky - will a toner help?' or 
'My skin is a bit dull - I need something to brighten and hydrate my skin'
and 'I have an oily t-zone'.
Those with dry and combination skin may use toners that contain humectants such as glycerin and skin-soothing agents like allantoin. As for combination skin, we have to keep in mind that, although there are areas of their face that are oily, their skin barrier is already damaged, making their skin dry. In addition, alcohol-based toners with keratolytics like witch hazel or hydroxy acids may further disrupt their skin barrier. Therefore, some suggest soaking a cotton pad with water then applying a small amount of an alcohol-based toner for those with combination and acne-prone skin.  


Step-by-step to cleansing and toning your face

In general, your daily skin care regimen should start with a cleanser, followed by a toner, then a moisturiser and finally, let's not forget sun protection. Below are some tips for face cleansing and toning. 



  • Clean your skin first. Your cleanser of choice should be based on whether your skin is oily or dry. If your skin is dry, use mild cleansing agents like syndets. On the other hand, a stronger soap is needed if you want oil and dirt efficiently removed. 

  • Removing any makeup you're wearing is essential. An oil-based cleanser is a good choice as it easily blends and wipes away with oil-based makeup and excess sebum.

  • Then gently wash it with a cleanser. Make sure to clean your hands first. Cleansers with gentle exfoliants may be used 2x/week for oily skin and at least once every 1 to 2 weeks for those with dry skin. If you have acne, you may use cleansers with additives like salicylic acid. 

  • Once done, rinse the skin and pat it dry with a clean towel. 


  • After cleansing, you may apply toner using a cotton pad.

  • Apply a little toner on the cotton pads and gently wipe it on your face from the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) outward on the cheeks. 

  • The choice of toners depends on your skin type. 

    For oily skin, including acne-prone: 
    An alcohol-based toner with a keratolytic like witch hazel, retinol (vitamin A), or niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) is good to use. 

    For dry and eczema-prone skin:
    Avoid alcohol-based toners. Instead, look for toners with hydrating agents like glycerin and soothing agents like chamomile and rosewater. 

  • When using alcohol-based toners, avoid delicate areas like the skin around the eyes, the sides of the nose, and the lips.

  • Let it dry. Make sure not to apply a lot so the skin can easily absorb it. 

  • Make sure to let the toner dry before you apply the moisturiser. 

How about the neck? 

It is safe to use mild cleansers and non-alcohol-based toners on the neck. This is because there are more sebaceous glands on the upper neck in comparison to the lower neck. In addition, products that are meant for oily and acne-prone skin can irritate the neck. 

Note: Always ask your trusted dermatologist for the best cleansers and toners the suit you. 



Meet Our Experts

Kathleen May Eusebio-Alpapara is a board certified dermatologist who practices both medical and cosmetic dermatology at VE Eusebio Skin Center.