Cleansers, exfoliation and pH.

Do exfoliating cleansers really work? I'm aware that you recommend a few cleansers with hydroxy acids in them. But, I have a few concerns I was wondering if you can address for me. 1) Can how hydroxy acid in cleansers function properly the pH is not labelled? 2) And speaking of pH, wouldn't the washing your face (first) neutralize the acid? 3) Isn't it more effective to have the hydroxy acid left on the face rather than rinsed down the drain after a short time (30 seconds to 1 minute)? 4) Wouldn't that be a waste of money?

You all ask such good questions!  In my opinion, pH is largely a marketing gimick.  True… a cleanser will temporarily change your skin’s pH but for a very short time only –  usually minutes!    Your skin is very intelligent and your own oil glands keep it pHd correctly most of the time.

Just use gentle cleansers that don’t strip the oil unless you have acne or serious oil issues.  There are “hydroxy” cleansers which work very differently than “physical” cleansers that have little granules in them.  This post is just on the hydroxy or “chemical” ones. 

And yes, it’s more effective to leave the hydroxy acid on the face but……….for acne patients…..there are studies showing that these cleansers add some therapeutic value when other acne medications are also being used.    I have some patients who swear by their hydroxy acid cleanser, even without acne, but we are all individuals and some things are just personal preference.

Dr. I



Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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