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What should I look for in a skin cleanser?

Cleansing is the first step in good skin care. Cleansing helps remove dirt, dead skin cells, excess oil, and impurities from skin, helping to prevent clogged pores.

However, cleansers must strike a balance between doing an effective job of removing excess oil and impurities while preserving the skin's delicate pH balance and natural moisturizing factors, which are water-binding agents that help keep skin moist.

The ideal pH of skin is slightly acidic, between 5.4 and 5.9. Aggressive cleansers, such as those that contain isopropyl alcohol, a common ingredient in some cleansers, can be very effective at cutting through dirt and oil but may disrupt skin's pH balance and interfere with normal function. Aggressive cleansing also can strip the skin of natural moisturizing factors.

On the other hand, cleansing that is very gentle, such as cleansing with non-soap creams, may not be as effective at removing dirt, oil, and impurities.

The ideal cleanser depends on a person's skin type and needs. The options are endless -- from beauty bars to brushes to disposable cleansing cloths -- so each person must experiment to find the product that is right for him or her.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.