INSTITUTE OF APPLIED DERMATOLOGY | Blog

Centre for Integrative Medicine and Public Health

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Skin Cleansers and Moisturizers
The primary skincare products are cleansers and moisturizers. Depending upon the oil content skin is divided into three types 1. Oily skin, 2. Dry skin 3. Normal skin. The skin has a protective acid layer on its surface called the ‘acid mantle’. This acid mantle is made up of sebum excreted from the sebaceous glands of the skin, which mixes with lactic acids and amino acids from sweat to maintain the skin pH as acidic. The pH of normal skin is about 5.5.

Cleansers are designed to remove the sebum, environmental dirt, bacteria, and fungi. It retains the intercellular lipid barrier, which is essential to prevent the dryness of the skin. Cleansers contain fragrances, foaming agents, and antibacterial (triclosan or benzalkonium chloride) agents. Cleansers are of five types: soaps,syndets,combars, body wash, and astringents.

Soaps and Detergents: This is a fatty acid alkali salt with a pH of 9-10 and detergent property. This is called real soap, is suitable for oily or dirty skin. Syndets (synthetic detergents): Contains less than10% soap and is designed with a pH of 5.5-5.7. Syndets are least damaging to the cutaneous barrier in persons with xerosis or any form of dermatitis. They are considered acceptable in disease conditions. Combars: Composed of alkaline soap with a pH of 9-10. Combars are milder cleansers than right soaps but induce more thorough cleaning than syndets. These are good for normal skin with a moderate amount of environmental dirt. Body wash: It cleanses the skin without harming the skin barrier, and it moisturizes the skin simultaneously Exfoliant cleanser: These cleansers contain salicylic acid and glycolic acid to remove excessive scaling. Astringents(Toner): They are fragranced alcohol or propylene glycol solution used to remove oil and makeup debris following cleansing


Moisturizers: Are designed to restore and maintain the water content of the skin at normal physiologic levels(between 10 and 30%). Moisturizers are used to smooth and softened the skin. There are different types of moisturizers like oil only, oil in water, polymer-based, vegetable oil and wax, glycerine rich, Dimethicone, and ceramides. Most moisturizers contain water, lipids, emulsifiers, preservatives, fragrance, color, and additives. Paraben is the most commonly used preservative in moisturizer, which causes allergic contact dermatitis in some patients.


The person who has dry skin, use syndets soap and apply moisturizer after bath. Persons with oily skin should use real soap to cleanse their skin. Patients with eczema should use Syndets or body wash. Combars can be used by a person with normal skin. If you are allergic to the fragrance or Paraben, which can be identified only by doing a patch test, you should follow your dermatologist’s advice.

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