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‘Situational Cleansing’ Is the Best Thing to Happen to Skin Since Soap Itself

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsFebruary 14, 2020

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Adapting your beauty routine to your skin’s mood is nothing new. After all, you wouldn’t use a clay mask on a dry complexion, or—the horror!—squalane on an oily forehead. Now, would you? The need to switch up your skin care the way you’d switch up your wardrobe is fueling many areas of the beauty industry, including cleansing.

And the new-to-market brand Holi Frog coined the term “situational cleansing” to help describe exactly why.  “Routines may rule our daily lives, but we should listen to our skin and what we’re doing to it at the time of every wash,” says Emily Parr. “Skin is just like anything else: it has different needs at different times.” Parr’s splashy line of functional cleansers has popularized the practice of giving your skin a diagnostic before more mindfully reaching for a product.

Mamina Turegano, MD, a dermatologist with Apostrophe, agrees that different circumstances do call for different cleaners, and says these reasons can be wide-ranging: “different seasons, workouts, travel, different geographic locations, being on certain medicines, going through a stressful period, or having certain skin conditions—like acne, rosacea, or eczema [all call for different cleansers],” she explains.

To figure out what your skin needs from day-to-day, Parr says to “first consider your skin type then take your daily routine into consideration.” For example, she has a very specific cleanser she chooses after the gym. “After I work out, my skin is begging for a deep clean that resets, balances, but also brightens before I head to work for the day. I use Shasta ($38) during this wash cycle because it really penetrates (without any lather) due to the five percent AHA.”

This kind of in-depth skin-knowledge doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with your inner-scientist and experiment with new things. Soon enough, you’ll know just what your complexion needs after HIIT class, a desert vacation, or whatever life throws your way. But just to get you started, Dr. Turegano recommends picking up three different types of washes. “You don’t have to break the bank and splurge on many different cleansers,” she says, “There are a lot of affordable and effective cleansers at affordable prices.”

Below, Dr. Turegano, Parr, and Jennifer Kramer, paramedical esthetician and founder of Corrective Skin Care LA, offer recommendations for the three cleansers that will back you up no matter what life—and temperamental skin—brings you.

1. When your skin is dry: try a cream cleanser

In times of drier skin (like air travel or when you’re on your period or right this very second in the midst of winter), go for hydration. “To prevent dry skin, which can lead to rashes or increased sensitivity, a hydrating cream or oil-based cleanser would be beneficial,” says Dr. Turegano. 

2. When skin is oily, try a gel cleanser

In times of oilier skin (think stress, acne, or after a sweaty workout), go for gel-based cleansers. “For situations where the skin may produce more oil, you can help prevent breakouts with stronger, gel-based or foaming cleansers that better address the oil buildup and clogged pores,” Dr. Turegano says. If you have acne-prone skin, the dermatologist recommends seeking out cleansers with salicylic acid or glycolic acid on the ingredients list.

3. If you have a skin flare-up, try a calming cleanser

In times of heat and flushing (like right after the gym), or rosacea flare-ups, go for calming ingredients “If it’s hot and you’re sweating and oily, use a cleanser that strips the oil and leaves you feeling squeaky clean,” says Kramer. Dr. Turegano says you get bonus points for cleansers with anti-redness ingredients, like sulfur. However, because your skin can be both dry and red, or oily and red, it’s important to pick a cleanser that won’t dry you out further or up the oil pooling in your T-zone. From there tweak as needed to form a cleanser routine that works for (and with!) your lifestyle.

A dermatologist’s full skin-care routine:

Now that you’re working with a clean palette, this is the best tinted moisturizer to apply in the year’s coldest months. And as for your brows, have you tried laminating them? 

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