Step 1 Cleanse

Dr. Bailey’s Complete Skin Care Routine: Step 1. Cleanse

Why is it important to cleanse your skin?

Clean skin gives you the ‘blank slate’ to maximally absorb the important active ingredients in your skin care routine. Achieve the best results when the actives can pass easily through your skin’s barrier (the layer of dead cells called stratum corneum). Cleansing skin enhances percutaneous absorption by removing product residue, sebum(oil), dirt, debris and dead skin cells.

Skin care active ingredients are also absorbed through your pores. This means that your Cleanse step needs to help remove blocked pore matter, which is again, sebum, dirt, debris, dead cells and product. Twice daily cleansing it best and also helps keep pore clear on an ongoing basis.

What is the best way to cleanse your skin?

Traditionally, you think of skin cleansing as done with soaps and pH balanced soap substitutes called SYNDETS (synthetic detergents). These are the mainstay of skin cleansing. They work well for skin cleansing because they are made of molecules that have one end that binds oil and one end that binds water. When applied to damp skin oil, product residue, and entrapped dirt, debris and dead cells are washed down the drain. Your skin is clean and ready to absorb the next products applied.

Can you over-cleanse your skin?

Yes, and you want to avoid over-cleansing your skin! As a dermatologist I want you to know that it is really important to match your soap or cleanser to your skin type. Don't overshoot, which means don’t use a cleanser that over-cleanses oil from your skin. When this happens, the cleanser reaches into your skin barrier and removes precious natural oils that make up your barrier structure. Your goal is to remove oil and debris from you skin surface and pores but not from within your skin.

Did you know that your skin’s barrier is a brick and mortar structure of dead cell protein (keratin) mortared together by lipid? This must be preserved. If your cleanser leaves your skin feeling really dry and tight after toweling dry, then you are removing too much lipid. This will weaken your skin barrier, lead to loss of skin water (increased Trans Epidermal Water Loss), and ultimately skin irritation and chapping.

Excess removal of skin lipid by a cleanser that is too strong for your skin is the biggest reason for cleanser failure. It is why many people are afraid of soaps and skin cleansers. Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey

How do you pick the right cleanser for your skin type?

Prevent skin chapping and cleanser failure by knowing your skin type:

  • Oily
  • Normal
  • Dry, or
  • Combination.

You also want to consider if you have inherent barrier weakness from skin problems such as eczema, seborrheic dermatitis or rosacea. If so, you need to be cautious and use only gentle skin cleansers and soaps.

How do you pick a skin cleanser to match your skin?

  • Oily skin requires stronger soaps and cleansers.
  • Dry skin requires the gentlest cleansers to prevent damaging the skin barrier by the removal of too much natural skin lipids.
  • Combination skin needs either more cleanser applied to the T-zone, back, chest, ears and scalp (areas with greatest activity of oil glands) or very little applied to the drier areas such as the sides of the face, arms and legs.
  • Normal skin simply needs a nice hypoallergenic soap or cleanser for proper skin cleansing. 

Can you clean your skin without soap or cleanser?

Soap and cleanser work best to clean skin because part of the product's molecule binds oil and part binds water to help efficiently rinse oil containing dirt and debris down the drain. There are two other popular ways to cleans skin that you will see talked about:

  1. Oil cleansing is popular. It is based on the idea that like dissolves like and a chosen oil (such as grapeseed oil or olive oil) will remove oily debris from your skin. But what will remove the cleansing oil and do you really want it left on your skin? Will it interfere with absorption of active ingredients applied after oil cleansing? Maybe, it depends.
  2. Some people like to just splash their skin with water. This is ok for some days but oil, dirt, debris and dead cells will build up. Having looked at the skin of thousands of patients with magnification over 30+ years of dermatology practice I can tell you this with certainty!

Below you will find my favorite skin cleansers. You will find both bar and liquid options. I have pH balanced SYNDETS. I also have natural soap made from organic ingredients. All of these cleansers and soaps are hypoallergenic.

As a dermatologist, I believe that your skin cleansers should be hypoallergenic to help maintain healthy skin and avoid unnecessary skin allergic reactions. Cynthia Bailey, MD

You’ll also see a beautiful Naturally Hydrating Toner that adds a second gentle cleansing step to facial skin care at the same time it helps to tighten and shrink the appearance of the pores. You will see exfoliating products too because exfoliation is easily done in Step 1 of your Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care Routine - Cleanse! You will also see soaps and cleansers with active ingredients to begin Step 2, which is Correct. This step begins to transform your skin to help your reach your skin care goals. 


View All 18 Products For This Search

  1. Dr. Bailey's Calming Zinc Soap

    Calming Zinc™

    My favorite skin cleanser for facial redness and yeast acne! Naturally healing, unbelievably hydrating, and powerfully fortified with a full 2% pyrithione zinc to help solve your skin problems.

  2. Dr. Bailey's Bamboo and Clay Thermal Exfoliating Facial Scrub

    Bamboo and Clay Thermal Exfoliating Facial Scrub™

    Get smoother, softer cleaner looking skin with a more luminous appearance with this magic combination of physical exfoliation and thermal clay deep pore cleansing.

  3. Toleriane Skin Cleanser

    Toleriane Skin Cleanser

    This is a European-made, extremely gentle cleanser that hydrates and cleans with glycerin, and is free of any irritating sodium laurel sulfate type ingredients. This has been a favorite cleanser in my practice for people with ultra-sensitive skin.

  4. Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser  1293

    Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser

    Foaming cleanser for complete skin cleansing without drying. Ideal for sensitive skin or skin made sensitive by professional skin care routines (such as glycolic acid, retinol or acne products) or facial skin conditions such as rosacea or seborrhea. The Gentle Foaming Cleanser is an ideal cleanser to alternate with Calming Zinc or your acne cleanser.

  5. Dr. Bailey's Daily Foaming Facial Cleanser

    Daily Foaming Facial Cleanser

    Non-drying, soap-free and pH balanced foaming skin cleansing for thorough removal of excess oil, dirt, debris and product residue. Gentle enough for all but the most intolerant and sensitive complexions.

  6. Dr. Bailey's Triple-Action Exfoliating Cleanser

    Triple-Action Exfoliating Cleanser

    Eco-friendly beads combine with AHA and BHA to instantly brighten your complexion. Loosen dull dead cells and uneven pigmentation. Renew skin luster to a more youthful glow and instantly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

  7. Dr. Bailey's Glycolic Acid Face and Body Wash

    Glycolic Acid Face and Body Wash

    This rich soap-free cleanser brightens your complexion and leaves your skin silky smooth and ready for your treating and correcting products. Ideal for all skin types including oily skin because it gently but thoroughly removes product, oil, dirt and debris from the skin surface.

  8. Dr. Bailey's Foaming Zinc Cleanser™

    Foaming Zinc™ Cleanser

    2% Zinc Pyrithione is my 'secret ingredient' that is forgotten in other acne treatments. It combats the skin yeast germ called pityrosporum. I find this germ to be the most common cause of acne on the back and chest.

  9. Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser™

    Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cleanser™

    Benzoyl peroxide kills the acne-causing bacteria p. acnes. It also unclogs pores to treat blackheads, making it an excellent acne treatment for facial acne, back acne, and other areas of skin with body acne.

  10. Dr. Bailey's Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser™

    Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser™

    Our Dr. Bailey Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser, formulated for sensitive skin types. This 2% Glycolic Acid/2% Salicylic Acid foaming cleanser is strong enough to remove oil and debris from clogged pores while remaining gentle enough for most sensitive skin.

  11. Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser, Extra Strength™

    Foaming Acne Treatment Cleanser, Extra Strength™

    This extremely strong 10% Glycolic Acid/2% Salicylic Acid foaming cleanser is the strongest acne cleanser I recommend. Regular use dissolves oil and black heads. It's ideal for tolerant skin.

  12. Dr. Bailey's Salicylic and Glycolic Acid Acne Treatment Pads™

    Salicylic and Glycolic Acid Acne Treatment Pads™

    2% Glycolic Acid and 2% Salicylic Acid acne treatment medicines are strong enough to treat stubborn acne but gentle on sensitive skin.

  13. Dr. Bailey's Salicylic and Glycolic Acid Acne Treatment Pads, Extra Strength™

    Salicylic and Glycolic Acid Acne Treatment Pads, Extra Strength™

    Tolerant skin benefits from 10% glycolic acid, which I think is the ideal concentration to loosen black heads. These medicated pads perform this feat while lifting oil and debris from the skin.

  14. Dr. Bailey's Naturally Hydrating Pore-Minimizing Facial Toner™

    Naturally Hydrating Pore-Minimizing Facial Toner™

    Brighten your complexion with the extra clean that comes from using a gentle and non-drying toner after washing your facial skin.  

  15. Dr. Bailey's 100% Natural Ultra-Hypoallergenic Shower Gel

    100% Natural Ultra-Hypoallergenic Shower Gel

    An entirely unscented and dermatologist approved shower gel for even the most highly sensitive skin. Economical and perfect for the entire family.

  16. Dr. Bailey's 100% Natural Invigorating Shower Gel

    100% Natural Invigorating Shower Gel

    A refreshing head-to-toe skin cleanser for the entire family. At last, an economical shower gel that is entirely natural; remove dirt and oil from everyone’s skin without any chemicals.

  17. Dr. Bailey's All Natural Foaming Liquid Hand Soap™

    All Natural Foaming Liquid Hand Soap™

    Natural, organic, foaming liquid hand soap - the best type of non-drying cleanser for dry hands.
  18. Dr. Bailey's All Natural Lavender Foaming Hand Soap

    All Natural Lavender Foaming Hand Soap

    Gently scented with organic lavender essential oil. This is a luxurious and easy-rinse, foaming liquid formula with pleasant lavender essence. It is gentle for sensitive skin and the entire family, but tough on germs. Keep a bottle at every sink to keep your hands clean AND healthy.

View All 18 Products For This Search

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Complete Skin Care - Cleanse
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