I’m A Beauty Editor And I’ve Stopped Using A Cleanser – My Skin Has Never Been Better

What happens when you forgo your beloved cleanser? Cassie Steer weighs in.


by Cassie Steer |
Published on

My name is Cassie Steer and I don’t use a cleanser. There, I’ve said it. As confessions go, it’s a pretty salacious one given the nature of my job, but having now omitted a cleanser from my routine for the best part of two years, I can attest that my skin has never looked better.

It’s at this point I should probably caveat that this doesn’t mean I’m not cleaning my skin (as much as I’m all for nurturing a healthy microbiome, I’m also not in the ‘stone age’ skincare camp, entrusting bacteria to do the job of keeping my skin ‘clean’). It’s just that I don’t use a face wash, balm, milk or any other product that falls under the ‘cleanser’ umbrella.

It’s also not to say that there aren’t cleansers that I’ve got on with in the past or continue to have the odd dalliance with: Cetaphil’s gentle Skin Cleanser, £10, is a universal crowd-pleaser I often recommend to people and you can’t help but relish a tussle with a really luxurious Augustinus Bader offering such as The Cream Cleansing Gel, £21. But for me, personally, my skin simply gets on better without.

This current non-cleanser ‘cleansing’ routine is one I stumbled on by accident. It all started on a month-long trip to Los Angeles a couple of years ago which began in Joshua Tree. The first day in, I realised I’d forgotten to pack a cleanser and with a jet-lagged four year old and 8 month old in tow, I had very little inclination to drag them further into the desert to unearth some. I had, however, brought along some Halo Makeup Remover Pads, £18 (which I’d seen my skin icon, make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench) using on Instagram but had yet to try, as well as my beloved Medik8 Press & Glow Daily Exfoliating PHA Tonic, £32,which is essentially a souped-up toner that gently sloughs off dead surface cells as well as removing any residual impurities. Unsurprisingly, unlike its Hollywood neighbour, it turns out Joshua Tree is not known as a mecca of beauty. In fact, it was a struggle to buy anything beyond potato chips, Gatorade or incense sticks, so I decided to eschew the Airbnb ‘bodywash’ that smelled suspiciously like washing liquid and continue with my new cleansing pad/liquid exfoliator regime.

Cassie Steer

It was day four when we finally emerged from our melatonin-scrambled haze and made it to a Walmart Supercenter. By then, not only had I managed to quash a latent beauty editor fear about immediate ecdysis without the ‘right’ products, I was actually revelling in my stripped-down regime. Not only did my skin look flawless, I was noticing that the pad I used to apply my toner was showing far fewer traces of make-up and grime than when I was using a cleanser. The rest, as they say, is skincare history and I haven’t looked back. Even when I’ve tried to incorporate a cleanser within my cleansing pad/exfoliating toner regime (I now switch between Medik8 and QMS Medicosmetic’s Gentle Exfoliant Lotion Oil/Acne, £81), my skin isn’t as happy as when I simply wash with water alone – there is inevitably always more residue left on my cleansing pad. But could my denuded routine actually be harming my skin? I decided to consult the skin experts.

'Well this certainly is an unusual routine and not one I would typically recommend, but that being said, everyone's skin is different and when someone finds what works for them, I think by all means continue. Clearly your skin agrees with this regimen so I really don't feel any harm is being done,' says consultant dermatologist Dr AlexisGranite, who is considered one of the best in her field.

The second expert I consulted was Rowan Hall-Farrise; trainer and facialist for QMS Medicosmetics who I remembered had once told me that she was seeing an uptick in rosacea cases as more people deferred to cleansing balms. Whilst she didn’t necessarily endorse my regime, either, and would prefer to see a gentle cleanser in the mix, she conceded that using the wrong cleanser can have equally dire consequences on our complexions; 'For me, a milk cleanser is the best formula for the majority of skin types as it absorbs into the pores to bring out dirt, makeup and grime,' she explains.

'By their very nature, foaming cleansers tend to strip our skin of its natural oils as the agent needed to make them foam also removes the natural protection without actually delving into the pores. Likewise, oil and balm cleansers offer only a very superficial cleanse as they don’t absorb into the pores. They are actually one of my least-favourite ways of cleansing as because oil removes oil, they actually end up making your skin drier as they draw out your skin’s natural oils putting pressure on the lower levels of the skin and creating an imbalance. Ironically it’s often more mature skin types that enjoy the oily feeling they leave and yet they’re actually contributing to drier skin in the long-term and they are often not removed properly either.'

The upshot is that as with most skincare, not only is cleansing deeply personal (what works for one person doesn’t always work for another), it can also be a confusing space, as confirmed by a ‘Dirty Report’ conducted by Sculpted by Aimee who found that 56% of us are unsure of the type of cleanser to use based on skin type.

As for me, I will continue to flirt with new cleansers (you can’t take the beauty editor out of the girl) but for now, my bathroom shelves will remain decidedly cleanser-free.

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