What are Cleansers ???

What are Cleansers ???

Cleansers are formulations that are used to remove dirt, sweat, sebum, oil and exfoliated cells from the skin. They are surface-active substances that lower the surface tension on the skin to emulsify and remove dirt from the skin.

Surfactants are the principal constituents of the cleanser and are responsible for its cleansing action.

You think pH of cleansers matters?

The surface of the skin has a slightly acidic potential of hydrogen (pH) of about 5.4 to 5.9. The pH of the skin increases in proportion to the pH of cleanser used. Increase in the pH of skin may lead to loss of hydration and irritation of the skin. Preservation of the skin pH is important to control the bacterial count on the skin. Therefore, the use of skin cleansers with the correct pH matching that of the skin is recommended.

How many Cleansers you know of?

There are different types of cleansers available for specific skin types with varying compositions.


The most common cleanser marketed widely is soap. The term soap is broadly used to refer to any cleanser, but this is not correct as soap denotes a unique chemical entity. Soaps are composed of long chain fatty acid alkali salts with a pH of between 9 and 10. Soaps can be formulated as bars or liquids.


Syndets are synthetic detergents, composed of non soap synthetic surfactants with a neutral or slightly acidic pH of about 5.5‐7, closer to the natural neutral skin pH. This offers protection to the intercellular lipids present in the skin and hence is less irritating in nature.


Combars are combination of modern soap and synthetic detergents with a slightly alkaline pH to provide better cleansing with less damage to the skin lipid barrier.

Can you imagine the number of cleanser formulations ?

Bar cleansers

The various types of Bar soap formulations available are

Superfatted soaps: Lipids like triglycerides, lanolin and stearic acid, are added to soaps to provide a protective film on the skin and prevent dryness.

Antibacterial and antifungal soaps: They contain antibacterial agents such as triclosan, a chlorinated phenolic compound and benzalkonium chloride, a quaternary ammonium compound.

Oatmeal bar: Ground oatmeal added create an exfoliating bar to peel off the dead skin cells.

Anti-Acne soaps: They contain sulfur, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide to remove the excess sebum and decrease bacterial count.

Transparent bars: Glycerin added to maintain the hydration of the skin.

Liquid cleansers

Liquid cleansers are similar to bar cleansers except for being more watery with syndet and lipophilic moisturizing ingredients like petrolatum, vegetable oils, or shea butter. A body wash can cleanse as well as moisturize skin and hence are more useful in patients with dry skin.

Cleansing lotions

Cleansing lotions can be wiped off without water as they contain fatty alcohols. They can be used on face with less residue.

Hand cleansers

Hand cleansers or hand sanitizers are alcohol based cleansers used to remove bacteria from the hands.

Did you ever think of cleansers in various skin types ?

  • People with sensitive skin can use very mild cleansing agents like liquid facial cleansers containing syndet and lipophilic moisturizing ingredients.
  • The ideal cleanser for acne skin should remove the excess oil without irritating it. Cleansers with α-hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid in right composition can be used in acne.
  • People with dry skin can use glycerine bars or syndets which maintain the hydration of the skin.

To conclude, cleansers play a primary role in body hygiene and maintaining the skin barrier function. The overall management of various skin disorders can be enhanced by concomitant use of cleansers along with other topical measures.

Dr.Kamini Rajasekar

Share this post