Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Are Cleansing Wipes an Effective Way to Clean Your Face? November 12, 2012


All of us have been there – you’re tired and you have a face full of make-up.  All you want to do is go to sleep and the last thing you want to do is wash your face, yet you know that you should wash your face before going to bed.  At this point many people may use a cleansing wipe to clean their faces instead of facial cleanser and water.   But are cleansing wipes really an effective way to clean your face?  Can these wipes replace your regular cleanser on a nightly basis?

First let’s analyze just what cleansing wipes are.  In their book Physiology of the Skin (3rd edition) Drs. Draelos and Pugliese explain (pages 31-32):

Disposable face cloths

The first exfoliating pads led to the development of more gentle exfoliation provided by the disposable cleansing cloths.  These cloths are composed of a combination of polyester, rayon, cotton and cellulose fibers held together via heat through a technique known as thermobonding.  Additional strength is imparted to the wipe by hydroentangling the fibers.  This is achieved by entwining  the individual rayon, polyester, and wood pulp fibers with high pressure jets of water, which eliminates the need for adhesive binders thereby creating a soft, strong cloth.  These cloths are packaged dry and impregnated with a cleanser that foams modestly when the cloth is moistened.  The type of cleanser in the cloth depends whether strong sebum removal is required by oily skin or modest sebum removal is required by dry skin.  Humectants and emollients can also be added to the cloth to decrease barrier damage with cleansing or to smooth the skin scale present in xerosis.

In addition to the composition of the ingredients preapplied to the dry cloth, the weave of the cloth will also determine its cutaneous effect.  There are two types of fiber weaves used in facial products: open weave and closed weave.  Open weave cloths are so named because of the 2-3 mm windows in the cloth between the adjacent fiber bundles.  These cloths are used in persons with dry and/or sensitive skin to increase softness of the cloth and decrease the surface area contact between the cloth and the skin yielding a milder exfoliant effect.  Closed weave cloths, on the other hand, are designed with a much tighter weave and provide a more aggressive exfoliation.  Ultimately, the degree of exfoliation achieved is dependent on the cloth weave, the pressure with which the cloth is stroked over the skin surface and the length of time the cloth is applied.

Furthermore, the article Face Cleansing Wipes from Discovery Fit and Health explains:

Face cleansing wipes come in two varieties: dry wipes and wet wipes. Dry wipes require some water for use. A quick run under the faucet allows the cloth to create a foam when gently rubbed against the skin. The second type can be used anywhere because they are already moistened. Many of the wipes come in one large container, but some wipes also are individually wrapped for convenience.

Both dry wipes and wet wipes have a variety of ingredients that range from gentle moisturizers to strong exfoliants, which help remove dead skin for a smoother complexion. Some skin-nourishing vitamins found in cleanser cloths are vitamins B5, C and E. Some stronger wipes have salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide in them, which help remove oil and prevent acne breakouts. The cloths often have two sides, with the softer side used to clean and moisturize and the other to exfoliate. …

Another major benefit of cleansing wipes is their all-in-one ingredients feature. Some of the products have cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing abilities, which allow people who normally don’t spend much time on skin care to at least get those basic tasks done. And for those who normally partake of a full skin care treatment but don’t have time on certain days, they can still get those three steps done by simply using one cleansing cloth.

Many people consider hygiene to be another benefit. Unlike with a pot of cream or foaming wash that requires the use of your fingers, cleansing wipes allow the user to clean his face without worry of contaminating a container with germs by repeatedly touching it.  Even so, many traditional cleansing products have preservatives and antibacterial agents to prevent contamination, so cleansing wipes might not have as much of an advantage here as you might think.

Can A Cleansing Wipe Replace Your Cleanser?

I’m all for using cleansing wipes instead of not washing your face at all at night or for using them post workout, but keep in mind that convenience costs you lots of money.  It is much more cost-effective to invest in a good facial cleanser to use nightly.  Personally my face never feels completely clean when I use a cleansing wipe which is why I see them as a first step in a two-step cleansing process, not as a stand alone cleansing routine.  Cleansing cloths are an excellent way to quickly and effectively get rid of sweat after a workout or dirt and grim midday if your skin needs to be refreshed.  So having a package of cleansing cloths in your work-out bag is actually something I’m all for especially if you suffer from breakouts.  (Now you can save money by making your own cleansing wipes, but I can’t vouch for any of the “recipes” I’ve come across online so I decided not to include any in this post)

I still think that nothing beats the power of using the correct facial cleanser for your skin type and water in the morning and evening to clean your face.  But if that is something that you can’t commit to on a nightly basis or you’re on the go then it is better to use cleansing wipes instead of doing nothing at all.  (Of course if you find yourself in an extreme situation and have no water than by all means break out the cleansing wipes)

Further Reading:

My Related Posts:

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