Three facial cleansers—Fabulous Face Cleanser, Purifying Facial Cream Cleanser, Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil.
Daily rituals

How to cleanse the skin

The importance of cleansing

The simple act of cleansing is the foundation of any healthy skin care routine. Skin is our interface with the world. It protects us from sun, heat, and light, continually healing and renewing itself. Both incredibly resilient and delicate, it requires gentle, routine cleansing, followed by nourishment and hydration. To thoroughly cleanse skin and care for it as it cares for us, we must first understand our skin’s individual needs, become attuned to its reaction to external factors, and choose a cleanser accordingly.

Understanding the anatomy of skin

Cleansing assists in skin’s natural restoration process, removing grime, bacteria, excess sebum, and pollutants. The skin is a complex apparatus—a single square centimetre is composed of an average 100 sweat glands, 15 oil glands, and 230 sensory receptors; a densely populated city whose residents have their own tasks to complete. The smooth function of skin relies on the cooperation of all individual elements.

The epidermis

Of the three major skin layers, the epidermis is the outermost. Its primary function is to keep the outside out—protect our inner workings from a profusion of mundane assailants including light, heat, bacteria, and pollution.

The stratum corneum

Only one-sixth of a sheet of paper in thickness, the stratum corneum is the uppermost layer of the epidermis and is responsible for the barrier properties of the skin. Envisage a brick wall. The bricks are skin cells (called corneocytes) that protect us, and the mortar holding those cells together are natural fats called skin lipids.

The hydrolipidic film

Crucial to moisture-retention in the skin, the hydrolipidic film coats the stratum corneum. It can be disturbed by environmental factors including cold weather, harsh air-conditioning, or over-cleansing, leading to dryness or irritation.

Sebaceous glands

These glands produce sebum, a vital natural oil that feeds the hydrolipidic film, hydrating and protecting skin. Oily skin is caused by overactive sebaceous glands. In addition to a general predisposition for producing excess oil, these glands can be overstimulated by hormonal and environmental factors, or harsh cleansing products that strip the skin.

The importance of cleansing in balance

Over-cleansing strips the skin of natural oils, creating a state of imbalance. Skin in this state may feel dry, or may produce yet more oil in an attempt to self-regulate its protective barrier.

An Aesop gel cleanser being poured from bottle into hand. Texture is important in selecting the best cleanser for your face.

Selecting a cleanser for each skin type

A ‘skin type’ is the summary of all the functions of the skin—how much sebum it produces, how it regulates its protective lipid layer, and how it reacts to external factors like heat and dryness, exercise, diet, and stress. We advocate the use of gentle cleansing formulations tailored to skin type and the individual needs of skin.

Dry and sensitive skin requires gentle cleansing to avoid stripping the hydrolipidic film or aggravating the stratum corneum. For those with oily skin, we recommend a cleanser that removes excess sebum and keeps skin in balance, without over-stripping, as that can cause sebaceous glands to produce yet more sebum in response. The complex duality of combination skin requires cleansing that will effectively clarify the oilier regions of the face, without exacerbating drier areas. For normal skin, we suggest a regimen of mild but efficacious cleansing to maintain skin’s equilibrium. A deeper investigation into Aesop’s approach to caring for the specific needs of each skin type is available in our Skin Types Guide.

When selecting a cleanser, opt for a texture and formulation that suits the individual needs of your skin.

The light texture of Aesop’s Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk; best suited for sensitive skin or dry skin.

Cleansing milk—a gentle cleanse for skin in need

Favoured by those who prefer a light and refined texture, Aesop’s Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk is enhanced with skin-nourishing ingredients to offer an exceptionally mild yet thorough cleanse without stripping moisture from the skin. It is suited to many skin types, particularly those with dry and sensitive skin.

The creamy texture of Aesop’s Purifying Facial Cream Cleanser, best suited for dry to very dry skin, or winter climates.

Cream cleansing—for dry skin, cold climates, and winter months

Suited for those with dry to very dry skin, Purifying Facial Cream Cleanser is enriched with White Clay to draw impurities, and fatty-acid rich botanicals to deliver a gentle non-foaming cleanse, leaving skin feeling supple and softened.

The texture of Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil, an oil-based daily cleanser that gently removes makeup and grime.

Cleansing oils—for efficacious yet gentle removal of makeup and grime

Emollient oils work to break down the lipid-based components of makeup, sebum, and grime, and effect their swift removal. Despite the perception that oil-based products are only suited for those with dry skin, cleansing oils can assist those with oily skin by helping to normalise sebum production. Aesop offers two cleansing oils: Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil, an oil-based yet water-soluble formulation appropriate for daily facial cleansing, and Remove, comprised entirely of oils and formulated specifically to dissolve makeup from the delicate skin around the eyes.

The clear, liquid texture of an Aesop gel cleanser—low-foaming facial cleansers appropriate for use daily.

Gel cleansers—a deeper cleanse for a range of skin types

By nature, gel cleansers often contain slightly higher surfactant levels than cleansing oils, milks, or creams, making them more suited for a thorough and invigorating cleanse, particularly in summer months when sebum production may increase. All formulated for an immaculate cleanse without causing dryness, Aesop gel cleansers each have their own texture and character.

Routines and rituals

Everyone spends their time in the washroom differently, and we all have our own preferences—and peccadillos—regarding skin care. That said, here are some recommendations.

When to cleanse your skin

At its core, cleansing is a simple ritual: twice daily, dampen hands or face, apply cleanser, rinse off. Supplementing this morning and evening routine, we advocate for twice weekly deep cleansing in the form of exfoliation or a masque. A gentle but disciplined approach to cleansing helps purify the skin and maintain balance.

A recommendation on water temperature

We suggest cleansing skin with cool or tepid water at the basin, as it is both practical and calming. A steaming shower is often far too hot for the face, and can lead to dryness or heightened sensitivity.

If your preference is to conduct cleansing in the shower rather than at the basin, apply product to the skin prior to stepping in, and adjust the water temperature to a cool or tepid setting to rinse off. We ask you not to store Aesop cleansers in the shower, where the combination of water, glass, and nudity present obvious risks.

Formulations to remove makeup

Oil-based Remove is formulated to remove makeup from the sensitive skin around the eyes. Apply it to a damp cotton pad and carefully swipe across the eye area, allow makeup to dissolve, then wipe clean. Alternatively, blend a few drops with your preferred Aesop cleanser to provide effortless makeup removal in one step.

To remove makeup from the whole face with Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil, avoid emulsifying it before application. Ensuring that your hands and face are dry, rub one teaspoon of cleanser between palms, and massage over the face and neck, then rinse off.

Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk and Purifying Facial Cream Cleanser also facilitate the removal of makeup. Though not oil-based, they contain emollient oils effective at dissolving makeup, in addition to mild surfactants that assist in lifting and rinsing it from skin. Apply to a damp cotton pad, wipe over the face and neck, and rinse thoroughly.

A sensible approach

We recognise that the application of a topical formulation is only one part of a healthy skin care routine. Others include diet, moderate exercise, and a healthy attitude.

The ritual of cleansing: a woman pouring a gel-based cleanser into her hand.

Deep cleansing, for in-depth care

Twice weekly, supplement your daily cleansing ritual with a deeper cleanse in the form of an exfoliant or masque. While daily cleansers work to refresh the surface of the skin, regular deep cleansing is required to remove dead skin cells and clear buildup or congestion from the pores.

Facial exfoliants and cleansing masques

Containing mild abrasives, facial exfoliants act to polish skin, removing dead cells and revealing fresh skin that’s perfectly prepared for hydration. Apply either in place of or blended with your preferred Aesop cleanser to assist in skin’s renewal process, twice weekly.

Deep cleansing masques help to clarify, draw impurities from the skin, and decongest the pores. Enhanced with nourishing botanical extracts, Aesop cleansing masques effect a thorough cleanse while simultaneously providing care for the individual needs of skin.

On the use of microplastics

Aesop exfoliants contain abrasives such as Quartz, Pumice, Walnut Shell, Tea Tree Leaf, and Bamboo Stem. We have never used plastic microbeads in our products.

A woman applies oil-based facial cleanser with a cotton pad, wiping gently across the eyelid to remove makeup.

When to reevaluate your routine

Aesop’s range of facial cleansers have been carefully formulated to suit the specific needs of a range of different skin types, routines, and environmental concerns. As skin reacts to changes in climatic conditions, certain formulations may be better suited to address variations in dryness, oiliness, congestion, or dehydration.

As the seasons change

High measures of heat and humidity can cause skin to sweat and may increase sebum production, leaving the surface oily and congested. In such conditions, an invigorating gel cleanser will provide a thorough and refreshing cleanse.

In cooler months, water loss from skin is increased, due to low humidity plus wind exposure. Skin can then present as dry and irritated, so we turn to milder oil, milk, and cream formulations, to gently cleanse without stripping skin of much-needed moisture.

In polluted urban environments

For urban dwellers, we advocate the use of Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil or Parsley Seed Facial Cleanser. Each is particularly adept at removing daily buildup of grime and impurities, and designed to complement and enhance products from the wider Parsley Seed Skin Care range.

With internal and external fluctuations

The skin is a complex organ, intimately connected to our internal wellbeing and the external environment. Skin may be affected by air quality, humidity, pollution, sleep and rest, health and medication, diet, hydration, genetics, or the passing of time, prompting the need to reevaluate skin care routines over time.

After cleansing is complete

Upon the completion of a cleansing ritual, apply toner, then finish by moisturising skin with a hydrator. In the morning—and throughout the day as needed—we recommend dedicated application of a facial sunscreen.

‘To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.’

Jane Austen