Skip to content

Active Cleansers Vs. Inactive Cleansers

We figured that since our ideas surrounding cleansing are slightly unorthodox we’d provide you with an in-depth guide on using Skingredients active cleansers and inactive cleansers, explaining our concept of alternating how you cleanse. You’re welcome.

Why use a Skingredients cleanser, or a cleanser at all?

When it comes to results-driven skincare, cleansing isn’t simply cleaning. Cleansing is more like removal of the day’s sebum (oil) that accumulates on your skin, traces of makeup and SPF, and physical pollution particles. At the same time, it’s either balancing or treating your skin. That last part is the difference. Unlike some brands, we think that cleansing sets the scene for the rest of your skincare routine, especially if you’re going to be investing in serums and other results-driven skincare. It’s like the choice of venue on a first date, and you want your skincare to be end game material for your skin, a love-at-first-sight type deal.  

What are inactive cleansers?

Your “inactive” cleanser is your daily, AM + PM cleanser, the type of cleanser you could use 3 times a day with no ill effects. In our opinion, an inactive cleanser should be a few things:

  • Low in any exfoliating ingredients: acids should be in a dosage that any skin will be happy with, regardless of the amount of usage
  • Non-stripping: it shouldn’t completely rid your skin of its oil, as it kind of needs them to be skin
  • Nourishing: we feel that it should give back to your skin, as your skin can feel a bit attacked by your environment, UV rays and sometimes stronger exfoliating acids

We call it inactive but it does have active benefits and active ingredients. It’s just a bit more passive in the sense that you don’t need to carefully monitor your usage of it!

skingredients cleansers

The inactive cleanser in our range is PreProbiotic Cleanse (€25.00, 100ml), a mild, non-comedogenic creamy cleanser enriched with a pre- and probiotic complex and mildly exfoliating polyhydroxy acid, or PHA for short. The patented pre-probiotic complex, known as EcoSkin®, is proven to enhance radiance, and bring about skin comfort by stimulating the skin’s natural defenses.

When we were formulating PrePro, we wanted it to be suitable for all hoomans, hence why it is non-comedogenic but super hydrating at the same time, and we wanted it to give back whatever is taken away when using the exfoliating Mix + Match cleansers, Sally Cleanse and A-HA Cleanse.

Versatility was on our minds too. PrePro is ocular-tested and proven to be eye-safe, and it’ll remove your eye makeup in a jiffy.

Topical probiotics help to balance the skin’s microbiome, its curated collection of bacteria that serves the purpose of keeping it mellow and protected. We find that a balanced microbiome equals skin that is less likely to become irritated or dehydrated! The polyhydroxy acid in PrePro is a very, very mild exfoliant that is suitable for the most sensitive of sensitive skin – we mean that.

What are active cleansers?

“Active” cleansers, on the other hand, are cleansers that not only cleanse the skin but treat your concerns in some way. It’s your turbocharged cleanser that contains powerful active ingredients and it’s a bit more full-on.

Your active cleanser will be used less frequently than your inactive cleanser because it would be a bit much for most hoomans’ skin to use this type of cleanser all the time.

In Skingredients, we have two active cleansers (to date, anyway), both exfoliating cleansers formulated for the skin concerns we’ve come across most often in our experience with over 10,000 clients (known as the Nerd Network). Our active cleansers aren’t formulated to remove makeup, so precleanse first with a Cleanse Off Mitt or PreProbiotic Cleanse, and the eye area should be avoided when you’re using them unless you like stingy, red peepers.

Lactic acid + PHA

A-HA Cleanse (€25.00, 100ml) is a cleanser that contains 2.5% lactic acid (a relatively small amount of lactic acid) plus polyhydroxy acid, or PHA. This cleanser is for those with “normal” (lol), dehydrated, dull, dry, ageing or pigmented skin but for those who get blackheads, blemishes and congestion, you’re better off using Sally Cleanse instead.

Lactic acid is an AHA, alpha hydroxy acid, that essentially tells the skin to exfoliate faster. It’s gentler than glycolic acid and other acids, so it is ideal for those who would have skin that is easily irritated by acids or stronger skincare ingredients. If glycolic acid turns to your skin, hands on its hips, and says “get moving, you sloth”, lactic acid kindly requests that your skin turn over a little faster, please and thank you. Nerdie bit: lactic acid has a larger molecular weight than glycolic acid, which means it moves into the skin slower which is what allows it to be more gentle.

Polyhydroxy acid is a second generation alpha hydroxy acid that has the exfoliating benefits of AHAs without the potential irritation that can come with AHAs. The PHA we’ve used in the Skingredients range is gluconolactone, which in certain doses has antioxidant benefits and barrier-building properties.

Using A-HA Cleanse nightly, and as a treatment micro-mask once a week, will help to boost radiance in your skin by getting rid of the dead skin cells that steal your glow. The humectant (read: hydrating) capabilities of lactic acid and PHA will pull moisture deep into your skin for plumper, better hydrated skin.

skingredients cleansers

Salicylic acid  

Sally Cleanse (€25.00, 100ml)  is a cleanser that contains 2% salicylic acid, the highest legal amount allowed in cosmetic products in the EU. We mention that a lot, and it’s because we’re proud of it. Sally Cleanse is a very strong product – we are not tooting our own horn this time, we mean it.

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid, or BHA, that speeds up skin cell turnover just like other exfoliating acids but with the benefits of being a proven congestion fighter. As it is oil-soluble, it can scoot in there with the other oil, your sebum, and dissolve excess sebum and plugs within your pores, tackling the root of blackheads, spots, lumps and bumps on your face, neck and your whole body.

For those who experience just blackheads, you may only need a milder dosage of Sally Cleanse so you can mix it with some PreProbiotic Cleanse to lessen the effects of the salicylic acid. The same goes for if you’re finding using Sally Cleanse once every three nights still a bit drying or irritating to your sin.

We always recommend patch-testing. Pop a small dollop of Sally Cleanse on the back of your neck, rinse it off after a minute and leave it for 24 hours to see how your skin will handle it.

The results of Sally? Less congestion, a more even skin tone and a fresher, glowier visage. 

Important note

Those with reactive/sensitive skin should steer clear of Sally Cleanse, as should those who are pregnant. When breastfeeding, avoid using Sally Cleanse on your chest.

skingredients cleanser

Do I need to use another exfoliator?

We’re going to bullet point this section, because we have feelings on this…

  • Over-exfoliation can sensitise and dehydrate your skin so listen to your skin and adjust accordingly
  • You can use other exfoliating products, like masks or serums, if you are a seasoned skincare pro (we are watching you)
  • Scrubs are an absolute no-go in our eyes, as they can cause tears on the surface of the skin’s top layer
  • Remember that vitamin A (Skin Protein, over the counter retinol and prescription retinol) speeds up skin cell turnover too, so that counts as exfoliation

Why do I need an active and inactive cleanser?

There is such thing as too much of a good thing (except for when it comes to cream cheese… Mmm, cream cheese). As mentioned, active cleansers are designed to work hard and even your skin needs time off.

This is why it’s important to use inactive cleansers along with active cleansers. If you use your active cleanser every time you need to cleanse, your skin may not be happy with you. Use your inactive cleanser in the AM and alternate PMs, depending on the instructions of your active cleanser and you’ll be rocking and rolling.

Do I have to use an active cleanser?

Active cleansing is a core part of our Nerdie Belief System – although that does make us sound like a cult. Due to our 21st century lifestyles of caffeine, processed foods, pollution and excessive amounts of UV, our skin sometimes won’t turn over at the rate it should. As we age (and by this we mean from our early twenties), our skin starts to slow down and with this, its own exfoliation process does too. Its for these reasons that we encourage people to encourage their skin to exfoliate itself more often

However, if you have extremely sensitive skin, it is often better to avoid active cleansing, and even if you don’t have extremely sensitive skin, we’re not going to make you exfoliate. But maybe if we ever go to the dark side, we will.

Don’t forget to precleanse for the best results. We love our sister, Cleanse Off Mitt (€5.95), for all of your reusable precleansing needs!

My Cart (0)

Spend £100.00 more and get FREE shipping!

Your cart is empty

Continue shopping




Calculated at checkout