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There are almost as many ways to remove one’s makeup as there are of applying it. A trip to the local drug store presents us with a bewildering array of bars, cloths, creams, lotions, gels and liquids. Then you’re asked to choose between oil-free, foaming, gentle or scrubbing.

My personal choice are the generic supermarket cloths that are knock-offs of those made by Olay, Neutrogena and L’Oréal. Makeup guru Paula Begoun suggests using unscented generic baby wipes but I find they don’t work well on the waterproof mascara I wear almost every day. A gentle cleanser and face cloth is the most economical choice, but the nice thing about disposable wipes is that you’re not faced with stain management on laundry day!

In the past, I, and probably many of you, used baby oil to remove makeup. When I run out of cleansing cloths, I sometimes still do. Many people find it irritating and the oily film left behind difficult to remove on its own. The great majority of commercial eye makeup removers on the market have some mineral-oil content. If you have any kind of reaction to baby oil, avoid these.

Many companies make claims about their cleansing products that aren’t true, especially the ones relating to anti-aging. And the reason the claims aren’t true is due to the simple fact that you are washing away the active ingredients in these products. They do not stay on your face long enough to have the desired effect, assuming that there is enough of the ingredient in the cleanser to fulfill the claim.

With that in mind, here is a list of some products (most of them relatively inexpensive) that seem to be highly recommended by several sources: Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin; Clinique Comforting Cream Cleanser; Neutrogena Gentle Skin Cleanser; Eucerin Gentle Hydrating Cleanser; Nivea Refreshing Cleansing Gel; and Pond's Clear Solutions Deep Pore Scrub (Note: Do not use this last product around the eye area!). Readers outside the United States should be aware that some of these products may not be available in your location.

When it comes to scrub products and exfoliating in general, there is little doubt that it does improve the texture of your skin and allow better penetration of product. Controversy can erupt over the method. When apricot scrubs first came out, they were viewed as a miracle product -- especially for blemished skin. But dermatologists quickly pointed out a serious problem with these products; crushed apricot shells tear your skin, leaving it MORE prone to infection and irritation. While some companies have “mild” versions of these cleansers, blemished skin is best exfoliated using a rough face cloth or a product like the Pond's one cited above, which uses plastic micro-beads to gently slough off the outer layer of skin.

“Squeaky clean” and tight should not be your goals in cleansing. Aim for clear, soft and refreshed. Be gentle with your face -- it’s the only one you have!

If you wear minimal makeup that is NOT waterproof, Cetaphil or Phisoderm and a face cloth are your bests bet for cleansing your skin. These are very gentle products with a minimum of detergent content, and they also act as skin softening agents, which is important for helping impurities work their way to the surface. A similar, Canadian-made product is called Spectro-Gel, and copies of this can be found as store brands at Loblaws and PharmaPlus. Cetaphil has recently come out with a cleanser specifically designed to remove makeup.

Take the time to rinse off your cleanser thoroughly with warm water and follow it up with your favourite moisturizer. Remember that clean, healthy skin is the basis of good makeup!

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