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4. Cleansing: Finding Your Ideal "Neutral" Cleanser

Updated: May 2, 2020

- OR - Help! My Cleanser Failed and I Don't Know What To Do!

You've used The Lemon Scale to closely examine your cleanser. And now you realise that you're not really happy with the cleanser that you're using. And that means that you also may be realising that you don't know exactly how to choose a great cleanser. Don't panic!

Before you start to build a cleanser wardrobe, and even before you start to find the ideal products for your first and second cleanses, I suggest you find a simple no-nonsense *entry level* cleanser. It may not be your favourite, or even the all-time best, but it's a cleanser that gets the job done without irritation, fuss or problems. This is the one cleansing product to fall back on when it's time to re-group.

Your cleanser wardrobe should start with one good basic, easy-to-use, cleanser. Something that will work any time and could be used as your only cleanser if needed. I find that a cream cleanser is the most likely option. Something like a good old fashioned cold cream would fit the bill. Even all-purpose emollient creams can be very effective. Your Neutral Cleanser probably isn't going to be something to write home about. It might not even score very high on the lemon test. But it will satisfy these two very important criteria:

  • it causes zero irritation

  • it doesn't strip the skin or leave you feeling *squeaky clean*

Those two factors should be non-negotiable for a cleanser to stay in your routine. I call this a *neutral cleanser*. This cleanser might be a bit boring, it might not thrill you, it might even be cheap! It might not score very high on the lemon test because it isn't all singing and dancing. But it should be a good basic cleanser that you can use wherever, whenever. And, it won't cause any harm. Sometimes this is the best place to start.

So, anyone who finished the challenge last week feeling like your cleanser just isn't working for you then it's time to set yourself the task of finding a good neutral cleanser to be the foundation of your Cleanser Wardrobe.


  • A cleanser that will work any time, for all your cleansing needs. A cleanser you could use if you had to only use one cleanser for the rest of your life.

  • A cleanser that could be used for both first and second cleanse, and AM as well.

  • A cleanser that is gentle and causes zero irritation.

  • A cleanser that it doesn't strip the skin or leave you feeling *squeaky clean*.

  • A cleanser you can use even if your barrier is compromised or your skin is having issues.

  • A cleanser that won't tug or stretch the skin, that goes on easily.

  • A cleanser that doesn't need scrubbing and is easy to remove.

  • NOTE: this particular cleanser may not always be the best make-up remover, so you may still need a separate product for that on the days you use your entry level cleanser.


  • A cream cleanser is the most likely the easiest option. Something like a good old fashioned cold cream. The texture should remind you of moisturiser. It might actually be moisturiser. Cleansing milks might work alright as well.

  • All-purpose emollient creams can be very effective cleansers. These creams are often recommended by derms or pharmacists for cleansing damaged or inflamed skin, so you know they're gentle. Emollients can be a 'one stop' product when you don't know where else to turn.

  • A pure oil.

  • A gentle balm. Not necessarily a specific cleansing balm. A basic beauty balm might qualify.

  • A nappy cream/baby salve. I know. It's weird. But these types of creams often contain exactly the kind of gentle ingredients that you wouldn't mind using on your face. And if it's gentle enough for a baby's bottom then it's gentle enough for you face.


Because this is a cleanser you'll be using when your skin isn't feeling it's best this is the time to avoid: fragrance, actives, really long lists of ingredients, products that are hard to find.


Did you cleanser fail the Lemon Scale Test? Then it's time to set yourself the task of finding a good neutral cleanser. Have you got one in mind?

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