If You Have Sensitive Skin, It Might Be Time to Switch to a Milk Cleanser

If You Have Sensitive Skin, It Might Be Time to Switch to a Milk Cleanser


Girlgaze for Getty Images / Lynzy Billing

As ELLE.com’s senior editor part of my job is being a beauty guinea pig. I'm always testing out hundreds of products to find the best, but as fun as that sounds, it can come at a high cost for my skin. I recently went through a period where everything that touched my face made it feel like it was burning off. Prescription acne topical treatments, lotions, serums, and gels I used with no issues before all left my skin stinging, red, and extra sensitive to the touch. Something was very, very wrong, but with no way to pinpoint the exact cause, I felt at a loss.

At a facial from celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau, I consulted her on my issues and she told me I was suffering from a damaged moisture barrier. The moisture barrier is made of lipids that bind skin together and acts as a "bodyguard" against external irritants. She explained that all of my product testing, over exfoliating, and getting too many beauty services at once compromised my skin's protective barrier so that there were now unseen "cracks" on the surface that made me more susceptible to sensitivity.

One of the first steps she told me to repair my skin was to switch my cleanser. She suggested swapping out my usual gel foaming cleanser for a moisturizing milk cleanser. Luckily, that's around the time Aesop's new Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk landed on my desk.

Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk

The cleansing milk—which, like all of Aesop's products, took about two years to formulate in-house—was developed with sensitive skin in mind. "It efficiently purifies the skin without stripping it of moisture, offering an exceptionally mild yet thorough cleanse," chemist Dr. Kate Forbes, Aesop's head scientist, tells me. "The mild, olive-based surfactant swiftly lifts and removes grime, excess sebum, and makeup."

Forbes explains that the difference between a milk cleanser and my usual gel cleanser, is that gel cleansers are water-based and contain higher surfactant levels (aka what makes that foaming feeling while you cleanse). They’re great for a deeper cleanse during the summer or high humidity when you likely have increased oiliness.

This milk cleanser, on the other hand, is formulated with panthenol (provitamin B5), an ingredient that prevents the dry, tight feeling I'd get after washing. It also contains grape seed oil, and waxes of mimosa, jojoba, and sunflower, all of which "reduce[s] moisture loss during cleansing and leaves the skin feeling soft" according to Forbes.

It took a little getting used to not having that soapy, foamy feeling of my usual cleanser but I grew to love the silky slip of the milk formula. Instead of red and tight, my skin would dry down baby-soft even before using moisturizer.

I also took care to not double cleanse like I used to—Forbes told me that it's not necessary. "One runs the risk of over cleansing and disrupting the skin's hydrolipidic film by using this approach," she warned me. "If applied and rinsed diligently, a single cleanse with the Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk does a superb job of removing makeup from the face." As she said, it wasn't necessary for me to use wipes or micellar water beforehand. Rubbing the light, fluid solution around my face for a minute was enough to get off layers of foundation. Even more impressive? It easily melted off my favorite waterproof liquid eyeliner.

I've been using the milk cleanser in my routine for a month now, and I don't think I'm going back. At first, I used only this cleanser and a moisturizer, and when I noticed after a couple of weeks that it definitely calmed all my inflammation, I slowly reintroduced the rest of my routine. I haven't felt any stinging since.

Shop More Milk Facial Cleansers

Soothing Aloe Cleansing Milk

Renée Rouleau reneerouleau.com


Gentle Milk Cleanser

Avene dermstore.com


Milky Jelly Cleanser

Glossier glossier.com


Gentle Cleansing Milk

Caudalie sephora.com


Kristina Rodulfo Senior Beauty Editor Kristina Rodulfo is the Senior Beauty Editor of ELLE.com—she oversees beauty across ELLE's digital media platforms and is an expert in product testing, identifying trends, and exploring the intersections of beauty, culture, and identity.

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