For heavy makeup users who commute through traffic-choked, polluted areas, a single-surfactant or soap-based cleanser may not be enough. Regular makeup users resort to the double-cleanse, often involving a cleansing oil (for makeup days) or micellar water (if one has sensitive skin and doesn’t want to wash too much), followed by a water-based cleanser to eradicate residue.
The “pre-cleanse” is pretty similar. It’s a lot like double-cleansing, in which the purpose is to eliminate layers of makeup or dirt buildup. Since modern makeup requires longer-wear formulas, single surfactant cleansers may not do the trick.
A pre-cleanser cuts through and dissolves layers of buildup that can hinder the work of a good cleanser.
I first encountered a pre-cleanse balm at the Dermalogica Spa in Rustan’s. The balm, ideal for dry to normal skin types, is a water-activated formula designed to dissolve and expel even the toughest of long-wearing makeup.
At home, after the rare occasion I indulged in foundation, I applied a pea-sized amount to dry skin, massaged for a few seconds, added water to emulsify, then rinsed.
Each tube of balm comes with a rubber/silicone mitt, which you can use for mild exfoliation. I applied the balm with the mitt, rubbing it over key areas like my eyelids to remove my eyeliner.
It’s a very gentle process. For people who are concerned about the amount of work involved, well, it’s pretty much the same process as using a makeup cream, followed by a soap-based cleanser.
Skincare obsessives invest in pre-cleanse to ensure the effectivity of their serums or moisturizers. In order for those potent formulas to work, you need to start with a good clean base. It’s an aphorism that applies to both skincare and life.