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Perhaps you enjoy the “squeaky-clean” feeling after a deep cleanse, as many people do. We also understand that ingrained habits may be difficult to break.

Even so, we’d like to suggest you reconsider your cleansing routine


Sebum Science

Sebum is the complex mixture of oils produced by sebaceous glands in our skin. Human sebum is very different to that of any other mammal. We have some way to go to fully deciphering its roles in skin health, but we can be certain that it is crucial for optimum skin health.

The production of sebum is metabolically expensive – it takes a lot of energy to make. If there’s one thing we know about nature, it’s that it is not wasteful. Energy efficiency is brutally managed through natural selection.

With this in mind, we should seriously question why are we seemingly so comfortable using high-foaming agents to strip sebum from our skin and wash it down the drain?


There are several problems with the beauty industry’s general cleansing approach…

For one, sebum plays an important role in maintaining the barrier integrity of our skin. Without it, regulating the passage of substances across the skin’s surface becomes more difficult. This results in both the loss of water, leading to dry skin as well as allowing the penetration of pollutants and pathogens.

Many cleansing routines try to replace the lost sebum with other oils. We think this is highly ambitious, given that science is not even able to mimic the chemistry of sweat, never mind that of sebum which is more complex.

Deep cleansing is not a remedy for skin oiliness. Agressively removing oils from the skin’s surface simply forces our sebaceous glands to increase production, to replace what was lost. The constant regeneration of high-cost oils can’t be maintained in the long term and, over time, the quality of sebum declines. It’s better to avoid depleting the resources needed for maintaining high-quality sebum.

Finally, the lipids in sebum play an integral role in supporting a healthy skin microbiome. Healthy sebum helps cultivate the microbial species with which we have co-evolved, but does not offering similar assistance to unwanted species. Fostering these intricate relationships benefits skin health in many ways. The poor quality sebum that results from over-cleansing eventually becomes available as a nutrient to a much wider range of microbes, instead of feeding only tightly co-evolved beneficial skin microbes, which is the intention.

The microbial imbalance that follows a drop in sebum quality can contribute towards the development of several skin conditions, such as acne, rosacea, and dermatitis.

We should strive for the healthy balance designed by nature.


Cleansing the Esse way

We don’t pretend to be capable of out-performing millions of years of evolution. Instead, we believe it is best to avoid disrupting the balance your skin works to achieve. Our solution is to simplify your skincare routine.

A good place to start is removing cleansing products from your morning routine. Yes, you read right. While you sleep, your sebaceous glands work to produce the sebum that keeps your skin moisturised. In the morning, you can preserve the resulting protective layer by simply forgoing the cleanser and rinsing with water instead. Sebum melts at around 32°C and this makes it more prone to being washed away, so try to rinse with the coolest water you can manage.

The matter of evening cleansing is a little more complicated. If you wear make-up, foundation, or sunscreen, you’ll have to clean it off, and water may not be enough. In this case, try to avoid high-foaming cleansers and choose something mild and cream-based if you can.

Esse does offer foaming options because, although our new understanding has shifted our view, we know that some of our users are accustomed to this approach. Although we have kept even our foaming cleansers as mild as possible, the fact remains that foaming agents mix with oils and allow them to be washed away more easily. We don’t want to deny our current users the products they have grown to love but would like to encourage them to experiment with some of our other options and slowly make the transition.