Skin care: It pays to mind what you use on your face

With the overwhelming choices of cosmetic products available on the market, some people are not aware of which ones are right for their skin, and what should be avoided.
Cleansing the face using certain soaps and lotions is not the right option as some can cause irritation due to their chemical content. / Net photo.
Cleansing the face using certain soaps and lotions is not the right option as some can cause irritation due to their chemical content. / Net photo.

With the overwhelming choices of cosmetic products available on the market, some people are not aware of which ones are right for their skin, and what should be avoided. For this reason, some end up buying products that harm their skin. Health experts say, for instance, soaps and beauty products such as makeup, especially when applied on the face, can have side-effects if such products are fake or don’t match one’s skin type.

Experts also say cleansing the face using certain soaps and lotions is not the right option as some can cause irritation due to their chemical content.

According to Dr Francoise Gahongayire, a dermatologist at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, the face is more exposed to the sun and other things than other parts of the body. It reacts to any sensitive products applied to it, and therefore, it’s important to always mind what is applied to avoid reactions that may harm it, she says.

Other than eating, Gahongayire also says our bodies can also acquire nutrients through the skin. In fact; substances applied on it are absorbed into the bloodstream; and just like minerals and vitamins, harmful chemicals put on the skin can be absorbed as well.

How to know the right soaps for skin?

Normally, Gahongayire says the pH of facial skin is always 5.5; therefore, preserving this pH is important.

“The pH of the soap must match that of the skin and this applies to everyone despite their skin type. If one is using a soap which is very acidic, their skin is likely to become irritated,” she says.

Consuming foods rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables gives one a clear skin. / Lydia Atieno.

Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Wellness Centre in Remera, Gasabo District, says the health of the body and the skin is directly linked to maintaining the right balance between acidity and alkalinity. Therefore, a pH higher than 7 is considered basic or alkaline, while a pH level of below 7 is acidic.

He says those soaps with a pH below 10 are naturally alkaline, which is good for cleaning the skin. However, those with a pH higher than 10 can be harsh to the skin.

“The skin’s natural pH is between 4.5 and 5.5, which is slightly acidic. When the acid mantle becomes too alkaline, it is unable to guard the body against bacteria, which is what leads to breakouts and moisture loss,” he says.

He adds that a dermatologist can help you test the pH level of the skin, which will help you get the right soap for the skin.

Gahongayire says it’s sometimes hard to know the pH of the soap because most manufacturers don’t indicate or simply lie about the pH level. For this reason, she says consulting a doctor before using soap where one is not sure of the likely effects is important.

She explains that the doctor will be able to tell one’s skin type as well as the best products for them. The same consultations should be done if one starts experiencing irritation of the skin whenever they use certain soaps.

However, Gahongayire advises that it’s good if people go for soaps that are simple, natural, without scents and colours, and other chemicals

On the other hand, Ivan Ntwari, a general practitioner in Kigali, points out that each and everyone’s skin makes a light acidic secretion called acidic mantle, which helps protect the skin.

He, however, advises that the most effective way to clean this off along with excess oils, dirt and germs is using an alkaline forming soap.

Ntwari notes that some soaps, especially laundry soaps, have stronger detergents than others or higher concentrations of surfactants.

“These detergents are not good for the skin, especially for people with a sensitive skin such as those with eczema or psoriasis. Before using these kinds of soaps, or any synthetic fragrances or hash detergents are applied, such people should consult a physician,” he says.

He says people tend to opt for liquid soaps, thinking they are good for cleansing a dry skin. He, however, notes that liquid soaps aren’t necessarily gentler or more moisturising as people think.

In fact, Ntwari says, some bar soaps provide the waxy emollients that one’s skin needs to prevent more flaking and dryness.

He adds that staying away from antibacterial or deodorant soaps is important because some skins may be intolerant to the added chemicals.

“However, one can use antibacterial soaps periodically because they have drying properties. Using them in moderation is also ideal in fighting acne and folliculitis,” he says.

Janvier Rusizana, a general practitioner at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera, Kigali, says there are many bacteria and germs on our body that help protect our skin. However, he says when something acidic is applied on it, it has potential to destroy the skin.

He explains that the reason why some soaps cause reactions, especially when treating dryness of the skin, is because they contain chemicals which alter their pH levels (increases the PH level).

Other cosmetics

Gahongayire notes that other common cosmetics used on the face such as make-ups are not bad if applied after consulting qualified and experienced personnel. The only problem, she says, is if such products are causing allergy or any reaction. When this happens, the person should stop using them immediately and seek help from a dermatologist.

She notes that failure to do seek expert advice can lead to skin problems, including acne or even permanent damage of the skin.

Gahonganyire counsels that when one is using make-ups, they should ensure that before retiring to bed, they clean their face well with clean water to ensure all the added stuff is removed.


How to tell fake make-ups

Claudine Utuje Mwangachuchu, a make-up artist in Kigali, says fake make-up tends to be cheaper, usually have a strong smell, the packaging is cheap and sometimes the spelling on the product is either wrong or has wrong grammar.

“Unlike fake make-up, good make-up tends to be more expensive, last longer, and the packaging tends to be of better quality,” she says.

How much is too much makeup? Well, according to Mwangachuchu, that really depends on the use. She says what matters is how well one blends the colours and mix the ingredients to match their skin tone and facial structure.

Mwangachuchu says applying fake cosmetics on the skin, especially the face, is very dangerous.

“Most genuine brands are subjected to many checks before they go to the market. If one is using fake make-up, their eyes, skin and lips can get damaged,” she says.


experts share tips

Raymond Awazi, pediatrician


Certain chemicals put in soaps may be harmless to the adults when used, while harmful to children. A baby’s skin is tender and needs a lot of caution on what is applied to it. Subjecting it to cleansers rather than common soaps is ideal to prevent growth of harmful bacteria.



Iba Mayale, gynecologist


Those who struggle to maintain a clear skin by using different cosmetics can opt for foods that contain antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables, which help protect the skin from the damage caused by free radicals.

Daniel Gahungu, general practitioner


Avoiding hot showers is important because it causes irritation causing redness and itching of the skin. Cold water should be used instead as it keeps the skin healthier.


Yvy Kamugisha, medical student


Avoiding foods which can bring about acne is important, mostly certain dairy products as they tend to spike blood sugar and increase insulin levels, which leads to production of skin oils. Besides, those who are allergic to certain foods should avoid them or seek advice from a physician.