Lather, rinse, repeat – so we’re told. Whether under the shower or over the sink, we wait for that frothy indicator, lather, to know that we’ve effectively either brushed our teeth or washed our face, body and hair. We’ve come to associate the act of cleaning with lather, without which we think the job futile. However, this, like many of the notions we hold dear, is a misconception. Contrary to popular belief, products don’t need to generate copious amounts of lather to get the work done.
Why then do products lather? Curiously enough, it is most likely because of customer demand. We seek out lather: we brush till our mouths are frothy, wash our hands till they bubble, and rinse our bodies only once adequately buried in foam. And, it costs next to nothing for manufacturers to entertain us; lathering agents are very inexpensive. Cocamide DEA, MEA and TEA are commonly used thickening and foaming agents (besides which they serve no purpose). Products also make use of Sulphates, cheap detergents, to kindle our love for lather. Sulphates, unlike other lathering agents, do separate dirt and oil from the skin. However, they are harsh and strip the skin of the oils that it needs. To compensate for this imbalance, the skin produces more oil than it should and, from this vicious cycle, skin problems arise.
Lather is not the science of cleaning. Products can clean with or without minimal lather and there are many in the market that do. Take for instance oil cleansers or cleansing balms. They are nothing like traditional soaps but effectively combat sebum and dirt all while maintaining the skin’s natural barrier. However, oil is intimidating and not for everyone; the idea and feel can be off-putting (skincare is, after all, a matter of preference). There are cleansers in the market that are not oily but are sulphate-free. A simple read of the list of ingredients is all it takes to identify these. Lather may be to your taste or not, but is important to know that you are not any cleaner for it.