It turns out the lifestyle was the ideal breeding ground for my germ-a-phobia (and narcolepsy, I'd find myself napping/drooling on an innocent bystander most flights), which in turn, probably led me to accumulate more cleansers than any other type of product in my skincare collection. Basically, cleansers:my skincare addiction as blushes:my makeup catnip.
Today I'm going to do a quick roundup of my cleansing wardrobe. They're a mixed bag so there are some winners and losers in there. There are 5 in all, 2 first cleansers, and 3 second cleansers. If you're wondering what first cleansers and second cleansers are, I'll explain in a sec.
The art of the double-cleanse
In the evenings, I practice a style of cleansing called double-cleansing. As you've probably already guessed, it just means you wash your face twice with two different cleansers. In the mornings I have a different routine which you can read all about here.
First cleansers remove makeup, sunscreen, and dirt
First cleansers are typically oil-based cleansers which can come in a balm, cream, or oil + emulsifier form. Oil-based cleansers make it easier to remove oil-based makeup and sunscreen as like tends to dissolve like. Elephant in the room: using a cleanser with oil in it may sound like a recipe for clogged pores to those looking to fight acne, but it is possible to remove all traces of the first cleanser with the second cleanser (which we'll get to next). Besides oil-based cleansers, many opt to use micellar waters, or cleansing waters, which are water-based solutions with "micelles", or gentle detergents in the water. They function in a similar fashion as makeup removers and often have skin-conditioning ingredients for skin-softening benefits as well.
When looking for first cleansers that are oil-based: cleansing oils, cleansing balms, marshmallow cleansers, cleansing creams, cleansing milks are common. You do not have to pay mind to the pH of the cleanser.
When looking for first cleansers that are water-based like micellar waters or cleansing waters, pH must be minded. I'll discuss pH soon.
Second cleansers remove first cleanser residue
Second cleansers are typically water-based cleansers that are meant to whisk away any leftover residue from your first cleanser. Most often these cleansers are in foam cleanser form, but there are also many new innovative forms in the marketplace like powder cleansers, or enzyme cleansers (powders that foam when water is added).
Since these second cleansers are water-based, pH is important. A quick primer on pH to refresh your memory. pH is the measure of whether a substance is acidic (pH between 1-7 with 1 being most acidic and 7 neutral) or alkaline (pH between 7-14 with 14 being most alkaline and 7 neutral) in a water-based solution. This is important as the outermost layer of our skin has a pH that is slightly acidic around 5.5 (I've also read that the average value is 4.7) which is the optimal pH to fight acne-causing bacteria. Cleansing is an activity that can potentially disrupt the pH of our skin. Many cleansers in the marketplace have a pH that is much higher than that of our skin. These typically tend to be the ones that foam really well and leave behind a squeaky clean feeling which may feel nice to some, but actually means that your skin is more likely to have been stripped, and the pH of your skin compromised or raised (for a temporary period of time). Lastly, a quick PSA for my peoples, the fellow dry-skin-ites out there, high pH cleansers can lead to our skin feeling tight and dried out.
*If you're astounded and want to learn more, visit Cat from SnowWhiteandthePear first here and then if wanting more, here*
My cleansing wardrobe: a roundup and mini-reviews
Disclosure: I was generously allowed to choose products to review from W2Beauty.com, this Skinfood cleanser is one of the products I chose.
ingredients water, mineral oil, propylene glycol, cetyl ethylhexanoate, cyclopentasiloxane, isononyl isononanoate, ceresin, c14-22 alcohols, polysorbate 80, cetearyl alcohol, hexylene glycol, peg-7 glyceryl cocoate, honey, camellia sinensis leaf extract (tea), dimethicone, c12-20 alkyl glucoside, triethanolamine, carbomer, sodium cetyl sulfate, sodium acrylate/sodium acyloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, peg020 glyceryl isostearate, peg-40 hydrogenated castor oil, peg-5 glyceryl isostearate, peg-8 glyceryl isostearate, isohexadecane, royal jelly extract, tocopheryl acetate, xanthan gum, disodium EDTA, imidazolidinyl urea, methylparaben, butylparaben, CI 19140, CI 15985, parfum
The Skinfood is a water, mineral oil, and propylene glycol-based cleanser that is high in emollients and moisturizing ingredients. The main emulsifiers and surfactants are not sulfates, and are gentler in nature than SLS. The star ingredients are the honey and camellia sinensis leaf extract (tea). Those tracking acne triggers may want to note that there are fatty alcohols, hexylene glycol, and a trace amount of triethanolamine in the formula as well. Those concerned about ingredient safety will want to note the triethanolamine, and the peg-7 glyceryl cocoate.
smell It smells sooooo delicious, like a gourmet honey and tea dessert. Curse Skinfood because each night I use this cream, I end up having to keep myself from making a late night ice cream run.
texture The texture of this cleansing cream is a mix of the lightness of an expertly hand-whipped whipping cream, and the pillow-y softness of eclair/Boston cream pie filling.
color It is a light marigold yellow.
packaging It comes in a sturdy, clear, plastic tub with a gold, plastic twist-off cap. There is also an inner plastic disk that keeps air and particles out.
performance (makeup removing abilities): I rely on this cleansing cream on days when I am wearing no makeup, only sunscreen. I also reach for it when I'm wearing mostly light, non-waterproof makeup. It's amazingly gentle and leaves my skin feeling SO soft so I love it for that. However, I am disappointed that I can't rely on it to remove heavier duty makeup. You can see in the picture above that I pitted it against the extreeemely stubborn and waterproof Tony Moly Backstage Gel Eyeliner (both a pleasure and a pain in my side.. reviewed here), and the eyeliner won by total knock out.
value: price/quality $15.03 for 200 grams of product at W2Beauty where you can get $5 off your first order with code 1019734207. W2Beauty has a program where if you review your purchases on the site, you can earn a 5% discount code for your next order (to be used within 1 month).
final rating ☿☿☿ of 5 possible etude-kitties.
Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
ingredients water, hexylene glycol, glycerin, chamomilla recutita flower extract, panthenol, niacinamide, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, DMDM hydantoin, cetrimonium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA, citric acid, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate
The Simple is a micellar cleansing water whose formula really surprised me due to its high concentration of moisturizing ingredients and antioxidants, especially because it is so affordable and widely available, at least here in the U.S. It has glycerin, chamomilla recutita flower extract, panthenol, niacinamide, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. The main emulsifier/surfactant is hexylene glycol, which is again, not as harsh as a sulfate. Those tracking acne triggers may want to note hexylene glycol and a trace amount of potassium chloride is present in the formula. For those tracking ingredients that are potential health concerns, hexylene glycol, PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, DMDM hydantoin, tetrasodium EDTA, and iodopropynyl butylcarbamate are the ones to look out for.
smell It smells like water to me, but I have a daft nose and a horrible sense of smell.
texture It's water, with trace amounts of non-fizzy bubbles.
packaging It comes in a sturdy, clear, plastic bottle with a green cap. New bottles are not safety-sealed. There are instructions for use on the back of the bottle.
performance (makeup removing abilities): I rely on this cleansing water on days I wear heavier-duty makeup, including waterproof eye makeup. This cleansing water is my big gun. As you can see in the above photo, it completely removes the hellaciously stubborn Tony Moly Backstage Gel Eyeliner. Side note: my arm looks irritated and red in the photo because I wasn't using my usual cotton pad, but rather a paper towel since I was having my photo shoot near my kitchen. It doesn't normally cause that much irritation to the skin. The skin-conditioning ingredients do have the effect of leaving your skin feeling lightly moisturized for a little wrinkle in time (gasp, wrinkles? shudder) afterwards, kind of as if you applied a watery essence. It eventually fully absorbs into the skin.
pH Because this is a water-based solution, pH is important. The pH of this product is about a 7.5 which is higher than the ideal 5.5. I personally don't mind using cleansers between the pH's of 5 and 7 as the pH of water is 7. So this is pushing the boundary, but I still use it.
value: price/quality $5.24 for 6.7 oz or 198 ml at drugstore.com and typically $7.99 at your local corner store or grocery, often going on promotion for Buy One Get One Half-Off.
final rating ☿☿☿ of 5 possible etude-kitties.
Currently using the Innisfree Sea Salt Perfect Cleanser*, SU:M37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, and CosRX Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser*.
Innisfree Sea Salt Perfect Cleanser*
Disclosure: I was generously allowed to choose products to review from W2Beauty.com, this Innisfree cleanser is one of the products I chose.
ingredients sea salt extract, sodium chloride, sodium cocoyl glycinate, sodium lauroyl glutamate, glycerin, centella asiatica extract, ficus carica fruit extract, citrus unshiu peel extract, orchid, camellia sinensis leaf extract, camellia japonica leaf extract, opuntia coccinellifera fruit extract, hydrogenated lecithin, mineral salts, ceramide 3, fragrance
The Innisfree is a foaming cleansing cream that contains sea salt for physical exfoliation. I chose this cleanser because the formula boasts 40% sea salt extract, a relatively new, trending ingredient in skincare.
According to the cosmetic chemists over at The Beauty Brains,
The results [of a study done in 1997] showed that both types of salt water baths significantly reduced the extent and the severity of the psoriasis. However, the Dead Sea salt soak reduced the psoriasis a bit more. (However, the researchers point out that not all measurements reached a statistically valid level.) Still, this is pretty good evidence that the Dead Sea salt mixture is better at reducing the effects of psoriasis. Why is this the case? No one knows for sure, but it apparently is related to proportion of magnesium, bromide and other counter ions contained in Dead Sea salt.
It looks like the persistent dead sea salt salespeople at your mall are right, whodathunk? Though the Innisfree salts aren't from the Dead Sea, sea salt in general, has been lauded for its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Besides the sea salt, the formula has a blend of beneficial antioxidants and moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, centella asiatica extract, ficus carica fruit extract, citrus unshiu peel extract, orchid (another trending skincare ingredient), camellia sinensis leaf extract, camellia japonica leaf extract, opuntia coccinellifera fruit extract, hydrogenated lecithin, mineral salts, and ceramide 3 (a skin-repairing moisturizer, and lipid that is already present in our skin or what is termed "skin-identical"). Those sensitive to fragrance should note that fragrance is listed as the last ingredient. Those tracking acne triggers and ingredients that are potential health concerns will be delighted to learn there are none.
smell It smells like 90's staple perfume Davidoff Cool Water, and the scent is noticeably strong.
texture It's a creamy foam with little sea salt particles.
color Stark white.
foaming ability It's an excellent foamer and doesn't need much water to get it up and running.
packaging It comes in an opaque, plastic tube with a stable base. The opening for the product is at the base.
performance: I use this cleanser 1-2 times a week, whenever I want to physically exfoliate my face. I'm a bit afraid of abrasive physical exfoliators and the sea salt particles are on the harder side than say plastic microbeads, but still gentler than crushed walnut shells (which I don't advise you use). If you cleanse normally, you'll feel your face is adequately exfoliated. If you're a scaredy cat like me, you can get a gentler exfoliation by crushing the sea salt by rubbing the cleanser between your hands for about 30 seconds before applying it to the face. My skin feels refreshed and clean after using this cleanser. I also ABSOLUTELY LOVE using this in the shower as a body wash.
swipes clean? I test my cleansers by swiping my face with a toner on a cotton round afterwards to see if there is residue. And yes, this cleanser swipes clean if used at normal strength.
squeaky-clean factor? This cleanser does not make you feel squeaky clean, but just clean, which is a plus.
pH The pH of this product is 7, which again is higher than the ideal 5.5. Just saying, the pH of water is 7, so I don't mind too much.
value: price/quality $18.88 for 130 ml of product at W2Beauty where you can get $5 off your first order with code 1019734207. W2Beauty has a program where if you review your purchases on the site, you can earn a 5% discount code for your next order (to be used within 1 month).
final rating ☿☿☿.5 of 5 possible etude-kitties.
SU:M37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick
ingredients glycerin, coconut oil, water, stearic acid, lauric acid, lauryl betaine, potassium hydroxide, betaine, rose (.5%), camellia oil, tocopherol, green tea, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, apricot, yeast (.01%), basil oil, lemon peel oil, lime oil, pot marjoram, orange, ylang-ylang
The SU:M37 is the starlet of my cleansing wardrobe. I bought it because it has gotten almost unanimous rave reviews from Korean beauty aficionados of all skin types. Part of the reason why it's so attractive is the innovative, ultra-portable packaging. Others really enjoy that the cleanser revolves around rose, with its scent profile and the little rose petals suspended in the formula. But the main reason why it is SO unique and highly lauded is because it is a solid/soap with an optimal pH of 5.5. A SOAP with the right pH almost NEVER happens. It's like finding a needle in a haystack (or a barcade selling PBR in a financial district) as most soaps, even the chi-chiest (most luxurious/costliest) soaps in the department store don't hit that 5.5 pH number. heavy breathing I'm getting overly excited. Back to the ingredients shall we?
The SU:M37 boasts many moisturizing ingedients like glycerin, coconut oil, betaine, camellia oil, tocopherol, green tea, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and yeast. The main emulsifiers/surfactants are again not sulfates. They are stearic acid, lauric acid, lauryl betaine. There are also some fragrant oils in trace amounts at the end of the ingredients list. Those tracking acne triggers will want to note the coconut oil, olive oil, and tocopherol in the formula. Those tracking safety have nothing to fear.
smell It smells very lightly of roses.
texture It's a soap that is on the softer side. There are rose petals scattered through out. When you come upon the rose petals while cleansing, you'll find that they aren't very noticeable in terms of feel, and you won't even notice there's a rose petal hanging off your left cheek (the cheeks on your face, unless you decide to start using this as a shower soap like one creative Asian Beauty enthusiast did on the Asian Beauty subreddit).
color The soap is pale pink while the rose petals are a dusty, medium pink.
foaming ability The lather is easy to work up, but takes a bit longer than a regular foaming cleanser. When you really get it going though, the foam feels rich and velvet-y. Like straight-up cashmere on the face.
packaging It comes in an opaque, pink, plastic tube that looks like a cylinder. It's got a stable base and can hold itself up. The product twists up from a twist-click mechanism at the base. Think of a giant, pink glue stick, or a Push Pop.
performance: After adding this cleanser to my mix I find myself turning to it most of the time. Have you ever heard of the 80-20 rule? Where 20% of your clothes get worn 80% of the time? This cleanser is my 20%. I like to work up the lather on the top of my hand, and then apply it to my face. My face isn't left as baby soft as with the Skinfood cleansing cream, but it is a close second. After using this cleanser, my face feels matte, but not tight, or overly cleansed.
swipes clean? I test my cleansers by swiping my face with a toner on a cotton round afterwards to see if there is residue. And yes, this cleanser swipes clean if you use enough lather.
squeaky-clean factor? This cleanser does not feel squeaky clean, which is a good thing. Yay!
pH The pH of this product is 5.5. Cue heavenly chorus of rose-adorned cherubs singing the Lakme Flower Song.
value: price/quality The lowest price I've found so far is $24.00 for 80 grams of product at Memebox where first timers can save 20% with my link here.
It is also available for $28 for 80 grams of product at SokoGlam where you can save $10 off your first order with my link here.
It is $29.99 for 80 grams of product at W2Beauty where you can get $5 off your first order with code 1019734207.
Lastly, it is available from various eBay sellers at various prices.
final rating ☿☿☿☿.5 of 5 possible etude-kitties. It lost marks for having an awkward time period where you have to wait for it to dry before capping it off again.
CosRX Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser*
Disclosure: This cleanser was in the CosRX box from Memebox, which I received as a part of their Ambassador program. I will do an unboxing and reviews of the rest of the products shortly.
ingredients glycerin, water, stearic acid, myristic acid, potassium hydroxide, lauric acid, PEG-32, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium laureth sulfate, glyceryl stearate, polyquaternium-7, lauramide DEA, melaleuca alternifolia leaf oil (tea tree), salix nigra bark extract (willow), polysorbate 60, PEG-100 stearate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, sorbitan olivate, cellulose gum, galutheria procumbens leaf extract (wintergreen), fragrance, disodium EDTA
This is a rare miss from natural, clinical, and minimalist (with regards to ingredients lists) skincare brand CosRX, which has so many stellar products in their range. Why? The surfactants/emulsifiers in this cleanser include sodium laureth sulfate, which is harsher than most. Those looking to treat acne will find the tea tree and salicylic acid (via the salicin in the salix nigra bark extract or willow tree extract) they seek, but will be disappointed that potential acne triggers lauric acid, myristic acid, and stearic acid are higher on the list than the acne-fighting ones. Those tracking ingredients that are potential health concerns will find PEG-32, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium laureth sulfate, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, and disodium EDTA to note. There is fragrance in the formula in trace amounts. Very rare for CosRX. (We'll also get the the counterproductive pH later as well).
texture It's a foaming cream cleanser that feels smooth.
color The color is white.
foaming ability It doesn't lather too much, BUT it doesn't need to to do its work. The creamy texture has enough cleansing firepower.
packaging It comes in an opaque, white plastic tube with a sturdy base. The product comes out of the base.
performance: I didn't use this cleanser too much. I've used it 5 times so far and that's enough for me to pass judgment on it. I've demoted it to a body cleanser as I find it stripping and my skin gets tight from using it. Let me also get on my soapbox (hehe, get it?) about why I don't think it will do much for those most likely to purchase this cleanser - the ones seeking clear, acne-free skin. The thing about salicylic acid in cleansers is that it doesn't get to spend a lot of time on the skin, as cleansers get washed off. Rather than investing in a cleanser with "acne-fighting" ingredients, it's best to place your bets on a gentle, low pH (pH around 5.5) cleanser that will help your skin's acid mantle (read: bacteria fighting powers) remain in tact, and use other forms of treatments/products to work on the acne.
swipes clean? I test my cleansers by swiping my face with a toner on a cotton round afterwards to see if there is residue. Yes, this cleanser swipes clean.
squeaky-clean factor? Yes, unfortunately. My face squeaks like no other after using this cleanser.
pH The pH of this product is about an 8, which lands it in alkaline territory. 8 is where I draw the line. From now on, I will not be using cleansers that have a pH of 8 or higher.
value: price/quality This cleanser is $6 for 150 ml of product at Memebox where first timers can save 20% with my link here.
final rating ☿☿ of 5 possible etude-kitties. What a downer right? Read a more favorable review of CosRX products here.
Have you used any of these cleansers yet? How did you like them? What is your cleansing routine these days?
disclaimer and policies.
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