I’ve gathered up some cleansers for this post and will be sharing which ones I’m planning on repurchasing. It’s difficult to wrap your head around which products to use when there are SO many options – good ones at that- being continually released, however I include a breakdown at the end discussing all of the options I have tried thus far. But first, let’s discuss the question of WHY we are cleansing in the first place. Why are YOU cleansing?
I was using the same cleanser from Sprouts for years (Thoroughly Clean Face Wash by Desert Essences). While it was all-natural, it was also much too harsh and drying on my skin. Before that, I was trying out different options from Sephora. Even when I started to delve into green beauty, switching my cleansers was near the last of my focus. My attention was always elsewhere on creams and treatments, and the only point of a cleanser in my mind was to scrub the life out of my face. I felt like cleansing was necessary in order to to have squeaky clean and acne-free skin. We already know that we need to wash off our makeup and spf at the end of the day in order to keep our skin healthy, but I was overdoing this like crazy. I always cleansed to the point of SUPER clean skin, and I wouldn’t be satisfied until I felt gunk and dead skin being peeled from my skin every time. Combine this mentality with over-exfoliating/acids and it’s no real wonder why my skin barrier was in need of help. Exfoliating/cleansing both parallel each other in that many people believe more of each will bring better results, and oftentimes if one person is overdoing one, they are also overdoing the other- this combination catalysts our skin into further problems. It wasn’t until I started understanding more about the skin that I realized we should treat our skin gently and with love, rather than abuse it.
I have talked about this method before (click here), and want to further continue the discussion here. Josh Rosebrook is a huge fan of minimizing water contact on our skin (some reasons being to prevent Trans Epidermal Water Loss and avoid harsh chemicals found in our water supply), and he recommends the dry oil cleansing method. When I decided to try out this method for 30 days to help fix my overly oily skin, it was an experiment that helped shift my relationship with cleansing. I did not let water touch my face at all (except for once a week post mask treatment) and I only used oils to clean my face morning and night. I would apply my usual products afterwords and continue my routine as normal, so nothing else changed. My oil cleanser of choice was namely the Herbal Infusion Oil by Josh Rosebrook, which smells AMAZING and is of wonderful quality – it is still one I recommend and use to this day. If you aren’t into dry oil cleansing, you do need a washcloth to completely remove it, however, since it doesn’t emulsify. Thus, if non-emulsfying oils cleansers are not your preference then don’t purchase this. An interesting point Josh makes in his article (click here) about oil cleansing and washcloths is the following:
“I found that damp washcloth[s] gather and remove more dirt and imbalanced oil from your face and pores, but the water in the washcloth is actually removing more oil than necessary. Without the water on the washcloth, the straight cleansing oil attaches to the imbalanced oil in the pores, gathers dirt, impurities, and make up on the surface of the skin because oil easily picks up dirt. The oil cleanser pulls the imbalanced oil with the dirt and debris off the skin effortlessly, leaving clean, moisturized skin without disturbing the skin’s natural oil balance. Of course, a wet washcloth always feels refreshing, and that is wonderful if you like that method. But less water contact and water rinsing will always retain more hydration in the skin. Retaining hydration in the skin offsets skin decline.”
This resonates with me because in the mornings I don’t always feel like I need to cleanse my skin; it’s strange but I literally feel it doesn’t want water applied. Using a dry washcloth to gently remove the oils feels surprisingly good, and more soothing than a wet one. Now when you wear makeup, dry oil cleansing at night definitely makes the process harder to work with, and I would have to repeat the process twice at night. It made me feel ‘dirty,’ so to speak, and not enjoy the experiment as much. The mornings were a much more pleasant experience and I really didn’t even mind foregoing water. In fact, the hardest part was not even dealing with makeup removal, but in not letting water touch my face while I was in the shower. I absolutely HATED that the whole month through, as when I go into a shower I like to turn up the heat and just immerse my whole being under the faucet. I was used to the hot water pouring over my face and it was therapeutic to me. However, rules are rules, and I stuck to only applying oils or a mask on my face, and carrying on my hair/body routines without allowing water to get on my face. This process was the COMPLETE opposite of stripping my skin and getting that “squeaky clean” feeling, and needless to say it was very, very foreign for me.
Though my skin was still oily, the most surprising part about this experiment and the one that really transformed my perspective towards cleansing was that from the start until the end, this method did not break me out. My skin also felt more calm, if that makes sense, and more plump/radiant. I did, however, feel very congested around my nose and my pores in that area weren’t exactly low-key. It goes to prove, however, that our traditional views on cleansing/water are not as we always believed. In the end, I decided that I don’t prefer this method, and moved back towards using water and products which thoroughly cleansed but were also gentle. But the experiment had done its part – my understanding with cleansing had changed. It was revolutionary at the time for me to realize that I don’t need “squeaky clean” skin in order to avoid breakouts. Now I don’t even mind water not touching my face in the shower, and I actually love applying a mask and letting the steam and product work together for the duration of the shower. I simply wash off my applied mask at the very end, and not even by putting my face directly under the faucet, but by using my hands. It truly does dry out your skin if you keep your skin exposed to the water for so long, particularly if you take such long showers as I do, and I promise you it will make a positive difference if you start applying this method as well. Now I don’t feel tight and dried out post shower, but rather fresh-faced and comfortable.
To my surprise, I have rediscovered this strategy and will now often dry oil cleanse in the mornings, as I find there are days where my skin just doesn’t ‘feel’ like it needs water applied to it, and I am loving the effect it has on my skin. By using oils/balms/gel cleansers which require water at night to remove my makeup, I have found out how to customize the dry oil cleansing method to make my skin feel clean and healthy. I apply my hyaluronic acid/hydration serums/spf right afterwords.
So we know to keep our skin healthy and break-out free, we do have to cleanse, but we don’t need “squeaky clean” skin. A surprising reason Celestyna of moss/AMBAR states we should primarily cleanse (full article found here) is to:
“…remove free radical contributors. We wash the skin so it stays youthful, vibrant and elastic. We wash the skin because it actually actively reduces oxidation, damage and pre-mature aging. Therefore, the most important ingredient in a cleanser (let’s just assume that this cleanser does satisfy the basic requirements of being thorough yet gentle at cleansing) is antioxidants! While cleansing oils and surfactants remove dirt and oil, antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which is just as, if not more so, important.”
Has this thought ever entered your mind before? I never even considered this point on cleansing to remove free radicals before, and it’s yet another point that changed my perspective. We already know they can damage the skin in ways such as accelerating aging, thus it’s not something to overlook. Whereas once before I would see cleansers as the lesser of all skincare products, and the one where I should spend my least money on since it was on my skin for such a short amount of time, now I know the value and am more meticulous about my choices.
So why do I cleanse now? To remove makeup, spf, gunk, and free radicals. Whew, now a final point before we get into some products… you already know from my past posts how I do not like to simply pump, apply, and rinse off a cleanser after 30 seconds. These products aren’t cheap, and to really embrace their benefits, I like to take the time to massage them into my skin with either my fingers or a tool. You don’t need to sit there for 20 minutes doing this, but at least take a few minutes with it: apply, massage, brush your teeth to let the product sit a bit more, then rinse off! Massaging your skin comes with its own benefits, and if you do this simple routine, your skin will thank you. In addition, if you have areas that are congested (for me it’s mostly around my nose and chin), it’s easy to think you need a harsh scrub or acid to take care of those pesky areas just as I used to think, but massaging is actually very effective in addressing those issues. Of course, everything should be done in moderation, and a small but important note to include (article found here) is:
“it’s crucial to stick to a soft massage if you try it—mostly because […] you could break the capillaries, but more important, you can cause micro-cuts in your skin or even inflammation that then can hyperpigment later. Particularly in dark skin types, your skin could be covered in these little black, hyperpigmented spots. […People] should cap any facial massage at five minutes.”
There’s different articles online of how to properly massage the face, including with gua-shua, and I may do another post about this. Just remember to be gentle with your skin if you try it out :). Okay now let’s get into some products…
Complete Moisture Cleanse by Josh Rosebrook
I’m starting this out with a serious new favorite. Josh Rosebrook is becoming more and more of an adored line the more I delve into it. Although I’m not a fan of the Active Enzyme Exfoliator and the Active Vital Balm is a bit too rich for my own skin type, so many of his products – hair and skin- are items I use consistently. Now I’m adding the Complete Moisture Cleanse to this list. Although I still have favorites which are gentle yet great for cleansing, lately my skin was just craving more moisture.
Listening to your body, whether externally or internally, really is intuitive- when you find you no longer want to reach for a product you’ve been using for quite a while, it doesn’t mean that product is of any less quality or has depreciated in value, it simply means it may have done it’s job and your skin needs something else right now. This is what I felt with my routine; while none of the products I owned stripped my skin or left it feeling tight, I felt like I needed to switch gears. I began looking for a cleanser that would be more moisturizing. Thanks to the masks/exfoliators/treatments I use at the end of the day, I don’t wake up feeling like my skin needs a really good scrub. It’s due to all the hustle-and-bustle of the day, post wearing makeup and spf and being exposed to pollutants, where I really feel I need to wash my skin.
We know that Josh Rosebrook is a big fan of plants over synthetics, and you can be sure to find beneficial, synergistic ingredients in his formulas. The Complete Moisture Cleanse is described as the following: “Our delicate, pH balanced cleanser delivers potent herbal actives, rich plant oils and a light lather to clear unwanted dirt, bacteria, and imbalanced oil for a moisturizing, gentle cleanse. Unique antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial plant and herb synergies help calm and renew sensitive skin while preserving the skin’s protective acid mantle barrier.” These benefits are due to the amazing ingredients such as Aloe Vera Gel, Sea Buckthorn, African Black Soap, Goji Berry, Turmeric. I was very excited to see African Black Soap as an ingredient in the cleanser, as it’s touted to be anti-bacterial/fungal, full of antioxidants, moisturizing, and more. So with this product we get to decongest our skin, get antioxidants, moisturize, and get anti-inflammatory benefits- all the while preserving our barrier. On paper, this checks off all the boxes we like to see in a cleanser. But how does it actually perform?
Upon first application, it has a very pleasant, light but sweet smell that is characteristic of Josh Rosebrook products. From his Balance Shampoo to his Active Vital Balm to the Complete Moisture Cleanse, his line consists of a very unique, signature scent which is very lightly sweet. It’s the natural ingredients which lend this smell of course – they are not selected for this purpose, but thanks to his focus on non-synthetic ingredients we can get such a lovely, pure smell in his products. The texture is essentially moisturizer meets gel, and is very easily spread and massaged on the skin. I will use it either as my morning cleanser or for a second cleanse at night, since I prefer oils/stickier balms for makeup removal. I personally like to use two-three pumps. After I wash off the product, my skin feels so good- not in the least tight, but rather clean, supple, and soft. It’s a very soothing and moisturizing cleanser. I’m so in love with this you guys that I will not be removing it from my routine for a while.
Amazon After Dark by Lilfox
When it comes to balm cleansers, Beurre Céleste is my baby. However, I was curious to try this product out when it got released. For those who are more picky about smell, be aware that it does have a strong scent, but I personally love it. This product is very rich and easy to spread and massage on the face. I like to use it as my nightly cleanse since it’s so rich that it can remove the makeup/dirt from my face with perfect ease. I’m very pleased that it can cleanse well and get rid of congestion, while leaving my skin soft and moisturized as well.
In terms of comparison, it’s richer/thicker in texture than Céleste and the smell stronger. In terms of performance, they both do an excellent job. Once again, this is another very well-crafted product that I have greatly enjoyed in my routine. And yet, will I repurchase? I have to conclude that both Céleste and Amazon are excellent options, and I would repurchase either. However, my heart tends towards Beurre Céleste more, as I adore honey so much as a skincare ingredient and would it use as a mask so often. As wonderful of a product that it is, I just don’t feel that it’s necessary in my routine as of now, especially since I’m happy with using the oil cleanser by OLO to remove my makeup. Just because a product is good, doesn’t always mean we need it! If I do repurchase, I would prefer to use it more as a mask, not a cleanser. Only the Fullies posts will tell what I end up repurchasing ;).
Vitamin B Oil Cleanser by One Love Organics
After trying the Vitamin B Oil Cleanser out, I truly do understand why it has so much hype around it. This is thus far the best oil cleanser I have tried that removes makeup so easily. Although you definitely can use this product as your sole cleanser any time of the day, I often use it as a first cleanse for the very purpose of removing makeup – even my eyeliner and mascara are easily removed without irritation. The product itself also emulsifies and is thus easily removed without the need of a washcloth. It even has added enzymes (papain) to give a little bit of exfoliating action, and I adore the pineapple scent as well.
Although is definitely is pricey for the sole purpose as a makeup remover, it does such an excellent job over normal cleansers that I enjoy my nighttime routine more when I do possess it. I have personally always liked a slightly sticker texture (think honey-based cleansing balms) not only to serve as mechanical exfoliation but to also remove makeup from my skin. This product is quite slippery (other oil cleansers I have tried are “drier”), and while I love that for my eyes, it was new a new experience for my face.
There is no doubt that this product is well-crafted, but will I repurchase? I do have to say that cleansing balms do just as good of a job in my experience as oil cleansers, as they are thicker/stickier and thus really help work the makeup off of your skin. On the other end of the spectrum, the liquid Micellar Cleansing Essence from AMBAR can serve as your first/second cleanse just as efficiently. My only qualm with that is my sensitive eyes do get agitated at times when I’m trying to remove my eyeliner/mascara, whereas with cleansing oils/balms they do not at all. However, due to the ease with which this removes everything while leaving my skin feeling moisturized, I will definitely repurchase.
Cleansers are surprising me with how good they are. There really is no bad choice of all the products I have tried, however I wanted to try to break it down for you guys so you get can a better sense of what to try/use yourselves.
Micellar Cleansing Essence [AMBAR]- Hassle-free, non-drying, excellent multi-functionality: use as a first/second/quick morning cleanse, as a toner, post-workout cleanse, for make-up removal, or mix with masks in place of water
Amazon After Dark [LILFOX]- Very rich, thick balm cleanser, excellent for make-up removal
Celeste Beurre [MOSS]– Honey-based balm cleanser that’s also excellent as a mask or for make-up removal
Complete Moisture Cleanse [J.ROSEBROOK]- Extra gentle and moisturizing cleanse, great for everyday, non-foaming
Halcyon [YÜLI]– Best gel cleanser that emulates conventional cleansers, slightly foaming, also good for every-day, contains fruit enzymes to promote deep cleansing, good for make-up removal
Vitamin B Oil Cleanser [OLO]- Number 1 choice for make-up removal
Black Clay Facial Soap [OSMIA]- Hassle-free, simple yet effective, lasts a VERY long time, slightly drying
Herbal Infusion Oil [J. ROSEBROOK]- Fantastic product for dry oil cleansing
Let’s Talk Price
Micellar Cleansing Essence [AMBAR]: $59 for 120ml/4 oz
Amazon After Dark [LILFOX]: $68 for 50ml/1.7 oz
Celeste Beurre [MOSS]: $70 for 55ml/1.8 oz
The Complete Moisture Cleanse [J.ROSEBROOK]: $55 for 120ml/4 oz
Halcyon [YÜLI]: $55 for 100ml/3.4oz
Vitamin B Oil Cleanser [OLO]: $42 for 120ml/4oz
Black Clay Soap [OSMIA]: $24 for 2.25oz
Herbal Infusion Oil [J. ROSEBROOK]: $44 for 60ml/2 oz
Talking strictly price and amount, coupled with performance, (not the ingredients themselves, which can be more expensive of course deepening on how they are sourced/extracted/etc), I will give my two cents on all of this. The best price value hands down? It’s the Black Clay Soap by Osmia Organics. It’s such a simple, yet powerful product which proves you don’t need many ingredients or nice packaging to get the job done. There is so much beauty in how simplicity and effectivity are simultaneously present in the products of Osmia Organics. I can’t speak for all their products of course, as I have not tried the whole line, however I can confirm with the products I do own, you’re getting what I will call ‘simple luxury’. I do find the soap can be slightly drying if I leave it on for too long, thus with this product I don’t necessarily recommend taking a few minutes to massage it into your skin. It’s a very easy, hassle-free product to use.
The next best value is the Micellar Cleansing Essence from AMBAR. It’s multi-functionality, as stated above, is what further raises its position as a value product. Once again a hassle free, very easy to use product which not only smells great but is a gorgeous color. It performs very well, doesn’t make me breakout, and I enjoy using this very much – it’s a staple (no surprise).
In terms of balms, due to the similar price point and excellent performance of both, I would recommend either Céleste or Amazon After Dark. That is still a high price point of course, and I wouldn’t want to spend more. Especially since I always end up taking a lot of the product at once, balms never last long in my possession, thus making the purchase more costly (which is why I prefer balms as masks).The oil cleansers, however, beat the balms in this arena. The Vitamin B OLO Cleanser provides a better price value for product than the balms, but it also parallels with the micellar water by AMBAR, which can justify the few extra dollars by the multiple ways you can use the product. The Herbal Infusion Oil is more expensive, but still less so than the balms.
Halcyon and the Complete Moisture Cleanse both have gel-like textures and in terms of value, they pretty much tie. Both products are excellent and are indispensable to me; I prefer Halcyon for a deeper cleanse (i.e. at night post make-up), whereas the latter I prefer when I want something more moisturizing.
It’s all about your preference- do you like dry oil cleansing, do you prefer balms, or rather gels? Once you find what you prefer for your skin the most, it’ll be easier to pick your products. For me, I find any type works as long as it’s gentle yet effective at the same time. Also, limiting water contact with my skin (i.e. in the shower, in my morning routines) and integrating dry oil cleansing at times in the a.m is very beneficial to my skin and makes a huge impact.