I’ve got a specific philosophy for the cleansing part of my skincare routine, and that is: it’s less important what is in a facial cleanser, than what isn’t – namely, drying or stripping ingredients. Cleansers stay on your skin such a short time that for them to claim to do anything else – brighten, moisturize, firm – is simply highly unlikely. Beauty companies market cleansers as multi-purpose because they know it’s what consumers look for – and many of the products do genuinely contain the advertised ingredients which can brighten, firm, etc. But in order for said ingredients to have any effect on your skin, they have to stay on the skin much longer than the average 30 seconds it takes the average user between applying and washing off.
Ultimately, those extra benefits aren’t really what a cleanser is for – instead, that’s what serums and moisturizers are for, to impart those longer-lasting benefits. The purpose of a cleanser is simply to leave a clean, non-stripped palate which you can then apply the goodies (antioxidants, retinol, vitamin C, moisturizers) on top of.
So it doesn’t matter if your cleanser is “rich” in something or contains a bundle of moisturizing ingredients, because it stays on your skin such a short time. There are only two requirements for a good cleanser – one, that it does not strip or irritate your skin, and two, that it does a good job cleansing and removing makeup. One, at most two, moisturizing ingredients is plenty to balance out the cleansing effect, which is why oils are so great – they contain one primary ingredient which cleanses and moisturizes. It’s extraordinarily difficult to find a good cleanser, not because they need to contain complex cocktails of ingredients, but because it’s so hard to find a formula that cleanses while also maintaining your skin’s delicate moisture balance.
After much searching, here are the top three gentle and effective cleansers I recommend.
1.Innisfree Apple Juicy Cleansing Oil, $16. This is one of the most-recommended Korean skincare products (it’s known in Korea as the best budget cleansing oil), and it’s worthy every bit of the hype. Not only does it smell amazing – like freshly cut green apples – but it removes makeup and everything else effortlessly, leaving your skin super soft and ready for the next step. It’s a very light, watery oil that doesn’t clog skin or stick to pores; pump a little into your hands and apply to face to melt all makeup and etc. away. Love love love this.
2. The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil, $11. While the Innisfree above is my personal favorite of these two cult Korean skincare products, this classic cleansing oil is easily the most-recommended Korean cleansing oil, and a staple in many routines. It contains jojoba oil and like the Innisfree, melts away all dirt and impurities and leaves your skin very clean without being at all drying. I can’t really describe the experience of using a light cleansing oil – all I can say is try it yourself and it will immediately make sense to you and it’s doubtful you’ll ever stop using them.
3. Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, $38- I recommend buying this on Ebay because the price point is ridiculous, but this stuff does work great and lasts forever. It goes a long way because you only need a tiny amount to spread over your whole face. Unlike the two above, it’s a gel formula rather than cleansing oil, but is similar in that it’s extremely gentle (good for all skin types), and removes makeup, dirt, and impurities without stripping your skin.