Skincare Review: Facial Cleansers - the Unsung Heroes

I have tried a lot of facial cleaners at different stages of my life and around different periods in my skin health journey. It is important to find the best facial cleanser for your particular skin type. However a lot of people focus on the more sexy parts of their skin care routine, like serums and luxurious creams. A good facial cleanser is one of the key elements for happy skin. You need it as a good base - a stepping stone to all those lovely treatment products that will change your skin for good!

Left to Right: Alpa H Triple Action Cleanser, SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser, Muji Oil Free Liquid Cleansing Cleanser, Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser, Muji Milk Cleansing Cleanser, Alpha H Balancing Cleanser with Aloe Vera

Left to Right: Alpa H Triple Action Cleanser, SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser, Muji Oil Free Liquid Cleansing Cleanser, Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser, Muji Milk Cleansing Cleanser, Alpha H Balancing Cleanser with Aloe Vera

A good cleanser should feel easy to dispense into your hand to use, it should feel cooling while you're applying it in circular motions & not too harsh on your skin and MOST IMPORTANTLY - it should wash off well. After you have washed your face, your skin shouldn't feel tight or sticky - both of these feelings are linked to a product that is not quite right for your skin. Feeling too tight means the cleanser is too harsh and it is stripping your skin. While the sticky or greasy feeling is linked to product being left on your skin - this product is not rinsing off well enough.

When looking for a good cleanser, people often forget that cleanser rinses off and washes down the drain. There is no need to spend lots on a cleanser. You need a product that works to clean your face properly, not treat your face as it doesn't stay there for very long. Cleansers targeted at acne prone skin, for example, often have active ingredients. These are a bit of a waste as they go down the drain before they have had time to work!

What Type of Cleanser Should You Use?

So what type of cleanser should I use? My answer is that I don't know! There are lots of different types of cleansers out there; cream cleansers, gel cleansers, foaming cleansers, liquid cleansers, oil cleansers... A lot of the time it is personal preference as to which type of product you lean towards. However there are general rules that you can follow, outlined by people such as Paula from Paula's Choice. Problem products can often mask your real skin type.

• If you have oily skin, you should only be using products with a light fluid, liquid, thin lotion, or gel texture. Any other texture will make your skin feel oilier and risk clogging pores.

• If you have dry skin, you should only be using products that have rich lotion, cream, or velvety serum textures.

• If you have combination skin, you may need to use a mix of products for the dry and oily areas. For dry skin, you would need more emollient products and products with the lightest weight texture are for the oily areas—but can be layered beneath products for the dry areas.

For ages, I was convinced that I needed a cream cleanser, and I often wondered why my skin seemed to get bumpy and pimply. Cream cleanser gave me clogged pores.

Unfortunately, finding the best cleanser for your skin is a LOT of trial and error. However, I will list a few that I have used and tell you what I think of them below.

I find the multitude of natural cleansers on the market with essential oils in them to be way too heavy and pore clogging. Especially for someone with combination sensitive skin. I feel like I am doing a good thing by buying natural and organic, however they are far from gentle facial cleansers most of the time. I can put essential oils on my hands, feet and in my hair but not on my delicate face.

Alpha H Balancing Cleanser with Aloe Vera

I received a vitamin C sample in my Elle and Vogue Beauty Boxes and loved it so I thought I would give some of the Alpha H cleansers a go. This Balancing Cleanser is a cream cleanser which smells lovely that doubles as a makeup remover. You are supposed to apply it and take it off with a wash cloth. This is were my tip in Tips and Tricks: Clarisonics are too Harsh for me comes in handy. Use some gauze to take it off! At first this cleanser worked really well for me. It smelt nice but wasn't too overpowering, it rinsed off well and was sort of cooling when you dried your face. It worked wonders on my sort of red cheeks too. It also didn't seem to strip and dry my face. However, after about two weeks of use my skin around my chin and just under my chin started to get little bumps like it was blocking my pores. This cleanser was out for me.

Comedogenic Rating: 
Found 3 acne causing ingredients
Cetyl Alcohol is mildly comedogenic
Ethylhexyl Palmitate is highly comedogenic
Sorbitan Stearate is mildly comedogenic


Skinceauticals Gentle Cleanser

This cleanser is pretty pricey; over $60 for 240mLs, so I had high hopes for this one. I loved the bottle because it had sort of like a matte soft touch finish to it and the cleanser smelt amazing like oranges. Turns out it has orange peel oil in it. This cleanser wasn't as cooling as the Apha H Balancing Cleanser. It also felt stripping and left a residue on my skin. Seems like two opposites, however it was drying and seemed to stay there after rinsing. The orange oil is a big no no for my skin and was SUPER IRRITATING. Super expensive and super ineffective I found.

Comedogenic Rating: 
Found 4 acne causing ingredients
Carbomer is mildly comedogenic
Cetyl Alcohol is mildly comedogenic
Glyceryl Stearate is mildly comedogenic
Triethanolamine is mildly comedogenic

Dermalogica Ultracalming Cleanser

Loved the bottle on this cleanser and the write up was promising. This ph-balanced, non-foaming cleanser helps calm and cool the redness associated with reactive sensitised or over processed skin... This product is semi thick like Cetaphil and seems to rinse off really well. I love the fact that it has cucumber in it but hate that it also has lavender. The thing with this cleanser was that it didn't feel very much different from using Cetaphil and Cetaphil is a LOT CHEAPER.

Comedogenic Rating:
Found 2 acne causing ingredients
Butylene Glycol is mildly comedogenic
Cetearyl Alcohol is mildly comedogenic

Dispensing and Testing Cleansers

Dispensing and Testing Cleansers

Muji Milk Cleansing Cleanser

I love shopping at Muji so I had high hopes when I tried some of their skincare products out. The ingredients list on this product is like a bible and it includes orange, peach and apricot oils and extracts. I tried this around the time that I was trying the Skinceauticals Gentle Cleanser and I decided I didn't like both of them because of the smell. I am not sure that this Muji Milk Cleansing cleanser is something I could recommend for long term use. For a company that sells simple and amazing classic items, their beauty products are not very simple - the list of ingredients was just too long for me to feel comfortable.

Comedogenic Rating:
I didn't use this for long enough to bother with a rating...

Alpha H Triple Action Cleanser

Since I really loved the Alpha H Balancing Cleanser with Aloe Vera I decided to try their Triple Action Cleanser. This was the first gel cleanser I had ever used. (Now I am trying out gel cleansers if you are interested)... I loved the consistency of this gel cleanser, it felt amazing and cooling. It washed off well. The cucumber and thyme really felt like they were doing a good job at keeping my redness and oil at bay during the day too. This cleanser is a solid one. It didn't break me out and I think it is the best one out of the bunch so far.

Comedogenic Rating:
Found 0 acne causing ingredients!

Muji Oil Free Liquid Cleansing Cleanser

So I bought this Oil Free Liquid Cleansing Cleanser when I bought the Muji Milk Cleansing cleanser. Unlike the Milk Cleansing cleanser the Oil Free Liquid Cleansing cleanser doesn't smell much at all. After I bought it I went online to check out some reviews and people mostly comment on the Muji Oil Cleansing (Sensitive Skin Series) cleanser. There are mixed reviews for the cleansing oil, mostly people say it has quite a few acne triggers in it. I actually stopped using this Oil Free Liquid Cleansing cleanser pretty quickly because I didn't like the liquid format, but I also felt like it wasn't really cleaning my skin properly.

Comedogenic Rating:
I didn't use this for long enough to bother with a rating...

Gel Cleansers vs Cream Cleansers

Gel Cleansers vs Cream Cleansers

My Best Facial Cleanser Recommendation for 2017?

I have to say that at this stage the Alpha H Triple Action Cleanser wins hands down for me. Although there are still some things I would change about it but more on that later!

Do you have a favourite facial cleanser that I haven't tested? Maybe it is a Korean Skincare Product? Comment at the end of the post!