Spring Face Cleanser Rotation

March 11, 2016

For skincare I think my favorite things to try out are facial cleansers. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as the feeling of having squeaky clean skin. I have sensitive skin that reacts to a lot of products and when it happens it usually happens instantly with a flash of tiny little red bumps that surface everywhere. I need cleansers that are gentle but still effective at getting rid of excess oil and dirt. I have normal combination skin so I look for cleansers that are strong enough to feel like my skin is thoroughly cleansed, doesn’t leave any film but at the same time won’t strip the skin and leave it feeling tight. I have a roundup of face cleansers I think are really good for right now, especially as we transition to spring. A few are tried and true and some others are new to me that I’ve been testing since January. I took these photographs a little over a month ago but wanted to wait and use up a few tubes entirely to see how I felt about them and also which ones I thought I would be repurchasing.

Finding a cleanser depends on so many different things. Skin type is the main deciding factor so if you have normal but sensitive skin like me I think you will find this review most helpful. I probably switch up my cleansing routine more than the average person. I tend to use a different cleanser for morning versus night. Also on full makeup days I like to double cleanse by using a cleansing water or cleansing oil first to remove my makeup. Then I follow with a regular liquid or cream cleanser afterwards to make sure my skin is cleansed all the way. On workout days I find myself giving my face an extra wash – right after I work out and also right before I go to bed because I have this thing about sleeping with clean skin.

I’ll split my recommendations by type and by intensity. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to any kind of tingle for skincare so all of these in this roundup are tingle-free and super gentle.

Up first are the cleansing oils I’ve had in rotation from Tom Ford, Tatcha, SK-II and L’Occitane. For these it’s really hard to pick a favorite because all four are extremely good. I’ve reviewed oils before (a few years ago) and I’m really picky with what I repurchase. As long as an oil doesn’t break out my skin or cause a reaction I’ll use it up entirely because I don’t want it to go to waste. Many leave an emollient film on the skin that I personally don’t like. Others strip the skin. Some others just don’t emulsify well on my skin when you add warm water. A few thoughts on these four:

Shown above from left to right:

  • Tom Ford Purifying Cleansing Oil ($80 for 6.7 fl oz) is the newest cleansing oil that I’ve tried, it just launched this year. Tom Ford Beauty describes this one as having a velvety formula, filled with nutrient-rich natural oils such as Jasmine Flower oil, Evening Primrose oil, Buriti oil, Tamanu oil and botanical extracts such as Panax Ginseng Root Extract and Thistle Fruit Extract, to cleanse and detoxify skin.” It indeed does have a velvety texture and cleanses the skin entirely. It removes all traces of makeup including eyeshadow, although I did not test on mascara because I don’t like oils near my eye area. It is on the purifying side but isn’t stripping. It did leave my skin feeling firm and smooth, but not tight.
  • Tatcha Pure One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48 for 150 ml / 5.1 fl. oz.) has been reviewed here on The Beauty Look Book before. I would say this is my no-fail go to for cleansing oils. It’s gentle and leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth. It’s non-irritating and melts away all the makeup from your skin when you add warm water to emulsify and massage into the face. I love that they make a well packaged mini versions perfect for travel.
  • SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil ($70 for 8.4 fl oz) is another favorite. This one has the most velvety cushiony texture out of all the ones I’ve tried. It’s just as gentle as the Tatcha but I find the SK-II leaves the skin feeling a bit more moisturized. On days I feel dry this one is best for my skin because it’s not quite as purifying as others but still removes all traces of makeup.
  • L’Occitane Immortelle Cleansing Oil ($32 for 6.7 fl oz) full review here, but quick take is this is one of the most gentle but effective cleansing oils I’ve tried and used up. I really love this one because it’s nourishing and leaves the skin feeling super soft and smooth without any residue.

Next are more traditional formulas, but as I’ve been testing some new ones I’ve found some really interesting ones that are quite innovative in texture and how they apply on the skin.

Shown above from left to right:

  • Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash ($34 for 4 oz) this is one I’ve used up entirely and I love it. Over the summer I fell in love with the Detox Daily Cleanser because it was good for those super hot humid days. As we transitioned to cooler weather I started using the Gentle Daily Wash and it’s a lot more gentle on the skin. It’s a really good daily mild cleanser that I love for super sensitive skin days. It’s effective enough to use every day multiple times a day without stripping the skin. For me this one is pure love and I will be repurchasing this one. It helps calm down the skin on irritated days.
  • Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser ($38 for 4 oz) is the newest cleanser from the Kate Somerville line. I also used this one up entirely (I just finished it 2 days ago). This one is such a unique cleanser. It has no gritty texture like scrubs do but does contains a mix of glycolic acid and lactic acid along with pineapple, pumpkin and papaya enzymes to exfoliate the skin in a natural way without being harsh or drying. It’s gentle enough to use daily but I like to use this 2-3x per week and alternate with the Daily Wash. It’s super gentle – there has been no irritation or harsh feeling  on the skin. It’s amazing at improving the skin texture without the harsh feeling of a scrub.
  • Algenist Gentle Rejuvinating Cleanser ($25 for 4 oz) is another really good gentle cleanser option. I’m about 80% finished with this one and think it’s yet another incredible discovery. It’s similar in performance to the Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash but the Algenist is a unique cream texture that has a slightly mousse-whipped feel. This is one of the few cleansers I can use 2x a day 7 days a week without feeling like I need to switch up cleansers. It’s gentle as the name implies but does a great job at cleaning the skin.
  • First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay ($24 for 4.7 oz) has been featured on the blog a few times and definitely has reached a favorites spot for me in terms of being one of the best purifying cleansers. It cleans out the pores and the red clay helps draw out excess oil. It helps clear up the skin when I have breakouts. The texture is almost gel-like but still liquid. I think this is a great balancing product for those with normal, combination or oily skin. Right now I can’t use it daily because it’s a tiny bit drying for the weather/season right now – but that’s for my normal combo skin.
  • bareMinerals Clay Chameleon Transforming Purifying Cleanser ($22 for 4.2 oz) is another really good clarifying cleanser. This one is interesting because you apply it directly on dry skin and massage it until the cleanser turns white. It’s a light red color that has a clay-cream like texture. Once you massage it into the skin you rinse with warm water and it cleans the skin entirely. This one is slightly stronger than the one from First Aid Beauty but is still gentle and non-irritating. It leaves the skin feeling firm but not tight. I like this on days I feel oily or after workouts. My husband really likes this one, although his go-to is still the Kiehl’s Facial Fuel.
Out of all the ones I’ve been testing, I would say that my top two favorites for cleansing oils right now are the L’Occitane and Tatcha with SK-II being close third. I find L’Occitane to be the most soothing and gentle for my skin while Tatcha is a classic staple. The SK-II one is good but the price prevents me from wanting to purchase over and over again although I really really like it. The one from Tom Ford is one of the most purifying ones I’ve tried – I suspect it might be a bit too strong if you have dry skin. It’s definitely a luxurious one but I think you can find other more affordable options that perform just as well.

For the regular cleansers, I’ve been so impressed with Kate Somerville. I can’t rave enough about the line because the skincare just works so well for my sensitive skin. For everyday my favorites are the Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Wash and Algenist Gentle Rejuvinating Cleansers.

Do you have a favorite cleanser of the moment? I always love hearing about skincare favorites so please share in the comments!
Press samples included from all brands featured above except SK-II. As always all opinions my own.

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  • I love the Tatcha, it works better than most, has zero irritation, rinses clean and leaves my skin feeling lightly hydrated. I like KS and am looking forward to her new Goat Milk Cleanser!

    • Tatcha = love! I'm looking forward to the new Goat Milk line from KS too!

  • Nemo

    Hello, Sabrina! My cleansing routine pales in comparison to yours! I use nothing but Aveda Tourmaline-Charged Exfoliating Cleanser with my Clarisonic Mia! For touchups (after messy tooth brushing for example)I use Burt's Bees Orange Essence Cleanser. The Aveda Tourmaline is $29 and the Burt's Bees is cheaper. I use Aveda toning products as well. Safe, paraben-free, cheap, and my skin has never looked better.

    • Hi Nemo – love hearing about your favs! Wish I could have a simple routine but I feel like my skin gets used to certain cleansers and needs a frequent switch up.

      I'll have to look into the Aveda toners – thank you for the rec!

  • Thanks for the review(s)! I, like you, am obsessed with cleansers!! i recently discovered the Tom Ford cleansing oil and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it!! It is such a good match for my slightly oily skin. My skin feels amazing after using it. My second favorite out of those mentioned is the SK-II, and then Tatcha (I haven't tried L'Occitane but I generally don't like their products). Interesting to see how skin type can make all the difference in a match for cleansers.

    thanks for the review – you mentioned some traditional cleansers I'm keen to try! xo

    • Ahh another cleanser lover! YAY! Yes – skin type and preferences can make a huge difference in which cleansers work and which ones do not!

  • Hi! I am intrigued by some of the cleansing oils because it's a staple in my cleansing routine. I usually use Shu Uemura cleansing oils. Have you tried them? How do they compare?

    • Hi Tiffany,

      This is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt πŸ™‚

      Which oil works best for you obviously depends on your skin type and the kind of makeup you wear, but I've found that SKII and Tatcha (my fave) are far superior to Shu Uemura. I used Shu's oils (dry and sensitive formulations) for years and think they feel much heavier than, for example, Tatcha. That's probably because they rely so heavily on mineral oil whereas Tatcha doesn't use it. I also found that SKII and Tatcha both easily emulsify and rinse off with water whereas Shu was more difficult to remove. They also do a better job of removing my makeup, but as I said, that depends on what you usually wear. Shu's oils were "the best" back in the day and the still do the job, but nowadays they seem heavy and a bit old fashioned. I think there are better options.

    • Hi Tiffany – I have tried a number of the Shu Uemura cleansing oils. Over the years they've introduced more formulas and options. I tested them for a while and they are good, but for some reason I keep going to SK-II and Tatcha (as far as Asian oils go).

      I agree with Eileen that I feel the SK-II and Tatcha have a more lightweight feel.

  • they are good and love how detail it is

  • Anonymous

    I have gone back to using Seba Med face and body cleanser on my face. For many years, I used expensive Chanel cleansers and always had small bumps on my cheeks. Now they're gone. Your review does make me want to try the KS cleansers.
    Thanks, Tanja

    • I think I've only found one Chanel cleanser that worked for me which is the oil-makeup remover (not really a cleanser, but more of a makeup remover). Something in the ingredients or fragrance irritates my skin and caused bumps too.

  • Thanks for the review. I will be buying Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser since I was looking for gentle non physical exfoliator.
    Have you tried Lancome cleansing oil? Or even better creme douceur – it's cream to oil cleanser – it's incredible. I am also trying Loccitane shea cleansing oil it's really nice but I think I prefer MAC since it's a bit more efficient .

    • Hi LilJeJa – I have tried the new Lancome Cleansing Oil (the green one) and just wasn't that impressed. I found that it didn't really remove my makeup as well as other brands. I have tried their cleansing water and love it though!

      I think Cream to Oil Cleansers are really interesting – I like the Erborian Solid Cleanser a lot!

  • I had the worst reaction to Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser – and it gets really good reviews so I was surprised. I have sensitive skin too, but dry – this gave me those little red and white bumps πŸ™ Glad it worked well for you though! I love cleansing oils – my skin never reacts to them and I feel like they're comforting – Shiseido is one I buy over and over, right now I'm using up Clinique take the day off cleaning oil and it's pretty good too.

    • Oh no! So sorry to hear about your reaction!!! Those little bumps are the worst!

      I hear great things about Clinique – but for some reason I find their cleanser irritate my skin πŸ™

  • Like you I have sensitive skin and I'm super sensitive to the itchy, tingling burn some skincare gives. Somehow if my skin is turning bright red I don't see that as a good sign. I love the Tatcha cleansing oil. I tried the one from M.A.C. and it's ok to good. I like one from Bobbi Brown. From the description it sounds as if the Tom Ford oil has a lot of ingredients in common. My husband travels to Japan for business quite often, so he frequently brings back Shu Uemura cleansers from duty free for me. In addition to their oil cleansers, I like their Porefinist cleanser. It comes in a pump container and I like it for post workout cleansing when I'm sweaty or oily. I also like the Algenist cleanser. Another one I like that is moisturizing is the Radical hydrating cleanser. For summer when I'm a bit less dry or post workout I like the Shiseido Ibuki Gentle Cleanser, not to be confused with Ibuki Purifying Cleanser which is stronger. I have yet to try their Perfect Cleansing Oil. I think I need to try the L'Occitane cleansing oil, you make it sound so good.

    • Hi Tatiana – you sound like a skincare expert! I think I have a mini of the Shiseido Ibuki Gentle cleanser, I need to give it a test run!

  • Anonymous

    I am really loving the new generation of gentle cleansers that don't have all the harsh chemicals that are in the cleansers featured here. My new fav is the Kahina Facial Cleanser (with Argan Oil) http://credobeauty.com/products/facial-cleanser

  • Tatcha! When I first started wearing makeup on a regular basis almost 57 years ago, my mom bought me a bottle of Alpha Keri oil and told me to use that to remove my makeup. I've used oils ever since then. Sure, I'd try other things periodically, but I'd always come back to a light weight cleansing oil. So what makes a cleansing oil different from what's in your kitchen cupboard? It is very light weight, has a pleasing texture and smell, removes makeup and cuts through sunscreen without any tugging or scrubbing, easily emulsifies and completely rinses away with water, and it leaves the skin feeling soft, smooth, and comforted. For me, Tatcha is the gold standard. I used to use SKII's beautiful rose scented oil and various oils by Shu Uemura, but once I was introduced to Tatcha, that became my staple.

    • I knew you would say something about Tatcha! I love all things from their line!!!!

  • Tatcha Cleansing Oil is brilliant. Love, love it. Cannot imagine a better one.

    • It is definitely a great one!

  • Hi Sabrina, I was wondering if the KS Gently Daily Wash removes makeup properly or if you use it as a second cleanser. I have used oils up until now and realized, belatedly too belatedly, that the cleansing cloths are breaking my capillaries. I have ridiculously sensitive skin and did not know the origin of the new red veins popping up on my skin. Right now, I am trying to find the right cleanser to remove makeup and high spf sunscreen. I use Koh Gen Do's cleansing spa water as my first step. I am using Tata Harper's Cleansing Oil but want to stop it all together.
    Happy Sunday!

    • Hi! On makeup days (which is most days) I tend to have medium to full coverage foundation, concealer and powder that stays put so by the evening or afternoon when I wash I find that double cleansing works best for me. That being said I do think the KS Gentle Wash does a good job at removing everything except eye makeup.

      The cloths issue sounds horrible! What kinds of cloths are you using?

  • Cheryl

    Sabrina, like you I love trying out cleansers! In my current rotation:

    SKII Cleansing Oil (staple product, love!)

    Kate Somerville Exfolikate Cleanser (love this, will repurchase)
    La Mer The Cleansing Foam (like but won't repurchase)
    SkinMedica Facial Cleanser (like, won't repurchase)
    Omorovicza Cleansing Foam (love this, my favorite foaming cleanser)
    Cle de Peau Synactif Soap (sample bar,little goes a long way,love)

    • Hi Cheryl – love your picks, the CdP Soap is to die for! I went through 3 bars and told myself to stop because it was so expensive but it is really truly amazing.

  • Great review…No matter what kind of skin you have, make sure the ingredients list doesn't contain fragrance, which can be irritating,parabens (potentially toxic preservatives) or harsh soap (it's drying). I want to give a try to Tatcha Cleansing Oil for sure…

  • I love the Kate Somerville Gentle Daily Cleanser. I have the pump (luxury size) next to my sink and use every morning. πŸ˜€

    • I have the luxury size on my wishlist!

  • Nice