By popular request I’ve compiled a series of posts on my updated skincare routine and testing. Skincare routines are challenging for me to write about as I am frequently testing new things and I like to switch things up on a regular basis. Since moving from California to Florida my skin has had quite a time trying to adjust to new climates and water conditions. My skin has become truly combination as the weather can make me a bit oily outdoors but the water dries out my skin. I’ve always had sensitive skin and that has pretty much remained the same – I usually react immediately if I have any kind of allergic reaction and then it takes at least a full week for my skin to recover. Luckily with cleansers I’ve had no reactions with what I’ve tested and I’m kicking off my skincare series with cleansers and toners.
I have a rather complex cleansing routine and you definitely don’t need to have one this complex. In the mornings I use one cleanser and then follow with one toner. In the afternoons after workouts or in the evening I definitely double cleanse on a regular basis, sometimes I triple cleanse with an exfoliator added to the routine (scrubs and exfoliators will be covered in a separate post). To try and help simplify things I’ve split all my testing this year by category. At the end of the post I’ll list my top picks and recommendations.
Cream and Gel Cleansers
I prefer traditional liquid cleansers because I find they lather best to really clean the skin (vs gels, balms or oils). Ones I’ve been testing this year along with some tried and true favorites:
- Sisley Phyto-Blanc Lightening Foaming Cleanser * ($130 for 3.8 oz/108 g) is a creamy gel cleanser that has a foaming quality when you add water. It’s gentle but effective and does help give the skin a more glowing look to it. It removes excess oil without stripping the skin and doesn’t make the face feel tight after rinsing. Key ingredients according to their website includes white mulberry and scutellaria extracts to lighten the complexion, lemon extract to tone and restore radiance, vegetable glycerine to moisturize, lavender essential oil to sooth and balance and marjoram essential oil to soothe.
- Kate Somerville cleansers in general are my favorite because they work the best for my skin type and are affordable for the quality and performance. I often have to rotate skincare because my skin gets used to a product and then I find it becomes less effective. This is not the case with Kate Somerville. My husband also uses these and my brother who is in his early 20’s with sensitive skin also loves these as well.
- EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment ($19 for 1.7 oz/50 ml to $38 for 4 oz/120 ml) is the best for clearing up the skin. It is part of the EradiKate line with sulfur which is their line that helps with acne and blemishes. It’s meant for oily combination skin, but if you’re dry I think it’s still suitable for weekly use or during times you have break outs. Often times anti-acne skincare is too strong for me and ends up stripping my skin so much. This does not dry me out. Ingredients here.
- Gentle Daily Wash ($36 for 4 oz/120 ml, also available in a larger 16 oz size with pump at Nordstrom) is the best everyday kind of gentle wash. I use it in the morning frequently and in the evenings as well. This is my brother’s favorite. Ingredients listed here.
- Exfolikate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash ($38 for 4 oz/120 ml) is a exfoliating cleanser but doesn’t feel like a scrub. It has AHAs and natural fruit enzymes to purify the skin. If you’re looking for an exfoliating wash that doesn’t have scrubby particles this is a great one. Regular use for me helped improve texture and glow. Ingredients listed here.
- Glamglow SUPERCLEANSE™ Clearing Cream-to-Foam Cleanser * ($32 for 5 oz/150 g) is the new formula and packaging of their Supercleanse Cleanser. I really loved the original version and was really upset to find there was a new one. I still prefer the original version because I found it stronger and better for clarifying and reducing redness. The new one is still good but it’s creamier, a little more gentle and almost feels like it’s hydrating. It has a pore refining triple charcoal complex with three charcoals: coconut, ubame white oak, and gray bamboo, all designed to detox skin. Mediterranean clays absorb oils to mattify skin and restore balance. I just think the original was better. Ingredients listed here.
- Omorovicza Moor Cream Cleanser * ($80 for 5.1 oz/150 ml) is one of the most hydrating cleansers I’ve tried. It has a cream feel with a cream finish to the skin. It’s a detoxifying cleanser and almost has a cooling hydrating feel once you rinse it off. Skin is left feeling refreshed and hydrated. If you want to try this in a smaller size you can find it in the Holiday Cracker duo the or on Omorovicza’s site you can create your own custom mini travel trio. I would not recommend this for oily skin. My husband and I like to use this on our triple cleanse days to add moisture. Ingredients listed here.
- Saturday Skin Rise + Shine Purifying Cleanser ($26 for 4.05 oz) is something I tried and liked, but didn’t love. I think it’s a good basic purifying cleanser, but there’s not really anything special that it did for my skin. It has apple and peach extracts which are supposed to remove impurities without stripping. It is paraben-free, sulfate-free, synthetic fragrance-free, synthetic color-free if these factors are important to you. It does a good job at cleaning the skin without drying.
- L’Occitane Immortelle Divine Foaming Cleansing Cream * ($39 for 4.2 oz) was something I previously reviewed here. Quick recap is that it’s a great cleanser that gentle and soothing on the skin. I’m nearly done with a tube. It does have a soft scent that you find in the Immortelle line but it’s not strong and does not irritate my skin.
- Huxley Secret of Sahara Be Clean Be Moist Cleansing Gel ($30 for 6.76 oz) was something I purchased from Nordstrom when they had the Korean Beauty Pop Up. They no longer carry it but you can find it now at Saks Fifth Avenue. This is one of the most gentle gel cleansers I’ve used. It is a hydrating cleanser but doesn’t leave a film on the skin and it leaves the skin feeling very clean. In general I find I don’t really like gel-like cleansers as they don’t lather as well as others. This one is one I used up entirely and liked, but I prefer Kate Somerville and Sisley.
Toners + Cleansing Waters
Finding good toners that don’t cause my entire face to flare up has been a challenge. My three go-to’s below:
- Sisley Botanical Floral Toning Lotion * ($103 for 8.4 fl oz/250 ml) is one of the best toners I’ve tried. It’s an alchohol free toner that is designed for dry/sensitive skin, but suitable for my normal combination skin. Since the water here in Florida tends to dry out my skin having a slightly moisturizing toner works well for me as the water strips my face and the toner helps rebalance everything. It has rose extracts, cornflower and witch hazel. The rose scent is super soft and soothing. I’m super picky about rose scents. The By Terry line is excellent but their skincare is often too strong in scent for me (I’m ok with the lip products though). The Sisley toner is soothing and softening. I’ve accumulated minis from GWPs and have been hoarding them.
- Bioderma Sensibio Tonic Lotion ($9.90 to $16.90) is the best toner I’ve used under $25. It’s soothing and softly hydrating. I’ve bought several travel-sized options which is still a bit pricey but cheaper than high-end brands. Ingredients online at Beautylish.
- La Mer The Tonic ($90 for 6.7 oz) has been one of my favorite toners for years. I can’t recall how many bottles I’ve purchased. It helps to rebalance the skin and make it feel completely refreshed and clean. I hate repurchasing it though because it’s so expensive. It does last a long time but the price is always a huge ouch to the wallet. Ingredients listed here.
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- Darphin Intral Toner is another favorite to soothe skin and help with redness. It doesn’t sting even on sensitive days. I’ve actually been a fan of multiple products from the Intral Line including the Sunscreen and Mousse Cleanser.
Cleansing Waters have been in my skincare rotation for years. I find using these in the evenings to remove makeup really help improve clarity of my skin if I use in conjunction with a regular cleanser.
- Bioderma makeup removers have been great for gentle makeup removing. I’ve tried multiple formulas that I’ve ordered from Beautylish. I really like that they have small travel sizes which are convenient to pack for short trips. The Sensibio H20 is the most gentle, Hydrabio H20 is for dry skin, Sebium H20 is for oily skin. None of these remove waterproof mascara or eye makeup for me, but they do work nicely to remove face makeup. I still need to do a regular cleanse with a regular cleanser but doing a double cleanse with a cleansing water or oil first really helps to make sure all traces of makeup are washed off and gone. Ingredients are all listed on Beautylish.
- La Roche-Posay Micellar Water ($19.99 for 400 ml, available at Dermstore, Ulta, La Roche-Posay) is a great all purpose cleansing water. It does a really good job at removing face makeup – it’s more effective at removing makeup than the Bioderma for me. It’s gentle but effective. It doesn’t leave a film on the skin. It comes in multiple size options. Ingredients at Dermstore.
- La Mer The Cleansing Micellar Water ($50 to $90 for 3.4 oz to 6.7 oz) is something I had high hopes for. I ordered mine from Nordstrom and it’s lasted a long time. I think it’s a great cleansing water, but you can get something similar or just as good for a lot less. Still I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you try it. Ingredients listed here.
- Erborian Cleansing Micellar Water ($26 for 6.4 oz/190 ml) is another great cleansing water that I tried. It’s a three-in-one like many other micellar waters to remove makeup, refresh and clean the skin. It feels more fresh than others although performance is very similar to others I’ve tried. Ingredients here.
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- Lancome Eau Fraiche Douceur Micellar Cleansing Water is another long-time favorite. Different retailers have this in different sizes. Sephora has the 6.7 oz/200 ml size. Nordstrom also has a larger size 13.5 oz/400 ml option. This is probably one of the best micellar waters I’ve used. Ingredients here. I’ve also been really curious about the Bi-Phase Micellar Cleansing Water but haven’t tried it yet.
- Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water ($43 for 300 ml) is another great classic, but these days it can be a bit hard to find in stock online. I used to order frequently from either Nordstrom or Sephora. Right now you can find it at Dermstore. Ingredients listed here.
Cleansing Oils are also fun to use. I like these for the double or triple cleanse to dissolve and remove face makeup before I wash the face. Sometimes I’ll use a cleansing oil, follow with cleansing water + cotton pad and then use a regular cleanser.
- Shu Uemura Cleansing Oils * were previously reviewed in this post here. You can find all the details plus a special Shu Uemura promo code for beauty look book readers. Ingredients for all the oils in my original review post.
- Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48 for 150 ml) has been a long-time go to for years. It has a mix of Camellia and Rice Bran oils and is super gentle with a hydrating finish. It removes all face makeup well. You can find smaller trial/travel sizes in a number of Holiday Gift Sets. Also in a few duos at Sephora. Ingredients at Tatcha.
- Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E Micro-Dissolve Cleansing Oil * ($38 for 3.4 oz/100 ml) is one that I didn’t like for my skin. I found it a bit too drying for my skin type. If you have normal or oily skin you will probably like this. It is very effective and rinses off well without leaving a film. Skin is left smooth and completely clean, just a little too tight for me. Ingredients here.
Cleansing Balms and Solid Cleansers
Balm Cleansers have a melting effect on the skin. They are often solid or thick and once you work it into the face it melts and transforms into a balm or oil. I have mixed feelings about these. I feel like they are better suited for normal to dry skin. They often have a creamy moisturizing finish on the skin, almost like a film of moisture. I often follow with a regular cleanser after to make my skin feel more clean.
- L’Occitane Immortelle Divine Cleansing Balm * ($44 for 2.3 oz) was reviewed here. I like this for a super relaxing feel on the face.
- Eve Lom Gel Balm Cleanser ($60 for 3.2 fl oz/100 ml) is a new cleanser from Eve Lom similar to their classic Cleanser but in a pump with a hybrid gel-to-balm like finish. This has a similar oil/balm like formula. It has clove oil, Egyptian chamomile oil, grapeseed oil and eucalytus oil. This one has antiseptic properties for healing and protection. It has a rich moisturizing feel with a strong scent, but it’s not irritating. If you have normal to dry skin but found the regular solid Cleanser too rich, give this one a try. Ingredients at Space NK.
- Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm with Echinacea GreenEnvy * ($34 for 3.2 oz/90 ml) is probably my favorite melt away balm cleanser that I’ve tried. It has a similar gentle feel to the Clinique Take the Day Off Balm which I liked but found it didn’t take off all my face makeup. The Farmacy is more effective at removing my foundation, powder and blush and leaves the skin feeling very soft. Ingredients here.
- Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm * is something I got in a mini. It comes highly rated by online reviews but did not work for me. I found it too rich and oily feeling. I couldn’t get it to rinse off properly with just my hands and after reading the instructions I found you have to use a wash cloth to remove. I tried it with that method and it did come off, I still found it left a film on my skin. For me it was too rich. Ingredients here.
So after this year’s testing so far my favorites have remained my favorite cleansers are from Kate Somerville. I find all the ones I’ve tried to be the most effective yet gentle for my super sensitive skin. They work well to remove dirt, makeup and impurities and keep my skin clear and smooth. I really can’t pick one – every one I’ve tried works well. Still with the heat, humidity, sun, and long-wear makeup a single cleanser can’t remove everything 100%. My favorite cleansing water is still the Lancome Micellar Cleansign Water (I’ve used up two bottles this year) although I’ve really been enjoying La Roche Posay as well. Bioderma is still very good and remains a classic but sometimes it’s nice to try new things. In terms of cleansing oils, I rediscovered the Shu Ueumura ones this year and have been pleasantly surprised. I have reviewed and used up the SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil which I feel is one of the best ones I’ve tried alongside Tatcha’s. I haven’t repurchased the SK-II as I’m trying to work my way through other formulas. When it comes to balms or solid cleansers I think they are definitely interesting and there are a number of great options – I’m still one that prefers liquid ones instead.
That wraps up Part 1 of my updated skincare routine and testing. I tried to link ingredients where I could find them for each product. I’ll hope to have the rest of my skincare posts up before the end of the month to cover exfoliating scrubs, moisturizers, masks and face mists. If you have any questions let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer as best as I can.
As always I’d love to hear what your favorite face cleansers are!
Press samples and GWPs indicated with a *.