The Best-Selling Face Cleansers, Reviewed
What are the Main Ingredients in Popular Face Cleansers?
What Are Face Cleansers and Why Are They Important?
As a concept, cleansing is a straightforward act — a routine that rids the skin of impurities to create a blank canvas. It is an afterthought, due to its nature as a “rinse-off”, and a mere precursor to the skincare formulations that actually benefit the skin. However, in reality, cleansing is a far more impactful skincare step, and one that can significantly positively (or negatively) transform the skin.
A great face wash or cleanser does more than just setting up the rest of your products for success — it deeply cleanses without removing protective proteins and lipids, impacting the skin microbiome, or shifting pH levels. A balancing act, more than anything, cleansers take on the difficult task of cleaning, moisturizing, and maintaining a level skin ecosystem.
What are Active Ingredients in Skincare? Do I Need Them in My Cleanser?
Approaching cleansing simply as a mindless act is actually detrimental to our skin. Rather, a cleanser should be considered just as important as other skincare products we use such as serums and moisturizers with a similar potential for impact. In response to this popular perception, a majority of cleansers on the market lack the essential ingredients that can truly enhance the skin - active ingredients.
When active ingredients enter the picture, in the recommended dosage, a skincare product significantly shifts in impact. Actives have specific functions and address specific concerns like helping hydrate dry skin, supporting cellular turnover to uncover brighter skin, maintaining a healthy skin biome and preventing acne and breakouts. Some common active ingredients include Niacinamide, Hyaluronic acid, Antioxidants, Retinoids, and Ceramides.
An Investigation Into Best-Selling Face Cleansers
In order for any skincare product to be impactful it needs to have (1) ingredients that are scientifically proven to work (2) these efficacious ingredients included in quantities where they are proven to work. Usually we see maximum active ingredients in serums which are considered the most potent of a typical skincare line up and the minimum number of active ingredients in face washes and cleansers.
No skincare product gets more face time than a face wash. We saw an opportunity to create a best-in-class cleanser that delivers on what consumers want (cleansing + hydration) as well as the integration of active ingredients that positively impact the skin during and long after a cleanser is washed off.
What Ingredients are Found in Popular Face Cleansers?
We prepared a snapshot of what is currently available in the market and reviewed the active ingredients found in best-selling and popular Cleansers.
Our goal is to illustrate that in general, cleansers contain more ingredients to help cleanse and foam, than ingredients to positively improve the skin. And this type of formulation goes on to further substantiate the perception that cleansers do not positively improve the skin. And popular perception about cleansers further signals to the market that people do not value and will not pay for good cleansers. We wanted to expose this cycle (and break it).
Drunk Elephant No. 9 Jelly Cleanser:
- 5 Active ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Linolenic Acid, Tocopherol, Cucumis Melo Cantalupensis Fruit Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil
- Price: $35
- Quantity: 5oz
YTTP Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser:
- 9 Active ingredients: Brassica Oleracea Acephala (Kale) Leaf Extract, Spinacia Oleracea (Spinach) Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Gardenia Jasminoides (Jasmine) Fruit Extract
- Price point: $36
- Quantity: 8 oz
Tatcha The Rice Wash Skin-Softening Cleanser:
- 8 Active ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Saccharomyces/Camellia Sinensis Leaf/Cladosiphon Okamuranus/Rice Ferment Filtrate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Powder, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Betaphycus Gelatinum Extract
- Price point: $38
- Quantity: 4 oz
Fresh Soy Hydrating Gentle Cleanser:
- 11 Active ingredients: Centaurea Cyanus Flower Water, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Rosa Damascena Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Flower Extract, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil, Tocopherol
- Price point: $48
- Quantity: 8.4oz
Augustinus Bader The Cream Cleanser Gel:
- 9 Active ingredients: Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Sisymbrium Irio Seed Oil
- Price point: $69
- Quantity: 3.38 oz
SK-II Facial Treatment Cleanser:
- 5 Active ingredients: Pitera™, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate
- Price point: $75
- Quantity: 3.6oz
- 12 Active ingredients: Lauric Acid, Algae (Seaweed) Extract, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Seed Powder, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seedcake, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Meal, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Leaf Oil, Niacin, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Powder, Caffeine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sucrose, Macrocystis Pyrifera (Kelp) Protein
- Price point: $95
- Quantity: 4.2oz
Within the products we reviewed, there was no direct correlation between the % of actives and price point — i.e. a higher price did not result in a higher number of actives.
Note: Our focus above was in the general “number” of active ingredients only. However, given we were not involved in the formulation of these products, there is no way to really know the scientific evidence for these “active” ingredients, nor do we know whether or not they were used in the recommended “dosage”.
A Science-Backed Cleanser with Actives Proven to Work
We formulated The Abundance Plumping Phytoceramide Cleanser with a proprietary blend of 18 active ingredients and potent performance-driven botanicals for a cleanser that delivers huge benefits in spite of being a rinse-off product. For best results, the Abundance Cleanser is used as a mini-mask when left on for at least 30 seconds on the skin for the active ingredients to fully express themselves and leaves your skin visibly and immediately softer and more dewy.
While each of actives in this formula have specific and impactful functions, a few stand out:
- Bromelain: rarely found in cleansers, bromelain is known for its gentle exfoliation and ability to soften skin.
- Pineapple Ceramides: deeply hydrating due to its high lipid content, it’s rare to see plant-based ceramides in a cleanser.
- White Orchid Extract: orchids contain high levels of calcium, magnesium, and zinc — put in a cleanser, this extract is an imitable skin-moisturizing agent
- Botanical Extracts (fermented rice extract, monkey fruit, licorice etc.): botanical extracts tend to lend a hand to skin brightening and provide general antioxidant benefits. Fermented rice extract, also known as sake, is high in lactic acid and malic acid to help gently condition the skin and provide antioxidant effects.
- Luffa Fruit: native to South Asia, the Luffa fruit is a fibrous, sponge-like ingredient. Ideal for extra-gentle skin exfoliation, the Luffa fruit is a natural replacement for abrasive seeds or microbeads commonly found in skincare products.
- Kaolin Clay: this pink clay absorts and prevents pore clogging, while drawing out impurities and balancing skin sebum production. Its gentle nature is ideal for oily and sensitive skin.
For quick reference, a conclusive list of active ingredients found in the Abundance Plumping PhytoCeramide Cleanser are: Hyaluronic acid, Bromelain, Kaolin clay Diospyros, Kaki Fruit (Persimmon) extract, Niacinamide, Pineapple ceramides, Phalaenopsis Amabilis Extract, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea butter), Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Artocarpus Lakoocha (Monkey fruit) Wood Extract, Pelvetia Canaliculata (Seaweed) Extract, Luffa Cylindria (luffa) Fruit.
The Abundance Plumping PhytoCeramide Cleanser is our reaction to a huge gap in the existing market of harsh cleansers that compromise the skin barrier or gentle cleansers that do nothing else. There is a missed opportunity to make the simple step of cleansing the skin - a transformative one.