I admit to being a bit obsessive about cleansing my face, especially after a horrid scare with adult acne. Now, my bedtime face washing ritual is more luxe than lax – I love to pamper myself in the way I imagine Marie Antoinette would have done after a glistening ball at Versailles.
After all, cleansing is what sets the stage for all your skincare.
First, there’s absolutely no point pouring money on serums, moisturisers and masks if your canvas is not clean to begin with. Even if you don’t wear makeup, think of all the dirt, oil, bacteria, viruses and pollutants your poor skin encounters through the day!
Not only does this mean super-unhappy, super-clogged pores, none of the other skincare products you use can penetrate through this stagnant layer of oil and grime, thereby making everything else useless.
And the mornings? Just take a moment to visualise all the bacteria from your saliva and oils from your hair that are being transferred to your face as you toss and turn for those (hopefully!) eight hours. Not to mention all the skincare residue from your nightly routine that needs to go before anything else can get to work.
As HoliFrog founder Emily Parr puts it: “Not washing your face properly is like eating a salad without washing the leaves – I’m going to let you imagine those consequences!”
So, yes, cleansing may not be the most glamorous part of your skincare routine but it is THE most important one for sure. And as cleansing obsessed as I am, there has been a constant hunt for the best face washes in the market. For years.
After lots and lots AND lots of research and experimentation, I can very confidently say that these three are the absolute best at getting you to your best, most beautiful and healthiest complexion ever!
HoliFrog founder Emily Parr is an old hand in the beauty business and all that experience has taught her the importance of “situational cleansing”. Basically, cleansing based on what your skin needs at the moment – which may change from one wash to another.
Emily has built a whole beauty brand based only on cleansers. HoliFrog has four cleansers under its belt right now, with a fifth shortly on the way. And my favorite of them all is the Superior Omega Nutritive Gel Wash.
This one is a universal face wash, which deep cleanses the skin without destroying its pH. It’s loaded with fatty acids, probiotics, antioxidants and vitamins to nourish the skin and keep it from drying out.
What it doesn’t contain: harsh soaps and suds, fragrance, drying alcohols and harsh surfactants. Why is this important? Most cleansers use 30-40% surfactants, which upset the skin’s natural acid-alkaline ratio (pH). Skin that’s too alkaline becomes more vulnerable to infections (including acne) as well as fine lines and dryness. Skin that’s too acidic can become super-sensitive and prone to redness, itching and inflammation.
That’s why I normally stay away from foaming cleansers. But HoliFrog uses only 3-8% surfactants and I can truly feel the difference in the way it leaves skin feeling seriously clean, without being stripped off all goodness!
Bloomeffects Royal Tulip Cleansing Jelly
Remember how I spoke about a cleansing routine as luxe as Marie Antoinette’s? Well, now imagine washing your face with tulips and you can start to understand what I mean!
Bloomeffects co-founder Kim van Haaster was fascinated by the jelly-like liquid that comes out of a tulip stem when it’s been cut. Along with the fact that tulip farmers use this liquid from freshly cut tulips to cleanse their hands and remove any dirt.
This is what inspired the Royal Tulip Cleansing Jelly, which has a beautiful gel-meets-jelly texture that transforms into a silky oil on contact with skin. Which then emulsifies into a milky liquid with water and rinses away cleanly.
It’s become my favorite first-step cleanser at night as it removes makeup so beautifully and effortlessly. And this is what I reach for in the mornings when my skin is feeling dry, dull or in need of some extra coddling because it’s super gentle, nourishing and calming.
And while it’s inspired by those beautiful tulip fields of Amsterdam, there’s a lot of scientific research that has gone in here as well. In fact, Kim even got two grants from the Dutch government to study the flowers before launching Bloomeffects. Take, for example, that unique jelly texture? “It suspends our active ingredients (like antioxidants, natural moisturizing factors and amino acids) and allows them to be easily applied onto the skin to melt away dirt and impurities,” explains Kim.
While this is actually billed as an exfoliator, the fact that it’s completely non-abrasive and the powder actually transforms into a creamy foam on contact with water has made this my go-to on the second part of a double cleanse. Almost every single night.
In fact, Japanese skincare routines regularly include this unique kind of exfoliator-meets-cleanser as a staple in the double cleanse, as I discovered on a trip to Kyoto a couple of years back.
And trust J-beauty expert Victoria Tsai to merge two Japanese beauty philosophies into one product: their love of rice bran and rice water for crystal clear skin plus their absolute belief in the gentlest of face washes and exfoliators that work with active enzymes to deep cleanse without destroying the skin’s fragile barrier and pH balance.
The Tatcha Rice Polish has a gentle, pH neutral formula that’s built on a base of very finely ground rice bran and papaya enzymes, supplemented with green tea and algae to soothe and nourish the skin.
And this is no ordinary rice: It’s sourced from volcanic soil and cured by sake brewers to ensure potency sans any harshness. Why are these extra steps important? “In the Western world, we’ve been trained that effective skincare should burn or prickle when we put it on the skin. We think, wow I can feel it so it must be working! It’s quite the opposite. When it burns, your skin is trying to tell you to that it does not like what you’re doing,” explains Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai.
The result: Skin that feels so smooth, supple, radiant and poreless that I’m actually empowered to go makeup-free on the streets of Kyoto, which has to be the city of the most beautiful-complexioned people in the world!