The Cleansing Game Changers

One of the first posts I wrote on here was about how my search for the elusive “perfect” cleanser led me on the journey toward becoming the skin care aficionado that I’ve become today. Although my heart (and bank account) skips a beat for the next new serum, the purest of oils or the dreamiest of lotions; I find myself most moved by the power of a good cleanser.

Cleansing is one of the trickiest things to get right as effective can often mean drying, while hydrating cleansers may well cause clogged pores and more build-up. And while we all have our philosophy for what cleansing regimen works (Oil Cleanse, 4-2-4 In Fiore, Powder formulas, etc), the truth is that most cleansers are made to excel in only certain areas.

Consider the following as a comprehensive cheat sheet for the best of the best broken down by type.

Beauty Idealist Cleansers

Cleansing Oils & Balms

Some prefer to leave the two in their own category but ultimately when a balm is heated upon contact with skin, it becomes an oil so at the end you’re still oil cleansing. Oil Cleansing is extremely popular within the green beauty world and outside of it, is regarded more as a make-up remover. In fact, oils work under the principal of pulling water-resistant sunscreen and make-up off of skin by bonding with the oil bases in those products. This makes them particularly effective as a night-time cleanse. However, the cleansing is rather superficial and further cleansing is necessary for skin to work its best so even if you’re one of those “oil and done” types – try to add in a second cleanser at least twice a week to truly get rid of all the bad stuff.

Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil: gentle, subtle and a sight to behold, this cleansing oil is light yet substantial when it comes into contact with make-up. The emulsifying ingredients mean this oil rinses clean after it has done its job, leaving your skin surface clear and free of residue. (Mini Review Here)

de Mamiel Restorative Cleansing Balm: Everything about this balm is nirvana from the oh-so-soft buttery texture that melts into skin to the most beautiful of aromas – if you are searching for a cleansing balm, this needs to be at the top of that list. This is a balm I apply and will just sit, massage and enjoy while watching ‘scopes or catching up on tv. Although emulsifier is included in the rich-formula, I still recommend cloth removal to make sure everything is rinsed off.

Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil Makeup Remover: Well… this is quite a mouthful of a name isn’t it? But it’s easy to see why Green Beauty fans the world over are so in love with this oil: it’s green, it’s effective and it feels great! Again – this oil will emulsify upon contact with water which means my 3 favorite best in class oil based cleansers all emulsify with water and that is no coincidence. I’d say the very fact that this oil contains an emulsifier elevates it ahead of the green beauty pack because the worst thing is to be left with oily residue from your cleanser – giving your 2nd cleanser more work to do. (Review Here)

Cleansing Milks & Creams

These are kind of hybrid that usually contain oils/waxes yet also surfactants (a.k.a the things that act as detergents). I recommend milks and creams for those with very dry and sensitive skin. The cleansing power is middle of the pack but it likely will not cause your skin to freak out either.

In Fiore Treate: A very gentle cleanser described as a “floral milk,” this cleanser contains both water based ingredients and oils. The texture is very light and creamy. It can be applied onto wet or dry skin depending on how lazy you are how you feel. It seems to work better in removing make-up on a drier surface while the wetter version feels better afterward as though dilution with water makes it gentler yet more thorough. The floral jasmine smell is actually very subtle for an In Fiore product where the rest of the line of facial care products smell positively like perfume oils.

Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser: I originally sampled a travel version of this cleanser and fell in love with it. I finished it up in under 1 week which meant the 200 ml bottle was destined for a spot on my beauty shelf. If I had to choose between Kahina or In Fiore’s cream cleansers, I’d pick this one: it’s more economic (lower price and larger size!) and I felt like the cream held together longer whereas the In Fiore would start to separate as I was within weeks of finishing it. This cleanser contains what I consider to be the most subtle fragrance of all cleansers on this list yet it isn’t boring, it’s a very light fragrance that gives it a sophisticated feel.

Aurelia Miracle Cleanser: Alright so I can’t talk about the cream cleansers without mentioning this one right? It was pretty much THE product of 2014 that catapulted Aurelia onto the scene. As far as polish goes, this contains bells and whistles, as I originally reviewed. Yet a year removed, I have to say I find myself opting for either In Fiore or Kahina when I want a cream cleanse and when I want to indulge in a massage, it’s de Mamial’s balm (above).

Cleansing Powder 

These are for the “my skin feels dull and congested, please just shed!” moments where purposeful exfoliation is necessary. While some powders can have a rough and abrasive texture, the two I recommend manage to get the job done without irritating skin.

Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder: Someone once told me they purchased this from Sephora because it was the only product to have all 5 star reviews and I don’t find that hard to believe. Tatcha’s Polished Rice Enzyme Powders somehow get that layer of dead skin cells off without making skin feel like it just went through a thorough exfoliation. There are four comfort levels for each skin type (Classic, Dry, Sensitive and Oily). Sensitive is seriously gentle and feels like rubbing a creamy pillow onto skin, yet when you’re done you’ll notice the effect of the exfoliation all the same. Oily is serious business, blackheads and congested pores along the nose are no match – two uses for me was all it took. (Mini Review)

de Mamiel Brightening Cleanse & Exfoliate: Okay, I want to live in the de Mamiel studio because all of her products smell like bottled happiness. Although this too is a powder, the scent will stay with you after you turn this into a paste- and that is not a bad thing! Consider this a gentler version of May Lindstrom’s Clean Dirt only instead of spices, you get roses, chamomile and calendula. The powder can be used alone a la Clean Dirt, and it’s also suggested to mix in with a cleanser which I’ve done as well. I prefer using it alone because the ingredients are so good that I don’t want to dilute it.

Cleansing Gels

These are the performance powerhouses that go deep to penetrate skin. They’re sometimes referred to as the 2nd cleanse in green beauty but I think they should really be thought of as the cleansing step after make-up removal. Cleansing gels are all about performance so they’re not going to coat your skin in residue but they also won’t leave your skin with the “I just lotioned myself” feeling after which for some can feel unnatural. A good formula is one that does not have soaps, alcohols, sulfates as these are the culprits that dry out skin and mess up skin’s pH. Look for low to non foaming gels with good slip for best results.

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip: This is an odd one – I originally found much to be loved yet when I continued using it I found daily use made my skin pretty flustered as I soon developed dry patches and break outs. This one earns a spot though because it’s great as a strong cleanser when your skin is misbehaving due to its seriously powerful mix of clays and anti-microbial plants. But when everything is good with your skin – leave it sitting on the beauty shelf, it looks good there anyway.

Grown Alchemist Gel Facial Cleanser: This cleanser perhaps comes closest to my former cleanser holy grail Ren’s Rose Centifolia Cleanser before they got bought out and the formula completely changed! Although the existence of citrus oils isn’t that great for day use, I still quite love this for its gentleness and the subtle plant fragrance. The inclusion of rose and aloe vera makes it very gentle on the skin.

YULI Halcyon: The only green cleanser to make it into this category, and no small feat either given the seriously advanced high-tech ingredients required to pull this off. My original review of this cleanser led to it being one of the most discussed products EVER on this site. As a cleanser, this is beautiful: intelligent ingredients that are gentle on skin, boost the moisture barrier and manage to give it a clean almost ‘nude’ relaxing feeling; as a beauty product, this is genius: a green formula featuring cleansing action through peptides (!!) and “hybridized fruit enzymes” do the heavy lifting. As an admitted beauty junkie – I  live for discovering new products, however this is the cleanser I keep coming back to and each time I’m reminded why I won’t be without it.

Hopefully I’ve covered the cleansers you love or are curious about – please share any cleansers you think would be great to add to this list. One thing is for certain and that is that whatever type of cleanser you like, there is a truly best in class green option available – what an achievement!



  1. October 8, 2015 / 2:33 am

    Have you tried Hada Labo Tokyo’s Hydrating Cleanser? I got really into skincare a couple years ago and it was one of the first products I fell in love with. The Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder is on my list of things to try next!

    • October 18, 2015 / 4:17 pm

      Thanks for commenting Sarah! I have not tried Hada Labo but real talk: I don’t really go toward those brands. There are too many chemicals, it reminds me of a Japanese Johnson&Johnson cleanser.

  2. Marie
    October 9, 2015 / 8:49 pm

    This post come just in time when I am looking to “Winterize” my routine. Have you tried Osmia organics Gentle foaming cleanser ? It works well in Summer for me but in winter it’s too drying. I wonder how it compares to Halcyon ?

    I have tried Luzern labs Pure Cleansing Crème, it’s very soothing and it rinses completely cleans. You should check that one out.

    • October 18, 2015 / 4:21 pm

      Hi Marie! I have used a sample of the Osmia cleanser and found it to be too high foaming and yes slightly drying. Also it’s a bit expensive for 1.7 oz given the fairly meh ingredients list. The Luzern Labs cleanser isn’t one that I’ve tried but reading the ingredients with the citrus oil and chemicals, I’m happy to stick to the Kahina or In Fiore creams that also rinse off clean and soothe my skin.

      • Marie
        October 19, 2015 / 1:41 am

        Thanks for pointing out the citrus oil and chemicals in Luzern Labs cleanser. I didn’t realize it contained them. I will gladly revisit Kahina or give In Fiore a try.

        Thanks again

  3. Jennifer
    October 10, 2015 / 12:35 pm

    I love reading your blog. I find it so informative and this post is just what I needed as I am looking for a new cleanser. Please post more often!!

  4. Denise
    October 13, 2015 / 9:51 am

    You mentioned the differences between ML Clean Dirt and your proposed de mamiel, but what do you think of clean dirt as a product on its own? I ask because I agreed with almost everything you said about the honey mud in your earlier review so I was hoping for another honest opinion!

    • October 18, 2015 / 4:28 pm

      Hi Denise, Clean Dirt is a good exfoliator but I don’t think that spices are the best for skin, it’s really inflammatory and the general texture of Clean Dirt is rougher than DeMamiels.

  5. Alyssa
    October 15, 2015 / 5:36 pm

    Have you tried True Nature Botanicals? I’ve read nothing but great reviews, but I trust your opinion since you’re not in it for free advertising or marketing for companies.

    • October 18, 2015 / 4:22 pm

      Hi Alyssa, I have not tried this line yet. I am a little confused now that they separated from Marie Veronique which products are now with whom.

  6. Salma
    October 20, 2015 / 7:48 pm

    Hi! I’m looking to switch up my cleansing routine for the winter and I value your opinion so much. For the winter, would you recommend a cleansing oil (ED4OLO vs Tatcha) + cleansing gel (Yüli) OR a cleansing milk/cream (Kahina) + cleansing gel (Yüli)? I have combination skin, senistive enough I’m careful about ingredients, and cheeks can get dry in the New York cold. Thank you for your time!

    • November 6, 2015 / 2:44 am

      Hi Salma! I think if you wear makeup then Cleansing Oil + Gel and if not then just a milk/gel may be okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *