Although my skin’s not sensitive, I’ve switched to gentle cleansers to avoid irritation, which can lead to oily, dehydrated skin that’s prone to acne. Here are some gentle cleansers I’ve tried out recently.
Bioderma Sensibio Cleansing Milk
Bioderma Sensibio Cleansing Milk is a watery lotion for makeup removal and cleansing, designed for sensitive skin. It works a bit like a cold cream: you apply it to a cotton pad, then wipe it over your face. If you’re removing heavy makeup, you can also massage it directly on skin then wipe it off afterwards. The key feature is that it’s surfactant-free but also cleanses very well, making it great for sensitive skin. (Surfactants are the cleansing ingredients you’ll find in most cleansing products like face washes and shampoos; although they’re great at removing dirt, they also tend to disrupt proteins in the skin and strip away too much oil.) It’s also fragrance-free and contains anti-irritant ingredients.
I was surprised by how much I liked this cleanser, since I’ve never had much luck with cleansing lotions in the past. Sensibio Cleansing Milk removes makeup effectively. It leaves your skin feeling soft and moisturised, not tight and dry, thanks to its long list of humectant ingredients. It also doesn’t sting your eyes like micellar waters can, and because it doesn’t contain any surfactants, I didn’t feel the need to do an extra wipe afterwards. The only issue I had is that it’s not amazing at taking off waterproof gel eyeliner, although the rest of my makeup was removed nicely.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Polypropylene Terephthalate, Glycyrrhetinic Acid, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/ VP Copolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Hydroxide
Avène Tolérance Extrême Cleansing Lotion
Avene Tolérance Extrême Cleansing Lotion incorporates their Sterile Cosmetics technology. Through the use of sterile manufacturing and a special self-sealing dispenser, it avoids the need for preservatives, which is fantastic if you’re allergic to them. Here’s what the self-sealing stopper looks like:
This cleansing lotion also has a very short ingredients list, reducing the chances of sensitivities. It’s free from the other common trigger ingredients too (surfactants, fragrance, alcohol). It’s a lot like the Bioderma Cleansing Milk but thicker, and it’s used in the same way (wipe off, no rinse). While it felt very soothing, I found that it didn’t take my eye makeup off very effectively, though it didn’t sting at all.
Ingredients: Avene Thermal Spring Water (Avene Aqua), Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Behenyl Alcohol, Sodium Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Carbomer, Water (Aqua)
Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
Simple Micellar Cleansing Water is a budget friendly micellar water that I’ve heard lots of rave reviews about. Micellar waters work by containing very mild surfactants that can be left on the skin without wiping – it’s essentially a gentle, no-rinse cleanser, which is great if you’re lazy or you have sensitive skin (though if your skin is sensitive, you should still rinse off as much surfactant as you can). The things that make it stand out are the fact it’s cheaper than most ($6.99 AUD for 200 mL vs $31.99 for 250 mL of the gold standard Bioderma Micellar Water) and that it contains niacinamide, an awesome skincare ingredient that improves your skin’s ability to restore itself and evens out skin tone. It also contains chamomile extract as an anti-irritant, and is fragrance-free. Like other micellar waters, it’s not very efficient at removing waterproof makeup (two-phase removers are better for that). It’s pretty awesome at getting rid of all the rest of my makeup though, and unlike some other micellar waters I’ve tried, there’s no dry stinging feeling.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Hexylene Glycol, Glycerin, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Panthenol, Niacinamide, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, DMDM Hydantoin, Cetrimonium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
Natio Acne Clear Detoxifying Face Scrub with Jojoba Beads
Natio Acne Clear Detoxifying Face Scrub is a gentle scrub containing jojoba beads. As well as not polluting the environment, they’re also very gentle on skin. The base of the scrub contains decyl glucoside, a gentle non-ionic surfactant, with a base of oils and aloe vera juice. There are a few other beneficial ingredients in the scrub as well, like salicylic acid (exfoliant), horse chestnut (potentially strengthens capillaries). I found this scrub very pleasant to use and not stripping or drying. If you’re sensitive to coconut oil though, this is one to avoid as it’s ingredient #2.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Stearic Acid, Decyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Salicylic Acid, Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Seed Oil, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Zinc Sulphate, Glycerin, Methylisothiazolinone, Benzisothiazolinone, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
Ausceuticals Calm Down Powder to Foam Cleanser
Ausceuticals is a brand I recently discovered through their awesome and budget friendly Vitamin C Serum. They’re a bit unusual in that they only offer dry powder to foam cleansers, which has the advantage of being able to avoid the use of preservatives (as long as you’re careful not to let water get into it!). The cleansers are also more versatile and can be used in a few different ways: mixing with water to form a cleanser or with oil to form a scrub, or with your liquid of choice to form a mask.
Ausceuticals Calm Down Powder to Foam Cleanser contains a whole host of ingredients with good skincare cred. There’s colloidal oats (antiinflammatory and moisturising), raw brown rice (antioxidant and moisturising), clay (oil-absorbing), calamine (soothing), manuka honey (antibacterial), tumeric (antioxidant and brightening) and more. I’m really impressed by how much stuff’s been packed in there! The lone surfactant in the cleanser is sucrose cocoate, a gentle non-ionic surfactant. I found that this cleanser was effective but not stripping, and didn’t leave my skin dry or tight despite having a really nice feel on my skin.
Ingredients: Colloidal Oatmeal (Avena Sativa kernel flour), Oryza Sativa (Brown Rice) Powder, (French Pink Clay) Kaolinite, Australian Pink Clay, Calamine Powder (Zinc Oxide; Ferric Oxide), Manuka Honey Powder, Theobroma Cacao (Raw Cacao) Powder, Goat Milk powder, Cocos Nucifera Extract (coconut milk powder), Tapioca starch, Salix Alba Extract (white willow bark extract), Musa Pardisiaca (Banana) Fruit Powder, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root powder*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sucrose Cocoate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Panthanol, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (coconut derived surfectant), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Caffeine Anhydrous, Powdered Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender)
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7 thoughts on “Gentle Cleansers for Sensitive Skin: Review”
I learn so much here. Thank you. Do you know where AUSCEUTICALS might be sold in the US? I’ve been searching with no luck. Thanks~
Didn’t realize the Simple micellar solution had niacinamide in it – that’s awesome. I’ve been interested in the Bioderma milk for awhile but I just can’t get on with applying a product of that texture with a cotton pad and not rinsing. I’m glad it worked well, though – I’ll keep it in mind for my sensitive-skinned customers who can’t deal with surfactants. Super informative post as always; thanks so much!
I never tried the Bioderma cleanser, but I highly recommend the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Water for makeup removal!
Michelle – have you considered the standard gentle cleaners such as Cetaphil and QV for the face?
They are very gentle although I find Cetaphil to be ineffective for make-up removal.
The Ausceuticals cleanser looks so interesting!
It’s pretty cool! I’m a big fan of their stuff now 🙂
just bought a whole bunch of products after reading your blog for agesss
just wanted to know if bioderma cleansing milk would need a toner? I can’t seem to find if it has a low ph