Here’s a skincare trend I’ve been really getting into: dry powder products. These are cleansers and scrubs that come in a jar. You shake them out, mix with water, and you get a cleanser or exfoliant. They’ve been around for a while, and hark back to ancient times when people would mix up their own cosmetics from ground pigment (I’ve been studying this recently as part of my day job, it’s really fascinating!). Recently they’ve been picking up steam – I’m guessing as a result of the DIY/natural/preservative-free trend in beauty.
What are the advantages of a dry powder product?
Less preservatives required
Due to the unjustified fear-based phase-out of parabens, weaker preservatives are being used in beauty products instead. This means that products need to contain higher concentrations of these alternative preservatives to be safe, and since preservatives are often irritating (they need to kill bacteria!), a lot of people get skin reactions from them. Bacteria need water to thrive, so water-free products only need enough preservatives to cover the small amounts of water that get into the product when you use them in a humid bathroom, for example.
If you want a gentle cleanser, mix in more water. If you want a thorough scrub, mix in less.
As well as cleansing, you can usually use these products as masks too. Mix a smaller amount of water to make a paste for a mask, or mix in another ingredient like yogurt or honey.
What are the disadvantages of a dry powder product?
Messy when spilt
I mean, the obvious solution is to not spill it, but that’s easier said than done if you’re me. More of a powder product jumps out of the container when you drop it, plus it’s a bit trickier to wipe up.
Impractical to keep in the shower
I do most of my “wet” skincare routine (cleansing, exfoliating) in the shower, so it’s a bit more effort to tip a small amount of the powder onto a dish so I can use it in the shower without getting the whole thing wet. I also sometimes forget to take it into the shower altogether…
Powder Product Review
Here are 5 dry powder products I’ve tried. You can see that there’s quite a bit of variety in them! They’re all pH 5-6, so they’re fine for your skin on the pH front.
Top row: Farmacy New Day Gentle Exfoliating Grains, Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant, Ausceuticals Calm Down. Bottom row: Ella Baché Revealing Fruit Enzyme Exfoliant, Alpha-H Gentle Daily Exfoliant.
Farmacy New Day Gentle Exfoliating Grains
Farmacy New Day Gentle Exfoliating Grains ($30 USD for 100 g, not sure about Australian price) is a cleanser with a mix of gentle surfactants (sodium cocoyl isethionate, sodium lauroyl glutamate), some scrubbing grains and a handful of plant extracts.
The chunky scrubbing grains in this product are from the cranberry and adzuki seed powders. There aren’t that many in there. The main exfoliating ingredient though is corn starch, which turns into a very fine, buffing, very lightly foaming scrub when mixed with water.
The plant extracts are marshmallow root, green tea, carrot and white willow bark extracts to moisturise and soothe the skin, plus their patented ingredient EchinaceaGreenEnvy, which is an antioxidant. If you’re serious about getting these plant extracts into your skin I’d advise using this as a mask, or using another leave-on product from the range as well, since the longer you leave it on your skin the more chance it has to work. There are also a few random beneficial ingredients in there like vitamin C (ascorbic acid and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) and a fermented lemon peel extract, but in a rinse-off ingredient at such low quantities I don’t think they’ll do much, but they’re not an unwelcome addition.
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Powder, Citric Acid, Water (Aqua), Mannan, Phaseolus Angularis (Adzuki) Seed Powder, Althaea Officinalis Root Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Patented Echinacea Purpurea ‘GreenenvyTM‘ Root Extract, Glycerin, Lactobacillus/Lemon Peel Ferment Extract, p-Anisic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Spirulina Plantensis Powder, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate.
Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant
Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant ($85 for 57 g) is a new launch. It’s along the same lines as the very popular Daily Microfoliant, but with some extra ingredients included to help fight pollution. It uses mainly microcrystalline cellulose as a fine, thorough-but-gentle scrub, as well as a few enzymes that aid exfoliation (papain, lipase, subtilisin). There are also some AHAs in here (malic and lactic acids), but since it doesn’t stay on your skin for very long, the pH is relatively high (5-6 vs <4 for a leave-on product), and AHAs are very water soluble, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to rely on this alone for chemical exfoliation. Multitasking superstar ingredient niacinamide aka vitamin B3 also makes an appearance.
On the pollution front, there’s charcoal which can potentially grab onto pollutants and leftover makeup on your skin. There’s also an “anti-adherence complex” of red algae and tara fruit which is claimed to form a “molecular mesh that inhibits penetration of environmental pollutants” on your skin. This is a trending thing in anti-pollution products (which I’m planning to write about soon) and sounds pretty cool, but it does mean that this product is much more suited to morning use than night use, since the mesh probably slows down the penetration of skincare actives as well.
Microcrystalline Cellulose, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Sodium Myristoyl Glutamate, Malic Acid, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Charcoal Powder, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Maltodextrin, Silica, Magnesium Oxide, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Sapindus Trifoliatus Fruit Extract, Niacinamide, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Peel Oil, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Camellia Sinensis Leaf, Kappaphycus Alvarezii Extract, Caesalpinia Spinosa Fruit Pod Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Subtilisin, Lipase, Papain, Lactic Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Xanthan Gum, Water/Aqua/Eau, Coconut Acid, Calcium Lactate, Capryloyl Glycine, Undecylenoyl Glycine, Cetrimonium Chloride, Limonene, Linalool.
Alpha-H Gentle Daily Exfoliant
Alpha-H Gentle Daily Exfoliant ($62 AUD/$38.29 USD for 50 g) is a clay and enzyme product that’s designed to be massaged into your skin for one minute before rinsing. It has a very short ingredients list, with kaolin, bentonite and diatomaceous earth as the clay particles which will provide very gentle physical exfoliation, and papaya and pineapple extracts for enzyme exfoliation.
The instructions don’t mention this, but I’ve been using it as a quick 3 minute-ish mask with a very thin layer, and it’s been going well. If you’re going to try this too, I recommend slowly increasing the time in case of irritation (the enzyme exfoliants usually aren’t very irritating, but it’s always better to be careful than to wake up with a giant breakout…). This is also preservative-free if you’re looking to avoid them.
Kaolin, Solum Diatomae, Bentonite, Carica Papaya Fruit Extract, Ananas Sativas Fruit Extract, CI77891.
Ausceuticals Calm Down Powder-to-Foam Cleanser
Ausceuticals Calm Down Powder-to-Foam Cleanser ($15 for 100 g) is a very budget-friendly powder cleanser from indie brand Ausceuticals, that contains a ton of beneficial ingredients: colloidal oats (antiinflammatory and moisturising), raw brown rice (antioxidant and moisturising), clay (oil-absorbing), calamine (soothing), manuka honey (antibacterial), tumeric (antioxidant and brightening) etc. If you want the maximum effects from these, I’d recommend using this as a mask, which you can do by mixing it with honey, yogurt, milk or herbal tea and applying for 5-10 minutes. I’m being a total broken record here but again, if you want noticeable benefits, wash-off products won’t be as effective.
Calm Down contains the gentle surfactants sucrose cocoate and sodium cocoyl isethionate to remove anything oil-soluble on your skin. I found this very gentle and effective. It’s also preservative-free, for those of you with preservative allergies.
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, Tapioca Starch, Salix Alba 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, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Caffeine Anhydrous, Powdered Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender).
Ella Baché Revealing Fruit Enzyme Exfoliant
Ella Baché Revealing Fruit Enzyme Exfoliant ($73 AUD for 75 g) has pineapple and papaya enzymes, but much like Dermalogica’s product, also has microcrystalline cellulose and corn starch for physical exfoliation. It also has oatmeal, which is one of my favourite gentle physical exfoliants, and wheat flour. There are a few extra beneficial ingredients in this product (licorice root extract, salicylic acid, vitamin C in the form of sodium ascorbyl phosphate), but again, I wouldn’t rely on those in a wash-off product.
The preservatives in this are methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone, which are common allergens, so if you’re sensitive to those you’ll want to avoid this. But since it’s a wash-off product, it’s not that big of an issue for most people.
Microcrystalline Cellulose, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Triticum Vulgar (Wheat) Kernel Flour, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Meal, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Ananas Sativas (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Papain, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Salicylic Acid, Silica, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone.
Have you tried any powder skincare products? What are your favourites?
(And if you haven’t already, make sure you grab a copy of my free exfoliation guide!)
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