SKIN | What’s the deal with powder cleanser?

Powder cleanser review - DHC face wash powder, Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant, Clinique Fresh Pressed cleanser, Nude Detox Fizzy Powder Wash

Powder cleansers have come to my attention recently. Dermalogica launched the Daily Superfoliant* as a kind of dialed-up version of their ever-popular Daily Microfoliant, and Clinique’s new Fresh Pressed Vitamin C-based range includes a powder cleanser. Upon remembering I had a bunch of sachets of the Nude Brightening Fizzy Powder Wash that I’d never used either, I figured I should give them all a go and see how I feel about them. Is the powder cleanser format shelf-stable genius or over-complicated moisture magnet?

The texture of powder cleansers is much like baby powder—as long as you keep them dry (more on that later). When mixed with water they instantly expand and become a fluffy foam, to varying degrees, which you then wash your face with like a normal cleanser. In theory, having a waterless formula means the product keeps essentially forever and active ingredients aren’t going to oxidise or otherwise go off, but given cleansers stay on your face for such a short amount of time anyway, I don’t particularly pay attention to what actives they might contain.

To use all of these, I shake about a $2 coin sized pile of powder into a cupped palm and then drip water into it with my other hand until it’s a paste. If you go overboard with the water then you end up with a shower floor covered in lost dollars.

Many powder cleansers contain a gritty component, acting as a gentle exfoliator as well as a face wash. This appeals to me because although I’m all about that acid life, sometimes I just want the feeling of resurfacing my face with sand. The Dermalogica Superfoliant literally contains sand (well, silica, but same diff) and the Nude ~fizzy~ cleanser uses crushed rosehip seeds.

Powder cleanser DHC face wash powder, Nude Detox Brightening Fizzy Powder Wash, Clinique Fresh Pressed Renewing Powder Cleanser

Clinique Fresh Pressed Renewing Powder Cleanser, $70 for 14g

This product is an exercise in getting ripped off. The Clinique Fresh Pressed cleanser comes individually packaged in 28 sachets, containing 0.5g each—adding up to 14g total, for $70. Clinique recommend using this cleanser daily in the mornings, meaning you’d be paying over $70 a month for your morning cleanser, on top of whatever cleanser/s you’d use in the evening. Fuck off.

In addition to the painful price point, the Clinique Fresh Pressed Renewing Powder Cleanser was the least impressive of the four I tried. It contains powdered kaolin which might help absorb oil when cleansing, but has no grit of any kind, so it’s purely a cleanser (rather than an exfoliator too). It fluffed up/lathered the least when wet, which made it feel underwhelming in comparison to the others, and while it cleansed my skin, it didn’t feel exciting or luxurious, which you might expect at the price point.

Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant*, $109 for 57g

The Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant looks expensive (and to be fair, it is still expensive—not everyone has over $100 to drop on a cleanser) but you get miles more than you do from Clinique, at least. This powder cleanser is dark grey, boasting charcoal powder to purify the skin, and it’s also the grittiest of the four.

The USP of this cleanser is that it detoxifies your skin, removing impurities caused by environmental pollutants and protecting from free radicals and other aging mechanisms that can be “triggered” by the environment. I’m… on the fence about this, but it does contain some good ingredients and gives a good, satisfying clean feeling without being stripping. The size of the bottle also means this will last a dang long time.

Nude Detox Brightening Fizzy Powder Wash, $66 for 60g

The Nude powder cleanser gives everything I’d want in a standard powder cleanser: it foams generously, it has a bit of grit in it to give a gentle exfoliating feeling, it contains vitamin C (which may or may not be effective but it’s not over-promising and also can’t hurt). It’s still a bit of a spend but would be something I’d be content recommending for use several times a week.

It’s got a unique tingling sensation on the skin from its “fizziness” which is cute and novel—Refinery 29 describe it as ‘pop rocks for your face’. Nude are also recently launched a gentle version, although I can’t see this product causing irritation for most skin types.

DHC Face Wash Powder, $12.50 for 50g

No, that’s not a mistyped price—the DHC Face Wash Powder is miles cheaper than the others in this post. I got mine from eBay because DHC is a little difficult to buy in New Zealand but even then it was affordable and arrived quickly.

The DHC Face Wash Powder is adorably packaged, as all DHC products are. This powder formed the most satisfying puffy fluff when wet, and it gives a good thorough clean feeling. It doesn’t have any scrubbiness in it, so this would just be an alternative to a regular cleanser. I know I complained about the Clinique product not having the scrub factor, this one is so cheap that I’m not bothered.

My biggest gripe about all of these powder cleansers is that you can’t keep them in the shower—or even the bathroom. I left one of the Nude sachets that had been half-used on a shelf in the bathroom, and when I went to use it again it was a crumbly, lumpy paste rather than the free-flowing powder it started out as. Leaving your cleanser elsewhere in the house is just a pain in the ass, and not everyone can leap out of the shower and run naked and dripping wet through the house to find their cleanser once they’ve started their shower without it. (I have done this, multiple times, over the course of preparing for this blog post, but I don’t have flatmates or live with family or anyone else who might be scandalised by the sight.)

Have you used a powder cleanser? What do you think of them? Which one of these would you like to try?

More of a cream cleanser type of person? Check out my cream cleanser recommendations.

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  • Sophie ♥

    I’m on the fence-I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve used but they just don’t seem as effective as something like a cleansing gel. Then again is cleanser supposed to be as magical as other skincare products? Who knows..

    • Which have your tried? It makes sense that a liquid would be more effective really. I think it’s more of a novelty I think!

      • Sophie ♥

        The Dermalogica+Clinique system. ^ See my reply to Morgan though. Definitely a novelty factor I think!

    • I feel like all of these gave me as much of a “clean” feeling as a regular cream/gel cleanser would, but I wouldn’t use them to remove makeup.

      • Sophie ♥

        Yeah I wouldn’t either-Maybe in the case of ones like the Dermalogica I wasn’t using enough? My skin’s been less dirty lately too, i.e. wearing less/no makeup so I guess I should take it into account too. Harsh critic haha.

  • Gemma (Gemma Etc.)

    I really do love the Dermalogica Microfoliant as it’s so effective xx ????

  • I’ve used both the Dermalogica ones, though I don’t use them as daily cleansers, just 1-2 times a week as an exfoliating step after my main evening cleanse at the basin. I’m pretty sure that I’ll never run out of the Microfoliant, the bottle is enormous and I’ve got a travel size one too! Using it this way seems to avoid most of the faff & storage worries. The lid seals pretty well, and kept in my drawer it doesn’t get exposed to much moisture. Pretty sure I wouldn’t go with any of the pre-measured options – I seem to always use much less than they put in samples/single use containers, so I’d be wanting to keep the unused portions around (I find empty sample-size pots excellent for this).

    • That’s true, it’s less likely to get damp and clumpy at the sink, although I’m really bad at washing my face in the sink – I always get water all over myself!

  • I’ve never tried the powder cleansers, but christ they are pricey. I think I’m so used to the Korean skincare pricing that the Western stuff sometimes shocks me. I feel like the pain-in-the-ass factor of these (can’t keep it in the bathroom, easy to waste product etc) would outweigh the benefits for me! Thanks for another interesting and well-written post xx

    • Thanks Elese! The price difference is really apparent when you compare against the DHC one. It’s difficult bc I really love the Dermalogica one, but I’d probably repurchase a travel size so it’s a bit more reasonably priced, and use it only occasionally!