January 8th 2021
Why a cleansing powder could speed up your skincare routine
May 17th 2019 / 0 comment
It’s the Korean beauty trend that’s ideal for travel, but is a cleansing powder for you? Here’s why it might condense your time at the bathroom sink, plus the best ones to buy
It seems as though there have never been more options when it comes to cleanser textures and formulas than today; are you into your gels or your creams? Oils or balms? Micellars or milks? One of the lesser-available yet widely touted textures comes, as with many beauty innovations, from the East. Cleansing powders have long been used in Japan and Korea as one of their multiple skincare steps; typically finely milled powders made of rice bran, oat or other (often natural) ingredients, you simply add water to turn them into a liquid cleanser.
So why use a powder cleanser? Their waterless composition means they’ll last far longer than your liquid products, and the dry formula makes them handy if you’re on the go, too, as Consultant Dermatologist at The Cadogan Clinic and author of The Skincare Bible Dr Anjali Mahto tells me. "They can be convenient, particularly so for travel purposes when there are restrictions placed on quantities of liquids we can take.”
What’s more, the slightly grainy texture acts as a very gentle exfoliant, so there’s no need for that extra step in your routine - and it makes for a more thorough cleanse. However, the gritty texture of some could mean sensitive types need to be wary, as Dr Mahto explains. "Powder cleansers are probably suitable for most skin types depending on the ingredients but I would use with caution in those with chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema, where there is a high chance or irritation or sensitivity.”
That said, unlike your bottled cleansers, with a powder formula you can customise your texture to suit your skin type. Need a gentler cleanse? Simply add more water to create a softer, smoother lather. On the other hand if you have oilier skin that needs a deeper exfoliation, using less water will help you create a thicker, paste-like cleanse.
The verdict? For travelling, they’re a no-brainer, delivering a thorough cleanse (don’t even go there with suggesting face wipes) without contributing to your liquids limit in your hand luggage - plus they’re much lighter too. However, you’re not likely to use these around your eyes (ouch), so they work best as a second cleanse or at least after the removal of your eye makeup - and it’s also worth treading carefully if you have sensitive or dry skin. There are also very few budget options - though watch this space, as we’d expect the cheaper high street brands to follow suit if the trend continues.
As for how cleansing powders work, they do take a bit of getting used to if you’re more of a pump-and-go kind of cleanser, and mixing the water can get messy in the wrong hands, but with many including added ingredients such as vitamin C along with the advantage of knocking an exfoliating step out of our skincare routine, powders have plenty of beauty benefits. Here’s our edit of the best cleansing powders on the market…
Tropic Clear Skies Cleansing Powder, £18 for 60g
This water-activated cleanser is formulated with hydrating hyaluronic acid to ensure minimal moisture is lost, while detoxifying blue spirulina helps to clear and refine the appearance of pores, leaving skin looking and feeling clearer. We like to use it as a second cleanse for an extra fresh feeling seeing as the weather is getting warmer (at the time of writing, anyway...)
Our first foray into powder cleansers was a strange experience thanks to this natural option; it’s not often we swipe our makeup away with a blue lather but that’s what you create when you add water to this minty powder. With a blend of white clay, soothing oats, coconut, mint, jojoba and blue spirulina, it leaves skin feeling smooth and fresh - though if you're easily irritated by essential oils this might not be one for you due to the small amount of organic peppermint oil. Resilient skins, however, will love it.
Given that so many powder cleansers tend to have a brightening effect (thanks to their exfoliating properties) it’s no surprise that many also contain vitamin C for extra glow power, although it’s worth noting that to get the best of the ingredient's benefits you’d need a leave-on product. Clinique’s Fresh Pressed cleanser arrives as a box of 28 individual sachets (hence the ‘fresh’) and is of course fragrance free as per the brand’s ethos so it could be beneficial for more sensitive types. It’s a good way to top up on your vitamin C skincare (the skin-brightening ingredient naturally degrades with oxygen so these sealed sachets are ideal), and it also contains spot-fighting salicylic acid for extra oomph. Once mixed with water, simply leave on for a minute to let it work its magic and then rinse away for a more sparkling complexion.
With a minimal ingredients list this super fine powder creates a far softer lather than many of the other options here, making it feel more like a cleanser than an exfoliant. It’s still well suited to shinier skins as it gently reduces excess oil, while the formula uses vitamin C and enzymes to buff away rough skin; best of it all it leaves skin feeling fresh, smooth and looking instantly more radiant.
While the directions suggest using this twice daily, this blend of PHAs and bamboo extract can feel tough on dry skins. It creates a creamy foam when mixed with water, and again your texture can be customised depending on how grainy you want it to feel (one spoonful of powder mixed with water for a lighter cleanse, two spoonfuls for a less frequent exfoliation treatment). Though better suited to oily or combination complexions, it is ideal for a deeper, thorough cleanse for drier types - perhaps just pare it back to a few times a week.
First thoughts on this powder was that it smells faintly of fresh lemon shortbread - a pleasant surprise especially as it’s free from synthetic fragrances. Gentle enough to be used daily, this yellow powder contains rice starch, coconut and milk powder, along with antioxidants and lactic acid - a cocktail of ingredients that promote brighter, lit-from-within skin. When mixed with water it creates a soft and creamy lather; definitely one for even those with dry and sensitive skin.
For a more budget-friendly option, try this awkwardly-named yet well-formulated powder cleanser from Fat & the Moon. Putting the anti-bacterial powers of honey to use as well as gluten-free oats (great for sensitive types), coconut milk powder and rhassoul clay, it helps to draw out impurities, cleanses and softens in one. Ideal for sensitive skins who don’t want too much grit.
With a succinct ingredients list that combines calming rose, calendula and chamomile with oats and walnuts for gentle exfoliation, this more luxurious clay-based powder can be massaged in for a speedy cleanse or left to dry for extra exfoliation. Available from Cult Beauty, it's sensitive skin-friendly (except perhaps the peppermint - steer clear if your skin barrier is already compromised), and its anti-bacterial properties and pore-cleaning powers give great afterglow.
Thought matcha was just for drinking? This powder-to-foam cleanser available on Cult Beauty uses the supergreen together with spirulina for a deep yet gentle cleanse that leaves skin soft rather than squeaky clean (because healthy skin does not squeak). It’s 100% natural, works for all skin types and uses baking powder, honey and organic aloe vera powder as well as ‘baby foam’, a coconut-derived surfactant that carefully cleanses without stripping. Green tea and an innovative former? A true J-beauty-inspired must-have.