Just when I thought there was nothing new under the sun, TIA sent me an unusual cleanser to test drive. I ignored my inner skeptic as best I could and started using M. E. SkinLab’s Cleanser 27, and it’s made a convert of me over the last month or so. This is an unusually effective cleanser that also seems to be nourishing.

First of all, the line – started, the website says, by a pharmacist with a keen interest in the needs of sensitive, aging skin, and whose initials provide the “M. E.” – is simple and concise, consisting of six products. The Cleanser, like the entire line, features something called Centella Asiatica as its special ingredient; Michele Evrard focused on this plant based on its traditional use in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of skin conditions and its effect on micro-circulation. M. E. SkinLab says the products use three different extracts of this plant, and together offer “repairing, regenerating, anti-inflammatory and anti-free radical properties.”

But as for the cleanser – it comes in a largish jar (4 ounces, priced at $85); M. E. SkinLab calls it a cleansing “balm.” So it’s a dense, waxy concoction, unlike anything else I’ve used. The instructions say to take a bit of the stuff and massage it onto (dry) face and neck; at that point it melts to a loose, almost-oily consistency. The final step is to moisten and massage, emulsifying the product as you complete the cleansing process. Then rinse. In terms of ingredients, M. E. says: “The formula contains 100% of natural origin ingredients, free from any paraben, phenoxyethanol, petroleum derivatives and silicones.” Specifically, the product description highlights macadamia nut and sesame oils and macroloba butter (cleansing and moisturizing), with exfoliation delivered by bamboo powder; chamomile for soothing; and the signature Centella Asiatica for “regenerating and balancing.”

As I said, I was initially skeptical. But a few days’ use changed my mind. The product (which has a distinctive, herbal smell) does melt beautifully into the skin and, first and foremost, cleanses very thoroughly – I was particularly glad to realize it really does remove makeup (in one go), which many natural products simply have a hard time doing. It also leaves no oiliness or greasiness, which you might expect; rather, skin simply feels pleasantly clean and moist. And I started to realize that, though subtle, it does provide mild exfoliation as well. M. E. says to use the product both morning and night; I’ve generally been using it in the evening only, as I thought I didn’t really need it as much waking up. On that basis I think the jar will last another couple of months, making it not too expensive for its benefits.

I’ve been using the Cleanser 27 during very hot and sticky summer weather, but my face seems cleaner and clearer (pores, etc.) than usual for this time of year. And because it does nourish and hydrate, I’ve been limiting other products during the summer heat to a bit of serum and eye creams – so there’s an additional payoff there. The only negative I’d report is this: it has a sort of Vicks VapoRub effect that is irritating to the eyes, though in my case it dissipated with water. But be cautious if your eyes are very sensitive.

The M. E. SkinLab line doesn’t seem to be sold here (except on its own site) – it’s a French company. I’d probably buy it again and would try other products as well. I’d recommend the Cleanser 27 to others like me – with dry or sensitive skin, or over 50 – which is really the customer the line is focused on. I think that younger people or those with oily skin might well find it too rich.

Ingredients: Caprylic / Capric triglyceride, Hydrogenated palm kernel glycerides, Caprylic/Capric glycerides polyglycerin-10 esters, Tribehenin, Glyceryl dibehenate, Sesamum indicum (Sesame) seed oil, Sucrose distearate, Hydrogenated castor oil, Trihydroxystearin, Hydrogenated palm glycerides, Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) seed oil, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea butter) extract, Macadamia ternifolia seed oil, Glyceryl behenate, Bambusa arundinacea stem extract, Glyceryl undecylenate, Parfum (Fragrance), Pentaclethra macroloba seed oil, Aqua (Water), Tocopherol, Bisabolol, Alcohol, Centella asiatica extract, Chamomilla recutita (Matricaria) flower extract