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Five Best facial cleansers (updated March 2009)

Is a Solution for:
Dull Skin, Oily Skin
March 9, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 17 Comments

This post has been updated: Five Best Cleansers of 2013

p>Suki Lemongrass Exfoliate Cleanser ($29.95). I love this cleanser by Suki. Claire loves it too. Unscrew the lid and start your day with one of the best zingy, lemony smells ever. Your bathroom will fill with sunshine. Guaranteed. Scoop a small amount into wet palms. Here's the surprising part. It's an exfoliating cleanser that is foamy and creamy. And it really does its job - its not one of those that are namby-pamby-too-gentle-to-have-any-effect, nor is it like rubbing up against a sheet of sandpaper. Lemongrass is an astringent and natural exfoliant. There is also calendula (pot marigold) to sooth and algae to help collagen production. Use it on days when you hate your open pores, or need some help restoring your wholesome glow.

Terralina Gentle Facial Cleanser ($24). Copley is a cleansing connoisseur and that means she puts the bar pretty high. Nontheless, Terralina got high marks for being pure and potent. Miniscule grains tread lightly, lending a slightly granular feel to its lightweight, creamy consistency. It contains olive oil in various guises, oats and botanicals. Don't expect it to lather. Do expect it rinse off without leaving any residue. Read Copley's full review here.

Buster's Mineral Face Wash ($24).  Finally a decent, organic male grooming line that actually works. As Jimmy put it in his review: about freakin' time. He loved the smell of Mineral Face Wash - a soft burst of essential oils and ocean minerals There may be enough good things in this cleanser to gradually improve your skin texture without having to buy fancy fixer uppers (music, I'd imagine, to the male ear). For instance, there's rose hip oil and Vitamin E, good antioxidants that help reduce discoloration and scarring. And aloe vera is one of the top ingredients. And its almost 100% organic. Buy it at Busters.

Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser ($65). I know, the suspense was killing you. Yes, Tracie's cleanser is still an all time favorite. It is on the pricy side, but its got so many good things in it that its virtually a treatment in its own right. Amla is a vitamin C-rich antioxidant and green papaya is a natural exfoliant. In fact, if you have young skin that doesn't yet need the antioxidant heavy guns, I would say use this cleanser every day and you probably won't need to do much more until the crow's feet set in. It is still a stalwart of my regime and helps keep my rosacea at bay. I have heard that some find it drying because of the high level of vitamin C it has. This is not something I have experienced. The ingredients are all pure and natural.

Stem Organics Gentle Cleansing Milk ($36). As Lori said when she posted her great review of Stem's cleanser, it is rare that one finds a product that lives up to our high standards at an affordable price. There is nothing to dislike about Stem, an Aussie brand that uses natural ingredients and has been a long time favorite of mine. As you might expect, it majors on antiopdean wonders such as Tasmanian kelp and the amazing kakadu plum, which packs 50 times more vitamin C than an orange. There is also pomegranate - one of our Five Best botanical picks.

Ingredients in Suki Lemongrass Exfoliate Cleanser

Organic non-gmo rice flour (oryza sativa), natural sugar (sucrose), organic saponified olive oil (potassium olivate), organic calendula (calendula officinalis), chamomile (anthemis nobilis), lavender (lavandula angustifolia), lemongrass (cymbopogon citratus), orange peel (citrus senensis) & seaweed (algae) extracts, aroma (pure premium steam distilled essential oil)

Ingredients in Terralina Gentle Facial Cleanser

Water, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids, Glycerin, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance.

Ingredients in Stem Gentle Cleansing Milk

Organic Aloe Barbadensis Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Purified Aqua, Coco Glucoside (vegetable), Vegetable Emulsifying Wax, Glycerol Monostearate, Organic Jojoba Oil, Vitamin E Tocopherol, Organic Horse Chestnut Extract, Guar Gum, Organic Echinacea Purpurea Extract, Kakadu Plum Extract, Pomegranate Extract, Organic Olive Leaf Extract, Tasmanian Kelp Extract, Organic Mandarin Essential Oil, Sodium Hydroxy- melthylglycinate (amino acid derived preservative), Tangerine Essential Oil, Organic Chamomile Essential Oil, Angelsword Bush Essence, Limonene (Occuring in Essential Oil), Citric Acid

  • May 20, 2009

    by Michelle

    Quick question,

    Suki tends to "melt" or "sink" and "dissolve" into our skin before rinsing. Does this mean that the dirt and dead skin cells, or whatever else we're supposed to be washing off will sink in also? At least that's how I feel if I don't rinse it off. Should we rinse it off before it has a chance to sink in, or just let it sink in without rinsing? Actually, I've noticed that after it sinks in, there's really not much of a need to rinse because there's not much of a residue or anything "foamy" left to rinse off. I hope the bad stuff isn't staying on my face by sinking into the skin. Suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!

  • April 1, 2009

    by Junko

    Got my Suki Lemongrass Cleanser yesterday. Had to jump right on & post!! It's absolutely WONDERFUL !! The smell, coarse grit, melt in & squeaky clean feel. It's everything that everyone posted that it would BE! This is why also, everyone wants to overuse it, and use it everyday. I'll have to try and restrain myself :)

  • March 19, 2009

    by Dana Pond

    Ok, feel a little silly. I posted on the old 5 best cleansers. So, what I wanted to let people know is that Tracie Martyn is offering "Buy 3 get 1 Free" till the end of March 2009. I was told if I purchased the starter kit (amla cleaners, exfolator and serum $340) I would get a toner for free ($50 value). This offer is only good at the Tracie Martyn NYC location.

  • March 16, 2009

    by marta

    MJ, thanks for the kind of pun that my husband would appreciate

  • March 16, 2009

    by mj

    loving Suki, great recommendation and accurately described! Totally delivers on "face feel", smell, and result (smooth, closed pores). Have so far (five days) been using daily w/ clarisonic and ren cleanser in the pm. might be too agressive so will scale down on the suki, thanks for clarifying.

  • March 13, 2009

    by claire

    If you like the suki scrub, a more affordable alternative is the BeFine exfoliating cleanser.

    It has a similar sugar base that just melts into your skin. Everybody I know loves it.

  • March 12, 2009

    by marta

    Hmm. Should I have been more explicit/specific about matching them to skin type? My first thought was good catch.

    Then I thought some more.

    I have combo skin - dry, but with an oily-ish forehead. But, I don't think any of these cleansers go in either direction. There are certainly cleansers that I've met that would prefer a greasier girl, or someone with a drier touch. But I do think all of these are pragmatic cleansers - by which I mean, well balanced.

    Although, as I mentioned, Amla has been found to be drying by some people of my acquaintance. Not something, I've experienced.

    But, Dana, I'll keep thinking....

  • March 12, 2009

    by Dana Pond

    I love when you do a list of your faves. It would be great to list what type of skin each cleaners is good for. If I recall, Marta you have dry skin right? So would Amla be good on my combo/oily skin? Or should I consider one of the others?

  • March 12, 2009

    by marta

    On reflection, perhaps I should have kept Suki for a Five Best facial scrubs roundup. Still, it is borderline and probably closer to a cleanser than a scrub.

    The order of items in Five Best is arbitrary.

    And, yes, if you want a cleanser to do all those things, Amla it is.

  • March 12, 2009

    by Michelle

    Hi Marta,

    I actually had the same question as Ha regarding using the Suki cleanser everyday because it seemed more like a scrub. Since we should only use the Suki scrub (I will refer to it as a scrub now because I consider cleansers something you can use everyday/night). I was really shocked to see Tracie Martyn's Amla knocked off first place and down to fourth. I was really excited to see what replaced it, and Suki seems to have wonderful reviews. Do you have any recommendations for daily cleansers that we can use day/night? I rarely use make-up remover although I wear make-up. I usually just use cleansers to take off my make-up. I loved the Amla because it closed up pores quite nicely, but it did dry out my skin a bit as you mentioned. I was going to buy the Adorage cleanser since the TIA team said it did a great job of closing pores and cleansed extremely well. However, considering that I'm looking for a do-it-all cleanser that cleanses, tightens pores, evens skin-tone, and anti-age, everything seems to lead me back to Amla. hm.....any suggestions?

  • March 10, 2009

    by marta


    I barely use make-up, but I have found that the Tracie Martyn cleanser removes foundation.

    Ha, I wouldn't use the Suki everyday. Twice a week is my limit. If you have oily skin or get subjected to dirty/polluted air, then every other day. I also really like Suki's Intensive Brightening Cream.

    Asya, I used the Shu Uemura cleansing oil for several years and then I decided it wasn't doing much for me. After much experimentation I ended up with Tracie's cleanser. With that came a brighter complextion. I'm not saying the Shu made it dull, but there was certainly a positive difference when I stopped. In general, I hadn't really thought about oils. And now I will :)

  • March 10, 2009

    by Lisa

    Great cleanser list...I'd like to add BRYCE Organic's Meyer Lemon Scrub/Cleanser. It is fantastic morning or night and continues to be a favorite of mine!

  • March 10, 2009

    by Justine

    I love the sound of Suki. I might try that one out.

    The nice people at Nutra-Lift sent me a free (and fairly large) sample of their non-soap cleanser recently, which they describe as being a cleanser, a mask, a toner and a make-up remover all in one. I have to agree. It's packed full of natural, organic ingredients and is also very reasonably priced. I totally love it so far.

  • March 10, 2009

    by Asya

    Hi Marta,

    I have had very good experience with Shu Uemura's High Performance Balancing Cleansing Oil. I was sceptical at first on how was I supposed to lather off oil, but once you master the technique (always use warm water! :-), the results are astonishing - as you would say it is a "potent, yet gentle" cleanser. It is incredibly hydrating as well.
    I don't have the ingredients anymore though, and on their site they just mention it is 40% rich oils and 60% light oils, which doesn't really talk much to me.
    You don't mention cleansing oils in your posts, maybe there's a reason to it?

  • March 10, 2009

    by ha

    I just bought the Suki cleanser this weekend! I loveeee it! I love the smell. I'm just wondering though, should I use it everyday or can I use it everyday? I really like it a lot. :)

    I want to try their other products, too. What should I try?

  • March 9, 2009

    by Beata

    Hi Marta,
    I just have a one question. If you wear makeup (foundation in my case) do you use any makeup remover prior to using above cleansers other then eye makeup remover? Can one relay on them to do the job of both?

  • March 9, 2009

    by Niall

    I really love the Suki scrub. Particularly how you don't have to wash it off - it just sinks right in.

    I also love Suki's toners, especially the shiitake-olive leaf blend. And, by today's standards, the line is so very reasonably priced.

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