Save or Spend: Face Cleanser Buying Guide


(May 2011 Edition)


There’s just something about a good cleanser. My first luxury cleanser purchase was the Chanel Cleansing Gel that was a transparent kelly green in a square pump bottle. There was something magical about that bottle (and about Chanel) which sat unceremoniously on our apartment sink and would wash away the day with a burst of fragrant green bubbles. To this day, I am a total sucker for cleansers. It’s almost ALWAYS the first product I’m attracted to – and I don’t have a problem (relatively speaking) spending up to $60+ for one that strikes my fancy.

That said, it’s actually a silly addiction. After all – after it washes away the dirt, makeup and other daily sins, it gets flushed down the drain. Whether it’s a pretty pink tube from a Japanese drugstore or an elegant glass bottle filled with luscious amber liquid – a face cleanser has just one function. To get you clean without stripping and to prepare your skin for treatment products. Honestly, while I’ve been happy with many pricey cleansers, I’ve been just as pleased with others that were half the price. Joy and disappointment at all price levels.

This $AVE or $PEND SHOPPING GUIDE offers several options based on skin type and price range. If you want to save the most money – choose a SAVE product that is normally purchased at a drugstore, wait for a sale or coupon and stock up. Curious about luxury cleansers? Ask for a sample or try a trial kit before committing to the full size. If you love it, wait for a gwp, bonus size or online sale.

Cosmetic Monster Recommended   ♦ Ultimate Luxuries


Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash ($7.99) – 100% soap & oil-free, this dermatologist recommended foaming cleanser is great for all skin types and does a good job of removing non-waterproof eye makeup without stinging. Available at

INGREDIENTS: Water, PEG 80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG 150 Distearate, Sodium Lauroampho PG Acetate Phosphate, Fragrance, Quaternium 15, Tetrasodium EDTA (from

 Conju Princess Soap ($20) –Simple Asian formula, amazing results. READ FULL REVIEW HERE. Available at Shirokiya, Palama Market & custom purchase by Cosmetic Monster. Photo: Conju

INGREDIENTS: Coconut Oil, Squalane, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Bamboo Salt, Evening Primrose Extract, Licorice Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Oil, Luffa Cylindrica Extract, Cnidium Officinale Root Extract, Apricot Kernel Extract, Perilla Ocymoides Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Artemisa Extract. Made in Korea. (From Conju Princess Soap box).

Philosophy  Purity Made Simple ($10 – $40) – Similar to the Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash but in a creamier low-foam formula with added natural oil extracts. Very gentle and doesn’t irritate eyes. Available at select department stores or

INGREDIENTS: water (aqua), sodium lauroamphoacetate, sodium trideceth sulfate, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, coco-glucoside, cocos nucifera (coconut) alcohol, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, geranium maculatum oil, guaiac (guaiacum officinale) extract, cymbopogon martini oil, rosa damascena extract, amyris balsamifera bark oil, santalum album (sandalwood) oil, salvia officinalis (sage) oil, cinnamomum cassia leaf oil, anthemis nobilis flower oil, daucus carota sativa (carrot) seed oil, piper nigrum (pepper) seed extract, polysorbate 20, glycerin, carbomer, triethanolamine, methylparaben, propylparaben, citric acid, imidazolidinyl urea, yellow 5 (ci 19140). (From

La Prairie Foam Cleanser ($75) – A great foam who’s scent alone is synonymous with luxury – makes me wish I was rich! A rich creamier foam that rinses clean. May be a little drying for drier skin types. Available at Neiman Marcus stores or Photo: La Prairie

INGREDIENTS: Purified Water, Glycerin, Potassium Myristate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Potassium Laurate, Potassium Behenate, Glycol Distearate, Peg-150 Distearate, Potassium Palmitate, Cocamide Mea, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Potassium Stearate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Butylene Glycol, Pyrus Malus Apple (Fruit) Extract, Petrolatum, Cyclomethicone, Dimethiconol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract, Propylene Glycol, Gentiana Lutea (Gentian) Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Phospholipids, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Edta, Fragrance, Benzyl Alcohol, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Titanium Dioxide, Red 33 (from

NOTE: Truly dry/dehydrated skin only needs to me thoroughly cleansed 1x per day (at night to remove daily debris and makeup). Most Mature skin types will also benefit from these gentle cleansers.

 Aveeno Moisturizing Bar ($2.99) – A milky soap-free bar made with Oatmeal that can calm the most angry skin. Paraben and fragrance free. READ FULL REVIEW HERE. Available at Photo:

INGREDIENTS: Oat Flour (Avena Sativa), Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Water, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Glycerin, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Titanium Dioxide, Citric Acid, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Hydrogenated Castor Oil.

Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser for Intolerant Skin ($22) – Not Monster tested. This stripped down formula is void of parabens, fragrances, oils and colorants. Can be used without rinsing with water (sometimes water evaporating from the skin can cause irritation in those with hyper-sensitive skin). Available at

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, O-Phenyl-Phenol, Cetrimonium Bromide, Decyl Glucoside, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

 Sircuit Skin X-Trap Daily Gentle Face Wash ($6 – $38) – Formulated for post-procedure skin, this lightly foaming gel cleanser doesn’t strip or irritate. Available at and Photo: Sircuit Skin

INGREDIENT: Distilled Water, Decyl Glucoside, Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Saponins, Sodium Hydrogenated Glutamate, Zeolites, D-Glucuronic Acid, Orange (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis) Essential Oil, Lemon (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis) Essential Oil, Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonum) Oil, Grapefruit (Citrus Grandis) Essential Oil, Tangerine (Citrus Reticulata) Essential Oil, Ylang Ylang (Cananga Odorata) Essential Oil, Bergamot (Citrus Aurantium Bergamia) Essential Oil, Mint (Mentha Piperita) Essential Oil. Special Note: Decyl Glucoside, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Are Derived And Then Synthesized From Lichen Succinate (Arctic Moss) And Coconut Glycine.

Z. Bigatti Champagne Gel Cleanser ($69) – A low foaming anti-aging cleanser that is great for dry or mature skin who still want some bubbles. Available at

INGREDIENTS: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamidopropyl Amine Oxide, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Glycerin, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Superoxide Dismutase, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Carrot Root, Green Tea Extract, Grape Seed Extract, Comfrey Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Matricaria Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Phytonadione, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Cyanocobalamin, Chamomile Flower Oil, Propylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid.

 Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm ($102) – A mineral rich solid balm that effectively removes makeup and debris, leaving skin smooth and balanced.If you have dry skin and this is in your budget, its worth it. READ FULL REVIEW HERE.  Available at Omorovicza.

INGREDIENTS:  Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearyl Heptanoate, Silt (Hungarian Mud), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Squalane, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Polysorbate 20, Prunus Domestica (Plum) Seed Extract, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Parfum (Natural Fragrance), Limonene, Linalool, Ethylhexylglycerin, Malpighia Punicifolia (Acerola) Fruit Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Aqua, Zinc gluconate, magnesium aspartate, Copper gluconate.

NOTE: For Acne Prone skin, its best to see a dermatologist to determine what is causing your acne.

Clean & Clear Foaming Facial Cleanser Sensitive Skin ($5.29) – Not Monster tested, but came recommended by a reliable source. Paraben free. Available at select Walmart and

INGREDIENTS: Water, PEG 80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG 150 Distearate, Sodium Lauroampho PG Acetate Phosphate, Fragrance (Parfum), Quaternium 15, Tetrasodium EDTA

Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser ($9.99) – A little drying, but worked wonders as an intermittent wash for occassional breakouts. Available at Target and

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Salicylic Acid (1.0%)(Acne Treatment)
INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Water, Decyl Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Sucrose Laurate, Salix Nigra (Willow Bark) Extract (Willow), Coco Betaine, Betaine, Beet (Beta Vulgaris) Extract (Beet), Oenothera Biennis Leaf Extract (Evening Primrose), Sodium Cocoyl Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey, Glycerin, Glyceryl Oleate, Coco Glucoside, Fragrance, Glucose, Alcohol Denatured, Glucose Oxidase, Lactoperoxidase, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol

Real Black Charcoal Face Wash ($10.49) – Another Asian drugstore find – a rich lather that makes skin feel comfortable and fresh. Does a good job removing light makeup and temporarily tightening pores. Botanical soap ingredients, no coloring, fragrance, preservatives or mineral oil. Great for Summer. Available at select Don Quiote stores and

INGREDIENTS:  Water, myristic acid, dipropylene glycol, stearic acid, potassium cocoate, potassium hydroxide (there might be more, but that’s all that is listed at

Awake Clay Wash ($30) – This was one of my favorite washes when my skin was very oily. With its clay base and mild scrub action – washing with this makes skin feel smooth and clean. Available at Photo:

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Myristic Acid, Glycerin, Polyethylene, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauric Acid, PEG 32, PEG 6, Laureth 7, Tanakura Clay, Tussilago Farfara (Coltsfoot) Flower Extract (Coltsfoot), Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (8oz. $7.99) – Not my favorite because of the sulfates and parabens – but it is a dermatologist favorite. Not for makeup removal. Available at most drugstores and at

INGREDIENTS: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

100% Pure Oatmeal Honey Facial Soap ($12) – Not Monster tested – but I make my own Honey Oatmeal soap – but this is a close second.

INGREDIENTS: Saponified Oils of Virgin Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Rosehip Oil and Grapeseed Oil, Shea Butter, Avocado Butter, Vitamin E, Oatmeal and Honey (from brand website).

First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser ($18) – Super soothing and effective. This creamy foaming cleanser also fights free radicals with FAB Antioxidant Booster (White Tea, Licorice Root and Feverfew). Available at Sephora stores and Photo: Sephora.

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Sodium Coloyl Isethionate, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Stearyl Alcohol, Sodium PCA, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Allantoin, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol.

Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser for Intolerant Skin ($22) – Not Monster tested. This stripped down formula is void of parabens, fragrances, oils and colorants. Can be used without rinsing with water (sometimes water evaporating from the skin can cause irritation in those with hyper-sensitive skin). Available at

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, O-Phenyl-Phenol, Cetrimonium Bromide, Decyl Glucoside, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

REN Hydra-Calm Cleansing Gel ($32) – Not Monster tested. A gentle face wash that will cleanse and refresh without irritation, tightness or discomfort. Available at

INGREDIENTS: Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Water, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Glycerin, Coco Glucoside, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Panthenol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Lauroyl Oat Aminoacids, Lactic Acid, Sodium Carboxymethyl Betaglucan, Inulin, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser ($6.99) – With willowbark which is beneficial for oily skin and without sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals, dyes and phthalates, this new drugstore cleanser keeps skin clear and fresh. Good for moderate breakouts. Available at Walmart, Target and

INGREDIENTS: Purified Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (coconut derived), Decyl Glucoside (corn/coconut/palm kernel), Vegetable Glycerin, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine (coconut/palm kernel derived), Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (coconut/palm kernel derived), Salix Alba (Willow Bark) Extract (White Willow Bark), Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride (Guar Bean derived), Sodium Benzoate (*), Fragrance (*)

Andalou Naturals Meyer Lemon Creamy Face Cleanser ($12.95) – Low foaming and non-stripping, just wish it didn’t smell like a plastic lemon. 72% organic. Available at Whole Foods.

INGREDIENTS: Aloe Barbadensis Juice*, Aqua, Decyl Glucoside, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil*, Manuka Honey, Vegetable Glycerin, Sorbitol, Citrus Medica Limonum (Meyer Lemon) Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) and Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Oils*, Polysorbate 60, Cetearyl Alcohol, Malus Domestica (Apple), Solar Vitis (Grape) and Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) Fruit Stem Cell Cultures and BioActive 8 Berry Complex*, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Oil, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Grapeseed Polyphenols, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Allantoin, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) and Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis Extracts**, Vanilla Planifolia and Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Extracts*, Phenoxythanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Styrax Benzoin Resin, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Oil* *Organic * Fair Trade (From Whole Foods website).

Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser ($29.95) – Delicious jar of lemony fresh skin. Everytime I use this, I want to tap dance. READ FULL REVIEW HERE. Available at and Photo: Suki

INGREDIENTS:Natural Sugar (Sucrose), Organic Saponified Coconut Oil (Potassium Cocoate), Organic Non-Gmo Rice Flour (Oryza Sativa), Organic Calendula (Calendula Officinalis), Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis), Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus),Orange Peel (Citrussenensis) & Seaweed (Algae) Extracts Aroma (Pure Premium Steam Distilled Essential Oil) Linalool, Citral, Limonene. This product is vegan.

Arcona Toner Tea Bar ($38) – Not Monster Tested. An anti-oxidant facial cleanser with natural ingredients help to tone and minimize pores. Also has enzyme-rich Manuka Honey. Available at

INGREDIENTS: Agua (Distilled Water), Glucose Polymers, Vegetable Oils, Aloe Saponins, Yucca (Yucca Schidigera) Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana Extract (Witch Hazel), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (Black Tea), Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract (Green Tea), Lecithin, Honey, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Extract, Beta Glucosamine, Essential Oil, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Oil (Raspberry), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract (Grapefruit) (From

 Elemental Herbology Cool & Clear Facial Cleanser ($44) – Part of their Summer Skin grouping, this lavender scented foam whisks away makeup and excess oil without bothering sensitive/oily skin. Lavender and Tea Tree provide antibacterial and sebum-regulation. Available at, or Photo: Elemental Herbology

INGREDIENTS: Aqua*, Lauryl glucoside*, Cocamidopropyl betaine*, Olive oil peg-7 esters*, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice*, Sodium peg-7 olive oil carboxylate*, Peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate*, Lauryl betaine*, Peg-7 glyceryl cocoate*, Xylitylglucoside*, Anhydroxylitol*, Xylitol*, Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil*, Camellia sinensis leaf extract*, Bisabolol (source chamomile), Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil*, Pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract*, Pectin*, Chlorella vulgaris/lupinus albus protein ferment*, Quaternium-80, Peg/ppg-20/6 dimethicone, copolyol, Disodium edta, Glycerin*, Propylene glycol, Citric acid, Sodium benzoate, Potassium sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Magnesium nitrate, Magnesium chloride, Geraniol* (source essential oil), Limonene* (source essential oil), Linalool (source essential oil) * Ingredients derived from 100% natural source

Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser ($50-$75) – Not Monster tested, but has a good ingredient list and is all natural. A gentle non-foaming cleanser that will refresh and re-balance the skin. Available at

INGREDIENTS: Water (Aqua), Cetearyl alcohol (wax derived from grapeseed and wheat), Citrus aurantium (Neroli) distillate, Cetearyl olivate (derived from olives), Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) seed oil*, Sorbitan olivate (wax derived from olives), Prunus armeniaca (Apricot) seed powder, Leuconostoc ferment filtrate (radish root extract), Oryza sativa (Rice) extract*, Citrus paradisi (Grapefruit), Lactobacillus/Punica granatum (pomegranate) fruit ferment extract, Salix alba (Willow) bark extract*, Aloe barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder*, Kaolinite (Rose Clay), Sclerotium gum (derived from root vegetables & corn), Coco-glucoside (derived from vegetables), Cetearyl glucoside (wax derived from grapeseed and wheat), Cetyl palmitate (wax derived from olives), Sorbitan palmitate (wax derived from soy), Soy peroxidase (derived from soy), Superoxide dismutase (derived from horseradish root), Natural essential oil blend**
*Organic ingredients
**Fragrances from 100% natural clinical grade essential oils


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s