As an addict of Asian skincare products beyond any hope of redemption, I go through phases. Obsessions, if we’re being “accurate”. The last one was sleeping packs; before that, it was honey-based products. Right now, it’s cleansers.
With skin as dry as the goddamn prohibition, cleansers are easily the trickiest part of my routine. Since they wash off, I don’t really care about the good ingredients in them; any cleanser that markets itself as having AHA or hyaluronic acid or anything else doesn’t really interest me, because that stuff will spend, what, twenty seconds on my face? Cue the sarcastic confetti cannon.
When it comes to cleansers, what I really care about is what it takes off my face. Dry skin is dry because it underproduces oil. One of cleansing’s major functions is removing oil. It becomes a problem.
I’d been using Hada Labo Tokyo Hydrating Cleanser religiously for many months, and while it’s the best foaming cleanser I’ve ever used, it’s still a foaming cleanser, and I’ve found that foam is by its very nature more stripping than my skin can handle. I want to leave as much of my skin’s natural oil intact as possible, to keep from drying out my already parched face.
So, I’ve taken it upon myself to find the best non-foaming second cleansers out there (second cleansers are ones you’d use after oil cleansers – normally these are foaming cleansers). We start with Holika Holika.
Dry Skin Cleanser Contender #1: Holika Holika Skin & Good Cera Steam Cleansing Lotion
What it’s supposed to do
This is a gentle, non-foaming cleanser from Holika Holika’s Skin & Good Cera line, which focuses on ceramides. Ceramides are an essential part of the skin’s moisture barrier and an ingredient I get extremely excited about, except that this is in a rinse-off product so, to put it bluntly, who gives a shit.
How to use it
According to its instructions: “Apply to wet face and lather. Massage thoroughly and rinse with warm water.”
I use it as a second cleanser, after I’ve used an oil or balm cleanser to remove makeup/sunscreen and un-gunk my pores. I’ve seen a few different instructions on how to use it online, including using it on a dry face as a first cleanser, but the instructions above are what’s on the box, so that’s how I used it.
Water, cyclopentasiloxane, mineral oil, propylene glycol, caprylyl methicone, Sapindus mukurossi fruit extract, polysorbate 60, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, allantoin, tromethamine, sclerotium gum, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, squalane, glycerin, butylene glycol, betaine, sodium hyaluronate, polyquaternium-51, glyceryl polymethacrylate, aleuritic acid, yeast extract, glycoproteins, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate, stearic acid, phytosteryl/isostearyl/cetyl/stearyl/behenyl dimer dilinoleate, ceramide 3, hydrogenated polydecene, Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), ceteareth-20, glyceryl citrate/lactate/linoleate/oleate, hydroxypropyl bispalmitamide MEA, glycosphingolipid, ceramide 6 II, meadowfoam estolide, Glycine soja (soybean) sterol, cetearyl glucoside, ethylhexyl isononanoate, disodium EDTA, caprylyl glycol, caprylhydroxamic acid, Citrus aurantium gergamia (bergamot) fruit oil, phenoxyethanol, fragrance
As a cleanser that spends practically no time on my face, I’m not super interested in analyzing the ingredients list. I do care about one thing, though: this product comes in at a beautiful pH of 5.0.
What it’s like in action
It’s a moderately thick cream that smells amazing. That was easily my favorite part of using it; it smells like candied ginger and lavender and I want to eat it. I didn’t, though. Point: me.
The trouble with this cleanser is its consistency when mixed with water. On a dry hand, it’s a solid and substantial cream. Put it on a wet face and it disappears. I had to use at least four pumps to ensure I could feel any product beneath my fingers. I imagine if I used this as my daily cleanser, it wouldn’t last more than a month.
The one unequivocally positive thing I can say for it is its scent. Seriously, if someone makes a cookie that tastes like this smells, I’ll see you all on the far side of 400 pounds.
It’s hard to make this stuff work as a cleanser. As I mentioned, it disappears under your fingers. I strive to treat my skin as gently as possible, which means not rubbing and tugging at it without lubrication. To keep from rubbing my skin raw, I had to use so much product.
If I used the right amount, it was, at best, an okay cleanser. It left a slight film on my skin, although the least I’ve encountered from any lotion cleanser. I think that film is inherent to the lotion cleanser genre, and for some can be a benefit, as it’s moisturizing. However, that film comes from occlusive ingredients like fatty alcohols, which means your subsequent products won’t absorb as well. If you’re looking to simplify your routine, this might be a good cleanser for you, since it’s cleanser and light moisturizer in one.
Unfortunately, I noticed my skin getting more and more congested over the two weeks I tested it. It’s an extremely gentle cleanser – as it turns out, a little too gentle. I don’t think it removed enough dirt, gunk, and dead skin, and as a result, I noticed a marked increase in the appearance of sebaceous filaments (those little black dots) on my chin.
For a lotion cleanser, it rinses fairly cleanly and has a fantastic 5.0 pH, but just doesn’t cut it at its primary job: cleansing. It might be good for people with extremely sensitive, dry skin who don’t often get clogged pores or acne.
That smell is good enough for an extra half a point, though.