This is the latest entry in my ongoing hunt for gentle, non-foaming cleansers. The surfactants that make the foam in foaming cleansers tend to be harsher and remove more oil than dry skin can tolerate. My skin is so dry and prone to flaking that I’ve sworn off foaming cleansers entirely, at least for the time being. My first review was a dud, and the second was solid but not life-changing. Third up: Donginbi Red Ginseng Treatment Cleansing Oil Gel.
My last two cleansers were new to me, but I was very familiar with the brands; Holika Holika and Too Cool For School are well-known and popular brands in South Korea.
Donginbi is brand-new to me. I had never even heard the name mentioned before. But I saw that bottle and read that it was a non-foaming cleanser featuring red ginseng, that eternal Korean hanbang favorite, and it was in my cart before the drool even hit my keyboard.
That drool was worth it. THAT DROOL WAS WORTH IT, YOU GUYS.
What it’s supposed to do
Donginbi Red Ginseng Treatment Cleansing Oil Gel offers a “rich, honey texture red ginseng oil that works to deep clean and moisturize your skin.” Although it has the phrase “cleansing oil” in it, it’s actually a second cleanser, meant to go after your oil cleanser.
As you can infer from the name, it prides itself heavily on its “six-year-old red ginseng”. Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been a popular herbal remedy in Korea for thousands of years with a number of uses. Studies have shown that ginseng may be able to inhibit melanogenesis (the creation of melanin) meaning it can fade dark spots and brighten complexions. According to another study, it has potential potential anticytotoxic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging effects.
Normally, this is where I say “eh, whatever, I’m washing it off my face so the good stuff doesn’t have time to do good stuff,” but there’s something magic in this bottle, you guys.
How to use it
This goes in the place of your usual foaming cleanser. Oil cleanse first if you double cleanse, then apply to damp skin, massage for a little bit, and rinse off with lukewarm water. They suggest using 2-3 pumps, but 1 pump was plenty for me. It doesn’t foam or lather, which may take some getting used to.
Olive Oil PEG-7 Esters, Macadamia Integrifolia Seed Oil, Water, Glycerin, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Polysorbate 80, Fragrance (Parfum), Panax Ginseng Root Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Water, Astragalus Membranaceus Root Extract, Ganoderma Lucidum (Mushroom) Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Alcohol
As has been covered extensively here and elsewhere, low pH is super important for cleansers (between 4.5 and 6.0 is ideal). This is a perfect 5.0.
(BONUS: this site gives allergen info for specific ingredients in the fragrance!)
As I mentioned, ginseng features heavily in this product – it’s got ginseng root oil, extract, and water. Other good stuff: astragalus root, used heavily in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine that can stimulate hyaluronic acid synthesis; Lingzhi mushroom extract, another traditional medicinal and beautifying extract with potential antioxidant effects; and ginger root extract, which has anti-inflammatory and melanin inhibiting effects.
It’s primarily olive oil esters, which are derived from olive oil but actually 1) are water-soluble, not oil-soluble and 2) function as a surfactant, albeit a very gentle one. (Check out my post on surfactants for what that means – basically, surfactants are the things in a cleanser that cleanse.)
Overall, this is a pretty short ingredients list for a cleanser, and appears very well-formulated.
What it’s like in action
The Donginbi Oil Gel is a thin, honey-colored gel, about the viscosity of syrup but not sticky.
In my experience, there are two problems with most non-foaming cleansers:
- They don’t feel like they’re doing anything, cleansing-wise, and
- They don’t rinse off c0mpletely, leaving behind an emollient film.
I have had 0% issues with either of those problems. Negative percent issues. While the Donginbi cleanser doesn’t foam, it maintains its gel texture throughout the entire cleansing process, giving plenty of lubrication as you massage. You can really feel it clearing away the gunk on your skin.
It also rinses like a dream. A few splashes and it’s gone completely, leaving behind obviously clean but soft and moisturized skin. It has a very strong smell that’s kind of a two-parter: it starts out as straight ginseng (the smell of wet soil from a well-cared-for garden – I love it, but it’s very earthy); as you cleanse, it brings out a second smell that’s a sort of men’s cologne-type smell. I like it less, but it doesn’t linger after you’ve rinsed.
Is that enough? Have I blogged sufficiently? No? Okay.
I already covered the mechanics of cleansing. It gets me feeling clean, which was a feeling I thought I was giving up when I switched to non-foaming cleansers. It rinses away completely – again, something I thought belonged solely in the realm of foaming cleansers. My skin doesn’t feel stripped afterward and I don’t have to rush to put on a hydrating product afterward, which is rare for my super-dry skin.
Honestly, the above paragraph is all that I’d ever hoped for from a cleanser. I assumed that cleansers were about what they did or didn’t take away from my skin; I didn’t think they could add anything. The most I could hope for was that it would take away the dirt and grime while leaving my skin’s natural oils in place. It does. Cool.
But after a few days of use, I noticed I was…glowing. Don’t get me wrong, I am familiar with The Glow, and I’ve gotten to a point where I can harness it most days. But with the Donginbi cleanser, I noticed I was glowing all the time, including immediately after cleansing. I’d rinse, glance at myself in the mirror, and BOOM. Glow.
After two weeks of daily use, my complexion was brighter and more even, my skin was flaking less, hell, even my products absorbed better. It not only exceeded my expectations for this product, it exceeded my expectations for what was possible from a cleanser.
It does have downsides. It’s on the pricey side ($28 for 8.5oz), it’s not sold many places, and that ginseng/cologne smell is very strong. None of those things will deter me in the slightest from repurchasing.
The best cleanser I’ve ever used, bar none. It so far exceeded my expectations that even its negatives – price and smell – can’t impact its overall score.