I’ve been agonizing over this review for quite some time now because, well, do you guys remember this song?
When I shop for second cleansers, I have a list of deal breakers and pitfalls, such as having a high pH, producing foam, sodium lauryl sulfate or papain, because my skin doesn’t tolerate those things well. This cleanser avoids every single one of those, and trust me, not many cleansers do. Yet, I still don’t like this cleanser. I mean, what’s my problem right?
At a Glance
ACWELL BUBBLE-FREE PH BALANCING CLEANSER
Price: $20 at Memebox, $22 at MelodyCosme, and $24 at ViaSeoul
Packaging: White, plastic pump bottle
Fragrance: Fresh, astringent smell. I think it’s supposed to smell like Yuzu but it reminds me of toothpaste. Not a fan.
Color: Cloudy / sheer
Texture: Soft gel
pH: Claims to be 5.5. My pH strips test closer to 5.0.
Acne Triggers & Irritants: Triethanolamine (2) flagged as an acne trigger
Full Ingredients: Purified Water, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Dipropylene Glycol, Ethanol, PEG-11 Methyl Ether Dimethicone, Benzyl Alcohol, Triethanolamine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel Extract), Dehydroacetic Acid, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Disodium EDTA, Glycyrrhiz Glbra (Licorice Root Extract), Paeonia Lactiflora Bark / Sap Extract, Paeonia Lactiflora Extract, Cimicifuga Dahurica Root Extract, Cimicifuga Racemosa Root Extract, Cimicifuga Simplex Root Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Salicylic Acid, Farnesyl Acetate, Farnesol, Panthenyl Triacetate, Fragrance
This cleanser can be used as both a first cleanser, by applying to dry skin, and second cleanser, by applying to wet skin.
What’s good about it is that it is effective. As a first cleanser, it will take off pretty much all of your makeup and sunscreen. The texture has a lot of slip, so you can work it into and around your skin with very little physical tugging. Also, one of the reasons I was so keen on trying this Acwell bubble free cleanser is because it’s been reported on more than one occasion to delodge grits from congested pores. I’ve not been able to replicate this effect (but I’ve never really been able to extract grits because my skin is stubborn like that), but it contains salicylic acid (a oil-soluble chemical exfoliant) and feels very deeply cleansing, so I don’t doubt it’s skin decongesting powers.
Even as a second cleanser, I feel like my skin gets a thorough cleaning. If my skin were able to handle this cleanser better, it would be exactly the kind of cleanser I would want to use after hitting the gym or for hot, sweaty summer months.
Unfortunately, this cleanser is unexpectedly harsh. It’s weird, because the cleanser is not drying – my skin does not feel tight after using it – but it is nonetheless stripping. After use, my skin feels raw and rubbery, as if I’ve been vigorously scrubbing at it. Also, depending on how long I’ve had the cleanser on my face, it makes my skin noticeably redder. In the pictures above, you can even see the reddening effect on my hand from leaving the cleanser on for too long.
The suspected culprits? Ethanol and/or triethanolamine. My skin actually tolerates alcohol pretty well – most of the sunscreens I use contain it- but during cleansing, the skin is at a particularly vulnerable state, and at the 4th ingredient this cleanser likely contains a generous amount of ethanol. Triethanolamine, on the other hand, is a compound that could function as an emulsifier, pH adjuster (triethanolamine has a high pH), and/or surfactant.
This is probably a perfectly good cleanser for most skin types. Unfortunately, my skin is either too dry or too sensitive to use this.
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