1st Cleansers for People who dislike Microplastics and Oil Cleansers

In the world of first cleansers, oils and balms get all the attention, which is unfortunate because oils are drippy and balms are usually laden with polyethylene, which is a microplastic that is probably slowly destroying our oceans. Luckily, there are other options, they just take a bit more effort to identify.

Here are a few non-drippy, non-oily, polyethylene / microplastic free first cleansers that I’ve recently used up / have been using. Some are great, some not so good, but all deserving of a look!


Disclaimer: All products featured in this post were purchased by me. The opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing an item through an affiliate link does not add any cost to the customer but does help support this site’s upkeep.


Cremorlab TEN Gel Oil Cleanser // 크레모랩 티이엔 리프레싱 클렌징 젤오일

There are two 1st cleansers I usually recommend to someone new to double cleansing: Fancl Mild Cleansing Oil, because of its ultra elegant formulation and ease of use, and the Cremorlab TEN Gel Oil Cleanser. They’re both easy crowd pleasers and neither feel nor smells too oily, which can be a turnoff for someone not used to cleansing their skin with oil. This is especially true with the Cremorlab Gel Oil, which not only has a lovely and refreshing rose scent but has a consistency that definitely leans more gel than oil.

Good at removing: sunscreen, base and powder makeup. Struggles with: eye makeup and lipstick.

Size and Price
This typically runs around $30 in the US and is available at Peach & Lily, Kult Finds, and Ebay. I bought this using a (now defunct) forwarding service because it can be quite a bit cheaper from Korean shopping sites.

Packaging
Plastic pump bottle

Fragrance
Very natural rose scent

Color and texture
Clear, thin gel

pH
5.5

Ingredients // See CosDNA
Sorbitol, Water, Isohexadecane, Glycerin, Methyl Gluceth-20, Octyldodeceth-16, Cyclopentasiloxane, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Isododecane, Rose Flower Oil, Oenothera Biennis (evening Primrose) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (shea) Butter, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (sweet Almond) Oil, Squalane, Carapa Guaianensis Seed Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (orange) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (sunflower) Seed Oil, Moringa Pterygosperma Seed Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Squalane, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol

Pros
As mentioned earlier, this cleanser smells nice and doesn’t feel oily, giving it a lot of cosmetic appeal. I feel like the Queen of England every time I get a whiff of the rose scent whilst washing my face.

Cons 
In terms of function, I have two main gripes. While it takes off most makeup and sunscreen swiftly, it struggles with eye makeup – I notice quite a bit of eyeliner and eyeshadow residue in between my lashes when I use this. It also stings if any amount of cleanser gets into my eyes, which is not a problem I have with traditional oil cleansers. My second issue is this oil has less slip than other oils. I have to use 3-4 pumps to avoid the gel tugging at my skin too much, making the per use cost of this cleanser fairly expensive.

Repurchase?
No. I love the scent, I love the general aesthetic of Cremorlab’s branding, but ultimately I need a first cleanser that will get my face completely clean, which this doesn’t.


Jordan Samuel Plié

This cleanser is constantly being raved about on the Instagram beauty community and after hearing about how amazing the scent is over and over again, I broke down and bought it.

IMG_4963.JPG

Good at removing: sunscreen, base makeup, powder makeup. Struggles with: eye shadow pencils and eyeliner.

Size and Price
3 fl oz / 94ml. $20 from Jordan Samuel Skin.

Packaging
Squeezable tube. Good for portability.

Fragrance
The biggest draw of this cleanser is the scent. In high school, ordering off Jamba Juice’s secret menu was the coolest thing you could do and my standing order was the white gummy bear smoothie. This smells exactly like my memory of how white gummy bear tastes. The scent is sweet but not sicky at all, fruity but without any one fruit dominating. It’s an incredibly yummy fragrance.

Color and texture
This is a gel to oil cleanser. Out of the tube, it resembles a kind of vaseline-like gel. I like to apply by dotting the cleanser around my face, letting it sit for half a minute so that it warms up to the heat of my skin and softens into something akin to oil but not oily.

pH
6 mixed with my pH 7-8 water. Cleanser by itself wouldn’t register a pH reading with my pH strips.

Ingredients // See CosDNA
Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Glycerin, Water, Sucrose Laurate, Propanediol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugarcane) Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Symphytum Officinale (Comfrey) Rhizome/Root Extract, Anthemis Noblis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Citrus Fruit Extract Blend, Simmodsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylhyroxamic Acid, Capryl Glycol

Pros
I’m absolutely obsessed with the fragrance of this cleanser and I love the texture. Gel to oil type cleansers are quickly becoming a favorite category of mine. It removes most makeup and sunscreen very competently.

Cons 
I can’t emphasize enough how much I wanted to love this cleanser, but it wasn’t meant to be. In terms of function, it’s eye-makeup removing abilities could be improved. More problematic is that it does not emulsify well at all. The cleanser turns milky when water is added, but it does not rinse off cleanly. It leaves a significant amount of residue on my skin and gives me nasty breakouts under my chin. You could probably use a washcloth to manually wipe off the cleanser but I detest washcloths so that’s not going to happen.

Repurchase?
Hard pass. There’s a lot to love but cleanser residue is a real deal breaker.


Milk Makeup Urban Defense Mask

Good at removing: everything.

Milk Makeup, like Glossier, is an ultra hyped skincare/makeup brand that for some reason I can’t stay away from. Their products have been very hit or miss. Sunshine Skin Tint and Blur Stick? Yuge let down. Lip Color and this strange, cleansing mask? Surprisingly nice!

Size and Price
128 g / 4.5 oz for $36 from Milk Makeup or Urban Outfitters.
Get 6% cash back from Urban Outfitters from TopCashBack

Packaging
The packaging for this product is completely wrong. It comes in a cylindrical jar container with a huge, manhole flip lid. To get to the product you have to dip your hands into the sticky goo. It’s messy, impractical, unhygienic, just totally wrong for the product. Milk really needs to repackage this in a tube. It would make the product 300% better.

Fragrance
Uhh I’m not really sure how to describe the scent. Kind of like potpourri? Scent is of medium intensity and it lingers.

Color and texture
This is another gel-to-oil type cleanser. Out of the tube, this is a white, thick, sticky gel. The texture is interesting, kind of like raw honey. Again, with gel to oil cleansers the trick is to give them time to warm up and soften, which makes them more malleable and fluid. Otherwise, they will tug on your skin.

pH
Between 5 and 6 mixed with my pH 7-8 water. Cleanser by itself would not register a pH reading with my pH strips.

Ingredients // See CosDNA
Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Water/aqua, Sucrose Laurate, Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, Vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, Camellia oleifera leaf extract, Butyrospermum parkii (shea) seedcake extract, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, Tocopheryl acetate, Butylene glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Flavor/aroma

Pros
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I ordered this, but I was pleasantly surprised. As advertised, it lives up to being a deep cleansing mask. While on the skin, it feels soothing and hydrating. I like to let it sit for a minute then slowly massage it into my skin, then letting it sit a little more before washing off. It removes all makeup and sunscreen.  When mixed with water, it blooms into a thin, milky liquid and rinsing away perfectly.
Also, spurred by Fanserviced’s post, I had the crazy idea of using this in my hair as a cleanser. It’s little difficult to work between my hair stands and into my scalp given the thick texture, but man oh man, the effort is totally worth it. It leaves my scalp clean and calm. It leaves my hair soft, smooth, and hydrated. I also found this easier to rinse out of my hair than other oil cleansers I’ve thrown at it. I’ve been really glad to have this mask around on occasions my hair feel dry or scalp feels irritated.

Cons 
The packaging is impractical and messy. I’m not a huge fan of the scent. This mask is gentle enough to use every day, but it just doesn’t quite feel like a regular use product, so I find myself using this whenever I want an extended / deep clean. This mask also isn’t cheap. Due to the thick texture, each use eats up quite a bit of product, especially if I use in my hair. Overall, this mask has a ton of promise and I like it, but it feels like a rough draft not a final product.

Repurchase?
I plan to repurchase when I run out, but this probably isn’t going to be a long term routine staple for me. Most of my current jar has ended up in my hair, and I have too much hair to be washing with expensive face masks.


Muji Gel Cleanser

These travel sized gel cleansing tubes have been my go-to gym bag cleanser for some time. I prefer to use them as a second cleanser but per the product description, this gel is meant primarily to remove makeup, so in my book that qualifies it as a gel first cleanser.

Good for removing: base makeup, powder makeup. Struggles with: eyeliner, mascara.

Size and Price
$6 for 30 g of cleanser from Muji. Also available in a 120g tube and a 200g tube.

Packaging
Transparent plastic tube. Very functional. Very Muji.

Fragrance
Smells like orange. Doesn’t linger after rinsing off.

Color and texture
Standard gel texture. Slightly yellowish in color

pH
5

Ingredients // See CosDNA
Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate , Aqua, Ethyl Oleate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycosyl Trehalose, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Methylparaben, Tocopherol, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Prunus Armeniaca (Appricot) Juice, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Prunus Persica (Peach) Leaf Extract

Pros
I like using this as a second cleanser. It’s super gentle, has never irritated or dried my skin, clocks in at a pH of 5 when mixed with water, and leaves my skin feeling cleaner than it finds it. The non foaming gel texture reminds me a little of Glossier’s milky jelly cleanser, but causes less tug / friction on my skin. As a first cleanser, it’s very gentle and actually takes off a good amount of makeup.

Cons
This isn’t the best at taking off waterproof eyeliner or mascara. If you use a separate eye makeup remover (or don’t wear eyeliner or mascara), I think this cleanser would work fine as a first cleanser.

Repurchase?
Yup. I wouldn’t use this as my main first cleanser, but it’s great for travel and post-gym, especially since I can use this both as a first and second cleanser.


Matsuyama Moisturizing Cleanser // 肌をうるおす保湿クレンジング

Size and Price
145 g of cleanser. ¥1,200 on Amazon Japan. Also available on Amazon US and Ebay for ~$17.

Packaging
Transparent squeeze tube.

Fragrance
If I really stick my nose into this cleanser, there’s a very faint sticky rice scent but honestly, it smells 95% of nothing.

Color and texture
Out of the tube, the texture is a lot like vaseline. This is another one of those gel to oil type cleansers. To reiterate, the best way to use is to give it half a minute to sit on your skin. The heat from your skin will give the gel more fluidity which helps prevent any tugging.

pH
Between 6 and 7 when mixed with my pH 7-8 water. Cleanser by itself would not register a pH reading with my pH strips.

Ingredients // See CosDNA
Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Water, Sodium Surfactin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Extract, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Butylene Glycol, Tocopherol

Pros
I saved the best for last. This is such a functional, easy to use cleanser. Yes, it does feel like you’re cleansing your face with vaseline, but it goes on easily, it removes everything easily, and it washes off easily. It doesn’t drip, it doesn’t get into my eyes, it doesn’t dry or irritate my skin, and it is quite affordable. There are a million ways for cleansers to go wrong. This cleanser avoids any and of of the many previous issues I’ve had with cleansers.

Cons
There’s no color, no scent, no exotic ingredients, no cute packaging. Nothing that makes me want to reach for it on nights I’m looking to be pampered. Also, I imagine some people might not like find the idea of cleansing with something so closely resembling vaseline appealing.

Repurchase?
Yes. This has been my most heavily utilized cleanser for the past couple of months and now that I’m running out, I’ve been thinking hard about what to try next and I’ve been struggling. It’s hard to move away from the guaranteed non-drippiness and ease of use of this cleanser to try something new. I foresee this being a staple in my routine for some time.


The Takeaway

Here’s a quick tl;dr summary of all the cleansers covered here:

  • Cremorlab TEN Gel Oil Cleanser – Love the rose scent. Struggles with eye makeup removal
  • Jordan Samuel Plie – Smells DELICIOUS. Love the gel to oil texture. Do not love the cleanser residue it leaves on my skin
  • Milk Makeup Urban Defense Mask – TERRIBLE packaging. Lingering old lady scent. Another gel-to-oil type cleanser that is surprisingly good at cleansing and rinses off beautifully. I also really like using this in my hair
  • Muji Cleansing Gel – Designed to be a makeup remover but I prefer using as a second cleanser. Gentle and smells like oranges. Travel size tube is very convenient
  • Matsuyama Moisturizing Cleanser – Gel to oil cleanser. Looks and feels like vaseline. Cleans great. Rinses off great. Ultra functional, gentle cleanser

Happy cleansing!

 

 

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