There are quite a few facial cleansers available in supermarkets, with 100g tubes priced from S$3.85. I tried out a selection of them to see whether they are much different from my Eversoft avocado cleanser, which I have used for years. The most expensive cleanser in this batch cost S$5.80; there are of course more expensive ones, including those from the Biore brand at S$7.90, and from Neutrogena for as much as $11.90.
In general I found all of them fulfilled their function of leaving the face clean, and none really stood out for effectiveness in oil control, hydrating the skin or any of the other promises on the packaging. However, some of the active ingredients have indeed been found to be effective in one way or another, and there might well be enough of the active ingredient in the cleanser to make a difference over more long term use.
What really makes or breaks a cleanser for me is the way it feels when it lathers up, and I don't like those which seem to leave a residue on the skin the way moisturising soaps sometimes do. All of the following did well in this department, and in the end it came down to ingredients, price and fragrance as to whether I would buy these brands again.
Follow Me kiwi fruit facial cleanser, with Extrapone Kiwi & AHA with Vitamin C, which I happen to be using at the moment. This cleanser is made in Thailand. A 100g tube costs S$4.85.
Promises: Mild and gentle, with a skin whitening effect. The information on the back of the tube says that this cleanser has high foaming properties and removes impurities without damaging the skin's pH balance.
Highlighted ingredients: Extrapone Kiwi is an extract from kiwi fruit with amino acids to protect and moisturise, while vitamin C has been added for skin whitening purposes. The cleanser contains alpha hydroxy fruit acids (AHAs) to promote skin renewal. This cleanser is suitable for all skin types.
Looks: White with a pearlised effect.
Scent: Very faint, pleasant fragrance.
Feel: The cleanser comes out of the tube very easily, and is quite liquid. Lathers on in a thick creamy layer. Washes off easily.
What's in it: deionised water, potassium myristate, glycerin, cocomidopropyl betaine, potassium laurate, glycol distearate, actinidia chinensis (kiwi) fruit extract, fragrance, imidazolidinyl urea, tetrasodium EDTA, saccharum officinarum (sugarcane) extract, citric acid, glycolic aid, lactic acid and malic acid.
Syahirah Facial Cleanser, 100g. The Syahirah brand is clearly targeted at the Malaysian market by Ginvera, with the product made in Malaysia, and the packaging in Malay.
Promises: 'Bio hydration' and 'twice the hydration' with rose extract and sodium hyaluronate. According to the back of the tube, users will get fresh, healthy and radiant skin. The product is deep cleansing and will refine the pores without causing dryness.
Highlighted ingredients: The rose extract gives an astringent effect that refines pores and keeps the skin firm. Other ingredients which promise to keep the skin moist include goat's milk and biotin; thanaka* extract, licorice extract and vitamin C to lighten skin, and a 'UV light protector', as well as witch hazel and vitamin E to tighten pores. Sodium hyaluronate* delivers sustained and lasting hydration to the skin.
Looks: White, pearlised. Although thanaka is yellowish this is completely white.
Scent: I love the rose fragrance. The rose fragrance lingers so you have to like the smell if you want to use this product.
Feel: Comes out like toothpaste, retaining its shape. Foamy layer which washes off quickly. My skin felt clean and cool afterwards, not surprising when thanaka is used as a sunscreen.
What's in it: water, glycerin, stearic acid, myristitic acid, palmitic acid, potassium hydroxide, olive oil PEG-7 esters, lauric acid, potassium cocoyl glycinate, cocamidolpropyl betaine, PEG-7 glycaryl cocoate, propylene glycol, ethylhexyl, methoxyclinnamate, limonia acidissima extract, rose damascena flower water, goat's milk powder, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, hamamelis virgiana (witch hazel) extract, fragrance, hydroxyethylcellulose, tocopheryl acetate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium hyaluronate, biotin, EDTA, methylparaben, propylparaben.
EverSoft facial cleaner contains 100% 'organic plant actives', is deep nourishing, and contains organic avocado*. Formulated in Japan, the cleanser is actually made in Malaysia by Wipro Unza. The product normally comes in 100g tubes. S$4.75.
Promises: Similar to the others, it promises deep cleansing and will maintain the skin's natural protective layer, improves skin texture, and leaves the complexion healthy and radiant without tightness.
Highlighted ingredients: The avocado extract is rich in phytosterol and vitamin E so it will revive and strengthen skin tissue and rehydrate it, according to the packaging.
Scent: Pleasant smell.
Feel: Comes out like toothpaste, retaining its shape. Lathers quickly and washes off easily. I have used this product for years so am particularly familiar with the way it feels and smells.
What's in it: water, palmitic acid, myristic acid, glycerin, steraric acid, potassium hydroxide, potassium cocoyl glycinate, methylpropanediol, glyceryl stearate, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, lauric acid, organic avocado, pentasodium triphosphate, polyquaternium-10, BHT, tetrasodium EDTA, fragrance, methylisothiazolinone.
Ginvera's Natural Fresh refining facial scrub contains apricot kernels and tocopherols. I don't normally buy scrubs but the offer was a discount if you get two so I picked this. This product is made in Malaysia. S$6.85 for two 100g tubes, on offer at the time.
Promises: The Moisture-Lock Formula exfoliates dead skin cells and refines pores, and is suitable for all skin types. The scrub says it will remove rough, dull skin and visibly refine pores.
Highlighted ingredients: According to the back of the tube, apricot kernels are an excellent exfoliator and contain vitamins. Sunflower essence moisturises and conditions, while the Moisture-Lock formula hydrates and retains skin mosture. Tocotrienols contain 60 times more potent vitamin E to neutralise free radicals.
Looks: White. The exfoliator can barely be seen but feels gritty to the touch.
Scent: Strong apricot fragrance.
Feel: Takes a bit of squeezing. Has very little water content. Lathers easily with a little water. Takes longer to wash off because of the exfoliator. The skin felt smoother after one application.
What's in it: deionised water, glycerin, myristic acid, oxidised polyethylene, palmitic acid, stearic acid, potassium hydroxide, lauric acid, glycol stearate, olive oil PEG-7 esters, PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate, trehalose, hydroyethylcellulose, biotin, sunflower (helanthus annuus) seed oil, red grape (vitis vinifera) seed oil, jojoba (simmondsia chinensis) seed wax, olive (olea europaea) husk oil, tocopherol, apricot (prunus armeniaca) seed powder, rice (cryza sativa) bran oil, methylparaben, propylparaben, fragrance, EDTA.
Safi Mengecilkan Pori, made in Malaysia with sari mentimun (cucumber juice) and habbatus sauda* - that's the flower towards the middle of the tube. Safi, by Wipro Unza, has also got a separate cleanser which is part of the more premium Rania Gold family. A 100g tube costs S$3.85.
Promises and highlighted ingredients: The back of the tube says that it is formulated with cucumber extract and habbatus sauda to clean skin effectively. The cucumber refines pores while the habbatus sauda nourishes and has anti-bacterial properties, leaving the skin healthier, softer, and more radiant. This cleanser is suitable for all skin types.
Scent: A very strong smell of cucumber which I found unpleasant, though that might have been the habbataus sauda as well.
Feels: Comes out like toothpaste, retaining its shape. Lathers quickly and washes off quickly.
What's in it: Water, myristic acid, palmitic acid, glycerin, potassium hydroxide, stearic acid, propylene glycol, potassium cocoyl glycinate, glyceryl stearate, cocamide methyl MEA, BHT, tetrasodium EDTA, nigella sativa (habbatus sauda) seed oil, cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract, fragrance, methylparaben, propylparaben.
Safi Rania Gold is made in Malaysia and costs S$5.80. It has the prettiest packaging, with a subtle glittery pattern on the gold tube.
Promises: The back of the tube promises that Safi Rania Gold will remove impurities on the skin.
Highlighted ingredients: The front of the 100g tube says this cleanser contains nano-particles of 24K gold, silk protein and vitamin C. The gold is to stimulate collagen production for more supple skin and less obvious wrinkles; the silk protein will lock in moisture, while the vitamin C is for UV protection.
Looks: Pearly pale orange, which felt unusual, as I'm used to white cleansers.
Feels: Has very little water content. Lathers easily with a little water. According to the instructions, this cleanser has to be left on for three minutes before rinsing. Washes off easily.
What's in it: Water, palmitic acid, myristic acid, glycerin, potassium cocoyl glycinate, stearic acid, potassium hydroxide, methylpropanediol, glyceryl sterate, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, lauric acid, mica, pentasodium triphosphate, polyquarternium-10, BHT, tetrasodium EDTA, carnosine, acetyl heptapeptide-9, colloidal gold, sericin (silk), sodium ascorbyl phosphate, fragrance, methylisothiazolinone, GI 77491 (iron oxides), GI 77891 (titanium dioxide).
*Active ingredient glossary
Avocado has been studied extensively with rats. In one 2013 experiment, an avocado-soybean extract in plain cream speeded wound healing and ensured much less scarring than using a plain cream or using saline solution alone. Another 2013 study in rats noted that avocado oil speeds wound healing and reduces inflammation. In 2011, avocado extract was studied with human cells which were exposed to UV light. Avocado was found to reduce ageing and damage due to UV light.
Habbatus sauda, also called nigella sativa, 'black cumin', and 'black seed', is a traditional remedy for various ailments. The seeds of the plant, or an oil derived from them, have been found to be effective against a wide range of bacteria and fungi; improve male fertility, enhance spatial memory, promote bone healing, prevent osteoporosis; eliminate depression, reduce gastrointestinal damage and promote the healing of gastric ulcers; and benefit diabetes sufferers.
Rosa damascena has been studied for aromatherapy and found to significantly reduce pain in 2015, and slowed breathing and blood pressure in a 2009 study; generic rose extract can protect against skin damage; An extract of the petals was found to have antibacterial activity against Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, S. aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, but no antifungal activity. Rosa damascena has also been shown to protect against memory loss, reduce mentrual pain to a degree similar to mefanemic acid (Ponstan), and to reduce stomach pain when taken orally.
Sodium hyaluronate is found naturally in the eye and is similar to the fluid in the knee joint. It can be injected into the skin to treat wrinkles. It is used topically (externally, on the skin) for pain relieving gels and in 1993 was shown to ensure that more medicine will stay on the surface of the eye than if it is absent.
The thanaka or thanakha tree bark yields a yellowish paste that people in Myanmar use as a cosmetic, skincare product and sunscreen. The tree has many names in different countries; scientifically it is known as limonia acidissima or hesperethusa crenulata. Extracts from thanaka bark showed strong anti-inflammatory and significant antioxidation properties.