First Cleansers – A Review on What I Have Been Using…


Many of us know the importance of double cleansing – skincare guru Caroline Hirons harps on and on about it and the Asian skincare market is all over it, developing all sorts of interesting textures to cleanse our face with. In particular the rise of the Korean skincare market has made many Western consumers become more curious, clued in and aware of what double cleansing is all about. 

For those that don’t know what double cleansing is, it is a practice that generally occurs in the evening. The premise is you wash your face twice – the first cleanse is to remove your make-up and grime for the day and the second is to clean your actual skin. It may sound like a lot but if you don’t practice it already, START! You will really start to notice the difference in your skin and the foundation to any good skincare routine is to really cleanse and get rid of any impurities, oils and grime in the skin. 

I thought I would share with you some of the products I have been using as my first cleanse. Remember, what you use as the first cleanse doesn’t have to be expensive as its main purpose is to get rid of the day’s ‘face’. Most of the products I mention below are quite reasonably priced and you will find that it does really last. The other important thing to note is that most of my first cleansers are a balm or have an ‘oil’ based feel to it. I find that personally this removes make-up best for me and it doesn’t feel drying or harsh on my skin. Some ladies will prefer using micellar waters or cleansing waters – I try not to and tend to use micellar waters only when I have ALOT of waterproof heavy eye make-up (which is rare for me). This is a personal preference for me, so if you prefer micellar waters, then so be it! Everyone and every skin is different!


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This was my first ever ‘first cleanser’ that I purchased. I bought it as the ingredients were nothing too terrifying, it was very well priced and Caroline Hirons said it was a good first cleanser (I love her). She was right, it actually is a great first cleanser. It removes all my make-up easily and simply glides effortlessly onto the skin. I find that I do not have the ‘work’ the product too hard to remove my make-up and it removes my eye-liner quite well. If I am wearing a bit more make-up around the eye area I do find I need to work the oil a bit more in that area but it all eventually comes off anyway. Just be wary when you do this as if you get the product in your eye, it does sting a little! The ingredients are the following for those who are curious:

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Isopropyl Isostearate, PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Adansonia Digitata Seed Oil, Fragrance, Tocopherol.

As you can see, the ingredients are relatively simple with a heavy focus on oils. There is shea butter in the formulation, so those with very oily combination skin might not like this, but bear in mind you will be washing this straight off anyway. For me, I don’t mind as I don’t find it clogs my pores and I don’t suffer any breakouts from using this. 

The product emulsifies quite nicely and will wash off completely without a wash cloth without leaving a residue or film, but I do like using a wash cloth with this anyway (this is just out of habit). There is a ‘soapy’ fragrance to this so if you are not into fragrance, I would suggest to avoid this or at least test it before you use it. Out of all three that I write about today, I find that this is the best value for money – you get 200ml of a good solid product that will remove everything for AUD$29.00, USD$24.00 or UK£17.00.


Image Source: www.niod.comImage Source:

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I purchased this impulsively online just before I left for Shanghai as I didn’t quite understood how it worked and like many NIOD products, it just sounded really interesting! The Low Viscosity Cleansing Ester contains none of your typical plant oils (or synthetic oils like mineral oil for that matter), detergents or water in its formulation. It instead is compromised of fatty alcohol esters and isolated sugar and avocado esters to ‘clean’ the skin. It promises to respect the dermal barriers of the skin whilst still regulating visible sebum production, cleaning the skin throughly and removing all traces of makeup in a single step. The ingredients for this are the following:

Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Isoamyl Laurate, Isoamyl Cocoate, Butyl Avocadate, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Propyl Gallate, Ethoxydiglycol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Farnesol, Linalool.

Even thought the product has no water or your typical cleansing oils in it, it ultimately feels like water when you disperse it from the bottle, an oil on the skin and it really does remove every trace of make-up. I tend to use this on days where I am wearing slightly more make-up than usual, a lot of SPF or red lipstick as it removes all traces of make-up and apparently it is very good at removing SPF from the skin. I also really like use this to clean my face to change my make-up look before I am going out as I much rather use this over a micellar water as I find that this is non-drying. 

I apply this on to my skin when it is dry and massage it into my face to remove the day’s ‘face’ and any grime on my skin. I find that I do not need to work too hard as it does remove everything quite effortlessly and quickly except for very heavy eye make-up (which I will need to work a bit harder to remove). There is no fragrance to this and I think it is quite good for all skin types as it is not drying and I don’t think the oil in this will clog the skin. This is the more expensive of the three that I have written about, retailing at USD$55. I do feel that this removes everything though – including the stuff you can’t see like SPF. 


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This is probably one of my more recent purchases for a first cleanser and I bought it simply because it was a) much cheaper at Singapore Changi Airport, b) everyone who uses this raves about it and c) I wanted to buy something whilst in transit. I am glad I did buy this as it is a great all purpose balm first cleanser that will literally take everything off the face, including heavy eye make-up easily and effortlessly. This balm has quite the cult following, it is also highly regarded by Caroline Hirons and the crew at Paula’s Choice and I can see why. The ingredients are quite harmless and it is great for all skin types as there are no acne triggering ingredients, no fragrance and nothing that will trigger those with sensitive skin. The ingredients are listed below:

Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Polyethylene, PEG-5 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Water, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol

This balm goes from balm to oil and glides on to the skin quite nicely. Due to it thicker balmy texture, it is a nice product to massage in to the skin to remove all traces of everything. I find that removing make up is a breeze with this at the end of the day and it will get rid of my eyeliner and red lipstick with ease. It does emulsify quite nicely but I always wash the remaining off with a cloth anyway and it is suggested to probably finish off with a wash cloth due to the balmy nature of the product. The Take the Day Off Balm, is non drying to the skin and instead leaves it nice and soft for the second cleanse. This isn’t expensive, nor is it super super cheap in Australia, its retails for AUD$55.00, USD$29.00 and UK£22.00

Going forward, I am not sure if I will repurchase all three first cleansers just due to the fact I already have so many cleansers already and I am always open to trying something new, as I am such a cleanser junkie. Products for first cleansers, aren’t really supposed to wow as they are just relatively simple formulations designed to take everything off. All three products take my make-up off for the day with relative ease, some better than others. 

In summary, for those on a budget, the L’Occitane Cleansing Oil is a fantastic option as you get quite alot of great product for a very small price point (and the staff at L’Occitane are always beyond lovely. The Clinique Take the Day Off Balm is a great workhorse option as it simply removes absolutely everything with such ease, but it is a little bit more expensive. In saying that a little does go a long way. I think the NIOD Low Viscosity Cleaning Ester is a great first cleanser or in between day to night cleanser as I feel its like a skin friendly micellar water on steroids. The price point isn’t cheap at $55USD but you do get 240ml of product and there is a lot of science and innovation behind this formulation (as per every other NIOD product out there).

If I had to pick just one, I would probably choose the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm as it really does take everything off and leaves the skin nice and soft and prepared for a more nourishing second cleanse.


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