Bars, balms, melts and gels: Jane Wolfe speaks with brands, educators and retailers about the value of choosing the right facial cleanser and what’s trending in the category 

In any beneficial beauty regime cleansing is an integral first step – it creates a fresh and healthy base for whatever serums, moisturizers or balms may follow. “Cleansing is an important part of a skincare routine,” says Tipper Lewis, brand ambassador for Neal’s Yard Remedies. “It not only removes things we can see, like make-up, but those we can’t, like pollution and other invisible contaminants, which may affect our skin adversely if left on. It also prepares your skin for the rest of your skincare products; I think of it like an artist prepping a canvas.”

She also stresses the importance of choosing the right cleanser for your skin. “One of the most common things I see is using a product that’s too harsh and strips sebum from the skin. We need sebum – it forms part of the protective skin barrier, and when this is in balance, the skin tends to be happy, but upsetting the balance can make our skin more prone to sensitivity and breakouts. Skin shouldn’t feel tight or ‘squeaky’ after cleansing. If it does, and you like using water, swap from a face wash to a cleansing milk for a more nourishing cleanse that can still be removed with water.”

So how do brands select the correct ingredients to tailor products for specific skin needs? “This is the fun part,” says Lewis. “Our formulators know exactly what different skin types are prone to. Here are three examples: dry skin lacks sebum; plant oils are very compatible with our skin and our Natural Orange Flower collection is bursting with oils like macadamia and jojoba to help nourish the skin. Whereas oily skin is more prone to shine and blemishes, so we use ingredients like palmarosa and geranium essential oils to balance sebum and purify, but we also use herbal extracts like nettle, cleavers and mahonia to purify. Normal skin is simpler, but may be prone to dehydration, so we combine moisture-enhancing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe vera with humectants like vegetable glycerine that lock moisture in.”

Lewis explains that as each person’s skin is unique, there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to cleansers for ageing skin, but adds that skin does ‘communicate’. “Signs like feeling tight or uncomfortable, redness, reactivity, etcetera, are signs that your skin is unhappy and needs a change. However, as skin ages, it produces less sebum and is more prone to dehydration, so changing your cleanser to one that addresses these specific concerns will be helpful.”

An education in formulation
Online school Formula Botanica provides individuals and would-be brands with the skills and encouragement to formulate their own organic cosmetics, including of course, facial cleansers. 

Our formulators know exactly what different skin types are prone to

“We teach our students how to create a variety of botanical formulations, including many different types of organic cleansers – cleansing balms, foaming cleansers, gel cleansers, micellar waters, oil cleansers and bi-phase cleansers,” says CEO Lorraine Dallmeier, adding that when polled, the Formula Botanica community cited cleanser as their ‘single most essential skincare item’. 

Dallmeier says she is continuing to see a big trend towards gel-to-milk or oil-to-milk formulations based on oleogels (oily gels). “Oleogels don’t contain water, but emulsify upon contact with water, which means that they easily rinse off the skin. Oleogels are still underrepresented in the beauty industry but are frequently championed by indie beauty brands. In fact, whenever we share photos or videos of oleogels on our social media channels, the responses are always off the charts.”

Another popular format is the bi-phase cleanser, comprising two separate phases: one oil- and one water-based. “When you use a bi-phase cleanser, you shake it together to temporarily ‘blend’ it before the two phases separate out again. Having both oil-based and water-based cleansing components means that you’re able to remove both oil-soluble and water-soluble build-up of dirt from your skin. As a botanical formulator, having two such distinct phases also means that you can start to play around more with colour, and we frequently see our students make colourful bi-phase cleansers.”

Adapt to fit
Laura Rudoe, founder and CEO of natural skincare brands Evolve Organic Beauty and Adaptology, says she suffered from skin problems for over 15 years which is what inspired her to create skincare to help others in their journey towards better skin health and greater confidence. 

Adaptology offers solutions based on a range of adaptogens and ‘superstar’ ingredients and was born from a drive to create ‘a more personalized and holistic approach to skincare, with a mission to empower people to understand their concerns and make informed choices’.

The brand’s Dry Spell cleanser is an oil-based balm designed to delicately cleanse dry skin with Arctic sea buckthorn to improve elasticity and reduce redness, high altitude rosehip oil to promote cellular renewal, and papaya enzymes to gently exfoliate. Its Break Free Cleanser is an oil-free gel wash which removes impurities and excess oil, balancing oil production and managing pore size with Alpine willow-herb, clarifying congested pores and exfoliating with 1% salicylic acid from willow bark, and soothing irritation with organic aloe vera.

Evolve’s offer includes waterless Gentle Cleansing Melt – one of the brand’s first launches and a continuing ‘star product’. “There are a number of waterless balms available on the market and we are finding as more people discover that not all washes are created equal, those with drier skins find that waterless products suit them, and their skin looks and feels better as they help prevent disruption to the skin barrier layer which helps support skin health,” says Rudoe.

Doing the double
One skincare routine driven by social media is the double cleanse, where an oil-based cleanser is used to remove excess sebum and make-up, followed by a water-based cleanser for a second, deeper clean to remove toxins, dirt and sweat. However, this trend seems to be waning slightly, perhaps because it is at odds with the ‘less is more’ trend – born out of consumers’ desire to be more sustainable and save money, both of which are becoming more significant in the current climate.

we’re certainly seeing an increased demand for multipurpose products

 “With increasingly busy lifestyles and a cost of living crisis, we’re certainly seeing an increased demand for multipurpose products, ones that deliver results but are more cost- and time-efficient,” says Erin Bateman, brand and content manager at ethical beauty retailer, Naturisimo. “This is more than likely having an impact on trends like double cleansing (we saw a 38% decrease in double cleansing search terms in 2022 versus 2021). It’s easy to understand why consumers want to simplify their routines, but it’s also important to ensure we’re simplifying the right steps. There is an argument to say that cutting back on our double cleanse only leads to more skin complaints further down the line.”

Rudoe agrees that this can be a worthwhile regimen: “Double cleansing is good for those who either wear a lot of waterproof or heavy make-up or those who live/work in polluted areas. It’s most effective at night, as the thorough cleanse means that pollutants accumulated during the day are taken off and you aren’t massaging dirt into the skin in a second massaging cleansing step, plus skin has a chance to recover overnight, often coated in a layer of very effective ingredients. That said, you don’t have to double cleanse each morning and each night, this is something that can be done once or twice a week – or just when needed – to save using product when it’s not needed.”

Future focus
Contemplating continuing and future trends, Bateman says: “Essential oil-free formulas and hyper-sensitive skin types are really coming to the forefront in the industry at the moment, and we’re seeing a lot of brands expanding into this space. We’re also seeing multipurpose beauty surge with lots of new launches focused entirely on versatility, like the Fig Jelly from Ere Perez that acts as a cleanser, mask and ‘slugging’ tool all-in-one.

“Affordable beauty is another key trend we’re tuned into. It’s important to get across the message that an effective face cleanser doesn’t have to cost the earth. Thanks to product innovation, natural beauty is a lot more affordable than it used to be, and you can still enjoy the nourishing benefits of a natural cleanser without breaking the bank.

“Probiotic cleansers have noticeably increased in popularity. This is most likely due to the fact that we’ve recently become more aware of the role our skin’s microbiome plays in long-term skin health. Brands like Galinée, Aurelia London and The Nue Co are helping us answer this demand for our customers with their microbiome- and probiotic-centric formulas. We tend to see that any trend rooted in science and proven results resonates well with our customer. We’re not expecting the demand in this space to lessen anytime soon.”

“Thanks to product innovation, natural beauty is a lot more affordable than it used to be”

She has also seen a rise in waterless formats, but warns that consumers are holding formulations to a higher standard now and expect results. “Our customers tend to be more conscious of their environmental impact so bars, melts, powders, etcetera, tend to be met with a positive response on our site. There does however remain a degree of hesitancy around the efficacy of these products, and we’re definitely seeing that in the types of enquiries we get from our customers. Brands such as SBTRCT that are entirely waterless but 100% focused on efficacy really do help us set a new standard in this space though.”

Dallmeier agrees there’s an increasing focus on waterless cleansers, with more of her students creating solid formulas. “We believe that the future of cleansing in the beauty industry will see our needs evolve to focus more on sustainability, which will include more multifunctional, longer-lasting, ethically sourced formulations. Solid cleansing formulations are likely to play a significant role in that shift.”

Finally, Rudoe predicts that people will begin to cleanse less in the future and look at the cues their skin gives them. “Skin cycling – which is a method that can help prevent the skin barrier being compromised due to overuse of active ingredients by using them only on certain days, followed by ‘rest’ days – is a great way to create a consistent and effective routine that helps the skin work optimally and is becoming more widely understood, which is great as we sometimes need to let our skin be for a while.”

Just add water
For skin-lovers wanting to cut out product completely, multitasking materials which cleanse and remove make-up using only water are a great solution.

Förster’s trio of natural face gloves use sustainable, natural raw materials and vegan fibres and come in plastic-free packaging. For Normal Skin is a chenille glove for gentle skin cleansing, removing excess oil and make-up and gentle exfoliation; For Blemished Skin is made from natural algae fibres and is rich in vitamins and minerals for cleansing blemished and oily skin types; and For Sensitive Skin is made from natural bamboo fibres to be gentle on the skin and is ideal for cleansing and make-up removal.

Clear Off Pads from Skin Proud are reusable pads that quickly and effectively remove make-up (even stubborn eye make-up) without the need for added cleansers. They have super soft microfibre strands that do the ‘hard work for you’. Machine washable, they can be reused again and again. Simply soak the pad in water before gently wiping it across the face.

Five favourites 
The top five best-selling facial cleansers on Naturisimo:
• Evolve Gentle Cleansing Melt
• Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil
• Caudalie Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
• Dr Hauschka Soothing Cleansing Milk
• Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser 


AEOS Cleansing Oil de-Maq

Tel: 01507 533581
E-mail:  [email protected]

Rapidly reveal a smooth, glowing, nourished complexion, as you remove every last trace of make-up and environmental pollution with AEOS’ award-winning cleansing oil. The transforming blend of organic and biodynamic oils and plant extracts helps normal / dry skin retain optimal moisture, as well as balancing oily / combination skin types.


Cleansing Bar – Cocoa Butter

Friendly Soap
Tel: 01422 400282
E-mail:  [email protected]

This cocoa butter cleansing bar contains vitamin A and healthy fatty acids with zero synthetic ingredients or fragrance. It’s wonderful simplicity makes it a great choice for those who like to keep things naturally simple. Gentle and kind – your face will definitely thank you for it.
Each Cocoa Butter bar is handmade with 4 natural ingredients, cocoa butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and aqua.
Friendly Soap are registered with Cruelty Free International and The Vegan Society.


Gospel Vitamin C Skin-Glow Gel Cleanser

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Gospel Vitamin C Skin-Glow Gel Cleanser is a certified vegan brightening face cleanser with the benefits of vitamin C from Kakadu plum, with up to 100 times the vitamin C content of oranges. Joined by antioxidant compound Vinanza® grape & kiwi to offer brighter, healthier looking skin; lotus flower, olive squalane oil, and essential fats from New Zealand meadowfoam luxuriously soften skin and replenish the skin’s essential lipid barrier. Suited to most skin types, especially oily and combination, and perfect for brightening up dull skin. Packaged in sustainably sourced, recyclable materials including glass and cardboard printed with eco inks and sourced from sustainable forests. 


MooGoo Ultra Gentle Cleanser with Ceramides 

MooGoo Skincare
Tel: 0800 4346606
E-mail:  [email protected] 

NEW for 2023 is the MooGoo Ultra Gentle Cleanser with Ceramides – the lowest-irritation cleanser available specifically designed for eczema-prone, hypersensitive or fragile skin. 

Extremely gentle in nature, it’s suitable for every skin type and every age, as well as those going through chemotherapy or radiation treatment. 

MooGoo Ultra Gentle Cleanser cleanses the skin thoroughly and gently, while helping to restore Ceramides into the skin to help prevent a compromised skin barrier. Those that suffer from skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne etc., may have a Ceramide deficiency, so for those we recommend supplementing with our topical products. Over time, factors like sun damage, ageing and other irritants can decrease Ceramide content in the skin. The skin barrier is more susceptible to weakening when Ceramides are depleted, causing the skin to become drier, more easily irritated and show signs of ageing. By topping up Ceramide levels in the skin, they can help rebuild skin strength and improve skin barrier function.

PH-balanced, dermatologically-tested and free of Parabens, Phenoxyethanol, SLS and soap. Suitable for use on the face & body, suitable for all ages and skin types.