An intro to cleansing sticks: What they are and what to try

Since my company started up its own skincare brand, In Her Element, I have been hyper-aware of skincare trends and formulation - well, much more than usual! It's amazing how much one learns when talking to cosmetic formulators and manufacturers. One also learns about ingredients, costing, and the headache that comes with pricing. It's all very fascinating though. It's especially rewarding whenever people say we've got it right!

Anyway, one of the things that's been on my radar are cleansing sticks. I want to make one, but it's proving to be challenging although the concept is simple. Basically, cleansing sticks are foaming facial washes that are in balm form, packaged in a twist-up stick. They look like soap but don't be fooled - they are technically solidified cleansing oils with surfactants. They're not cleansing balms at all, as these depend on oil and an emulsifier that allow them to be washed off. Cleansing sticks foam. Certainly the foam is not a necessary function but many feel that foaming washes clean better (not always true).

Cleansing sticks have been rocking the Asian beauty world for a couple of years now. They are usually low pH to keep the skin's moisture barrier intact. Unlike other facial foams, the oil content, acids, and mild surfactants used in the formulation of cleansing sticks are kinder to skin as they make for low pH while foaming nicely while cleansing skin thoroughly. Oh, and you gotta love how travel-friendly it is! You can also just chuck it in your gym bag so you can remove makeup + wash your face with just one product.

Yes, these cleansing sticks remove light makeup, even water-resistant types. They stop at waterproof eyeliner, lipstick, and mascara though. Still for a quick cleanse every day, these sticks are pretty effective. I have three here that I've been testing out for a while now, and here's what I think!

Su:m 37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (~P1,500). This is perhaps the most famous of them all. Boasting of a pH of 5.5, this is a mild cleanser that foams nicely. Perhaps not as much as a liquid cleanser but it's satisfying enough! It removes light makeup with ease and never leaves my face feeling dry. It has a slight rose scent which is pleasant enough but still soapy; I wouldn't say it's as nice-smelling as others say it is. It has rose bits which don't do much and are sparsely distributed around the balm.

This was tough to find. I had my friend get this from South Korea and she had to look for it quite a bit! There are resellers online selling it for about P1,800 to P2,000. Is it worth it? At that price, no, I don't think so. It's a facial wash. It's a luxury brand but most luxury brands would sell nicer facial wash at that price, IMHO.

Ingredients: Glycerol, Water, Orange Peel Oil, Lime Peel Oil, Lemon Peel Oil, Green Tea Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, Basil Oil, Ylang Ylang Flower Oil, Majoram Oil, Fermented Damask Rose Extract, Apricot Seed Oil, Olive OIl, Sunflower Oil, Betaine, Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid, Camellia Oil, Tocopheral, Rose Flower Water, Potassium Hydroxide, Lauryl Betaine

Neogen Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick (~P800-). This is the other famous cleansing stick, also at pH 5.5. I actually like this more than the Su:m 37 because it is more balmy and a bit more foamy. It also removes more makeup in one go! The price is also right for what it is. It has green tea bits that can feel a tiny bit rough on skin but it doesn't bother me so much.

Smell is mostly soapy with a bit of green. Not a huge fan either but it works well enough. This is what I put in my tennis bag so I can wash my makeup off after practice! Also had this purchased at SoKor but online resellers would usually sell it for P1,000-1,200. It's still quite expensive but def less expensive than Su:m 37 and worth it if you can get this at a reasonable price.

Ingredients: Glycerin, purified water, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, palmitic acid, stearic acid, lauryl betaine, betaine, camellia sinensis leaf(0.3%), camellia sinensis seed oil(0.1%), camellia japonica seed oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower)seed oil, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, oenothera biennis (eveningprimrose) oil, tocopheryl acetate, citrus aurantifolia (lime) oil, ocimum basillicum (basil) oil, cananga odorata flower oil, citrus limon (lemon) peel oil, origanum heracleoticum floweroil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange)peel oil, fragrance.

Nakeup Face Stress 0 Cleansing Stick (P830 at Althea). This is the most accessible out of the three but my least favorite. It has a very bitter taste and stings my eyes a little. It removes makeup nicely and washes off cleanly though! It's less foamy than the first two sticks but it works well enough.

Ingredients: N/A. Can't find it online and it's not on the packaging.

How to use cleansing sticks:

1. On a dry face, rub the dry cleansing stick. They're balmy so a small amount would transfer on your skin.

2. Wet your face with water to make the balm foam. Massage it all over your face to melt makeup and oil.

3. Rinse completely!

Overall, I think cleansing sticks are worth trying out if you like to travel or wash your face out of your home a lot. They're novel, effective, and compact, but I wouldn't say they're an absolute must-have considering how difficult they are to access and their pricing. I do love their low pH-ness though! Even in high-end brands, it's hard to find a good cleanser that's sufficiently acidic. 

So what do you think: does it look like you need cleansing sticks in your life? Or would you still prefer a liquid cleanser?