GEL CLEANSERS FOR SUMMER
Updated: Apr 27
There’s nothing like the heat of the burning Summer sun and the sticky fog of humidity to make you want to reach for a gel cleanser. There's something so enjoyable about the balanced, clean sensation that most mild gels leave behind on the skin. While most gel and foam cleansers tend to be aimed toward more combination oily skins, there are certainly options out there that flatter normal to dry skin. I love that there has been a shift towards more gentle formulas made with milder cleansing agents, but I admittedly do love a frothy foam every once in awhile. When I choose to reach for a more intense formula, I'll use a balm or oil cleanser first, then use the gel or foam directly on top. This way, my skin is protected from the potentially drying effects of the second cleanse but I still get that deeply cleansed and purified sensation. The cleansers pictured above and below are ordered from 'foamiest' to 'least frothy' so that you can get a feel for the amount of bubbles to expect.
First is Tata Harper Clarifying Cleanser. This one is like a guilty pleasure to me of sorts in that I can get addicted quite easily to its minty goodness. It's a gooey gel that gives the skin a grip once it spreads over the surface, but lathers with ease once water is introduced. It really bubbles and foams, and definitely leaves the skin feeling deeply cleansed. For me, it has bordered on drying during cooler months, but I noticed that if I remove it with a washcloth instead of rinsing with water, it doesn't leave my skin feeling as dry. I think if you've spent an entire day in the heat and want that sebum-busting satisfaction, she's your girl. There is salicylic acid from willow bark plus chlorella and menthol so you truly get that cool, refreshing sensation. Sue me!
Next is Indie Lee Purifying Face Wash which I have had in rotation since it launched. Even though I am entirely married to the Brightening Cleanser, Indie's newest addition is in fact extremely good. It gives you that same luscious but mild foam you get from Brightening and Rosehip, only with a boost of skin smoothing, pore-minizing power. It's one of the few cleansers I've used that almost immediately makes my skin texture look more refined without feeling squeaky and stripped afterward. Just like Brightening Cleanser, I leave it on as a mask when I want a deeper cleanse. I think those with more oily/combination skin will like how refreshing this cleanser feels, and even more-so with the use of a hot wash cloth to remove.
African Botanics Baobab Clay Oxygenating Cleanser is super juicy and spreadable, and sits right in the middle between frothy and gently foaming. I find it takes quite a bit of water to make it bubble up, and adds more hydration than it does deep cleanse. It would be great as a daily balancing cleanser and I think most skin types would enjoy using this. This cleanser does have bentonite clay in it, so it makes for a great cleanse + mask when you're feeling like something quick and easy. I've always found long-term use of clay based cleanser to be effective, especially if you just want to rebalance your complexion without using something like a drying clay mask.
I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the iS Clinical Cleansing Complex so much, because as iconic as it is, I assumed it to be "just another gel cleanser." I was not only wrong, but I was also pleasantly surprised with my experience. It's not foamy and stripping the way some cleansers from clinical brands can be. Instead, it's the type of normalizing gel you can reach for day-to-day and depend on for a complete cleanse - a second cleanse at that. The gently sugar cane and willow bark extracts deliver natural sources of AHA's and BHA's so if you're someone who isn't exfoliating, this could be a way to at least begin the process of increased cell turnover without committing to an acid toner or the like. PS: it's worth noting that this cleanser uses DMDM hydantoin as preservative, which some folks like to stay away from.
KLUR Gentle Matter is a super low-foam daily cleanser that's especially great in the morning. It's very gentle and complete, and only foams when you are using both a ton of excess product and a lot of water. With intentional use, it really gives you an utterly balanced, mild cleanse without dryness or irritation. It contains dandelion extract, which is thought to brighten the skin with long-term. I think this is a great cleanser for someone who wants something very dependable, gentle, and effective, especially if you have normal to oily skin. I also love that this cleanser doesn't have a scent to it at all, which makes it a nice option for those who try to avoid fragrance or essential oils.
My ultimate go-to for morning cleansing is Jordan Samuel Skin The Matinee Gel Cleanser. It's a non-foaming milky gel that feels more like an after-sun product than a cleanser, because it's so deeply hydrating and refreshing. It emulsifies ever-so-slightly with the addition of water, but don't expect a bubble bath here. There is a cooling blend of cucumber and chamomile extracts, and you certainly feel that soothing refreshment almost immediately. The cleanser also has a small amount of salicylic acid that in truth provides pretty noticeable refinement to the skin, especially if you aren't someone who regularly exfoliates.
All in all, I think the main things to look for in a gel cleanser are gentle, plant-based surfactants, conditioning agents that buffer, and plant extracts that soothe. I personally like to avoid ingredients like potassium myristate, sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate, and myristic acid as these agents can be incredibly stripping and irritating for all skin types. When in doubt, look to clean or green beauty as most of these options tend to be much gentler on the skin.
PS: does anyone else out there absolutely despise warm weather? I would rather bundle up in the cold than sweat my ass off any day!