Can beauty lie in powder cleansers?


There was a time when you would just use soap to cleanse the face. Then the routine took on a sheen of refinement, with water-based cleansers, gel cleansers, oil cleansers and cleansing balms. Now powder cleansers are here.

Technically, Indians have been using powder cleansers, or what we call ubtan, for ages. What differentiates ubtan from commercial powder cleansers is the addition of surfactants, which makes the latter foam when in contact with water. If you are reluctant to add the extra element of exfoliating scrubs to your routine, powder cleansers could change your mind. They even allow you to decide the exfoliation level by using less or more water. Remember, though, that a bad product could be abrasive and leave scars.

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We tried three new product launches on two skin types (sensitive male skin and acne-prone female skin) to help you make the choice.

Antiversary by Hottest Ex

This Delhi-based skincare company has us grinning at its product names—Closure, Ghosted and Manicorn. Their powder-to-foam cleanser is called Antiversary ( ₹1,139) and they label it as a super exfoliant, but their website also says it’s good for daily use. K-beauty powder cleansers are often called enzyme cleansers because of the actives they contain, and Antiversary has a good ingredient list too—papaya fruit, rice plant root, Centella Asiatica (or Gotu kola, an ingredient that has worked for our skin in other products), and also clay, charcoal and niacinamide. What might bother many of you is the addition of silicones, perfume, preservatives and the fact that the exact surfactant used isn’t listed. We take a little product in our palms and add a little water to check how abrasive it is. The first thing we notice is the fragrance, which reminds us of a classic aftershave, so if strong fragrances aren’t your deal, you might want to avoid this. The particles (we are told they are made of rice granules and jackfruit powder) don’t dissolve completely, so it remains an exfoliant even after the addition of water, and this isn’t something we would use daily. The product foams well, and the charcoal makes our skin look brighter post wash. It works great on the end-of-the-day, grime-ridden male skin, and doesn’t leave the skin feeling too dry and stretchy post the wash. This is a benchmark we use for all cleansers in general. The squeaky clean feeling that you are often left with cleansers (we were worried it would be the result for Antiversary because of our sensory association with the fragrance used by them) is not what you should aim for and this stage is often followed by the skin feeling too dry and it pulls uncomfortably when you smile or just generally express. Antiversary does not do that, and it works for both the test skin types. Our skin is soft to touch and looks visibly cleaner, including the tough pores around the nose. Would we use it again? Yes, we would, albeit not daily as the company recommends, as it’s a little too abrasive for our daily liking.

DHC Face Wash Powder

We couldn’t do a powder cleanser review without entering the J- or K-beauty arena. And Japanese skincare brand DHC’s Face Wash Powder ( ₹1,249) is a product we have been meaning to try since the launch of the brand in India this July. While the brand recommends that it is best used as a second step after an oil cleanse, you can use it just by itself too. From the ingredient list, the enzyme protease catches our eye as it is known as a gentle exfoliant. It also has honey and sodium hyaluronate that will help hydrate the skin barrier. It also includes alcohol (though they don’t mention which one), and potassium myristate as the main surfactant, both of which can irritate some skin types. However, it tests well for our sensitive skin. The powder is extremely fine and will dissolve immediately as you add water. So rather than physical exfoliation, the product relies on the protease enzyme instead. This makes for a great travel addition as the packaging is easy to use. Our skin feels soft and it takes of grime easily too, making it ideal for daily use.

Brillare Real Face Washes

If you love products that naturally smell great, you will love all of Brillare’s Real Face Washes. The brand is 100 per cent natural, even the surfactants and glycerin in the powder cleansers are coconut derived. We try all three options— Rose, Neem and Vitamin C ( ₹225 for 15g). Each of them has different levels of coarseness, which we don’t mind as they are still very gentle. From the three, the Neem Face Wash is our pick for daily use, as it is the finest among the three. It foams beautifully and the aroma makes us feel like we are in a luxury Ayurvedic spa, a feeling we wouldn’t mind experiencing every day. Our skin feels super soft and looks visibly cleaner each time we use it. The Vitamin C version is slightly more grainy with 60 per cent of the product being orange fruit peel for exfoliation. It does contain 10 per cent orange fruit oil, so use it sparingly at first in case your skin doesn’t usually tolerate citrus fruit oils well. The Rose Face Wash smells the most divine among the three but is also the grainiest (70 per cent rose petal powder) and we won’t recommend using it daily. What we do suggest though, is to use it as a body scrub every couple of days, and it will leave your skin luxuriously perfumed and exfoliated (it worked brilliantly on our uncared for knees). We also like the packaging, the glass jars can be reused and the boxes aren’t made of plastic.

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