There should be a specific psychological term for “inability to commit to a facial cleansing product.” Whatever it is, I definitely have it. I’m fine with using the same shampoo and conditioner month after month, and I frequently repurchase the same skin products in plenty of other categories. I don’t know, I just feel like washing your face (or body; I often have the same issue with shower gel) is kind of The Most Boring Step? But it’s necessary and beneficial, so I spend $$$ on it, but if I spend $$$ on it it should be FUNNNNN, and this one is insufficiently FUNNNN, therefore I will get a different one next time. So now I have yet another different one. LET’S GIVE IT A LOOK.
WHAT THAT IS
It’s the sulfate-free Daily Face Wash from men’s grooming outfit Baxter of California, whose deodorant we checked out (and lurved) recently. Make special note of that “sulfate-free” marker, because they have a different (less expensive, damnit) cleanser that isn’t sulfate-free. This one here is $22/8oz on Amazon or Dermstore, or you can pick it up on their own site (handy if you also want to grab the mini/travel version of the deo, or a 2oz travel size of the face wash itself!).
WHAT’S IN THERE
Not all that many things! Some things that’re Fine, and some things that’re really Good!
INGREDIENTS : Aqua/Water, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Coco-Betaine, Glycerin, Acrylates Copolymer, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tetrasodium Edta, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Allantoin, Caffeine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Citric Acid.
Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate is a mild surfactant and conditioning agent derived from coconut oil, as is Coco-Betaine. Glycerin is an A+ humectant, Acrylates Copolymer is a stabilizer/suspending agent, Phenoxyethanol is a good preservative that’s not as likely to cause irritation/sensitivities as some other common picks. PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil is also a mild cleansing agent, and Tetrasodium EDTA is a common chelating agent (prevents minerals from forming bonds with other ingredients). Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid is a buffering agent used to adjust or maintain pH, and Paula’s Choice doesn’t much like it (if that’s something you care about), stating that there’s “research indicating it can generate free radical damage in the presence of oxygen, which means it could be a problem when used in skincare products.” Personally, since this is in a face wash and not something that I’m leaving on my skin, I’m not fussed. Capryloyl Salicylic Acid is an ester of salicylic acid, and works as a mild exfoliant with anti-inflammatory / antiseptic properties. Allantoin is an A+ skin-soothing conditioner; caffeine may have some antioxidant properties but it’s probably not accomplishing much here.
Anyway : some very mild surfactants, some great cleansing/conditioning agents, a little humectant/emollient action, and not much of anything potentially problematic (for me, anyway). Yay!
WHAT’S IT LIKE
For those of you who care about packaging (raises hand, bounces in seat, IT ME) this one gets Collier’s Probably Worthless Seal Of Approval. It’s clean, it’s sleek, it’s no-nonsense and functional, but it’s still quite attractive — like all of Baxter’s stuff, it’s cased in brilliant azure blue with rather minimalist white/black labeling. Should I care that it looks happy and nice on my bathroom counter? No. Do I care? YES. It’s got a basic ol’ flip-top cap, which I’m fine with. I’d prefer a nice pump (the cheaper sulfatey cleanser has a pump! why not this one?!) but this is perfectly serviceable, and the cap is both wide and flat so presumably when I get down to the last 20% or so of the bottle, I can just leave it sitting upside down.
The product itself is almost completely clear. It’s a medium-bodied gel of a nice consistency, and not so runny that it immediately pools all over your hand. It’s fragrance-free, in the sense that there’s no added fragrance — the actual scent generated by the ingredients is very very light, and really only detectable when you first rub it between your hands and onto your face. To me, it has a smell I can only describe as “fancy swimming pool” and I FREAKING LOVE IT. Not a big janky over-chlorinated water park pool where the deck gets hosed down with industrial antimicrobials every day and smells like Clorox and Pine-Sol banged in the breakroom of a Dow Chemical plant, I mean like the pool at a chi-chi country club — it’s bright and clean like sunshine on wet pebbledash and a hint of ozone and honestly I’m just suuuuuper into it.
HOW DOES IT DO THO?
It do’s GREAT. A very small blorp (large pea, small chick-pea) is enough to be extremely effective. It spreads well, it lathers really well, and during the entire washing process it continues to feel sorta … thick/squishy/viscous. You know how some cleansers, as soon as you rub them into your skin, feel like they kind of break down and disintegrate so it’s like you’re just rubbing water around, and then you feel obliged to apply more cleanser? This does not do that. This feels substantial and ~present~ the whole time you’re using it. I’ve been washing my face with this stuff at least once a day for the last two and a half weeks, and I’ve loved it every time. It’s efficacious, my face feels clean, it does not feel dryer afterwards, and it takes off all my makeup pretty damn thoroughly. In my two-plus weeks of use, I also haven’t seen any evidence of other problems — no cumulative dryness, increased oiliness, irritation, or breakouts that I could possibly attribute to it. (I’ve had dryness and breakouts of course, but that’s because I have breakouts all the time anyway AND I’m on the dumb retin-a micro.)
THE VERDICT : SUPER DAMN GOOD. I legit love this stuff, and I might even (oh whaaaat) repurchase it. The texture, the effectiveness, that light cleeeeeaaaaan smell, the packaging … I dig everything about this. Even the price tag isn’t all that bad: sure, $22 isn’t cheap, but considering that it’s 8oz instead of the more typical facewash size of around 4oz (which I often pay around ten or fifteen bucks for, like with Sailor or Acure stuff), that’s pretty reasonable. DO YOU NEED IT? If you’re not sensitive to any of the ingredients, and you want a super gentle, super basic yet not super boring cleanser option — as in, “I want something like Vanicream but fancier and funner” — then omg yes, it’s definitely worth trying.
TRIED IT? GONNA? Are you, like me, now all het up about investigating the offerings of “Men’s Grooming” brands? DISCUSS.