Best of the Best, Cleansers, Skin school, Skincare

All the Dirt on the Best Korean Water-Based Cleansers in 2023

Our Favorite Is the B_LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser

Best Korean Water-Based Cleansers

written by Diana Brown

updated on

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The first step to starting your Korean skincare routine is finding the right cleanser for your skin type. In this post, I am referring to water-based cleansers, aka second-step cleansers.

If you have oily and acne-prone skin, this can be especially difficult since you don’t want to start your skincare routine with something that will cause your skin to produce more oil or break out (you want to improve your skin, right?).

So many Korean cleansers are on the market that you can have trouble deciding which one to buy. I just searched for ‘cleanser’ on Yesstyle*, which came back with thousands of products. Wow! I spent many hours before I decided which cleanser to order, and even then, I still second-guessed my choice!

When searching for the best Korean cleansers, you need to consider the ingredients list, the pH of the product, and affordability.

What Is A Water-Based Cleanser?

You may have heard of the Korean double-cleansing method but aren’t sure what that entails.

The first step in a Korean skincare routine involves cleansing your skin twice: an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser – AKA double cleansing! Most people like to ‘double cleanse’ in the evening and only use a water-based cleanser in the morning to keep the skin’s moisture barrier nice and healthy.

The main difference between water-based and oil-based cleansers is that oil-based cleansers remove makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum, while water-based cleansers remove substances such as bacteria, sweat, and dead skin cells.

Water-based cleansers or second-step cleansers are probably the cleansers most people picture when facial cleansers are mentioned. A cream that lathers into thick bubbles with water — my teenage self had so much fun applying it, thinking it was doing wonders for my skin.

But this sudsy nature has earned water-based cleansers a somewhat controversial reputation. The agents that turn your cream into foam are also responsible for stripping away moisture from your skin. Luckily, the skincare market has addressed this issue with new formulations that are still as effective, but gentler on the delicate skin.

You can learn more about double cleansing in our Guide to Double Cleansing. I highly recommend checking out that post if you’re at the beginning of your skincare journey. I recommend you check out my other post on Korean Skincare Routine – The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide if you’re unsure what products to start. Also, if you’re interested in Korean skincare ingredients, look here.

pH: The Most Important Thing To Consider When Buying A Water-Based Cleanser

I’ve often emphasized the importance of using a low-pH cleanser. That’s because one of the biggest skincare mistakes I’ve made was using a harsh cleanser that disrupted my moisture barrier and stripped my skin of its natural defenses. The pH of your second cleanser is essential regardless of your skin type. However, I think it’s essential for people with oily and acne-prone skin.

The pH of a healthy acid mantle, the protective layer of skin comprised of sebum mixed with lactic and amino acids from sweat, is a little acidic (4 to about 5.6). This is because slightly acidic skin helps to ward off bacteria and fungi and helps prevent trans-epidermal water loss.

Study shows that washing with a cleanser with a pH above 5.5 for just one minute twice a day raises the skin’s pH long-term and that the skin’s pH only decreases once the change has been made to an acidic cleanser.

Therefore, choosing a water-based cleanser with a low pH, meaning a pH of 5.5 or below, is essential. This is especially so if you have acne-prone skin, as using a cleanser with a high pH may cause increased growth of acne-causing bacteria and strip your skin of its natural oils, causing it to produce more sebum, which clogs your pores with sebum and bacteria, and thereby results in more acne!

Many Western cleansers leave your skin feeling tight and squeaky clean. This is a bad thing as the pH of these cleansers is too high, and you’re stripping and destroying the protective acid mantle layer of your skin. Ever wonder why your skin feels so oily and greasy just a few hours after washing with one of these cleansers? It’s because your skin is trying to compensate for losing its protective layer by producing more oil.

This might shock you, but you may have oily or acne-prone skin because of a damaged acid mantle. Repairing this skin barrier should be the first thing you do to reduce acne and slow your skin’s sebum production.

Are All Cleansers With A Low pH Good?

No. Just because a cleanser has a low pH doesn’t mean it is good. This is because pH is not the only factor that makes a cleanser good or bad.

The formulation of the cleanser is essential. Study shows that a cleanser’s pH does not guarantee that it is mild to the skin.

Moreover, although they won’t strip your skin of its moisture barrier, some low-pH cleansers may not cleanse it well enough, leaving dirt, sweat, and bacteria-filled pores. Not only could this result in more breakouts, but it also means that your skin isn’t ready to absorb all the beneficial ingredients of products you apply afterward.

Foaming Agents

I love a satisfying foaming cleanser first thing in the morning. But what if I told you to be suspicious of a very foamy cleanser? This is because getting a generous lather often requires additional ingredients that are not very beneficial for your skin. Unfortunately, many cleansing products are designed with soaps and surfactants that can strip the skin of natural oils, leaving it tight, dry, and susceptible to irritation.

These additional ingredients can sometimes include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), or ALS (Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate). These surfactants increase the foaming of cleansers, shampoos, and body washes. However, these ingredients are incredibly sensitizing to the skin and cause dryness as they effectively remove oil. They are the main antagonists in most foaming formulas that cause your skin to go from a reservoir to a desert. 

Don’t confuse those with less irritating SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) and ALES (Ammonium Laureth Sulfate). Despite what might be passed around the internet, sulfates are not universally irritating, nor more irritating than non-sulfates.

If you’ve ever washed your skin and felt it pull tight against your face afterward, you have likely disrupted the natural layer that protects skin against bacteria and moisture loss. You want the skin to feel fresh and supple, not tight and dry.

It can get confusing trying to remember all the foaming ingredients to avoid, so my best advice is to look for products marketed as ‘sulfate-free. ‘ You can also enter your product of choice into the SkinCarisma database, which will tell you if it is sulfate-free.

Comedogenic Ingredients

Comedogenic ingredients are those that are likely to clog pores with sebum and debris, leading to what is known as comedogenic acne.

If you’re very acne-prone, it’s best to check the products’ ingredients before you use them to see if they contain comedogenic ingredients.
Instead of remembering the comedogenic ratings of all skincare ingredients, I recommend looking at the whole ingredients list of products on the SkinCarisma website, which also gives the rating of any comedogenic ingredients present.

If you have acne-prone skin, the general advice is only to use products containing ingredients that are rated 0, 1, or 2. It’s best to avoid products containing ingredients rated higher than 2. However, ingredients rated with a 3 can be okay if the product you are using is a cleanser.

Comedogenic ingredients don’t clog pores overnight. It usually takes 4-6 weeks to break you out. This makes it difficult to determine which product in your routine is causing you to break out.

It’s important to note that everyone’s skin reacts slightly differently to comedogenic ingredients.

Also, how a product is significantly formulated affects how comedogenic an ingredient is! Ingredient combinations can make a comedogenic ingredient non-comedogenic (and vice-versa). I should also mention that the concentration of comedogenic ingredients dramatically affects how much your skin may react (most of the time, this information is not provided, though).

The bottom line is that when it comes to comedogenic ingredients – the science is not clear cut, and it comes down to how a product is formulated and your skin chemistry. Since it’s inconvenient to patch-test a product for 4-6 weeks to see if your skin reacts to a specific ingredient, I would avoid products rated 3 or above.

Fungal Acne Triggering Ingredients

Fungal acne is also known as Pityrosporum folliculitis or Malassezia folliculitis. It is a type of acne that responds poorly to traditional acne-treating methods.

Certain ingredients have been shown to promote the growth of acne-causing fungi. These include fatty acids, oils, esters, polysorbates, and fermented ingredients.

Similar to comedogenic ingredients, the nature of fungal acne-triggering ingredients is quite complex, with many factors affecting whether ingredients do exacerbate fungal acne, such as:

  • the concentration of ingredients;
  • other ingredients that fungal acne-triggering ingredients may be combined with;
  • the combining effect of ingredients present in other products you use in your routine;

The Folliculitis Scout website is an excellent resource for checking whether a product you would like to use contains fungal-triggering ingredients.

Citric Acid

Most cleansers contain Citric acid, so it is worth discussing it. Citric acid comes from citrus fruits and is commonly used as a pH adjuster in skin care products.

It is technically an AHA, but don’t rub lemons on your face to get its exfoliation benefits. Instead, please choose a product that ensures its pH and concentration are appropriate for the skin.

Citric acid is also an anti-aging ingredient proven to increase skin thickness. However, bear in mind that if you have sensitive skin, it may irritate you.

The Best Korean Water-Based Cleansers

I spent many hours choosing what I believe are the current best Korean water-based cleansers. This involved consulting my fellow editors, reading many skincare blogs, reviews, and skincare subreddits, watching informative YouTube videos, and testing a ton of cleansers on my skin. Someone’s gotta do it, right? I also scoured through ingredient information on the SkinCarisma, CosDNA, and INCIDecoder websites!

Many factors came into play when narrowing down to the final products: pH, presence of comedogenic and fungal acne-triggering ingredients, and addition of acne-friendly ingredients. Although price and customer ratings didn’t affect the products I chose, I chose products that are well-known and reviewed often.

I haven’t included any cleansers with a pH above 5.6, which is the upper range of healthy skin. Cleansers with a pH higher than this could compromise your skin’s acid mantle and worsen acne.

And here are the best Korean water-based cleansers:

1. B_LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser

B_Lab Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser
B_LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser by Diana Brown for Garden of Muses.*Affiliate links below

If you don’t have time to muck around and need a water-based cleanser now, choose the B_LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser. Where do I start with this cleanser? It’s raved about so much on the internet and is one of the best-selling water-based cleansers on Yesstyle.

B.LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser is a soft, bouncy paste with little matcha particles. Once in contact with water, it quickly turns into workable and soft foam. Also, I love the scent of matcha.

It feels light yet nourishing. It leaves the skin soft, plump, and evenly toned. It doesn’t feel stripping or drying.

B.LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser’s antioxidant-packed formulation (from matcha) also helps strengthen your skin barrier, making it more resilient against environmental pollutants. It’s free from harmful SLS too! Its gentle but effective as it contains glycerin (the second ingredient) and Hyaluronic Acid. Green tea helps to reduce sebum production and is not drying.

Allantoin is an emollient to protect the skin, a calming agent to soothe irritation and promote wound healing, an exfoliant to shed dead skin cells, a humectant, and super gentle.

B.LAB Matcha Hydrating Foam Cleanser is sulfate-free and has only two gentle cleansing agents, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, and Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, but it cleans the skin quickly and efficiently.

It is also reasonably priced and very cost-effective. You only need a pea size to clean all your face.
I went through many tubes of this cleanser already, and it is pretty money-saving since one tube lasts longer compared to many of the cleansers I have tried.

Best suited for: Dry and normal skin types

pH: 5.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Green Tea extracts

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1)

Fungal Acne: Safe

Price: $8 (at time of publishing)

Water, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Betaine, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Ficus Carica (Fig) Fruit Extract, Laminaria Japonica Extract, Eclipta Prostrata Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Amaranthus Caudatus Seed Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Lauryl Betaine, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder, Sodium Chloride, Polyquaternium-39, Decylene Glycol, Allantoin, Butylene Glycol, Fructan, Fructooligosaccharides, Beta-Glucan, Ceramide NP, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyacetophenone, Ethylhexylglycerin.

Ingredients referred from INCIDecoder.

Surfactant Active Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing

2. CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser by Diana Brown for Garden of Muses.*Affiliate links below

I’ve been using this cleanser since I started my Korean skincare routine, and I haven’t felt the need to switch to another cleanser as I think it works well for my oily and acne-prone skin.

But what makes this cleanser so great for oily and acne-prone skin? For starters, the pH is one of the lowest on the market (only 3.5), which keeps your skin’s acid mantle very happy.

CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser has become a popular alternative for those who have sworn off foaming cleansers. As per its namesake, this cleanser is a clear liquid that contains milder ingredients, none of the SLS that plagues foaming cleansers. Its lighter consistency makes it a dream for acne-prone skin or oily skin.

It contains two acne-fighting ingredients, betaine salicylate, and tea tree leaf oil, and one anti-aging ingredient, citric acid. However, if you also have sensitive skin, the tea tree leaf oil and citric acid may irritate your skin.

Despite its name, this cleanser is great for both day and night use.

This cleanser contains only one comedogenic ingredient: butylene glycol. I use the word ‘only‘ as this ingredient is hard to avoid in Korean skincare products and has the lowest rating of 1.

Suppose you suspect you suffer from fungal acne. In that case, you may need to choose another cleanser I’ve reviewed here, as it does contain two fungal acne-triggering ingredients (polysorbate 20 and saccharomyces ferment).

Best suited for: Oily and Combination Skin

pH: 3.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1)

Fungal Acne: polysorbate 20 and saccharomyces ferment are possible triggering ingredients.

Price: $14 (at time of publishing)

Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Sodium Chloride, Polysorbate 20, Styrax Japonicus Branch/​Fruit/​Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Allantoin, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Betaine Salicylate, Citric Acid, Ethyl Hexanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA.

Ingredients referred from the CosRx official website.

Surfactant Active Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Ferments

3. Beauty of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser

Beauty of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser
Beauty of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser by Diana Brown for Garden of Muses.*Affiliate links below

The Beauty of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser is a super gentle pale teal featherweight gel that foams into a sparse lather and rinses clean and hydrated skin. I haven’t tested it to remove makeup, so I can’t comment on the make-up-removing qualities. It works incredibly well after oil or balm cleansers and truly is the perfect companion for the Beauty of Joseon Ginseng Cleansing Oil

Consistent with its Hanbang tradition, this water-based cleanser showcases ingredients like green plum and rice. The sacred lotus flower extract is a botanical extract that has been shown to have photoprotective effects against UVB exposure. Green tea, heartleaf, and blueberries are antioxidants and soothe the skin.

Beauty of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser contains only one low-ranking comedogenic ingredient – butylene glycol again and one fungal acne-triggering ingredient, Coconut Acid. It is sulfate-free, with the added benefit of glycerin, my favorite humectant.

It is fragrance-free, which for me is unfortunate because I prefer some fragrance in my cleansers for a bit of #skintertainment.

 Best suited for: All skin types

pH: 5.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1)

Fungal Acne: Coconut Acid is a possible triggering ingredient.

Price: $13 (at time of publishing)

Water, Prunus Mume Fruit Water (24%), Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Phaseolus Radiatus Seed Extract (3%), Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Prunus Mume Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Coconut Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Isethionate, Citric Acid, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, Punica Granatum Extract, Clitoria Ternatea Flower Extract, Garcinia Mangostana Peel Extract, Propylene Glycol Laurate, Sodium Citrate, Disodium EDTA.

Ingredients referred from the Beauty of Joseon official website.

Surfactant Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Possible irritant

4. Papa Recipe Blemish Enzyme Powder Cleanser

Papa Recipe Enzyme Powder Cleanser
Papa Recipe Blemish Enzyme Powder Cleanser by Diana Brown for Garden of Muses.*Affiliate links below

This unique, balanced pH powder-form cleanser has some of the best reviews (especially from people with acne-prone skin). Many swear they will never switch to another cleanser after using this one!

It’s affordable because you only use a tiny bit of powder per wash, and travel friendly!

Again, this cleanser may not be suitable for you if you are looking to fight fungal acne, as it contains Rice Ferment Filtrate, which may promote and feed the growth of fungal acne fungi.

I have wanted to try this cleanser for myself for a long time now, and after reading many reviews for this article, I’ve been reminded how much I need to get myself a bottle!

 Best suited for: Acne-prone skin

pH: 5.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1)

Fungal Acne: Rice Ferment Filtrate is a possible triggering ingredient.

Price: $14 (at time of publishing)

Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Sodium Palmitate, Diglycerin, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Powder, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Powder, Citric Acid, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Tricholoma Matsutake Extract, Angelica Keiskei Leaf/​Stem Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Arbutin, Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Gluconolactone, Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Extract, Lactobionic Acid, Allantoin, Maltodextrin, Papain, Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Fragrance.

Ingredients referred from the Papa Recipe official website.

Surfactant Active Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Ferments Possible irritant

5. Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam

Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam by Diana Brown for Garden of Muses. *Affiliate links below.

Sulwhasoo is a luxury, prestige skincare brand; hence, the Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam cleanser is the priciest on the list of low-pH cleansers I am reviewing here. However, this cleanser has a lovely pearly sheen and foams up nicely if you want to splurge. Use a foaming net, or you can use your fingers to rub it into a foam.

Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam is a luxury in a pump bottle, and although it is pricey, I think it is an excellent water-based cleanser.

If you suspect you suffer from fungal acne, you may need to choose another cleanser, as the Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam contains four fungal acne-triggering ingredients.

Best suited for: Rich’ Skin (just kidding, all skin types)

pH: 5.0

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1), Tocopherol (Vitamin E) (3)

Fungal Acne: PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Isostearic Acid

Price: $38 (at time of publishing)

Water/​Aqua/​Eau, Potassium Cocoyl Glycinate, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Acrylates/​Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Sodium Chloride, Pentylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Caprylyl/​Capryl Glucoside, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Fragrance/​Parfum, Isostearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Limonene, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Benzoate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-Yuen Seed Extract, Citrus Unshiu Peel Extract, Castanea Crenata (Chestnut) Shell Extract, Linalool, Spirodela Polyrhiza Extract, Dioscorea Japonica Root Extract, Dextrin, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Salicornia Herbacea Extract, Morus Alba Leaf Extract, Angelica Keiskei Extract, Citric Acid, Tocopherol.

Ingredients referred from the Sulwhasoo official website.

Surfactant Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Fragrance Possible irritant

6. Pyunkang Yul Low PH Pore Deep Cleansing Foam

Pyunkang Yul Low PH Pore Deep Cleansing Foam 4
Pyunkang Yul Low PH Pore Deep Cleansing Foam by Adela Wong for Garden Of Muses

What I appreciate about the Pyunkang Yul Low PH Pore Deep Cleansing Foam is that my skin seems calmer when I use it consistently. Blemishes decide to be the good versions of themselves and disappear quickly. It makes sense: low pH discourages acne bacteria growth, and a lack of irritation from hater surfactants could mean less blemish-provoking irritation. In any case, I’m not taking any chances–I’m about to buy another bottle to keep my good[-for-me] skin streak alive. Please read Adela’s in-depth review on the Pyunkang Yul Low PH Pore Deep Cleansing Foam.

 Best suited for: Oily and acne-prone skin

pH: 5.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1).

Fungal Acne: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, and Coconut Acid are possible triggering ingredients.

Price: $14 (at time of publishing)

Water, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Glycerin, Coconut Acid, Polyquaternium-67, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Isethionate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil, Sodium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Centella Asiatica Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Beta-Glucan, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Extract, Phaseolus Angularis Seed Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Diatomaceous Earth, Isopropyl Alcohol, Citric Acid.

Ingredients referred from the Pyunkang Yul official website.

Surfactant Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Fragrance Possible irritant

7. Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser

Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser
Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser by Adela Wong for Garden of Muses.*Affiliate links below.

I tried Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser quite a while ago, and the cleanser is still one of the most pleasant, mildly foaming gel cleansers I’ve used. My mother-in-law stole my first tube because it was so gentle on her very dry skin.

Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser contains natural surfactants derived from coconut that foam beautifully to remove impurities. In addition to cleansing the skin’s surface, the Round Lab Birch Cleanser travels deep into pores to prevent buildup and blemishes, all without compromising the skin’s barrier function. It’s gentle yet effective, leaving skin clean, bright, and hydrated.

Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser effectively rinses impurities without excess product or prolonged scrubbing. When rinsing, gently wet your face with warm water, massage a pea-sized amount of the cleanser over the skin in circular motions, rinse clean, and pat dry. This is a fantastic second cleanser for all skin types, and I recommend it for those with dry, aging skin.

Please read Adela’s in-depth review of the Round Lab Birch Juice Moisturizing Cleanser.

 Best suited for: Dry aging skin

pH: 5.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1), Hexylene Glycol (2)

Fungal Acne: Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate and Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate are possible triggering ingredients.

Price: $19 (at time of publishing)

Water, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoyl Alaninate, Lauryl Hydroxysultaine, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Acrylate/​C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Betula Alba Juice(10,000 Ppm), Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Chloride, Glyceryl Glucoside, Ascorbic Acid, 1,2-Hexanediol, Artemisia Annua Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil, Pinus Sylvestris Leaf Oil, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Caprylyl Glycol, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Caprylate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Hexylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Disodium EDTA.

Surfactant Active Humectant Soothing herbs Possible irritant

Ingredients referred from the Round Lab official website.

8. Huxley Cleansing Gel Be Clean Be Moist

Huxley Secret of Sahara Cleansing Gel; Be Clean, Be Moist
Huxley Cleansing Gel by Seo Yeon Lee for Garden of Muses.*Affiliate links below.

I am impressed with this cleansing gel for putting cactus extract as the main ingredient. The Sahara prickly pear seed oil is the key selling point of Huxley for its skin-firming, softening, smoothing, and moisturizing effect. It is also rich in various vitamins and minerals and is used mainly for anti-aging purposes in skincare. That explains the bouncy and moisturizing properties of this foaming cleanser.

This cleansing gel uses gentle surfactants mainly derived from plants here, with mostly 1/7 safety scores on CosDNA. This cleanser contains several skin-loving ingredients like sodium hyaluronate, Centella Asiatica, birch sap extract, and olive oil. Walnut shell extract, on the other hand, can reduce wrinkles and soften the skin.

The cleansing gel produces bouncy, soft, and rich bubbles upon lathering with water. It gently whisks away dirt and impurities inside my pores while keeping my skin soft and smooth. It is reasonably priced (you can get this for $14 during sales), gentle, hydrating, and effective enough for all skin types. Please read Seo Yeon’s in-depth Huxley Secret of Sahara Cleansing Gel review.

Best suited for: All skin types

pH: 5.5

Sulfate-Free: Yes

Comedogenic Ingredients: Butylene glycol (1)

Fungal Acne:

Price: $14 (at time of publishing)

Opuntia Ficus-Indica Stem Extract, Water, Potassium Cocoyl Glycinate, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Chloride, PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Fruit Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Betula Alba Bud Extract, Corylus Avellana (Hazel) Bud Extract, Olea Europaea (Olive) Bud Extract, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Leaf Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Potassium Hydroxide, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Isostearic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Propanediol, Glycerin, Ethanol, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance.

Ingredients referred from YesStyle*.

Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Surfactants Possible irritant Fragrance

Final Thoughts

There are many Korean second-step / water-based cleansers. How do you know which one to choose? Often, people go for foaming cleansers that leave their skin feeling squeaky clean and tight. However, this damages your skin’s natural barrier – and increases oil production and acne.

Korean water-based cleansers are designed to protect the skin’s natural barrier layer and prevent stripping of natural oils during cleansing. Choosing a low-pH cleanser, preferably with a pH below 5.5, is essential, especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Also, look at the ingredients list before you buy a product (I like to use CosDNA or SkinCarisma) and avoid products that contain ingredients with a comedogenic rating of 3 and above.

So, pay attention to how your skin feels. If your skin feels tight and dry after cleansing, you’ve likely overdone it.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from fungal acne, then you will also need to check the ingredients list to ensure your cleanser does not contain any ingredients likely to trigger fungal acne.

I hope my post has given you helpful information regarding finding the perfect cleanser.

I enjoyed creating this post, and I learned a lot myself! After all my research, I’m pretty happy sticking with my current water-based cleanser – the CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser*. However, if it were discontinued tomorrow, I would choose Papa Recipe Blemish Enzyme Powder Cleanser* or the Beauty of Joseon Green Plum Refreshing Cleanser*.

Show Me Proof

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Garden of muses

Welcome skintellectuals to the Garden of Muses.

A science-based skincare magazine covering everything from ingredient spotlights, reviews, skincare guides, and routines to busting myths, finding dupes, and breaking down trends.

Our passionate and knowledgeable editors review their beauty crushes.

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