Powder Cleanser: The Best New Way To Wash Your Face

The fabled powder, a long-time makeup staple, has served many purposes in beauty lore. (Check out the alabaster skin that geishas achieved with rice flour, the powdered ringlets men in the late 1500s rocked using the scented dust to mask the funk of rough-worn wigs, and the flawless finishes that HD powders give our complexions today.) The stuff, which is used on everything from babies' butts to queens’ faces, is once again reinventing itself. This time, it's in the incarnation of face cleansers.
But, this latest turn isn’t just about aesthetic ideals. When it comes to the quest for a gentle and more natural product, many of these pulverized, new-school cleansers happen to leave the gel and liquid formulations you're used to in the dust.
Powder cleansers don't require many of the preservatives and alcohol, as well as detergents,” explains Dr. Jeannette Graf, a New York-based dermatologist and author of Stop Aging, Start Living. And, though a granular texture might seem too abrasive for the face, Graf adds that these types of cleansers “tend to be gentle and moisturizing and work for all skin types, especially normal and acne-prone skin.”
Best of all, because the user can create her own consistency of paste or light foam by adding droplets of water to powdered cleansers, she can also intensify or dial back the degree of exfoliation with each face wash — a great control for those sensitive skin days.
This spring, cult skin-care line Rodin will come out with a signature-smelling powdered facial cleanser, but for those who don’t want to wait to get into the powdered cleanser game, there is a literal bounty of new and old favorites to choose from.
Click through to see some of our favorite cleansers that bring out the mixologist in us all.
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Not ready to ditch the foaming action completely? This mineral-laced (sodium, magnesium, zinc, and manganese) and antioxidant-powered (vitamins A and C) powder morphs from dust to mild foam with the addition of a couple drops of water. And, since it’s born of a fabled fragrance house, it packs a sweet scent —compliments of verbena, neroli, jasmine, rose gallica, and orange floral oil.
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Rice bran and wheat bran aren’t just for breakfast anymore — these ingredients, along with cornstarch also combine to make a powerful powdered face wash. Even more surprising? While they may seem grain-y in texture, the powder itself is as smooth as talc.
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This blend of cleansing clays, warming spices, and healing salts can make your mug look a little muddy while washing. Except this dirt is loaded with water-activated vitamin C and natural exfoliants, which leaves skin cleaner and brighter than before. And, unlike the real muck found at, say, Glastonbury, this stuff is made with fair-trade ingredients and is preservative-free.
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“I am a fan of gentle exfoliation performed at home,” Graf says. This grainy powder, which changes into a paste when water is added, does the trick, harnessing baking soda and the naturally astringent adzuki bean to help draw out oil and bacteria.
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Miss the foaming action that many herbal blends don’t deliver? The light, white mousse that forms when this smooth powder meets water is a great option for those who seek the stable ingredients found in powdered cleansers, but don’t want to give up the suds. Meanwhile, tiny granules and hyaluronic acid help gently exfoliate and hydrate the skin.
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This multitasking cleanser employs chickpea flour to absorb excess oil, oats to soothe, strawberries to cleanse, and lactic acid to slough off dead skin cells. And, we liked that the super-fine powder didn’t cake in our hands after adding water.
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Red sandalwood and papaya may give this spicy-smelling powder its eye-brightening scent. But, it also packs naturally exfoliating chickpea flour and oat flour, along with other natural ingredients commonly found in Ayurvedic skincare, like neem, shatavari, and brahmi powders. The result? A preservative-free formula that deep cleans and doubles as a mask when blended with yogurt or honey.
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Minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are usually found in sunscreens. Colorescience harnesses them to remove stubborn makeup in this preservative-free formula that foams up from an ultra-fine powder with the help of a bundled, soft-bristled cleaning brush.
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Graf likes the “stability of ingredients such as enzymes and herbs in these products, since they are dry.” Try transforming this herbal Ayurvedic blend into an astringent-powered paste with a toning hydrosol or almond milk to create a creamier consistency.
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Many liquid peels slough off dead skin cells to reveal brighter skin, but they can burn like the dickens in the process. This cleanser-meets-exfoliant rids the skin of dead cells by way of a fine-grain powder, fueled by a a papaya-based enzyme and other botanicals (like antioxidant green-tea-leaf extract).
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