Thursday, July 20, 2017

First Experience: Dermalogica

Dermalogica is a brand I've always been keen to explore, so when Facial Co. contacted me about reviewing some of their products, I jumped at the opportunity. I've always considered Dermalogica to enjoy the reputation of being a solid, dependable, almost clinical company that focuses on what goes into their products and how they perform, without the need for fancy packaging or marketing hype. Despite this positive impression, my total exposure to Dermalogica has been limited — mainly a few samples from the Age Smart range that were just so-so, and the memory of using my friend's minty, invigorating face wash after a high school sleepover. Now that I've added the Special Cleansing Gel, Daily Microfoliant and Skin Smoothing Cream to my skin care arsenal, I can form some more concrete opinions.

Special Cleansing Gel

A good cleanser is a rare specimen. I've gone through many, many cleansers and only one or two really stick out as anything I'd repurchase. The rest are largely interchangeable. Generally, I prefer non-foaming cleaners to foaming, but it's hard to steer clear of foaming cleansers given how common they are, and I'm no less picky when it comes to cream, gel or balm cleansers (forget cleansing milks ... bleurgh).

The Special Cleansing Gel is strictly a bare face/morning cleanser only, which makes it less versatile than a cleanser that's also effective at removing makeup (e.g. philosophy Purity Made Simple Facial Cleanser). Not that it purports to remove makeup — I just tried out of curiosity. It could possibly be used as a first cleanse before going in with an oil-based cleanser, but what's the point/who has the time.

I was wary of the inclusion of sodium laureth sulfate (the second ingredient) due to the bad rap it can get, but it's not a factor that deters me entirely. I get that some people might be a bit iffy using something mainly in their shampoo or hand wash on their face, especially on a daily basis.

The gel is clear and when mixed with water, is gently foaming rather than a total bubble bath, which I prefer. It has an inoffensive, subtle botanical scent. When washed off and the face patted dry with a towel, it leaves the skin feeling squeaky clean but not through harsh means. My skin feels slightly dry if I don't moisturise within a few minutes of cleansing, but it's nothing dramatic and pretty much the same story with any cleanser (the feeling post-cleanse is roughly on par with Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel, Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser and Fresh Soy Face Cleanser).

I still regard Radical Hydrating Cleanser as the best cleanser I've encountered (creamy texture, smells amazing, leaves skin feeling comfortable and balanced), however we are talking a large price difference — $0.53/ml for the Radical compared with $0.22/ml for the Dermalogica based on the 250ml bottle. However, I'd still be inclined to repurchase the Radical over the Dermalogica as I don't think it has any peer, whereas there are cheaper alternatives to the Special Cleansing Gel that will more or less do the same job (e.g. Derma E Hydrating Cleanser, which I've used every morning for a few months now).

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Hexylene Glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

Daily Microfoliant

The Daily Microfoliant, a water-activated, rice-based exfoliating powder, is probably Dermalogica's signature product. As far as I'm aware, it's quite unique — I don't really know of any similar products. The instructions state to pour half a teaspoon onto your hand, which I tried my best to eyeball. It honestly felt like I was tipping out salt and pepper onto my hand. The shape of the bottle and dispenser design are truly reminiscent of a seasoning shaker. There's no particular scent, at least not strong enough to leave any impression.

Applied to the face after cleansing, it's fairly gentle for a physical scrub (not coarse and abrasive like Lush Angels on Bare Skin), due to how small the exfoliating particles are. Unexpectedly, the powder foams up when wet palms are rubbed together. You can feel it working its magic, sloughing away dead cells and giving the skin a clean slate upon which to apply serums and moisturisers. It leaves the face feeling immaculately clean and unusually smooth.

You do need to follow with a moisturiser, otherwise the skin can feel a little taut and dry, and even start flaking in places like around the nose. With daily use, I can imagine how effective and transformative this would be for the skin, leading to improvements in texture, visible blackheads, uneven/dull skin tone and oiliness. However, the act of unscrewing the top cap and pouring out the powder into your hands is a bit fiddly, and remembering to exfoliate after cleansing is an extra step in my daily routine I wouldn't otherwise take, so I can also imagine not using it as regularly as I could. I'd be more inclined to use it in the shower to save time, but one has to be super careful to not get any water into the powder, otherwise it's good as gone.

The amount of product in a 75g bottle would last forever, so despite a hefty initial spend of $80, it would pay off in terms of cost per use, especially if you only reach for it a couple of times a week.

Ingredients: Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnesium Oxide, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Allantoin, Papain, Salicylic Acid, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, PCA, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Populus Tremuloides Bark Extract, Cyclodextrin, Lauryl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Citric Acid.

Skin Smoothing Cream

After cleansing and exfoliating, we have moisturiser in the form of the Skin Smoothing Cream. Described as a "medium-weight" moisturiser (I guess the sweet spot between a light moisturiser that may not be rich enough and a thicker moisturiser that might be too heavy), it contains lecithin, aloe gel, mallow, cucumber and arnica extracts. There's no SPF and it isn't specifically a day or night cream, so can be used whenever.

It has a moderately strong medicinal smell that I would say is uncommon in a skin care product, given how many are perfumed to make them more palatable and enjoyable to use. It doesn't bother me and may even be beneficial for the skin due to the exclusion of artificial fragrance.

The Skin Smoothing Cream is a unique formulation that has the feel of a balm but is a non-greasy, spreadable, cream consistency. It's not as runny or thin as a lotion, but it's also not oily like certain salves or thicker moisturisers (e.g. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion+, Antipodes Avocado Pear Nourishing Night Cream, Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream). Probably the most similar moisturiser I've tried to it is Jurlique Arnica Cream.

It feels like I'm applying a moderately thick coat of locked-in moisture that is quickly and thoroughly absorbed into the skin, leaving it smoothed and softened. From the few times I've used it, it's very effective in restoring moisture to the skin and addressing dry patches/flakiness. It has a mattifying effect and dries down completely — almost like a smoothing primer, which works well as a base for makeup and is ideal for the dry/combination skin type the product is targeting.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Stearic Acid, PEG-8, Lactamide MEA, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Silk Amino Acids, Polysorbate 60, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Extract, Cananga Odorata Flower Oil, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Allantoin, Panthenol, Glycolipids, Sodium Hyaluronate, Palmitoyl Hydroxypropyltrimonium Amylopectin/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Lecithin, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Hedera Helix (Ivy) Leaf/Stem Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Sambucus Nigra Flower Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Parietaria Officinalis Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Polyquaternium-10, Cetyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Disodium EDTA, Carbomer, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool.

Products were provided to me for review.


  1. I love the special cleansing gel, it works so well for my skin but is a product I tend to use up and forget to repurchase x

    Emma | Reverie de Paris

    1. I’m glad to hear it works really well for you! I think with the sheer number of options when it comes to cleanser on the market, people are just more tempted to try other things before repurchasing :)

  2. Dermalogica is by far one of my favourite skincare brands. Not only do they work really well for my skin, but I cannot fault any products of theirs that I have tried so far! The microfoliant is definitely my fave, along with the Precleanse, I highly recommend you try that one out if you like oil cleansing! x

    Chantalle |

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I have heard of Precleanse and it sounds right up my alley since I always used an oil-based cleanser these days to remove my makeup. So far I’ve been loyal to Palmers Cocoa Butter Gentle Facial Cleansing Oil but I’m always willing to try new things :)


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