Three years ago, at the age of 25, my skin seemed to regress to my teenage years, and I started to get spots – way too many of them for my liking. After trying various antibotics, with limited success, I got a referral to a dermatologist who recommended trying Roaccutane. This well-known acne treatment is said to be very effective, but it comes with numerous side effects. Primarily, because it works to reduce the production of sebum, it also causes a lot of skin dryness. So the question I’m really trying to answer with this article is: what is the best cleanser to use with Roaccutane?
This what I’m looking for in a good cleanser to use alongside Roaccutane:
1. Removes make up effectively.
2. Doesn’t have to moisturise per se, but shouldn’t leave skin feeling tight or dry.
3. Less perfume and more natural ingredients are preferable, as they’re better for sensitive skin.
4. Value for money – the cheaper the better, so if it’s expensive it has to really be worth it. I didn’t look at any prices until I wrote this up, so they wouldn’t sway my initial reactions.
When I say thoroughly tried and tested I mean it. I used each cleanser morning and night for a week to really examine its quality and effectiveness in conjunction with Roaccutane. This is what I found, in the order in which I tested the products.
Dr Nick Lowe Purifying Foaming Cleanser Anti Blemish
What’s it supposed to do? ‘An anti-bacterial foaming face wash to deep clean pores and lift daily impurities. Gentle exfoliators lift away dead skin cells resulting in deeply cleansed, refreshed and brighter skin.’
Does it work? With a satisfyingly clinical scent, a bit like clay, and a foam formula that effectively dissolves all my make up, this cleanser felt really good on application. But the next day my skin fely a little bit tight, even when I was using this alongside a rich moisturiser, so I think the anti-bacterial properties are slightly too strong for my dry complexion and would work better on oilier skin.
Price: £10.49 for 150 ml from Boots.com; £6.99 per 100ml.
Final score: 7/10 – Better for oily skin.
Eau Thermale Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser
What’s it supposed to do? ‘For skin which is naturally hypersensitive or has been overstressed by various aggressions…Its formula has been specially developed with a minimum of ingredients, all selected for their gentleness.’
Does it work? It’s very runny and doesn’t really lather up so it certainly feels very gentle and soap free. Personally, I prefer a cleanser that spreads more, but this 96% spring water cleanser is ideal if you don’t want to rinse with regular tap water as it can be cotton wooled on and tissued off. Hence, I’ll be packing it for festivals as a better alternative to face wipes, which my friend’s facialist says often cause more spots than they prevent.
Price: £8 for 200ml from Boots; £4 per 100ml.
Final score: 7/10 – A bit too gentle for me.
Nelsons Pure & Clear Purifying Daily Facial Wash
What’s it supposed to do? ‘Containing naturally-active plant extracts in a seaweed base…thoroughly cleanses away impurities, restoring skin to its natural radiance and beauty by helping diminish the visible appearance of blemishes.’
Does it work? A clear gel formula, this face wash lathers well and is very refreshing because of the tea tree scent, but it couldn’t diminish my blemishes. Three weeks into my Roaccutane treatment my skin has started to break out big time. This is to be expected, they say your acne often gets worse before it gets better; it seems like all the tea tree in the world would be no match for this drug.
Price: £6.45 for 125ml from FeelUnique.com; £5.16 per 100ml
Final score: 6/10 – not enough blemish-fighting power for me.
Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser Grapes and Sage
What’s it supposed to do? ‘The soap-free formula respects the natural balance of the skin to restore radiance, softness and comfort.’
Does it work? Foam is my favourite kind of face wash, because it lathers up so well, dissolves make up, rinses off easily and lasts ages. This Caudalie version is no exception. It’s basically the deluxe version of a tea tree foaming face wash I use from Boots, it looks and feels similar but the Caudalie cleanser has a gorgeously piney, almost savoury scent, (it shares a sage note with Caligna perfume). My skin feels lovely and soft after using it, and it contains no parabens, sodium laureth sulfate or other nasties, which is good because I’m still suffering from lots of spots this week. If your senstive skin type means those are prerequisites, then it’s certainly worth paying a bit more for this cleanser.
Price: £15 for 150ml from the Caudalie website; £10 per 100ml
Final score: 8/10 – not cheap, but great product and it’ll last a long time.
Clearasil Daily Clear Vitamins & Extracts Wash and Mask
What’s it supposed to do? ‘A creamy 2-in-1 cleanser containing avocado, pomegranate extracts and Vitamin E known for their nourishing properties to keep skin looking healthy. It can be used as a gentle daily cleanser or as an indulgent 3 minute mask so skin is left clear and soft.’
Does it work? Because it doubles as a mask, this face wash has a creamy, clay-like texture and a nice fruity fragrance. It lathers well but ultimately it’s too thick for me, it didn’t rinse easily so I had to sort of squeegee it off in places. But as a mask it felt great so I’ll be saving this for a bit of Sunday night ‘me time’.
Price: £4.99 for 150ml from Superdrug; £3.32 per 100ml
Final score: 6/10 – works better as a mask than a cleanser.
Crystal Clear Deep Cleanse Gel
What’s it supposed to do? ‘A soap-free foaming cleanser that is suitable for all skin types, even dry and sensitive skin. Proven anti-ageing peptides help skin look younger and firmer with every wash’
Does it work? The directions say that this stuff is so concentrated that you should only use a small amount, dispensing one pump of the clear gel into your wet palm to lather it up. The deliciously fresh and grapefruit scented cleanser spreads easily and certainly feels like it’s getting rid of all my make up and leaving my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed. Since I’m only 29 I don’t notice any major anti-ageing effects, but maybe on older skin it would be more evident. On the acne front, my dermatologist told me to double my Roaccutane dose this week and my skin has massively improved, so it’s fair to say this cleanser works well with Roaccutane. It may be a tad pricey, but 200ml will last a while.
Price: £27 for 200ml from the Crystal Clear website; £13.50 per 100ml.
Final score: 8/10 – pricey but very good quality.
Qsilica Remove Makeup & Grime Cleansing Gel
What’s it supposed to do? ‘Mineral Silica encourages a youthful glow while Jojoba and Vitamin E help soothe and condition. Skin is left clean and soft, ready to gain the maximum benefits from your moisturiser’.
Does it work? Only a small squeeze of this clear, fruity-smelling cleansing gel was needed to effectively remove all my face makeup. It’s made by an Australian company called Planet Health, so the ingredients list is full of natural products like coconut, lavender and avocado. Again, I couldn’t see a vast difference in terms of anti-ageing, but since I’m only 29 years old hopefully I’ve got enough youthful glow already. I really liked this cleanser though, my skin felt smooth and clean after using it and it didn’t worsen the drying effects of the Roaccutane in any way. I have to say I’m not keen on the black and white hairdresser poster-style packaging, but it’s what’s inside that counts right?
Price: £15.95 for 100ml from Baldwins ; £15.95 per 100ml
Final score: 8/10 – naturally effective
Inlight Organic Face Cleanser
What’s it supposed to do? ‘This exquisite balm is precious nectar for dry, sensitive or mature skin as it effortlessly moisturises the skin as it cleanses. Formulated…to deeply lift impurities from the skin with the gentlest exfoliating and polishing action.’
Does it work? This is the hands down winner in terms of packaging: a gorgeous midnight blue glass jar with a brushed silver top, housed in a blue box, it was a joy just to OPEN this cleanser. Inside is a rich, clove scented balm that is not as hard as it looks. I used the little wooden spatula provided to scoop some of the soft, buttery balm onto the back of my hand. As I spread it over my face with my fingertips the gorgeous spicy lavender fragrance was released and it melted into a creamy oil that felt more like a moisturiser. So far, so pleasant, but removing the cleanser wasn’t quite so easy, it took several soaked cotton buds to get it all off. I later found a muslin cloth was easier, and I prefer that because it’s more sustainable than cotton (a high risk global commodity FYI). After a few days, my skin does feel exceptionally soft and smooth, even though it’s very hot at the moment and I’ve been out in the (unavoidable) sun a lot. Added bonus: the Roaccutane seems to be working because for the first time in years I haven’t had a single spot for a week. Hurrah! Overall, if you like your products innovative and indulgent then the Inlight Organic Face Cleanser for you. As I’m more of a lather and rinse kind of girl I’ll be saving this for a Sunday night pampering treat.
Price: £30 for 60ml from the Inlight website; £50 per 100ml.
Final score: 9/10 – exceptional. If you can afford it, go for it.
So which is the best cleanser to use with Roaccutane? Technically, the Inlight Organic Face Cleanser scored top with 9 out of 10, but I know that will be out of some peoples price range at £30 a pop. My personal favourite is the Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser, because I prefer a foaming wash and it doesn’t break my frugal £10 per 100ml limit. My advice? Choose a cleanser according to your skin type, then buy the most expensive one you can afford. I’m confident that you – and your skin – will thank me in the end.
Now we’ve got that sorted, head over to the results of my quest to find out: What’s the best moisturiser for very dry skin?