How Powder Cleansers Work and Who Should Use One

June 30, 2023
Ariel Wodarcyk
By: Ariel Wodarcyk | by L'Oréal
Close-up picture of a person smiling and touching the sides of their face

If you’ve ever shopped for a new face wash, you’ll know that there’s no shortage of cleansers available, from cream to gel to foam — but powder cleanser is one of the lesser-known formulas. Powder cleansers originated in the K-beauty market, but as with many K-beauty trends, they’ve made their way to the U.S., too. If a powder cleanser sounds confusing to you (how do you wash your face with a powder, anyway?), don’t worry. With the help of Dr. Nancy Ilaya, PhD, Kiehl’s global scientific director, we’re walking you through how to use a powder cleanser and the formula’s benefits, below.

What Is Powder Cleanser?

Powder cleanser is a finely milled powder that turns into a liquid or paste consistency when you mix it with water. Some powder cleansers also transform into a foamy lather when you wash your face with them. The powder typically comes in a bottle or squeeze tube, just like a regular cleanser.

What Does a Powder Cleanser Do?

Because of their powdery consistency, powder cleansers gently exfoliate your skin as they cleanse. Every powder cleanser is different, but the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing & Polishing Powder Cleanser provides both physical and chemical exfoliation with a blend of micro-crystalline cellulose grains and alpha-hydroxy acids. Exfoliation helps slough off dead skin cells and reveal smoother, more luminous skin.

Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing & Polishing Powder Cleanser

How to Use a Powder Cleanser

“I first dampen my face with water, shaking a coin-size amount of our cleanser into my hands, then work it into a foam by massaging into my skin,” says Dr. Ilaya. “If my skin needs a little more exfoliation, I won't add as much water to create a gentle scrub.”

Who Should Use a Powder Cleanser?

Powder cleansers are great for those who are looking to exfoliate as they take off the day’s sweat, makeup and SPF. “[The Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing & Polishing Powder Cleanser] is formulated best for those experiencing excess oil, texture, and great for those with sensitive skin,” says Dr. Ilaya. The formula helps reduce the look of excess oil, unclog pores (clogged pores can contribute to breakouts) and refines texture for skin that looks smoother and more mattified. 

When Should You Use a Powder Cleanser?

Each powder cleanser is different, so be sure to check the instructions on your bottle before use. Some powder cleansers can be used morning and night, while others are best for nightly use. Dr. Ilaya uses the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing & Polishing Powder Cleanser twice a day as a gentle foam and twice a week as a scrub, in which she combines it with less water. 

Above all, be sure to listen to your skin and pay attention to how you react to the products you use. Oily skin types can typically handle more frequent (albeit gentle) exfoliation than dry skin types, so keep that in mind when using a powder cleanser. If you’re still unsure, consult with a board-certified dermatologist and try performing a patch test before you use your powder cleanser. 

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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