Beauty Log: All the Gel Cleansers I Tried in 2020

Welcome to Beauty Logs, otherwise known as B-Logs, where we share real reviews — no holds barred — by and for those who are constantly on the lookout for the latest additions to their list of holy grail products.

I first found out about the existence of gel cleansers when my friend kindly surprised me with Fresh Beauty’s soy face cleanser after I mentioned that I was running out of face wash. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — considering all the rave reviews, I was not terribly impressed with this cult product. Of course, I was touched by my friend’s gesture and valued the gift in and of itself.

Before, I only used foaming cleansers as I was blissfully unaware that cleansers with suds are likely to contain sulfates, a potentially harmful ingredient that may cause irritation or strip our skin of its protective barrier. My dissatisfaction with the soy face cleanser led me on a quest to find an alternative, one that was cheaper and worked for my combination skin.

Along the way, I switched to gel cleansers for good. While they produce a smaller amount of foam and offer a milder cleanse than foaming cleansers, these are not indicators of a cleanser’s effectiveness. In fact, it simply means that gel cleansers do not strip the skin’s barrier, making them suitable for combination, oily or acne-prone skin. The icing on top of the cake? Gel cleansers are ideal for hot and humid climates like Singapore’s.

Since our skin constantly changes due to fluctuations in hormone levels and environmental factors, I find it challenging to maintain a clear complexion. As such, in 2020, I went on a quest to find a gel cleanser that best suit my skin. Here are my findings, with the products listed in chronological order of my tests.

Fresh Beauty’s Soy Face Cleanser

  • Contains amino acid-rich soy proteins
  • Contains calming cucumber extract
  • Contains balancing rosewater
  • pH-balanced

Takeaways: While I am a fan of Fresh’s products, my first impression of the soy face cleanser was that its scent was oddly off-putting. I thought, “Is this what soy smells like?” Turns out it was the cucumber extract. On top of that, I also found the cleanser too mild for my skin so I usually double-cleanse with micellar water on days when I had to remove my makeup.

Given that this was my first gel cleanser, it is possible that I was conditioned to think that the presence of foam was necessary for my skin to be truly cleansed. To make sure that I was making a fair assessment, I bought Drunk Elephant’s jelly cleanser so that I could compare the two products. I concluded that the soy face cleanser was indeed too mild and I needed to cleanse my face multiple times to fully rid my face of impurities like dirt and makeup residue.

Drunk Elephant’s Beste™ No. 9 Jelly Cleanser

  • Contains a blend of mild surfactants and makeup dissolving emollients
  • Free of sulfates, fragrance and essential oils

Takeaways: This was the first Drunk Elephant product that I tried, so I did not know what to expect. This jelly cleanser is scentless and it emits a sterile smell that I later found out was characteristic of Drunk Elephant’s products — the line seems to be made for those who like a no-frills approach to skincare. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Fresh Beauty’s soy face cleanser, this should definitely be one of the top contenders on your list. It lathers more than the soy cleanser and gets rid of impurities quicker.

Caudalie’s Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser

  • Contains natural salicylic acid that tightens pores while minimizing excess sebum, blackheads and imperfections
  • Contains antioxidant grape seed polyphenols
  • Contains anti-bacterial essential oil complex
  • Contains redness-reducing gape water
  • Contains organic rose water which promotes a healthy glow

Takeaways: While I was pretty content with Drunk Elephant’s jelly cleanser, I was still curious about the other gel cleansers on the market. Since I really loved Caudalie’s Moisturizing Toning Lotion and how it smelled, I ordered their gel cleanser, expecting it to be a similar product. So when I used the cleanser for the first time, I got a shock at the overpowering herbal-mint smell.

Initially, I regretted the purchase and was so sure that I would avoid products of this range. However, after I moved on to the next cleanser on my list, I realized that Caudalie’s gel cleanser actually helped to control my hormonal acne. That is because it contains salicylic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant that helps to unclog pores. When I experienced a particularly bad case of hormonal acne, I was tempted to repurchase it but eventually decided to use Caudalie’s Vinopure Blemish Control Infusion Serum to control my acne instead.

Shiseido’s Waso Quick Gentle Cleanser

  • Formulated with honey and royal jelly from bees
  • Foams without water
  • May harden at low temperatures (which shouldn’t be a problem in Singapore if you store it in your bathroom)
  • Paraben-free, oil-free, alcohol-free and soap-free

Takeaways: My first gripe is that the packaging is not user-friendly. The bottle is rather hard to squeeze and when I apply more force, I end up with more cleanser than I need. However, I did appreciate that the honey scent of this gel cleanser is pleasant.

According to the packaging, this gentle cleanser lathers without water but washing your face without wetting your face first is the facial equivalent of brushing your teeth without wetting your toothbrush first, and I hope we can all agree that that’s a cursed experience. I would recommend this cleanser only to lucky individuals with low-maintenance skin since it is extremely mild — even more so than Fresh’s soy face cleanser — and a single wash is often insufficient to extract all the dirt and grime from my face.

Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse

  • Contains the ground Japanese luffa fruit exfoliates and extract, which helps to clarify skin
  • Japanese wild rose to tighten pores and smoothen skin
  • Japanese leopard lily to minimize excess oil
  • Oil-free formula that cleanses with amino acids from silk


This cleanser was marketed as a daily gel cleanser, and so I bought it without much thought since I have always heard good reviews of Tatcha’s products. Only later did I realize that this cleanser contains a natural fruit exfoliant. Since I was mindful that over-exfoliation can lead to the breakdown of the skin’s barrier, I use this cleanser only once or twice a week. I also prefer chemical exfoliation to physical exfoliants, since it minimizes the risk of abrasions. Thankfully, the luffa fruit extract gently buffs the skin, so that isn’t an issue. Since my face feels smoother and fresher after every use, I plan to keep this cleanser in my beauty arsenal.

While doing research on Lauren Oyler’s media coverage following the release of her debut novel, I found her rave review of Tatcha’s Rice Wash Cleanser (which was backed by the journalist who profiled her) and decided to purchase that. Consider me influenced. The product is a cream cleanser, which I suspect I may hate since I’m not a fan of milky textures but I would love to be proven wrong — I will find out once my Shiseido Waso cleanser (that I use daily) runs out. All I know is that it may very well send me on a quest to find the cream cleanser of my dreams. And if that happens, I’ll be sure to write about it.

Feature collage by Sherryl Cheong

Sherryl Cheong

Sharer and carer of wildchild

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