Beauty, Cosmetic Reviews
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Review: Acwell Bubble Free pH Balancing Cleanser

This pH balanced cleanser surged to cult classic status in the K-beauty world last yer. The Klog featured it, social media influencers raved about it & everyone else was trying to their hands on it.

This low foaming gel does come with a price tag that rivals mid-range brands from Sephora so I grappled whether to buy this or not for over a year. The popularity has been dying down, this cleanser has been replaced with other trendy cleansers on the Instagram. I am eager more than ever to see if this cleanser lives up to the hype!

Brand

Acwell seems like it was launched by another South Korean cosmetic company, BNH Cosmetics, in 2009. This is the same year that BNH Cosmetics launched as well. There appears to be some discrepancy, BNH’s site claims to have taken over Acwell in 2009 though I could not find any records of the company existing before 2009.

Nothing is inherently negative here, the company has existed for close to a decade at this point. I have some personal speculations about the Acwell marketing strategy. The company had such instantaneous rise to fame for key products that were sent as PR to social media influencers & raved about amongst Western retailers of Korean Cosmetics during this same period of time that I imagine there were paid partnerships at play.

Acwell claims to be traditional dermatology, utilizing over 400 years of traditional Korean medicine in their cosmetics. The brand specifically seeks the concept of “Donguibogam”, a balance of controlled properties by harmony similar.

Product Claims

Product Claims from the brand website:

  • Introducing a gentle cleanser that’s tough on makeup! With a low pH of 5.5, this lightweight gel cleanser effectively balances skin, helping it stay smooth and supple.
  • This cleanser is formulated with powerhouse ingredients like Centella, aloe, and witch hazel to hydrate, calm, and brighten skin with every wash. Licorice root extract also brightens skin while salicylic acid helps keep breakouts at bay.
  • Suitable for all skin types, this gentle cleanser is what you need to achieve healthy, balanced skin.

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 1.03.26 PMI spy some contradictory statements! A low pH does mean the formula is balanced, but it definitely does not necessarily mean the formula is gentle. The noted ingredients are astringents, antibacterials & a form of BHA so it is safe to assume this may be better suited for oily, acne-prone skin. It may be less ideal for dry or sensitive skin types as a result, which casts doubt on the universal skin type claim.

It is a lightweight gel cleanser though with a balanced pH so the basics are accurate.

Application

Appearance

The consistency is different, not in the best way either. It is creamy gel, but very watery. Once water is added to this cleanser, it emulsifies to the point it almost disappears so I find myself using more of this product than I ordinarily would.

Scent

Artificial fragrance is added, it smells mildly antiseptic though not completely overwhelming. I never second guessed using this cleanser based on scent alone like I have with the Purito cleanser.

Packaging

It comes in my preferred pump-style bottle. It is a high quality plastic bottle, the pump locks tightly so I imagine this could travel well. The white packaging is opaque, but the color is not so dense that it interferes with seeing how much product remains in the bottle. The rest is completely superficial, but the bottle design is definitely my aesthetic!

Performance

I started out using this cleanser morning & evening to see how I preferred to use it. It is not a particularly harsh cleanser so it could be used in either or both routines. The anomaly with this cleanser is my skin never felt stripped after using this cleanser, but I had issues with dryness & I experienced flaky patches on my skin. I cut down to using this only in my PM routine, but I was still experiencing some minor dryness so I began using this every other night [Alternated with the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser] & I no longer experienced issues with this cleanser.

This is a sulfate-free product, but it contains multiple forms of alcohol & astringents so I imagine this is why I experienced dryness without the skin irritation. I did experience eye irritation with this cleanser, which is a fairly common problem for me. This cleanser does contain salicylic acid, which makes it less ideal to use around the eye area anyway.

Once I found a way to use this cleanser that worked for my skin, it still was not performing as I wanted.

The more I used this cleanser, the more I kept reflecting back to the Innisfree Bija Anti-Trouble Cleanser Gel. I reviewed this a few months ago, I loathed it. It is not a bad cleanser in itself, but this type of cleanser has no place in my skincare regimen. I use micellar waters if I want a gentle cleanse, I own a traditional cleanser like this when I need to remove the daily grime off of my face. Innisfree failed at this, Acwell did as well for the exact same reasons.

I think Acwell could be a viable option for a gentle morning cleanser, just like the Innisfree. However, Acwell is double the price & I was equally disappointed with its performance as well.

If we could circle back to how I tried to use this in my personal regimen, there will be the obvious flaws. I ordinarily use micellar water as my morning cleansing step, but I am runner that lives in the mediterranean so I sweat. A lot. I noticed when I would reach for this cleanser after a run, I could still feel the tackiness of sweat after washing my face with this.

Odd, I thought. I figured this cleanser might work better for my evening routine. I double cleanse so it was reasonable to expect this cleanser to perform better following an oil cleanser that would do all the heavy lifting of removing sweat & sebum. Right? Yeah, that would be a no.

I could still feel oil residue from my first cleanser leftover after using the Acwell cleanser. I have been cleansing my face for decades at this point in life, if I am using the Acwell cleanser wrong then it just has to be an issue with the product because a cleanser should be that difficult to use.

This section has become more of a ramble than anticipated. I had heightened expectations & I was sorely disappointed. This cleanser was so hyped last year when this was sent out in PR. It is a perfectly okay cleanser, but it is overpriced & lackluster.

Again, if you loved the Innisfree cleansing gel, then this Acwell cleanser might be perfect for you!

1 Acne Trigger & 0 Irritants according to CosDNA

Ingredients
Water, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Dipropylene Glycol, Alcohol, PEG-11 Methyl Ether Dimethicone, Benzyl Alcohol, Acrylic acid/Phosphorylcholine Glycol Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanolamine, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Centella Asiatica Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Dehydroacetic Acid, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Disodium EDTA, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract, Cimicifuga Dahurica Root Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Salicylic Acid, Farnesyl Acetate, Farnesol, Panthenyl Triacetate, Fragrance

Aloe

The main claim to cosmetic fame are the hydration properties because the ingredient is 99.5% water.  It provides soothing medicinal benefits for skin irritations or burns, it provides some antibacterial advantages as well.

Centella Asiatica

Potent antioxidant that is a source of amino acids, it acts as an anti-inflammatory & antibacterial

Witch Hazel

Antioxidant & anti-inflammatory, though high levels on tannins may cause some skin sensitivity issues

Licorice Root

This is considered a potent antioxidant that can improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation

Salicylic Acid

A form of BHA that exfoliates dead skin with the ability to penetrate pore lining, it can effectively reduce blackheads & other types of acne breakouts

Misc. Ingredient Notes

I just do not get this ingredient list, guys.

The first third of the ingredient list is full of alcohol, preservatives & astringents. None of this is inherently bad, but it is definitely not designed for dry or sensitive skin types. While BHA & witch hazel may be suitable for oily skin, the fourth ingredient is a cheap silicon that is a common comedogenic & it really does nothing for cleansers so I have no idea why it is even there except to thicken the formula.

The latter half of the ingredient list has licorice extract & salicylic acid, but the amounts are dismal & these ingredient are not very effective in a cleansing product.

Value

Price: $21.00 / 150ml, $4.12 per ounce

This cleanser is expensive, it rivals mid-range brands at Sephora or Douglas.

There are so many affordable, pH balanced on the market now that I have a hard time recommending a non-prescription cleanser at this price point. The performance of this cleanser is mediocre, the ingredient list is less than impressive. There are very few products that I would dissuade someone from trying if they are curious, but do not even bother with this one.

This cleanser is easier to obtain in North America, but I had a more difficult time finding an online retailer that would ship to Europe. Eventually I found a wholesale website that did stock this so while it was difficult to get this cleanser shipped to France, it was not impossible. Again, do not bother though.

Overall

Rating: 2 / 5

My biggest qualm with this cleanser is the price point. If the cost was halved, I would not mind this product as much & it would be rated slightly higher. The ingredient list & makeup removal performance are still dismal, but there is nothing harmful about this product. Just save the money & pass on this one, I would recommend my epic fail with the Innisfree cleansing gel over this one.

 

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