For a long, long, time (think well before 9/11) I didn’t do really any traveling at all. Sure, my parents and my little sister did, and they complained about TSA’s regulations, but I always figured they were just being high-maintenance. That is, until I started air traveling again about a year ago. I was so wrong. (Sorry guys.) Traveling by plane is a GIANT PAIN, and the liquid restrictions for carry-ons (and the worry that your checked stuff is going to get taken) is super frustrating.
To atone for my obliviousness, I’m going to try and find things that are travel-friendly, and by that I mean not particularly suspicious (so not likely to get confiscated), easy to pack, and not liquid. Taken together, the perfect solution is that everything should come in stick format. I’ll start with cleansers. (Confession: I am starting with picking a cleansing stick because I needed a new cleanser. This is good timing for me.)
Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick
This product is the baseline by which all things are measured. Seriously. You can find reviews of this product by people who are way more famous and scientific and precise and everything than I am, including Snow White and the Asian Pear, Holy Snails, the Wanderlust Project, and Skin and Tonics. Go ahead, read them; I’ll wait.
Are you back? Okay.
You already know what the packaging looks like, and what the product looks like, but here’s a brief recap:
It has rose petals in it, and smells strongly like rose, which I actually kind of hate. I’m not a floral scent person.
And others have already talked about the pH, so I’ll just mention briefly how I tested it, since the method was consistent for all of these products. First, I pH tested my tap water.
Then I put water on my palm and used the cleansing stick directly on the wet skin, and tested that. Here are my results for the Miracle Rose Cleansing stick.
Fabulous. Now that you have a background for this product, we’ll move on to the details of the next, and I’ll do a comparison at the end.
Neogen Real Fresh Cleansing Stick Green Tea
As you may have read in my previous blog post, I fairly recently ran out of my favorite basic toner, which was Neogen’s Code 9 Glucose skin. So when I heard that Neogen had a cleansing stick I was like “Yup.” and bought it without a second thought.
The packaging itself is very bare-bones; green translucent to semi-translucent plastic with a removable top. It’s basically the same as the su:m37 only the Miracle Rose seems a little nicer.
The stick itself has tea bits inside of it instead of rose petals.
Ingredients: Glycerin, purified water, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, palmitic acid, stearic acid, lauryl betaine, betaine, camellia sinensis leaf (3%), camellia japonica seed oil, olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, oenothera biennis (evening primrose) oil, tocopheryl acetate, citrus aurantifolia (lime) oil, ocimum basillicum (basil) oil, cananga odorata flower oil, citrus limon (lemon) peel oil, origanum heracleoticum flower oil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) peel oil, fragrance.
The oils in here, especially the coconut oil, rank as acne triggers on CosDNA, so beware if you’re sensitive to oil or acne-prone.
I purchased this on Amazon for a little over $27, which i rationalized to myself by thinking that Amazon’s pretty good about weeding out fakes, I get two-day shipping with Prime, and… yeah. I was just impatient. While writing this post I was also able to find it on eBay for a little over $21, but it isn’t really anywhere else, which is super weird. I know Sephora has started carrying Neogen products but they don’t have it (yet?).
Boscia Charcoal Deep-Pore Cleansing Stick Treatment
I haven’t been hugely impressed with anything I’ve tried from Boscia, to be honest, but when I stopped in Sephora to pick up something for my little sister I saw it on display, and my completionist side wouldn’t shut up until I bought it. (This is the same tendency that results in my roommate being unable to play Pokemon Go, and also explains why we have seen every ending in every Silent Hill game we have played.)
The Boscia cleansing stick has the same basic packaging style as the others. Unlike the other sticks, where the product is flattened out on the top, the Boscia product is rounded.
This cleansing stick includes activated charcoal, which I’ve noticed does a pretty good job at helping with impurities in the skin (like acne and clearing out sebaceous filaments). It does contain some particles that could be irritating if you have skin sensitive to physical exfoliation. The down side is that the product is so soft that sometimes as you rub the stick on your hand a glob of it comes off. Then you go, “what the hell do I do with all this extra product?” and smear it other places, like your neck or whatever, and remind yourself later not to wonder why you went through this cleansing stick so fast.
Ingredients: glycerin, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, sodium cocoyl isethionate, water, sodium cocoyl glutamate, PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate, polyglyceryl-10 oleate, stearic acid, sodium chloride, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium hydroxide, euterpe oleracea pulp powder, charcoal powder, glycolic acid, glucosyl hesperidin, ascorbyl glucoside, cynara scolymus (artichoke) leaf extract, lactobacillus/punica granatum fruit ferment extract, subtilisin, camellia oleifera leaf extract, camellia sinensis seed oil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) oil, citrus grandis (grapefruit) seed extract, eugenia caryophyllus (clove) leaf oil, epilobium augustifolium flower/leaf/stem extract, eucalyptus globulus leaf oil, pelarfonium graveolens flower oil, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, lavandula angustifola (lavendar) oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) leaf extract, betaine, maltodextrin, tocopheryl acetate, butylene glycol, caprylyl glycol, ceteth-25, oleth-10, 1,2-hexanediol, xanthan gum.
The big ingredient that sticks out is the coconut oil, which ranks a 4 out of 5 on the acne trigger scale at COSDNA. I know there are lots of folks out there who can’t tolerate coconut in their skincare at all. If you’re one of them, run away from this stick.
Nooni Pink Snowflake Travel Stick Cleanser
Nooni is Memebox’s house skincare brand. Why did they name it Nooni? No clue. Anyway, this is described as being a cleansing balm in stick form. My face has always gotten along better with cleansing balms than with cleansing oils, so I was pretty excited to try this out. Plus, at $18 retail on the Memebox site, it’s a bit cheaper than the other options, which is nice for the budget.
There is nothing inside the Nooni cleansing stick either – it’s just a balm stick. Nothing frilly, nothing fancy, just bare bones. It applies really smoothly, spreads without tugging, and is all around a decent cleansing balm.
The Nooni stick is white and doesn’t have any materials in it other than the cleansing balm itself. It doesn’t really have much of a discernible smell, which I like.
Ingredients: Mineral oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, polyethylene, dicaprylyl carbonate, cacao seed butter, ceresin, microcrystalline wax, peach tree flower extract, licorice extract, ginseng extract, magnolia flower oil, peach kernel extract, apricot kernel extract, salicylic acid, shea butter, jojoba seed oil, olive oil, oxygen, sunflower seed oil, tocopheryl acetate, purified water, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-hexanediol, fragrance.
When added to water, the Nooni stick pH comes out at a decent 5.5 or so. However, I don’t think that it really is meant to be used like the rest of these cleansing sticks. It says right in the name that it’s an “oil cleansing stick”. That, to me, means that you use it instead of a cleansing oil or cleansing balm. I actually get pretty good results using it this way. It’s comfortable to use on the face without water, spreads nicely and evenly, and does a good job at removing makeup. Unfortunately for me, it breaks me out. I assume that this is due to either the jojoba or the olive oil, though I don’t know for sure.
The Nooni cleansing stick can be purchased at Memebox for around $18, although I’ve seen it frequently in either kits (with minis of other products) or on special (1+1), so it pays to wait until a sale.
Belif The True Tincture Cleansing Stick – Chamomile
Belif is a brand that I’m not particularly familiar with other than a couple of deluxe samples from Sephora, but someone mentioned on my Instagram that they had a cleansing stick of their own. Since I was already picking up stuff from Sephora, I added this to the list. It was not available in my local store.
This stick has two kinds of stuff in it – I assume that some of it is chamomile and the rest is a mystery.
It has a strong fragrance that I actually find really appealing; it’s kind of spicy and citrusy. You can definitely tell that there are particles in it when you rub it directly on your face; I generally used it on a wet hand and then applied the result to my face to avoid any extra irritation or abrasion (and that’s the case for all of the cleansing sticks, not just this one – but the others didn’t have such a lot of stuff in them).
Ingredients : Glycerin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Water, Stearic Acid, Myristic Acid, Lauryl Betaine, Potassium Hydroxide, Betaine, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Nepeta Cataria Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Leaf Extract+, Baptisia Tinctoria Root Extract, Stellaria Media (Chickweed) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower(0.06%), Ocimum Basillicum (Basil) Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Oil, Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil, Origanum Heracleoticum (Marjoram) Flower Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Fragrance, Citral, Citronellol, Limonene, Geraniol, Linalool.
Again with the coconut oil. There’s just no escaping it, is there? Additionally, there are two ingredients with fairly high safety alert rankings on CosDNA: the Citral and Geraniol, which are both listed as “fragrances” but have a safety ranking of 7 out of 9 and show up in red. That makes me a little nervous.
The pH of this cleansing stick is around a 4.5. Nice! Way to get it done, Belif.
The True Tincture Cleansing Stick can be purchased at Sephora for $28.
Tarte FRXXXTION Stick Exfoliating Cleanser
First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. That is a STUPID name for a product. It sounds like lube marketed towards people buying products for an amateur pornography shoot.
Okay, moving on.
The product itself is black. I’m not totally against that, since it makes it easy to see if you haven’t rinsed everything away, but at the same time it’s not a super attractive trait in a face soap. Or really any soap for that matter.
Ingredients (per the Sephora website): Water, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Stearate, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Glycerin, Diatomaceous Earth, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Quaternium-90 Sepiolite, Charcoal Powder, Sodium Methyl Oleoyl Taurate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Quaternium-90 Montmorillonite, Kaolin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Benzoate.
The cleansing stick itself is supposed to be exfoliating, and after you wear away the smooth top layer of the stick it does feel very gritty. It’s not like some exfoliants where you can tell that the particles are micro-beads – these feel rough, almost sandy. I recall talking to someone on a home and garden forum about house centipedes, which freak me the hell out, and I was advised to put diatemaceous earth around the corners of the house because it would shred the bug’s exoskeleton and then they would die. That doesn’t really sound like something I want to put on my face.
As you can see, the pH of this cleansing stick is around 8.5. That’s higher than I’d like to use for a facial cleanser, especially when you take the grittiness into account.
The Tarte cleansing stick costs $22 and you can find it at Sephora, although I really wouldn’t recommend it.
NakeupFace Stress 0 Cleansing Stick
NakeupFace advertises this stick as the “fastest cleanser existing on the planet”. It’s branded as a three-step transforming cleanser, from balm to oil to foam, so you don’t need to use multiple products to cleanse your face. It’s supposed to remove both makeup and facial impurities.
The stick itself has some bits of things in it – Nakeupface’s product images state that they’re bits of fresh dried mint leaf powder. It also has a very strong scent; I can’t identify that either but I really don’t like it.
This stick is an alternative to the Nooni stick cleanser – it’s meant to be used as a first cleansing step, rather than a second. The instructions indicate that it is meant to be used on dry skin and then rinsed off, just like you would with a regular cleansing oil or balm. When I applied the stick directly to my dry skin, it didn’t melt as easily as the Nooni stick and did tug a bit.
Ingredients: Unknown. Nakeupface’s promo materials indicate that it contains chia seed extract, blueberry extract, 6 herbal extracts (including bergamot, basil, and oregano), 4 mint leaves, and 5 soy bean oils. This stick did not arrive in a box with ingredients listed; it was merely sealed with plastic.
The pH of this stick is a little higher than I’d like, at around 6.5, but it’s a little under neutral and therefore beats out at least the Tarte cleansing stick.
The two categories that were easily ranked I put into graphs so folks can easily reference them. First is what I think of as value – that is, price per ounce of product.
As you can see, the su:m37 was actually at the top of the list when it came to price per ounce, which is not what I was expecting at all. I associate the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick with luxury, and consider su:m37 a luxury brand. I was also able to get it through Amazon Prime, which meant that not only did I not have to pay shipping, but I also got the product within a couple of business days. Bringing up the rear by far is the Tarte cleansing stick. The only other part of the equation that didn’t get onto the graph is the fact that the Nooni (38g), Nakeupface (45g), Boscia (56g), and Tarte (28.3g) are all smaller than the other sticks (80g), so you’ll go through them faster and have to repurchase more often.
The other graph is pH. You saw the pictures above, so you already know what results I got, but this way you can see the results all together.
Here again, Tarte is trailing the pack. By quite a bit. The su:m37 and Belif have the lowest pH, but the Neogen is also pretty good. I’d say the same about the Nooni stick, but I don’t really think its pH is meant to be measured like that – it should be used as a first cleanser, not a second.
I did a basic little test to see how well each stick cleansed my skin. I may have overestimated the cleansing power of all of these sticks by testing them on PeriPera’s Peri Ink Tint, which will basically outlast the apocalypse, but oh well. Here’s what my arm looked like before I used the cleansers.
I then ran some water over it, and used a little bit of each cleanser in its appointed place.
They all did pretty equally well, except for the Nooni which was a little bit of an underperformer. That’s not surprising, though, given that it’s not actually meant to be used the way I used it here.
Since I clearly made an error testing the Nooni and the Nakeupface cleansing sticks with the second step cleansers, I did a second test using them as first cleansers instead. This time, I tested them with Clio’s Kill Black Liner Pen, a Play101 Pencil from Etude House, and one of my PeriPera Milk Balms. Here’s what it looked like before I did anything.
I applied both the Nakeupface and Nooni cleansing sticks to dry skin and massaged to get the makeup loose.
It looked like the Nooni stick was doing a significantly better job cleansing than the Nakeupface. Then I rinsed with water.
The results are sort of similar, although I think the Nooni did its job with a lot less friction on the skin.
In terms of purchasing, another thing to take into account is how easy something is to get. If you want to walk into a store and buy a cleansing stick, and you’re like me and not in an area with easy access to K-or J-beauty products, the easiest products to get will be the Boscia and the Tarte, since you can just go into a Sephora and pick them up off the shelf. If you’re an online shopper, then it’s just a question of how long you’re willing to wait: the su:m37 and Neogen are available on Amazon, and the Tarte, Boscia, and Belif are available from Sephora’s website; the Nakeupface is only available via import from Korea and therefore requires a wait.
In terms of fragrance, only three of the sticks had a really strong scent. The first is the su:m37, which has a soapy rose fragrance that I despise. The second is the Belif, which has a spicy-citrus scent I really like. The third is the Nakeupface, which has a spicy sort of scent that I dislike.
They all lather pretty much the same – which is to say, not really at all. These aren’t the products for you if you’re looking for a foamy soap. In terms of how my skin felt with them, the su:m37 was the only one that reliably didn’t dry my face out regardless of other conditions. The Neogen and Belif sticks were also great when my skin was oily or combination. They dried my skin out a little when I was already a little dry – for example, if I had used a harsh makeup remover for my first step, or if I had been a little harsh with my exfoliating the day before.
Of all these cleansing sticks, I will continue to use the su:m37, probably daily. (Yay new cleanser!) I’ll keep the Boscia for when I feel like I need a little extra charcoal action as a spot treatment. I will have to do more research on those two ingredients in the Belif stick, and if I’m reassured I’ll probably use that as well, because I like the scent. I’ll keep the Nakeupface as well, for when I travel and don’t want to bring an oil or pot balm cleanser. The Nooni and Neogen I’ll gift to friends – the Nooni because it breaks me out but it’s a good product, and the Neogen because I like it just as much as the Belif stick for cleansing but I like the scent of the Belif stick so much better.
The Tarte stick…. I returned it.
Does one of these cleansing sticks sing to you more than the others? Which one, and why?