Sunday, November 20th, 2011

By Laura, 40s, New York, Skincare Contributor

Laura “came of age” in the 80s, so she considers a survivor of some very disturbing fashion and makeup trends, like shoulder pads, acid-washed jeans worn unironically, streaky blush, and thick eyeliner that we softened with a lighter before putting it on–don’t even get her started on what women wore to the gym in those days! She now works in a more conservative field, and she’ll get an odd look or two if she wears crackle nail polish (and she expects we’ll look back on that trend with the same disbelief we now reserve for horizontally-striped leg warmers).


Making Skincare Affordable: Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser

One thing I find difficult about my middle-aged skin is that it doesn’t tolerate rough treatment as well as it did when I was in my 20s and 30s. I used to be able to stay out late, fall into bed leaving all my makeup on when I slept, and wake up with nothing worse than a wee bit of puffiness under my eyes, if that. Not anymore. Now, if I want to skin to look presentable at work in the morning, not only do I have to be a lot more careful about my diet, but I also have to be absolutely fastidious in making sure I care properly for my skin before I go to bed.

Still, despite my having to take a few more minutes in my bedtime routine than I used to, my skincare routine is pretty simple, and I’ve developed one habit that might surprise some people: I don’t use a lot of department store skin-care products. I’ve found after many years of trial and error (more than I care to admit!) that while expense isn’t necessarily inversely proportional to effectiveness, my skin does not necessarily look any better when I spend more money on it.

On the contrary, some of the best products I’ve found are in the drugstore, not at the cosmetics counter. This rule holds particularly true for facial cleansers; I’ve found that there’s absolutely no reason to spend megabucks on any of them. A lot of department store cleansers are very fine.  Sometimes I use Clinique Extra Mild Liquid Facial Soap ($16.00) when I’m feeling flush, but I’ve never found them markedly different from the skincare products you can find easily at Rite Aid or CVS. (I’ve found myself using certain department store products regularly because the drugstore brands don’t make a comparable product – Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm ($27.50), for example – but that’s for another post.)

Of course, there are some cleansers I can’t use because they happen to have ingredients that irritate my skin, but in that regard, I’ve found that the expensive stuff is just as likely to be an offender as are the less-expensive brands. As just one example, I know a lot of people love Philosophy’s Purity, which is $20 for an eight-ounce bottle, and I wish I could love it, because I do love the scent and texture. However, it drives my skin insane and not in a good way. I also haven’t found that cleansers work any better if they have gold-plated ingredients like antioxidants, salicylic acid, and so forth. After all, those ingredients touch your skin for only around a minute before you literally wash them down the drain!

I’ve tried dozens of different cleansers since I was a teenager, and I always come back to Neutrogena in one form or another. The company has, of course, changed its formulations over the years, but right now, my favorite is Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser ($6.50). It not only cleans beautifully, but also removes my makeup–even my eye makeup–thoroughly. I buy it for around seven dollars at Rite Aid. And I live in New York City, so you’ll probably be able to get it even cheaper.

I have another opinion that I know will raise a few eyebrows: I don’t believe in eye creams. But that’s also for my next post!

Discussion and debate are highly encouraged, and we expect community members to participate respectfully. When asking a question, please check the FAQ section (above) for information about purchasing, price, dupes, and the like. If you have general feedback or need technical support, please contact us.

Comments that include advertisements, self-promotion, insults, etc. may be in violation of our comment policy and subject to deletion. Please see our comment policy for more information.

15 thoughts on “Making Skincare Affordable: Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser

  1. Right there with you on the eyecream girl! I actually consulted a well-known dermatologist and blogged about his views on the issue (spoiler alert, he agrees with us!)

    I also understand your love/hate with Philosophy Purity. I adore how it works & leaves my skin feeling, and I buy the largest bottle possible so I don’t even mind the price, but it is chockfull of essential oils that can cause skin irritation. Though my skin doesn’t seem to be irritated using it, according to “Cosmetic Cop” Paula Begoun, underlying damage is still being done. Still, I have yet to find a good substitute, and I’ve been eyeing this new Neutrogena, so I may have to give it a whirl.

    One last thing: I’ve always been under the impression that treatment benefits are wasted in a cleanser. As you mention, cleansers only contact the skin for a short period of time before rinsing all benefits down the drain. Recently, however, I did a bit of further research and found that there is plenty of support out there in the dermatology community that some ingredients (like AHA/BHAs) do work quickly enough to have an effect in cleanser (Dr. Leslie Baumann is one such proponent). I still think you’re getting minimal impact & are better off spending your extra money to get these ingredients in leave-on formulas, but I suppose ever bit counts, eh?

    • Laura

      Thanks for the info on the ingredients in the cleanser! I’m not familiar with the research you refer to, but definitely will seek it out, since as you note, every little bit helps, especially in the 40s.

      My next post will talk a little about AHAs/BHAs, too, so the info you give here is definitely timely.

  2. Thanks for this! I also find myself turning again and again to drugstore skin care products, after periodic flirtations with the expensive stuff. I have dry and sensitive skin, so I find the Cerave line wonderful — it cleanses well without leaving skin feeling tight or dry, and the cream is very rich and emollient, but absorbs quickly. I tend to use straight-up jojoba oil as a makeup remover. Must try the Neutrogena cleanser, as it sounds great.

  3. M.

    I really love their Oil-Control Foaming Cleanser. Not only does it work like a charm on my tricky skin, but the smell always makes me go “Ahhhhh” as I’m drying my face.

  4. B. Regina

    Thank you for wading through all of the conflicting info and shelves of product out there and giving us real data based on actual use of the stuff! My middle aged face thanks you, too. I’ll try the Neutrogena cleanser, and look forward to what you have to say about eye cream.

  5. I need eye cream and have used it since I was a teen…..and there is no way I would not use it. Right now, I own four of them….La Mer, Sisley (2) and Clarins…depending on when I use it and if I apply makeup with it. But also not drinking or smoking does contribute to my complexion.

    • Laura

      Well, perhaps I shouldn’t have been quite so oblique in my post. I don’t take the position that you don’t need to moisturize around your eyes. Rather, I take the position that you don’t need a separate product for your eye area; there’s nothing special about the skin around your eyes, and it doesn’t require a product that’s different from the moisturizer you use on the rest of your face. I regard eye creams as mostly marketing and little science. I do recognize that people disagree with me, but I’d be curious to see research backing up their claims that you need a specialty product just for the skin surrounding your eyes.

  6. Avatar of Elizabeth Beth Maiorana

    You took the words right out of my mouth, Laura. Thank you for this post- and thank you, Christine for making it possible !! I could not have expressed my personal sentiment and experience more adequately than Laura has. Christine, you have evolved into one of the more intelligent and insightful beauty bloggers around the Internet and kudos to you, my dear. You do a wonderfully amazing job here at Temptalia. xo Beth in Pgh ;-)

  7. kharanya

    I second the reader who uses straight up jojoba oil as makeup remover (eye and face) I follow up with a simple cleanser (I like derma e’s cleansers – glycolic acid & enzyme)I do love my eye cream though, I’ve tried regular face cream, but I have dry skin and the creams I need are way too heavy for my eye area and gives me milia. I don’t spend a lot on skincare, except for serums and acid peels which really help control my acne.

  8. NeenaJ

    Excellent post Laura! I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful comments as well. I agree with you on the cleanser front. I mostly make my own cleansing oil. But when I need something quick or for travel, I like the Extra Gentle Cleanser from Neutrogena or Cerave’s cleanser that Jessica mentioned. (My skin is dry and prone to redness.)

    If you pay attention to the ingredients that your skin needs and avoid the ones that cause you harm, there is no reason to pay astronomical prices. Many excellent options exist right there in the aisles of your drugstore.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned in the comments is pH. pH ranges from 0-14 with 7 being neutral, 14 being most basic and 0 being most acidic. Many of us use treatments after cleansing and certain actives perform best at a certain pH. Most soap-free cleansers will leave your skin at a neutral to acidic pH. But bar soaps or soaps that contain SLS or detergents will leave it more basic (basic soaps are known to cause more irritation in skin, too). Acidic treatments like lactic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C, etc. will perform best if your skin already at a low pH (acidic). So, depending how your cleanser leaves your skin, you may need to use a toner (like witch hazel) to get it to a suitable pH after cleansing – or switch to a cleanser that is compatible with your treatments.

    • Laura

      Thanks, Neena!

      Very interesting about the pH. I know a little on that score — for example, I know that to be effective, a chemical exfoliant has to have a relatively low pH of around 3-4 — but other than that, the information you give here is new to me. Something more to look into!

  9. Avatar of Joyce Joyce B

    I’m older than you and I’ve been using this for several years. I love that it easily takes off all of my eye makeup. My dermatologist tells me I have nice skin, so it must be working well. I love it.

  10. Taylor

    love this stuff! its about the only thing ive found that removes my makeup entirely. plus my acne improved (probably due to the thourogh skin cleansing)

  11. Avatar of Cathy Angelcat47

    Loved your post,Laura,and I agree with you on so many points.I am very much ‘ingredient driven” in my skincare,so I look for active ingredients which can be found in drugstore products,too.All my skincare is either drugstore or Skin Actives(and they have quality products with drugstore prices).I haven’t tried a HE skincare product in over 30 years!!