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Is This Weird, No-Foam Cleanser Secretly the Best Face Wash?

Phace Bioactiv.
Phace Bioactiv.

“How do I know if I’m clean?” It’s a question I’ve been asking myself in earnest bewilderment ever since I swapped my sudsy face wash for Phace Bioactive’s Detoxifying Gel Cleanser. The cleanser, like everything under the Phace Bioactive umbrella, is formulated to match a specific pH that is supposedly more soothing and effective for skin. Because of this attention to pH, the cleanser won’t foam or lather. Which can make a person wonder: Does this thing even work?

The idea that pH is important in skin care isn’t new. Medical studies indicate that “basic” cleansers — those with a pH greater than 7 — can lead to premature photo-aging, including wrinkles and dehydrated skin. Cleansers slightly more acidic than skin’s natural pH, which sits somewhere around 5 on the scale, are considered ideal. The pH of Phace’s face wash falls between 3 and 3.5, making it, in theory, the best solution for healthy skin.

Washing with Phace’s cleanser kind of feels like washing with a silky serum: weird and a bit confusing. The cleanser lacks any trace of surfactants, a high pH (or very basic) genre of chemical compounds that make cleansers and shampoos foamy. And so because it doesn’t lather, it was really hard to tell if the cleanser was doing much of anything for my skin. My face felt clean, but was it? I couldn’t know for sure until after I’d used the cleanser for a solid month. From previous experiences with terrible cleansers, I know that an ineffective face wash always tarnishes my skin with a trail of blemishes. But washing with Phace’s cleanser for a month kept my skin clear and acne-free. It turns out that the slimy serum actually worked!

I think Phace’s face wash falls into the rare category of cleansers that are suitable for all skin types. It’s not drying, but it could handle my oily, acne-prone skin. It cleans skin like a pro — just don’t expect to be able to notice it right away.

Phace Bioactive Detoxifying Gel Cleanser, $38 at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Is This No-Foam Cleanser the Best Face Wash?