One of the guiltiest confessions I’ve made to an esthetician, right up there with admitting that I don’t wear sunscreen as often as I should (don’t @ me, I know), is that I can’t bring myself to wash my face regularly. As someone blessed with relatively clear skin and only occasional breakouts, I realize that this is a privilege and not best practices. When I do wash my face, it’s more reluctantly than religiously—if I notice my face is blotchy or still bearing traces of last night’s makeup. More likely, I’m reaching for micellar water to swab the sunscreen and makeup off my face, piling on a few layers of skin care, and calling it a night, which isn’t ideal for feeling like I’m cleaning deeply embedded product and dirt from my pores.
But then I encountered a cleanser that was a saving grace. In the January edition of SELF’s Best of Wellness series, I gave my first impressions of the Pai Camellia and Rose Gently Hydrating Cleanser: It has a light, herbaceous scent, and the supremely creamy texture makes it feel like you’re smoothing on a cold cream. Now that I’ve been using it for nearly three months, I can confirm that this cleanser is so delightful that it’s the one I reach for every day, sometimes twice a day, because I like it that much.
Pai Skincare, if you’re unfamiliar, is a botanical-based beauty brand that hails from the U.K.: Emma Watson and Natalie Portman are fans, and lots of beauty editors consider its best-selling rosehip oil “H.G.”—or “holy grail.” Like many other Pai products, this cleanser is formulated for dry, sensitive skin types; there’s something about the light, creamy formula that makes the cleansing process so, so soothing.
It’s mostly made up of a blend of botanical oils (like camellia and damask rose), plus hydrators like shea butter to keep your skin moisturized. One or two pumps at a time will do it, and after I smooth this over my skin and rinse off, my dry skin emerges feeling soft and refreshed. It’s become therapeutic, at this point, for me to use it after a long day, or to start one off. The cleanser is even gentle enough that I can smooth this all over the eye area without any stinging.
I find that it’s more hydrating than the gel cleansers I’m used to, which can leave my skin feeling stripped and inflamed after a hot shower. The cleanser doesn’t leave a filmy layer of residue on my skin, either, which I’ve felt with some cleansing oils and sherbet-y cleansing balms. It won’t take off grippy eye makeup the way a balm might, but it cleanses the dirt and product so well that when I follow up with a toner pad there are no telltale remnants of gunk. It’s pricey for a cleanser, sure, but a little goes a long way, and I love that it comes with its own soft terry face cloth.
I find that the hallmark of a great beauty product is a certain loyalty that inspires you to use it zealously until it’s empty, restock with abandon, and horde it when a brand threatens to change the formula. Suffice it to say that I’m officially on that level of fandom. I would be ready to go to the ends of the earth for my second bottle of Pai, though thankfully that won’t be necessary for now.Pai Skincare Camellia and Rose Gentle Hydrating CleanserThis soothing cleanser contains a blend of botanical oils and shea butter, and feels like a cold cream on your face. $50 at Skinstore