Alchemy In Your Bathroom: Review of the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder Wash

Isn't it amazing when a cleanser turns out to be good for your skin, the right pH, effective at its job, and fun to use?  That's right, fun to use.

I'm talking about the "you get to be a mad scientist in your bathroom, watching the power of chemical reactions right before your eyes" sort of fun, courtesy of the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder Wash, which might just be my new favourite cleanser. 

Su:m37: Killing it on the packaging front, every time.
I actually purchased this in sample packets to put my curiosity to rest, assuming that it was gimmicky in addition to being expensive (it is Su:m37, after all) but to my chagrin, it ended up being amazing.  I pined for it for weeks after my samples were done, so finally I splurged on a full size from 11st (you can read my Guide to 11st here!)

The Su:m37 official site describes this powder wash as follows:
This powder-type cleansing form with its mild finishing texture contains acai berry, rice extracts, and enzymes, which removes skin wastes during the wash-off and makes your skin crystal clear and bright.
I suspect that's supposed to be 'foam', but hey, it is also a 'form' of cleansing, so let's roll with it!

In this post:
  • What is a powder wash?
  • A quick note on low pH cleanser hype
  • The magic happens! A demo of of how it works 
  • Ingredients translation & pH result
  • Why it's worth the price (for me)
I tried not to love this product, honestly.  I try not to fall in love with expensive things, but Su:m37 undoes me every time.

What is a powder wash?

Literally, a type of cleanser that comes in powder form and reacts with water, magically transforming into a foam, cream, or milk, depending on the product and/or how you prepare it.  

Water + powder = magic
Powder washes are fairly new to me, and in fact they were recommended to me by blogger Moisanom of 35th of May in a comment on my Cleansing Part I: Double Cleansing & Cleanser Types post last year.  

I was intrigued because she mentioned that they can be low pH, which is a must for me when it comes to cleansers.  Many people feel the pH of skincare is an over-hyped fad, and all I can recommend (plead, really) is for everyone to do their own research. 


quick note on low pH cleanser hype

If powder cleansers offered low-pH options, my face and wallet were ready to get down on it.  Asian-brand low-pH cleansers are rare and hard to find.  This is why the Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick is so hyped; it's low-pH, elegant, and smells pretty.

In fact, before trying the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder Wash, the only low-pH cleanser that really worked for me was the above mentioned Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, and as much as I liked it (I have repurchased it multiple times) I really wanted to find an alternative.

Su:m37's Miracle Rose Stick has been my main cleanser for a very, very long time.
And I am bound and determined to go low-pH or bust, even if it makes my wallet ache, because I have chosen a pretty aggressive set of actives in my routine and I need to minimize irritation and sensitivity everywhere else in my routine.

When I researched the details of the impact high pH cleansers have on the skin, the multiple studies (which I have cited) convinced me that I had to let go of anything over pH 5.5 go if I wanted to go hard with chemical exfoliants:

Acids from my Multi-Step Korean Skincare Routine: Winter/Spring 2015 post
My current routine features four (4!) types of acid so my skin barrier needs to balanced, resilient, and regenerating (hopefully better) skin 24/7.  (For the curious, the four are: L-Ascorbic acid Vitamin C, BHA, AHA, and Azelaic acid, all used in my current routine - but not daily - which you can see in my spreadsheet here.)

Low-pH aside, what really intrigued me was the gimmick of a cleanser powder that turns into foam when you mix it with water.  I slapped down my money for 5 sample packets from Testerkorea and prayed I would be disappointed because it's not cheap.  It's just a gimmick, right?  Right?!


The magic happens! A demo of of how it works 

This stuff is definitely Skincaretainment, and if you haven't heard the term, you need to check out Tracy's post on Fanserviced-b.com because it explains the appeal of a product that is just so darn entertaining to use.

You can use this product with a cleansing brush or a konjac sponge, but I find I get the best product-to-foam ratio just using my hands.  I need to make it stretch as far as I can!  Each packet lasts me around 3 uses; I find I only need a small amount to get enough foam to get a nice lather and clean my face:

I suppose this is around 0.5g if each packet is 1.5g and I get 3x uses out of each.
One thing that charms me about this product is that you can control the consistency of it by controlling the amount of water you mix with it.

I add water only a few drops at a time and then work it between my hands until it's the consistency I want.  If you use a minimal amount of water, it will be creamy textured:

The texture is soft, creamy, rich, and still easily spreadable on a wet face.
If you want a traditional foam, just add water a few drops at a time until you work up a lather:

The product granules easily dissolve as you work it with your hands
If you prefer a loose foam with larger bubbles, just keep adding water until you get the consistency you want:

The foam doesn't last long, so use it quickly!
Seriously, it is so entertaining to use that I actually look forward to washing my face at the end of the day, just because it means I get to get down with alchemy in my bathroom.

A fun gimmick is still a gimmick though, so what matters is what else it has going for it.


Ingredients translation & pH result

So, recently I had my head exploded and then kindly reassembled by Tracy of Fanserviced-B when she discovered that Korean and American ingredients list order regulations are different.  What does this mean?  

Well, it means that we can't read KR and US ingredients list the same way, and that KR ingredients list may be more of a very rough guideline to those accustomed to making assumptions based off the regulations we're familiar with.  It also means that KR ingredients lists and ingredients analysis are a lot less relevant than we previously thought.

In a moment, everything I knew about K-Beauty ingredients changed.
After some conversations about the implications of this with Tracy and other Asian beauty bloggers who are also unrepentantly nerdy about their skincare like me, including Skin & Tonics, 50 Shades of Snail, and others, I had an epiphany.  If ingredients lists are, ahem, 'fluid', then the whole approach of 'ingredients are everything' goes out the window.

For that reason, I'm going to only briefly cover the ingredients and focus on my personal experience with the cleanser.

The ingredients are nowhere to be found other than on the tiny insert that comes with the product.  Thankfully, Kahime from Lin Lin Hime came to my rescue and transcribed and translated it for me. ♥


There aren't too many potential flags in it, just Sodium Lauryl Sulfate which can bother some people (thankfully not one of my personal triggers**) and the Papain, which is the 'Enzyme' that the product gets its name from.  Papain is derived from Papayas and had a very low Cosdna score.

**For good advice on identifying your personal skin triggers, check out Figuring out your skincare triggers by adoredee.  It's good to remember that not every 'trigger' will trigger you, and not every otherwise 'safe' ingredient will be okay for your skin.

The pH is a beautiful, consistent 5-5.5, even with my highly treated, pH 7.55 tap water:

Mmmm, dat pH
However, just like the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, Su:m37 is not the only low-pH cleanser game in town.  So what makes this worth setting my wallet on fire?


Why it's worth the price (for me)

This stuff isn't cheap, I'll be honest.  I purchased mine from 11st as part of my 11st Guide/Haul here, for about $40 for a 60 count (including shipping), but you can also get it elsewhere, such as Testerkorea where I purchased 5 sample packets for about $0.37 ea (it's gone up since) and they also have the full size here for about $40-45 including shipping. You can also get it on Amazon for $41, or from ebay in sample or full sizes.

Although the packaging isn't a key factor, I always appreciate the beautiful, elegant aesthetic of Su:m37:

It's impossible for me to throw out Su:m37 boxes.  How can I when they look like this?
Here are the Pros:
  • Low-pH: as the non-negotiable factor, this goes first.
  • Gentle, non-stripping cleanse that is an effective 2nd cleanser: I can use it as a single cleanse in the AM, or as my 2nd cleanser after I oil cleanse to remove sunscreen/makeup in the PM.
  • Skincaretainment!  I feel so nerdy mixing it up; it's quick, controllable, and fun.
  • The scent.  Oh man.  It smells like a cross between lemon custard and fresh linens.  Amazing.
Did I mention the scent?  Lemon freaking custard!  ON MY FACE!  *breathes into a paper bag*  I can't even, I can't even.  As soon as I finished the last packet I was immediately gloomy and pined over it like a grade school crush for the weeks it took for me to get over the price and get the full size.

Much to my surprise, the full size is actually still the packets, just more of them:

Well, that was unexpected.
Here are the cons:

Dispensing: I will say that I am not crazy about the packets, because it can get fussy with fumbling around the packets with slippery wet hands and trying to shake out just enough powder without dumping more than you need.  Not that I wasted 2/3rds of my last sample packet that way and yelled a lot. Nope.  I'm going to decant some into a less annoying container.

The price: $40+ for 180 uses isn't great; it works out to about $0.22 per use which is pretty expensive, especially considering that I can get 3-4 months of 2x daily use out of the Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick and it's down to about $25-$30.  Still, the quality of the product + skincaretainment is worth it to me.

Availability: This product is available on ebay and amazon but it's ridiculously marked up there ($65-$80?  Serious?  No.) and I'm willing to splurge $40 on 3 months of lemon-custard face happiness, but that's where I draw the line.  YMMV of course, but I'd say it's worth sourcing it directly from Korea for the savings.


Final thoughts

At this price point, this isn't going to be the low-pH cleanser everyone is looking for, but if you're looking for something that is low pH + really entertaining + smells heavenly, and it's within your budget, it's a great option.  

Plus you end up with a fabulous tin that can be repurposed.  And pretend to be an alchemist in your bathroom.  What's not to love? 

Have a low-pH powder wash that you recommend, or stories of how you bought a prestige sample hoping it would be terrible but instead you couldn't live without the full size?  Leave me a comment below, or shoot me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

All the best,
-Cat

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.

18 comments

  1. I'm using a powder cleanser right now (since a couple months ago) and it's enzyme type too. Don't know if you know it, it's Skin Watchers Enzyme powder wash.
    It's not as beautiful like this one you're reviewing, and doesn't have individual envelopes, but I love it anyway. It's really cheap (less than 20 usd), if some day you want to try it ^^U, of course, ph 5.5 too.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation! :D

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  2. Is this better than the AmorePacific enzyme peel? People rave about it but I'm quite disappointed!

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    1. Unfortunately I've never used the AP powder wash, so I cannot compare it, sorry! :(

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  3. You and Su:m37 always try to lure me but IT WONT WORK THIS TIME. Nope. Never. Maybe...

    Luckily, I think I will be too lazy to use a powder wash daily although it sounds incredibly tempting! Reminds me that I should do a bubble mask again. I just love that stuff so much. Your reviews are always fun to read!

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    1. I have not yet tried a bubble mask but they intrigue me! The Su:m37 one from this line looks so tempting but I am not a wash-off mask kinda girl. (Bullet: dodged.)

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  4. This reminds me of the Amore Pacific enzyme or the Tatcha but I am not sure of the PH on both. Even though this is expensive, if the PH is right and it works well then I say YAY! A cleanser is so important because your skin needs to be right in order to use your other products :)

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    1. I haven't tried the AP but the Tatcha is sadly way high. But woooo for low pH options! I have a cheap one coming to me and it's supposedly a good pH, so I will be likely reviewing it/comparing the two. :) I agree that starting with a good cleanser is the first step (well, after sunscreen I suppose... ) :)

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  5. I recently started using low pH cleansers myself after reading articles on your blog and over at 50 shades of snail about how to introduce acids/actives into your routine. As I wanted to start using the COSRX BHA liquid in my routine and use my C20 serum correctly, I ended up switching cleansers and bought the TOSOWOONG Enzyme Powder Wash from WishTrend. I've been really liking this so far; it has a pH of 5 and leaves my skin soft and hydrated without the squeaky clean, dry feeling. It's also really affordable at $10.90 a bottle and comes in a great dispensing bottle. Probably not as fantastic as the SUM37 but may be a good alternative if the bank account gets a bit low.

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  6. I'm using a powder cleanser by Kose Sekkisei right now and I pH tested it yesterday...only it find it an abysmally high 8.5~9 .... I was so devastated since I love the powder to foam feature, but since using it for a few weeks I have noticed my skin is weaker and I've been getting pimples where I normally do not. I'm so happy to come across your review of this powder to foam cleanser from sum37 and I regret not buying it when I was in Seoul last month!! TT . TT

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    1. I am sorry to hear that! I let go of my high pH cleansers with great regret. :(

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  7. http://jessica-tan.com/2014/11/19/review-kanebos-suisai-beauty-clear-powder/

    Not the blog author just showing you how the product looks like :)

    Bought this from Japan and been loving it ever since. It cleans more thoroughly than sum 37 rose cleansing stick but is less drying.

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    1. Nice, powder cleansers are such fun! I don't know if I can handle the reduced foam though, I do love my foaming cleansers. ;)

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  8. Have you tried tosowoong enzyme powder wash cleanser? It is my favourite, it's also an enzyme powder with also papaina and low PH. Plus is cheaper than skin watchers or this one xD around 10$ It have not that amazing scent you love, but I bet it have the same properties of this one without being so expensive :)

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    1. I have, and in fact I just reviewed it compared to the Su:m37 one here: http://www.snowwhiteandtheasianpear.com/2015/12/powder-cleanser-comparison-review.html :)

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  9. In that product is corn starch, but you said that one should not put that in the face? Could you maybe explain?

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    1. Hm, I am not sure what you mean? Can you link the post you're referring to, so I can see the context?

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