Powder Cleanser Comparison Review: Tosowoong, O'slee, Su:m37, & Tatcha

As I've mentioned before, it's really easy to write reviews of products that you either loved or hated, but it's harder to write about things which are simply mediocre.  Those bland reviews still have value, even if there's little to say about them, so I like to knock out a few at a time and compare them to other products if possible.

Today I'll be doing a comparison review of 4 powder cleansers I've used, and why only one of them has a spot in my cleanser wardrobe.

Secret weapon to create better foam with powder cleansers: konjac sponge or foaming net!
Powder cleansers are relatively new to me (as in, the last year or so), but I became interested in them when I discovered that many of them are actually low-pH as well as being super fun to use.  Since my dive into the research behind low-pH skincare was so compelling as to convince me to give up my old HG cleanser, I've been on a bit of a mission to find cleanser options that thrilled me in addition to being low-pH, since that's simply not enough on its own.

In this post:
  • What is a powder cleanser?
  • Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash review
  • O'slee Rosehip Hydra-White Cleansing Powder review
  • Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder wash review
  • Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder review (sorta)
Before we jump in, I'd like to remind folks that skincare is the ultimate YMMV (your mileage may vary) so what worked best or worst for me is totally dependent on my skin and experience, and it doesn't necessarily mean that your skin will react the same way.

Let's do this!
Just as a quick reminder: this blog uses both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and if you choose to click the fomer before you shop, your purchase may contribute a tiny amount to the maintenance of this blog.  See full details at the end of this post! #receipts

What is a powder cleanser?

Have you ever used powder laundry detergent or powder dish detergent?  Same principle, just formulated for your face.  Powder cleansers are cleansers which come as a dry powder, which you dispense into your hand (or onto your cleansing tool) and add water before agitating into a lather.

Korean beauty powder cleanser
Left-right: Tosowoong, O'Slee, Su:m37, Tatcha
They tend to be low-foaming compared to regular cleansers, but since they're not dependent on traditional surfactants and foaming agents, they're more easily formulated to be low-pH.  Cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain explained to me that one the reasons that there are not that many low-pH cleansers out there, or that they are expensive and/or not as pleasant to use, is that formulating low-pH cleansers can be a challenge and therefore can be expensive to make, but the mechanism of a powder cleanser isn't relying on typical emulsifiers and stabilizers since it's well ... a powder, not an already-mixed emulsion.

That's partly why they're so fun to use!  It's like alchemy to see it turn into lather in your hands, and it also makes a great travel cleanser option since it's not liquid and doesn't count toward your liquids restrictions.  It's why it's my travel cleanser of choice; you can read about my travel stash/routine here: Travel SOS: Taking a 10 Step Skincare Routine on the Road with Poor Planning.

A way to combat the low-foam of powder cleansers is to use either a konjac sponge or foaming net (both pictured above) by sprinkling the powder onto sponge or net after they've been wetted.  There is a bit of a learning curve on how to agitate the foam without the powder going everywhere, but it's not difficult.  You still won't get 'normal' levels of lather, but it definitely helps!

Just as a quick reminder: this blog uses both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and if you  you choose to click the latter before you shop, your purchase may contribute a tiny amount to the maintenance of this blog.  See full details at the end of this post! #receipts

Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash

I heard about this from Fiddy on Fifty Shades of Snail, as it's one of her HGs; she kindly sent me a decant since I was all about dat powder cleanser lyfe after loving the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder wash.

Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash
Foam using the actual pile of powder above.
Full product name: Tosowoong Enzyme Powder Wash
Scent: Like laundry detergent.  Not unpleasant per se, but I don't find myself hungering to smell it.
Texture: Out of all four cleansers, this one has the largest grains, and it's really more granules than a true powder.  As a result, it can be a little more tricky to dissolve it into lather.
pH result: My pH test shows around 5, so right in the good zone.
Quantity: 70ml, although I just have a decant.  70ml is huge!
Rating:  3/5: I wouldn't seek it out but if disaster struck and I only had it to use, I'd be fine with it.  It just didn't wow me.
Repurchase:  No, for the reasons I mentioned above, but there's nothing wrong with it per se.  I'd recommend it as a budget option though!
Ingredients: Here's a link to Cosdna's results, and Fiddy fully lists out the ingredients in her review.  There are some notable flags, such as SLS and Papain.
Things I liked about it:  It's cheap.  Really cheap.  It's a travel-friendly low pH cleanser under $10.  If someone asked me for a low pH powder cleanser under $10, this would be the one I'd recommend.
Things I didn't like about it:  I wasn't crazy about the scent (I prefer the Su:m37 scent), the granules were more resistant to dissolving, and the lather/foam wasn't as generous as the Su:m37.  It also contains SLS, which is something that causes some people to react, although luckily I don't seem to have an issue with it.  It also contains Papain aka Papaya enzyme, which may not agree with some folks as it's an exfoliant.  I also found it a little more drying/stripping than the Su:m37.
Where to get it: Amazon $17 | eBay $14 | Memebox $9 (free shipping over $30) | Peach & Lily $11 (free shipping over $50, also $10 off $50 with referral link) | Testerkorea $10 (w/o shipping) | Roseroseshop $6 (w/o shipping)

O'slee Rosehip Hydra-White Cleansing Powder

I purchased this on a whim from BonjourHK as part of an order that included a bunch of other things, encouraged by my success with the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder wash.  Rose scented, low pH (right on the listing!) what's not to love?  Ah well, they can't all be winners.

O'slee Rosehip Hydra-White Cleansing Powder review
Foam using the actual pile of powder above.
Full product name: O'slee Rosehip Hydra-White Cleansing Powder
Scent: It smells like a rose scent.  By that, I mean that it smells like a thing that is trying to smell like roses, not like actual roses.  It doesn't make me want to hulk smash something in an aggravated rage, but my loins are unstirred.  I think they tried too hard to make rosehip = rose, which is understandable.
Texture: An annoyingly fine powder, so too far on the opposite scale than the Tosowoong.  Definitely don't decant this for travel, or you may find yourself on the wrong end of a TSA agent's gloves.
pH result: as promised on the box, 5.5 per my pH strips.
Quantity: 55g, which is a lot.
Rating:  2/5. Yes, it's low-pH and I didn't hate it enough for it to get its own review, so it gets a 2.  It loses points for iffy rose scent, awkwardly too-fine powder that makes things messy (also is this stuff dusting up when I open it and ending up in my lungs?) and totally lackluster lather or foam.  I've started using this in place of hand soap just to get rid of it.
Repurchase:  Not-spoilers: no.
Ingredients: According to the box and Cosdna, it has a very brief list of ingredients, which makes me suspicious that it's not a full list, and I don't like that at all:
Zea Mays starch, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Aqua, Sodium Lauroyl, Sarcosinate, Sorbitol, Aloe vera extract, Papaya [enzyme] Yeast, Perfume
Also, both Cosdna entries that I saw don't identify that 'Papayayeast' is likely Papaya enzyme, aka papain, and therefore scores a 0-3 on the flag scale.  However, it is SLS- and SLES-free, so if your skin is down with Papaya but is drinking the haterade for SLS and SLES, this is a cheap alternative.
 Things I liked about it:  It's low pH and doesn't have SLS or SLES, although I don't react to either *knocks on wood* I know that's a concern for some.  It's also cheap and some people may like the scent.  I do know some K-Beauty/Asian beauty product fans who absolutely love this stuff, more than the Su:m37, so I think this is really a matter of personal taste.
Things I didn't like about it:  The cheap scent, the ultra fine powder, the lackluster lather.  It's more drying/stripping than either the Tosowoong or the Su:m37.
Where to get it: It's on Amazon for 400% markup, so nope, not even linking it here.  | BonjourHK $9 (shipping $5, free shipping over $20) | Sasa $13 (shipping $6, or free over $75)

Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder wash

The Su:m37 is clearly my pick from my comments above, but it won't be for everyone as it has some definite drawbacks.  Here's a matching lather shot using the actual dispensed powder amount in the above photo:

Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder Wash review
So much poofy foam, for a powder cleanser!
If you follow my blog, you are already familiar with this powder cleanser, since it's in my cleanser wardrobe and I've already breathlessly reviewed it here: Alchemy In Your Bathroom: Review of the Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder Wash

This gets an extra photo for the pretty packaging:

The large tin is still tiny little packets, just lots of them!
Full product name: Su:m37 White Award Enzyme Powder wash
Scent: Mmmmmm.  It smells like lemon custard with a hint of fresh linens.  I love this smell.
Texture: A happy medium between granule and powder, which foams up more than either the Tosowoong or O'Slee.
pH result: 5.5 all the way, baby.
Quantity: The packets are 1.5g and I have a tin of 60, so 90g?  Each packet gives me 3 uses.
Rating:  4/5, I love everything about this other than the price.
Repurchase:  I already did; I got a sample set from Testerkorea, and after polishing those off, grabbed a full size.
Ingredients: You can read a full ingredients list in the review, but be warned this does contain both SLS and Papain/Papaya enzyme.
Things I liked about it:  The scent, the packaging tin, the convenience of the small packets, the size of the granules/powder, the low pH, the lather, the gentle non-drying/stripping cleanse, the whole skincaretainment experience it gives me.
Things I didn't like about it:  The price is much steeper than the others, as Su:m37 is a luxury brand, and it shows.  The box alone is gorgeous, and the whole thing is just so luxurious ... and expensive.  I still have a lot of this left, and I don't regret repurchasing it, but now that I have the Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Foam in my life, the novelty of this has faded a bit.
Where to get it: I purchased mine from 11stAmazon $41 (full size) | eBay (samples) | Testerkorea (samples and full size)

Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder

This one is going to be really, really short.  I have 3 of these, which I received by accident- which is to say I ordered them, then heard back from the company that these had a whopping pH of 9 (!!!) and immediately cancelled my order, yet received them anyway.  I called customer service and was advised I could keep them.   There's no denying their jars are pretty, and the subtle tint of the different varieties is elegant, and their packaging in general is on point.

A photo posted by Snow White and the Asian Pear (@snowwhiteandtheasianpear) on

Full product name: Tatcha Polished Rice Enzyme Powder
pH result: Confirmed by Tatcha's lab in Japan and my own independent testing, pH 9
Everything else:  Doesn't matter.  As I said in Mating Habits of Molecules: the Secret Life of pH, pH is just one of the considerations that I have when it comes to cleansers, but it's still the first hurdle it has to jump:
What role does pH have in my personal skincare approach?
It's a baseline only.  Think of it like this: if I went out to a bar with the intent to meet Mr. Right (or at least Mr. Right Now), he'd have to be at least 21 years old to get into the bar in the first place- but that doesn't guarantee that he's going to get into my pants just because the bouncer let him in after carding him.  Being 21 isn't enough on its own, but it does mean that he's got to be of age (aka low pH), at minimum, to even have a chance to chat me up in the first place.  (In addition, he'd have to be in his early 30's, intelligent, accomplished, handsome, witty, and my husband, but that's where my analogy falls apart.)
Other people are not as concerned about pH, and that's fine- I made the personal choice to go low-pH after doing a lot of research and reluctantly came to the conclusion that it matters enough for me to give up my old high-pH favourites.  (I still miss you, Shiseido Perfect Whip!)

I did try this powder cleanser once, out of curiosity (and pH damage is cumulative, so my face isn't going to fall off if I walk on the wild side on occasion), and my face felt so stripped and tight afterward, I couldn't believe it.  I'm all about dat #lowpHlife, so this cleanser is off the table.

Have a story about powder cleansers you loved or hated?  Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

Have something you'd like to share with me in general?  Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram at @snowwhiteandtheasianpear because I'd love to see it!

All the best,

**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.


  1. Did you start truncating your posts for feed readers? I had to switch to a feedex version to see the whole post...

    1. Unfortunately someone brought to my attention that an overseas website had been scraping my RSS feed, running it through a translator, and posting my content as their own website. They stole my images, they stole my text, they stole basically the entire posts.😭 So after learning that this phenomenon is called "scraping" and having full posts available in RSS feeds enables it to be possible, I made the change to stop it from happening. It sucks that they've ruined it for everybody who wants to use feeds, but unfortunately it's become necessary and I'm not happy about it.

  2. Hi, this is nothing to do with the post but could you explain the difference between a first essence and a regular essence ? Thanks

    1. I'm not Cat, but a first essence is used at the beginning of your routine to prep your skin for your other products. A regular essence is kind of like a less concentrated serum and is typically used after a FTE or hydrating toner, though I follow the thinnest to thickest rule.

    2. Hi L,

      I talk about first essences vs essences, and what order they go in here: http://www.snowwhiteandtheasianpear.com/2015/01/skincare-discovery-putting-your.html

      Take care! :)

  3. I have the Tatcha, though I just have it as an additional carry-with-me cleanser; I normally just use an oil cleanser. It does have the advantage of being coconut free. It's actually billed on Sephora's site as being an exfoliant, so I've tended to think of it as an after-cleanser step.

    1. Interesting! Does yours keep any sort of grainy texture? Mine dissolved completely when mixed with water.

  4. I just tried tosowoong because it's really affordable and highly rated by fifty Shades of snails haha..

    I kinda like it, but now I'm more curious with sum 37 one!

    1. The nice thing about the Su:m37 is that you can snag just a few sample packets and give it a whirl without investing in the full size. :)

  5. spot makeup remover
    oil cleanser: DHC Deep Oil Cleansing Oil wait 15 min
    foaming cleanser: Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
    exfoliator: Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect Scrub Foam or Lush Coalface 3x/wk
    OST Pure Vitamin C21.5 Advanced Serum wait 20 min
    COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid 3x/wk wait wait 30 min
    COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid 3x/wk wait 30 min <-need SPF, every 3rd day first
    ph-adjusting toner: CORX Natural BHA Skin Reforming A-Sol
    toner: Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect First Serum wait 2-3 min
    hydrators: Goodal Waterest Lasting Water Oil
    Mizon Hyaluronic acid
    first essence: COSRX Galactomyces 95 White Power Essence (can go to next step)
    ? essence: COSRX Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
    lotion: [Cosrx] Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream massage 2-3 times
    sunscreen: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++

    T_T i was wondering if you could help me with order and timing of how long to keep stuff on? im not sure if im using too much stuff. i was thinking of also adding Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence

    1. Hi rantasaurs,

      Your actives order looks good, although I'd be very cautious with introducing so many exfoliants at once, so make sure your skin is OK with what you have before adding in new things.

      As for the hydrators, I'd follow the thinnest-to-thickest and watery-to-oily, since I have not used the ones you are using, other than the waterest oil which is too heavy for me.

      You can also check out this post for tips on how to put your specific products in order, including any new ones: http://www.snowwhiteandtheasianpear.com/2015/12/beginners-dilemma-overwhelmed-on-order.html

      Take care!

  6. My heart just sank on the Tatcha bit and I have a big jar of it! >_< Is there a link reference for products tested with pH levels that you know of, like the CosDNA one?

    1. Hmm, I may have some suggestions for you. Shoot me an email? :)