Lazy Morning Staple: Su:m37 Skin Saver Cleansing Water Review

If you follow me on Instagram, where I often post my daily routines, you may have noticed that the Su:m37 Skin Saver Essential Cleansing Water has been featured pretty heavily lately.  After I realized that I had only used my favourite foaming cleanser of 2015 just once in the last two weeks, because I had been reaching for this cleansing water every day, I figured it was high time I reviewed it!

Su:m37 Skin Saver Essential Cleansing Water
Mmm, this packaging.  The opalescence of the bottle cap is so hard to capture!
This is the third cleansing water I've tried to date, and so far, I like it best of the three although I'm not passionately in love with it- hence why it did not make it onto the 2015 in Review: My Favourite K-Beauty Products of 2015 list.

That's not to say that it's merely the best of the available evils; I quite like this, and it's been my "dear saint snail I'm freezing my ass off and my bathroom is cold as hell and I don't want to wash my face because the chance of getting water on myself is too damn high" cleanser of choice.  It's also my "there had better be coffee when I sloth out of this bathroom like Jabba the Hut" cleanser, and my "I can't feel my fingers" cleanser, and also my "I've lost fine motor control functions because I'm wearing 8 layers to stay warm" cleanser.  It's the first real winter I've experienced after 8 years in the desert, and needless to say, I'm feelin' it.  Especially in the morning, when I look like one of those "before and after coffee" memes and I try to walk through walls and doors that have somehow leapt out to obstruct my path. Jerks.

So if you're like me and you 1. hate mornings in general, 2. hate cold mornings especially, and 3. can't manage to wash your face without splashing water all over yourself, cleansing waters are great.

In this post:

  • Product details
  • What is a micellar/cleansing water?
  • Ingredients
  • Packaging
  • Demonstration
  • Final thoughts & why I like it
I'm going to demonstrate this product's ability to remove makeup as some people use it as a first cleanser/makeup remover, but that's really not what I use it for.  I use it as a gentle, convenient, super-quick AM cleanse for mornings where I am super lazy and/or hate the world and everything in it because I haven't had coffee yet.

Just as a quick reminder: this blog uses both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and if you choose to click the former 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

Product details


Full product name: Su:m37 Skin Saver Essential Cleansing Water
Purpose: A micellar water that can be applied on a cotton pad and swiped over the skin to clean it, requiring no rinsing.
Scent: Mmmm.  I love the smell, it's faintly floral/herbal with a lovely citrus scent.
Texture: Like all cleansing waters, it's typically water-like.
Quantity: Huge, 400ml
Rating:  4/5, I quite liked it.
Repurchase:  Not right away, because I have a full bottle of the Illi Cleansing Water waiting to be tested, but I would definitely repurchase this if I didn't find something I liked more.
Where to get it: I purchased mine from InsiderBeauty $34 ($30.60 with 10% coupon) Amazon $26-$40 | eBay $20-$30 | There's also available from sites like KoreaDepart, but at a comparable or higher price before shipping, which is high.

What is a micellar/cleansing water?


You may have seen cleansing waters referred to as 'micellar' waters, especially in reference to Bioderma, which is the most well-known cleansing water in the west.  It was also my first cleansing water, which I bought in a travel size and emptied before branching out to other cleansing water options.

Bioderma, Bifesta Cleansing Water, Su:m37 Cleansing Water,  Illi Cleansing Water
L-R: Bioderma, Bifesta, Su:m37, unopened Illi cleansing waters.
Micellar waters, commonly known as cleansing waters, contain 'micelles' which are ... actually, you can read up on them if you're really curious, but the short version is that they are the cleaning agent in cleansing waters.  We're accustomed to surfactants in forms that foam, but micelles provide the surfactant action (aka the 'cleaning' action) while allowing the cleansing water to maintain its water-like consistency.  What's especially lovely about some types of cleansing waters (in my opinion) is the fact that many of them are rinse-free, but not all of them so be careful to research before you buy!

Some people find that they're enough of a cleanser on their own, but I find them to be insufficient as a first cleanser if I'm wearing makeup and/or sunscreen.  I prefer to use an oil-type cleanser, and you can see which ones I use here, for makeup/sunscreen removal, but that necessitates me following with a regular foaming cleanser as my skin is stubborn about holding onto oil cleanser residue.

However, I absolutely love cleansing waters for AM cleansing, especially in the winter.  Since my skin's not really 'dirty' and I want to be as gentle as possible while babying my winter-dry face (plus I use tretinoin) so I only need a gentle, light cleanse in the AM and cleansing waters have filled this need really nicely.  I just grab a cotton pad, splash on some cleansing water, swipe it all over my face, and move on to the next step immediately.  No mess, super fast, and best of all: no water everywhere.

Ingredients


I'd just like to mention again that the Hwahae app is bae, and using it is one of my top tips of 2015, because it puts the ingredients of Korean products right at my fingertips.  Here's Hwahae's listing for this cleansing water:

Su:m37 Skin Saver Cleansing Water ingredients
Click for large size!
I ran these ingredients through Cosdna and nothing triggered over a 1 for Acne and there were 0 for irritants, but the correlation between ingredient triggers, formulations, and personal skin triggers is complex and can't really be predicted from an ingredients list.  I recommend checking out adoredee's Figuring out your skincare triggers, and Labmuffin's Fact-check: How to Use Comedogenicity Ratings if you are looking to get serious about understanding the intersection of personal triggers vs trigger ratings.

I will also add that this contain citrus oils which, unless they've been properly distilled, can be phototoxic.  Although there is no way to know how Su:m37 is processing these oils, based on their position at the very tail end of the list, these are likely in very trace amounts/highly diluted, so I'm not worried.  Since Cosdna did not tag anything as a preservative, I pinged fellow Snailcaster and science-nerd-turned-blogger-turned-formulator Chel of Holy Snails, because she spends hours researching about preservatives and other mind-meltingly-complex cosmetics concerns.  She confirmed that Su:m37 uses a solid system of preservatives which work in tandem, though although no one ingredient is tagged a by Cosdna as a preservative, there are 5+ ingredients in this product which form a reliable preservative system.

Packaging


Normally I don't have a section just for packaging because I used to consider packaging to be fluff/filler, but Su:m37 always has such beautiful, luxurious packaging which really heightens the pleasure of using the product.  This intersection of performance + packaging is part of the Korean concept of Skincaretainment, and Su:m37 is known for their beautiful, elegant packaging.

Su:m37 Skin Saver Cleansing Water Box
I feel like I could ogle Su:m37 packaging alllll day.
Even the box itself is lovely, being a rich bronze foil, and the plastic bottle has a frosted effect which gives it a more elegant look despite being (for practical purposes) a plastic bottle.  The cap has a pretty, subtle opalescence.  I also love that it comes with a box of cotton squares; I use these ones from Amazon because they're cheap and there are a lot of them in a box, but cotton rounds from the drugstore work just as well!

Unfortunately the beautiful iridescent sheen of the cap is impossible to catch on film; I had to crank down the brightness of my camera for it to show up at all:

Su:m37 Skin Saver Cleansing Water Review
Why do you thwart my attempts to love you?
It's still not picking up all of it- it's pretty gold/yellow with peach and pink tones in the colour shift.

The impact of all of it together feels so wonderfully luxurious and pampering to use, and I know that's part of why I reach for this cleansing water over the Japanese Bifesta cleansing water that's also in my cleanser wardrobe.

Demonstration


So the main question of any cleanser, water or otherwise, is "does it do the job?"  Before we look at this demo, I just want to remind folks that by doing this, I'm sort of asking it to do a job that it's not meant to do (at least not by my reckoning) which is to act as a 1st cleanser to remove sunscreen and makeup.

I don't use it for this purpose, I use it as the "gentlest, most non-stripping cleanser in my skincare wardrobe" for when my skin is ultra-dry, feeling fragile or sensitive, or when I just need a really light clean.

I give up. I did not edit these other than to crop and collage them, because I am 100% over colour correction & white balance today.  Life is too short to fight with this any longer.
Here's the result with it swabbed down with just one cotton round, which is what I would use on my face in the morning, and then a second pass with a clean cotton round, where you can see the comparative residue to the first one.  This isn't a super heavy duty cleaning product, but that's actually why I like it so much.  I already have cleansers that give me an effective double cleanse if I wear sunscreen/makeup, so if I need cleansing power, I'll use one of those.

Final thoughts & why I like it


It's a pretty simple question: why do I like this cleansing water over the others I have tried?  It's not just about the packaging, although that's a perk that definitely deepens my enjoyment of it.  I've noticed that I've been attracted to more expensive products lately, but I've actually been spending even less of my skincare hobby budget than before.  Rather than buying 2-4 things which are cheap + look interesting, I'm gravitating to just buying just one thing that I'm really, really interested in.  It also makes me more interested using all of it/less interested in trying other things, which is bad for blogging/reviewing I suppose, but is much more sustainable as I prefer to buy things myself rather than accept press samples.  But I digress- let's get back to why I'm in no hurry to switch to the next cleansing water in my testing schedule!

Here's what I look for in a cleansing water:
  • Rinse-free, non-negotiable
  • Leaves no residue
  • Gentle and non-stripping
  • Cleanses well enough for me to skip a traditional cleanser when I don't need one
Additional perks of this Su:m37 water in particular:
  • Smells amazing (seriously I love this scent, unf)
  • Feels luxurious to use
  • Is relatively affordable/accessible; as a friend put it: "it's just a nice little slice of luxury that won't kill your wallet."
  • Feels nourishing without feeling like there's residue
There are some mornings (and nights) where summoning the motivation to cleanse my face feels more than I can muster; when I'm cold and miserable and the thought of getting splashes of water all over my clothes, and making my sleeves sodden so they rapidly cool in the freezing winter area and worsen the chill of the morning-- it's more than I can bear.  On those mornings, this product rescues me from skipping my routine entirely.  I have the blessing of water-free cleansing available to me where I can huddle in my husband's college hoodie while I wipe down my face with a cotton square and move on with endangering my body temperature further.  Score!

Have you found cleansing waters have taken up a permanent place in your repertoire?  Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and let me know!

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

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 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 will receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.

14 comments

  1. Hey Cat!
    I just started using a cleansing water about a month ago after I noticed I was breaking out and thought, hmm, I should really take off my make up before exercising. I purchased a frou-frou French (LRP) one, with the attitude of "hey, the French invented it, their's is probably the best". I'm not sold on micellar waters yet, but am now interested in trying it as a morning cleanser based on your suggestion.
    Side question though: I've seen in your blog over the years how you've coped with the desert. I would love to see how your skincare wardrobe changes with winter. Nothing like bitter cold and dry heaters to bring on the flakes!

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    1. Hey there!

      I hope it works well as an AM cleanser for you too!

      As for the change in weather, the combination of colder weather + tretinoin has meant lots of layers and really gentle cleansing. I post routines to IG a lot, so if you're curious as to what my winter routines have been looking like, maybe check that out?

      And thank you for being a long-time reader, I have all the feels now. :3 ♥♥♥

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  2. How does this compare to bioderma? I can tell you are a huge sum37 fan but still asking for your (biased) opinion anyway. Looking at which one cleans makeup off more thoroughly. I use micellar waters for sunscreen removal but good sunscreen cannot be seen with the naked eye, so wondering if you have tested that. Too lazy for double cleanse if not wearing makeup. Bioderma has a short ingredient list hence I have never tried anything else. Before I started reading the snailcasters' blogs, I just stuck to short is good.

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    1. I prefer it to the Bioderma, which I found to be functional but bland-- not that there is anything wrong with that! It's just not my style.

      I did find that my skin became clogged if I did not remove sunscreen with a 'true' first cleanser, and micellar water just didn't cut it for me. That may be in part because I use physical-only sunscreens which are notoriously hard to remove.

      That being said, if you're not double cleansing off your sunscreen right now (as you mentioned you only double cleanse if wearing makeup) you may find that doing a micellar 1st and foaming 2nd cleanse might be enough for you. You would have to just test it out and see. :)

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  3. I feel ya on the cold morning thing! We live in the mountains, and the bathroom is mighty cold in the a.m., and it takes forever for the water to warm up. I've only used the micellar waters in the evening to remove makeup (and have moved away from them entirely in favor of my oil cleanser), but you've given me something to consider, which will get me away from the sink and closer to the coffee pot in less time with less attitude. Sounds like a win-win. Thanks, Cat!

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    1. "will get me away from the sink and closer to the coffee pot in less time with less attitude." Yessss. I prefer showering at night when it's warm(er) rather than the AM when it's freezing, so the water-less AM cleanse is my jam for the very reasons you said here. *fist bump*

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  4. i have been using the illi total age cleansing water and the smell is gorgeous. i have also used the dr. jart+ cleansing water and i really like that one as well. i definitely have been eyeing the su:m37 and will try that next! cleansing water has found a slot in my routine in a few ways. in the morning i use it pre-exercise to wipe down my yucky face and add on moisturizer, then work-out and finally i do my full morning routine/shower. i love camping and cleansing waters are a nice alternative to the pre-soaked wipes since i don't particularly like the wipes (although i will eventually try out the cremorlab based on your review, cat).
    and here's one of the coolest reasons to love cleansing water: it keeps eye makeup on perfectly until you decide to wash it off. seriously. i do my skincare routine per usual, getting right up to my eyes and all over. then i dampen a cotton pad with cleansing water and wipe any skin where eye makeup will go. then i add an eye primer (I've been using the innisfree in a white tube). then i do my eyes and let me just say that there are no creases after 10+ hours.
    so basically, i love cleansing waters. and in a pinch, you can use cleansing water as a point cleanser to remove eye makeup/lipstick before double cleansing.

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    1. oh and 1 more use. lol. when making my eye makeup symmetrical and perfect, i use a q-tip dampened with a cleansing water to do touch ups. you can buy the premade q-tips with product inside for on the go if you like but at home this is what i do for perfectly symmetrical eyes.

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    2. That's a great tip about using it to prep your eye area before primer! It makes perfect sense though, since the usual skincare steps are going to leave it a little residue-heavy and possibly make things greasy faster.

      I will say that I don't think the Cremorlab wipes would be up to the job if you were camping, provided that you're down with bringing cleansing water, but if it's a "wipes or nothing" situation, yeah definitely.

      Also, I cannot waaait to try the Illi but this 400ml of Su:m37 is going to take foreverrrrrrrr!

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  5. How long would you say that bottle lasted you for?
    I also love your testing mini make up face you do on your hand! Far too cute, and far better applied than I can do on my actual face!

    http://mapletreeblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. It's still going so it's going to last me a very long time indeed! The mini face is my go-to demo option for sure, it makes it so much easier without having to explain what each product is.

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  6. Hi there!

    Just wanted to say I love your blog! I am just getting in to the whole Asian skincare groove, and your blog is so informative and fun to read. Keep up the good work!

    xo
    Katie

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  7. Have you ever tried the Etude House Real Art No-Wash Cleansing Water? I ask because it's a tad more affordable (on Memebox) than this guy or the Bioderma. Also we have similar skin types, though I'm somewhat less sensitive (I can wear chemical sunscreen), and while I'm trying to practice ingredient awareness, I have zero experience with cleansing waters and thus no frame of reference. I double cleanse in the evenings now--I started a week ago, and OMG THOSE GRITS--but I'm a lazy morning washer myself. Plus my skin can sometimes feel a bit unhappy when I wash it too much? IDK.

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