Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser Review: We Tried, But It's Time to Break Up

Yep, that's right, a review of the low pH non-foaming Milky Jelly cleanser from Glossier.  Your eyes do not deceive you; this is a non-K-Beauty, non-Asian product, despite my overall efforts to keep my blog content consistent.  I do try, and use, western products regularly, I just rarely post about them.  Since I'm all about that low pH cleanser life, and this cleanser was getting good reviews from other K-Beauty fans, it's been on my radar for quite a while.

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
We're visiting family out of state, who are bemused at me hauling around a giant white table top for photos.
While hemming and hawing over whether to grab it, my fellow Snailcaster Tracy of Fanserviced-b offered to send me a bottle since she had some spare store credit, I thought, why not?  Let's see what the fuss is about.  Now that I'm almost halfway through the bottle, it's time for a review!

In this post:

  • Product details
  • Ingredients & thoughts on the hype
  • Demo as a dry & wet (first and second) cleanser vs double cleansing
  • What I'd rather use instead

This review is going to be fairly photo heavy, because I had to pack a lot of stuff to work on this review while we were out of state for the long weekend and then felt obligated to use it, haha.

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

Product details

Full product name: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
Purpose: A non-foaming, low-pH cleanser that can be used on dry skin in lieu of a cleansing oil or balm to remove makeup (learn more about double cleansing here) or on wet skin in lieu of a foaming second cleanser.  According to an interview with the founders, the product is meant to be a "powerful" cleanser that isn't stripping or harsh on the skin.
Scent:  A combination of chemicals and florals and more chemicals, not particularly pleasant but not rotting granny on a compost heap either.
Texture:  A thick, almost sticky viscous gel that can be difficult to pump out, requiring me to manually yank up the pump to suck up the product so I can push down to dispense it.  Has been unflatteringly compared to uh ... well, you'll see in the photos below.
Quantity: A substantial 177ml
Rating:  3/5, but I might recommend it to other skin types, such as those with dry skin or for those who react to foaming agents.
Where to get it:  Glossier | If you are a new customer, you could use a referral link to get 20% off your first order, but I don't have a Glossier account.
Repurchase:  Definitely not, but the Glossier cleanser was a nice dude who showers regularly and respects his mom, we just had no chemistry.

Would I suggest my cat-loving friend, who likes watching TV and has a deep love for pizza, might want to date him?  For sure, just because I don't like all of those things doesn't mean that other people don't love them.  Lots of people do!  It's just a matter of fit.

I need fearless adrenaline-junkie cleansers which will strap on the spelunking gear and go cave diving in the abyss of my pores, ready to haul forth the clog demons lurking deep below the surface.  I gave it my best for weeks, but the spark just wasn't there.

Here's a double post of yesterday's AM and PM routines; featuring the usual motley of products in a hybrid #kbeauty routine. I've started testing a Japanese physical-filter sunscreen/makeup base but it's actually more of a base than it is sunscreen, so I wore my giant hat instead of relying on the stated SPF. Wait ... where is my @cosrx BHA?! DID I FORGET TO PHOTOGRAPH IT?! *flips desk* It's too early to start drinking, so I'm not retaking it now AM routine in order: 1. @glossier jelly cleanser, 2. #Mizon AHA BHA toner, 3. @jungsaemmool11 essential mool essence, 4. #joseoncream moisturizer, 4. @heroinemake sunscreen/primer, and then makeup: @sulwhasoo_us perfecting cushion in #13, @maccosmetics NC15 concealer, @glossier quartz highlighter, and @jsmbeauty_ Chroma lipstick in High Plum PM routine in order: 1. @ljhcosmetics oil cleanser, 2. @sum37_official powder wash because I needed something powerful to deep clean oil cleanser residue, 3. Mizon AHA BHA toner, 4. #Cosrx BHA Liquid, not pictured because I am an uncaffeinated idiot, 5. #jungsaemmool essence, 6. #LoveMore Yurong #silkmask, 7. #JoseonBeautyCream moisturizer, 8. #sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing sleeping pack. #koreanbeauty #koreanskincare #instabeauty #dailyroutine #doublecleansing #sheetmask #1일1팩 #1일2팩 #teamdoublefistingmasks #acneskincare #kbblogger #sum37 #hanbang #joseonbeautycream #abcommunity #thesnailcast #snailunit #🐌🐌🐌🐌 #rasianbeauty
A photo posted by Snow White and the Asian Pear (@snowwhiteandtheasianpear) on

Ingredients & thoughts on the hype

According to Glossier's product page, the full Milky Jelly cleanser ingredients are:
Water/Aqua/Eau, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Propanediol, Isohexadecane, Poloxamer 184, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Xylitylglucoside, Betaine, Allantoin, Glycerin, Panthenol, Symphytum Officinale Root Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Anhydroxylitol, Polysorbate 80, Xylitol, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Isopropyl Myristate, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide
Although I don't tend to put much stock in beneficial ingredients being added to cleansers, as they spend very little time on the skin, the cleanser does contain a lot of moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and emollient type ingredients per the Cosdna listing.

There are also a lot of solvents, surfactants, and emulsifiers, which neither surprising nor a bad thing (it is a cleanser after all) but as I prepared to write this review, I was surprised to see that the texture of the product was deliberate, rather than an unfortunate side effect:
We knew we wanted something that was going to be a pleasure to use, that felt rich and moveable and non-dripping, with a bit of a bounce to it.[interview source]
I don't like the texture of this product.  It's sticky, gluey, and hard to remove; I destroyed a fresh konjac sponge trying to scrub it off my face because it wouldn't cleanly rinse off with water + manual rubbing.  It's non-dripping alright; it felt like I was going to have to break out a belt sander my Clarisonic to get it all off.  Still, I stuck with it and used this cleanser under all sorts of conditions for a couple of weeks, just in case it was just a matter of finding the right place for it.

Still, while writing this review I had an epiphany on why this might be such a game-changing cleanser for so many: if I didn't know about oil cleansing and double cleansing, how would this compare to the ultra-harsh, ultra-stripping, high pH cleansers I used years ago?  Lightbulb!

Cremorlab Gel Oil cleanser, Cosrx Low pH cleanser, Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser
How does the convenience of the single Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser hold up to traditional double cleansing?  Time to test it out!
Sure, this product absolutely doesn't measure up (for my skin needs) to the one-two punch of an oil cleanser followed by a foaming cleanser, but while double cleansing is old news to K-Beauty fans, it's still very much an unknown for the larger face-washing public.  Heck, most people don't even wear daily sunscreen yet, or think the SPF 15 in their dab of daily mosturizer is enough.  Foaming cleansers aren't great at removing makeup and sunscreen (that's why oil cleansing is such a big deal) so if I compared this to a "no oil cleanser, no double cleanse, just ultra harsh foaming cleanser" yes, yes it would rock my world.

That doesn't mean that double cleansing aficionados don't like this cleanser, because some do.  If I had very dry skin, skin that hated foaming agents, or skin that reacted to usual suspects of surfactants or ingredients in cleansers, it would likely be very welcome.  There are some people who hate foaming cleansers with the sort of passion I reserve for preservative-free products, and love this sort of cleanser.

Unfortunately, I've been spoiled by years of double cleansing with the best tools for the job, so I'm underwhelmed by this product in performance, packaging, scent, texture, ease of use, and price.  Let's take a look at how it performs vs my standby double cleansing.

Here's what I threw at my cleanser contenders:

Types of makeup tested with the Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser
Note: I would not actually wear all this at once!  I just wanted to put these cleansers through their paces properly.
All in all, that includes: Sunscreen, makeup primer, cushion, concealer, highlighter, contour powder, high pigmented semi-matte lipstick, brow pencil, brow mascara, eye primer, eye shadow, pen eyeliner, liquid eyeliner, pencil eyeliner, and gel eyeliner.

Demo as a dry & wet (first and second) cleanser vs double cleansing

This product is an interesting hybrid of a first cleanser and a second cleanser, but sadly it's definitely a 'spork' type product for me- it does two things but neither of them particularly well, and I'd rather just have the right tools for the job.

I have dehydrated, combination-oily skin that is very clog-prone, which is why I tend to need robust cleansers, but if someone had, say, dry skin that lacked oil and wasn't prone to clogging or acne, this might work really well for them.  Normal skin types who don't need a lot of deep cleaning might also really like this.  It also works as an AM cleanser, but I have other things I prefer to use for AM cleansers, and this is heavily emphasized as a makeup remover, so that's how we're going to test it-- on a full "face" of makeup!

A drawing of a face wearing makeup using makeup products
Here's all the above listed/pictured products in action, in their relevant uses. Except don't use pen liner on your eyeballs, eh?
As a dry/first cleanser (apply to dry skin, massage to lift off makeup and sunscreen, then rinse off) I found that it didn't get down into my pores to clear out sunscreen residue, but I physical UV filter sunscreen which is notoriously hard to remove.  This cleanser is absolutely hell to remove; as I mentioned above, when it wouldn't rinse off with repeated rinsing/rubbing with my hands, I switched to a konjac sponge which ruined it.  It now feels like it has Milky Jelly cleanser residue stuck in the pores of the sponge, and no amount of rinsing has gotten it out.

If you're thinking the Milky Jelly cleanser looks like something NSFW, I promise you, you are not alone.

Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser vs Cremorlab Gel Oil
The Cremorlab isn't particularly runny, but there was a lot of fumbling for my camera.
I should have aimed better.  Ahem.

I massaged (oh god why is everything dirty now) both cleansers into my skin (omggg brain, stahp!) for the same length of time (for a count of 50) and right away, the difference was obvious:

Comparison photo of gel oil cleanser vs Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser
The difference is immediately obvious, even without rinsing.
The "brows" are brow pencil topped with a layer of brow mascara, also from Glossier, and as you can see, the Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser didn't even take off the layer of brow mascara.  Cremorlab took the mascara off so you can see the brow pencil under it.  The Cremorlab almost completely removed the liquid liner, the pencil liner, and the lipstick, whereas the Glossier barely budged them.

Still, sometimes magic happens when you start to emulsify/rinse the product, so I headed inside to emulsify and rinse it off.  The Cremorlab rinses very easily and cleanly (this is why I like it so much) but the Glossier required more elbow grease, which means it had an unfair advantage of more manual scrubbing than the Cremorlab.

Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser after cleansing makeup
After rinsing, and in the case of the Glossier, rinsing while rubbing it off because it's hard to remove.
As you can see, the difference is already pretty dramatic, even without following up with the second cleanser of a double cleansing.  Glossier's Milky Jelly cleanser also doubles as a second cleanser, so I decided to test that too, and finished the double cleanse with the Milky Jelly as the second cleanser too:

Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser did not clean off makeup well
Results of the double cleanse. I totally forgot to properly cleanse off the sunscreen and cushion off my wrist, though.  Whoops!
Well, I think the photos speak for themselves.  Note that like the 'first' cleanse, I had to bring back the elbow grease on the Glossier side, and you can see how my skin is red in some places from trying to scrub off the makeup/rinse off the cleanser.

Provided that I use a 'real' first cleanser, I find it's easier to use this product as a second cleanser, where I liberally wet my face and my hands, apply it to my palm, rub my hands together to loosen/emulsify the cleanser a bit (it doesn't lather) and then apply it to my face, and then rinse rinse rinse rinse.  Then I rinse rinse rinse some more, soaking everything in an arms' length radius, as if I was a giant dog shaking myself in a small space.  This is also how I use it as an AM cleanser.

The easiest way to use it is in the shower, where I can throw copious amounts of water at my face without worrying about cultivating mold in the bottoms of all my (closed!) sink cabinet drawers from all the overflow.  I'm pretty sure I had clingy ex-boyfriends who were easier to dislodge than this cleanser.

What I'd rather use instead

Classic double cleansing, baby.  I  want an oil-type cleanser to call forth the clog demons from my pores and then have my sebum, oil residue, and dirt sins washed away with the power of a clean-rinsing second cleanser.  It doesn't have to be foam, but it has to be potent enough to forestall the clogs that are determined to form.  When it comes to AM cleansing, even if I don't want a full-out cleanse, I'd rather keep it simple and my sink area less waterlogged.

AM cleanser:

  • Su:m37 Skin Saver Essential Cleansing Water (reviewed) - I like cleansing waters for AM cleansing, because they feel cleaner than just a water rinse without feeling like I'm overdoing it.  Just splash some onto a cotton pad, swipe over the face, and carry on.  No post-cleansing sink mopping needed.  Where to get it: Amazon | eBay | ViaSeoul | TesterKorea | KoreaDepart | Jolse

1st cleanser:

  • Cremorlab T.E.N. Cleansing Gel Oil (reviewed)- it's pricey, but it smells amazing, has beautiful packaging, and most importantly, it's the only oil-type cleanser that doesn't break me out.  It's a gel oil, rather than a regular cleansing oil, but it gently yet efficiently cleans off my sunscreen and makeup all the same. Where to get iteBay | TesterKorea | via a buying service

  • Er ... well I don't have a readily available oil cleanser that works on my skin (the one I use is from LJH and is out of stock everywhere) but if I find one, I'll update!  In the meantime, if you are looking for an oil cleanser, you might want to check out the ones I picked for the Beginner Friendly: Simple K-Beauty Starter Kits for 4 Skin Types series.

2nd cleanser:

  • Hada Labo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Acid Foaming Wash (reviewed) the pump, not tube type - it's cheap, low pH, is self-foaming for those who react poorly to foaming agents, super gentle, and it's fragrance-free. Where to get it: Amazon | eBay | Sasa | TesterKorea

  • Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser- it's cheap, low pH, foams up a modest amount, and cleans thoroughly.  Smells like tea tree oil, which is something I could live without, and it may be stripping for dry skin types.  Where to get it: Amazon | eBay | Jolse | KoreaDepart | Bisou Beauty Bar

  • Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (reviewed) - it smells nice, it's low pH, it has rose petals studded through it, it's travel friendly, and looks fancy without being ridiculously expensive.  Where to get it:  Amazon | Mishibox | Jolse | Via Seoul | Bisou Beauty Bar

So as much as this product didn't work for me, I don't hate this product-- heck, I've used almost half the bottle!  It's a very gentle cleanser, unfortunately too gentle to actually get the job done, but if you like a really mild AM cleanser and/or you have dry skin, or skin that reacts badly to all the usual surfactant and foaming agent suspects, this might be a good fit.  If it wasn't hyped as a miracle one-step makeup remover and cleanser, I probably would have liked it a lot more.

Hype made promises the reality couldn't keep; in the interview article that introduced this cleanser to the world, Founder and CEO Emily Weiss said this about it:
I wanted something that was super, super gentle, but worked really hard. Something that gets the job done without stripping or drying your skin. My favorite cleansers have all been able to take off my mascara because it eliminates that two-step process of taking your makeup off and then washing your face.
Alas, as my head-to-head cleanser test showed, the Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser just couldn't deliver on the promises it made, and that's why I'll be sticking to classic double cleansing.

Were you overwhelmed or underwhelmed by this cleanser?  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: This product was a personal gift from my snailunit enabler-in-chief, Tracy.   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. I've really been looking forward to your thoughts on this. I bought this, too, and while my impression has been more positive than yours, I expected you to be "meh" about it based on your past reviews. I have normal-leaning-dry skin, and I like using this in the morning and at night on no-makeup days. It's not all that exciting, but it does the job. Cons for me are the difficulty scrubbing it off and the...unfortunate texture (oh god whyyyy). I'll finish the bottle and then look at the Su:m37 cleansing water, which at least makes my heart beat faster with its good looks!

    1. I admit that my impression was slightly more positive until:

      1. I read the interviews and the product pages which were goin' hard on how amazing a makeup remover it was! One step cleaning to totally remove all your makeup AND cleanse your skin! Super powerful, yet doesn't strip your skin! etc etc. and then

      2. I did the head-to-head makeup/sunscreen removal test for this review, *after* reading the above-mentioned claims. I knew I wasn't thrilled with its cleansing ability but daaaaaamn I was not expecting it to fall so flat in makeup removal, and require so much scrubbing to get off that much. :( And it was compared to the Cremorlab Gel Oil, which isn't even as serious as a "real" oil cleanser ... I can only imagine how it would have fared against a classic oil or balm cleanser, eh? :(

      I think they just set unattainable expectations for it, you know? I haven't given up on non-foaming cleansers though; I'll find one that gets me excited one of these days! ;)

  2. This is super interesting to read! I actually love the plastic-rose smell and the weird spoogy (god I'm sorry) texture. I was into cetaphil and spectrogel for years, and got used to having a non foaming cleanser, so even when I double cleanse I felt like the foaming second cleanser was too much for me. I don't wear much makeup though, so it's more of a gentle afterthought once I use Banila purity. I also use the Su:m37 rose stick cleanser, but it's a bit foamy for my tastes so I save it for travel! Love your detailed reviews :)

    1. There's no need to apologize for any spooge-related jokes after that "action shot" eh? ;D

      I think the combination of an oil/balm cleanser + this cleanser would be a great option for people who don't have clog-prone skin, or who don't react to oil cleansers, or who react poorly to foaming agents. :)

  3. Cremorlab oil cleanser not widely available? It's on Peach & Lily?

    1. Ah right, it is! I haven't bought from any of the big US shops in ages, so I tend to forget about them.

  4. I discovered your blog recently and I think we have similar skin types, so I'll be reading all your reviews (side note - why do so many bloggers have dry skin??)! The general "cool girl" aesthetic + hype around Glossier tends to turn me off, but I had been considering trying this cleanser - glad to know there are better options.

    Do you ever use straight oil for oil cleansing? I've been using grapeseed oil and it takes off all my makeup, doesn't break me out, and washes off fine with my 2nd cleanser. I'm using CeraVe right now, but want to try the Hada Labo or Cosrx. So glad I found your blog!

    1. I have noticed a lot of bloggers have dry skin, actually! I have no idea why, though. I think the Milky Jelly cleanser would have fared better if it had not been hyped, as you mentioned.

      I don't use oil cleansing because my skin really hates oils. Cleansing oils, cleansing balms, cleansing sherbets, facial oils ... it hates them all. :(

  5. Hi so I was wondering if cleansing water & cleansing oil serve the same purpose? I know cleansing oil helps remove make up, sunscreen, dirt, etc. but I don't even wear make up so I feel like it'd be a lil too extra but I'm not sure at the same time. Also, I have oily, & acne prone skin & im 16 years old, would you recommend cleansing waters or cleansing oil? Sorry if I'm asking for too much. D: I'm a noob at asian skincare so I'm trying to plan out my routine, I'm currently using this medical brand which helps out a little bit but it took FOREVER. Plus it's all so expensive & I don't wanna destroy my parents wallet each time I need to buy it again.

    1. Also arent cleansing waters & toners the same or is there a difference?

    2. I find them to be quite different, actually! Cleansing oil is an oil blend that is primarily an oil, which has had emulsifiers added to it so that when water is added to it, the oil emulsifies and the oil cleanser can be rinsed away, where normally oil and water won't mix. This makes it as effective as oils when it comes to things like breaking down makeup and sunscreen, but without the challenge of trying to get it back off. :)

      Cleansing waters, on the other hand, are primarily water which has had oil 'micelles' suspended in it, which gives it more cleansing power than just water alone. It's still not nearly as robust as an oil cleanser though.

      Toners might have a small amount of oils in them, but as far as I know, they don't tend to be "micellar" waters.

      I hope that helps! :)

  6. Daiso sponge cleanser you say, hmmm ....

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  8. Hi Cat! I've been using the Milky Jelly cleanser and would like to try some alternatives, but was do things like the CremorLab and Cosrx do in the eye area? One of the (only?) things I really like about Glossier's cleanser is I can get it all up in my eyes and it doesn't irritate them at all. A lot of other cleansers I tried sting my eyes like crazy! I actually use makeup remover (Bioderma) and then the Milky Jelly, but would gladly trade it in for something better, but I can't really tell if other cleansers need to stay out of my eyes.

  9. I'm really surprised by this review, although this is my first time reading one of your's as far as I know. I love the texture and the scent of Flossier's Milky Jelly cleanser and I thought it did pretty well in the makeup-removal department too, but to be honest, I'm not a huge makeup wearer...just the basics. But what I've been doing with this jelly cleanser lately is using it to emulsify my Clinique "Take the Day Off" cleansing balm. It works so well this way and it's rosy scent distracts me from the "Crisco" scent of the cleansing balm. My skin has been loving this combo and I must admit, I find myself freely putting on some blush (the liquid one from Glossier is really nice...I'm not some die-hard Glossier fan, I bought it to get free shipping and some concealer here and there during the day when usually the only person I might see is the mail lady, just to justify doubling up on separate products. But in all seriousness, it is like one product was made for the other. I have not found the jelly cleanser to be goopy, gloppy or sticky at all. It really sounds as if your's has dried out a little or you got an old batch?? I am enjoying it very much and more importantly, my skin is thriving. I can't go and change things up now, can I? Great review! Surprising, but thorough and informative! Thank you!!

    D :)