Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish is one of those products that not everybody has heard of, but which has a cult following. But as cult followings go, it is quite a big one. I think Liz Earle as a brand is just outside the ‘household name’ category but is well on its way to becoming one. And this is the product that more than any other has propelled it in that direction.
It is basically a cleanser, but one with a high oil content that makes it particularly suitable for dry sensitive skin and, paradoxically, for oily skin. This is because it has relatively little in the way of detergent molecules that strip dry skin of its oils and provoke oily skin to produce more oil. There are plenty of user reviews around, so I’ll break down what the ingredients are doing.
Aqua (water) – no need to explain this one. Almost all cleansers are water based.
Caprylic/capric triglyceride – despite the scientific sounding name this is simply a very purified form of either coconut or palm oil.
Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) seed butter – again a bit of a mouthful for a basically natural and familiar ingredient, cocoa butter. Cocoa butter has been used for centuries to moisturise and protect skin.
Cetearyl Alcohol – this is a fatty alcohol wax derived, probably, from palm oil that gives the formulation its consistency.
Cetyl esters – another wax again probably derived from palm oil that gives the product the desired consistency.
Sorbitan stearate – this is an emulsifier that works with the polysorbate 60 to hold the formulation together.
Polysorbate 60 – not a particularly green material but safe and effective.
Glycerin – every formulation needs a humectant and glycerin is a good choice.
Cera alba (beeswax) – no explanation needed for this one. Beeswax is good wax for giving consistency to a formulation, though judging by its position so far down the ingredient list I imagine most of the heavy lifting if being done by the cetearyl alcohol rather than the beeswax.
Propylene glycol – is a humectant like glycerin, but I imagine that here it is simply the solvent used to add the next ingredient.
Humulus lupulus (hops) extract – hops are most famous for giving beer its bitter flavour. Originally their function in the beer was as a preservative. The hop plant produces tannins that protect the beer from some kinds of microbial contamination. This property was also used traditionally to treat infected skin. I don’t think anybody has ever demonstrated how well this would work scientifically but it isn’t particularly far fetched. The Liz Earle website just says it is an astringent and toner – which I suppose might be sort of true.
Panthenol – is a precursor of vitamin B5 and gets used in lots of skincare products. It is a fairly good moisturiser, though I think glycerin works better.
Rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract – I assume by the way the ingredient list is written that this and the other extracts are just that i.e., extracts. Extracts are typically made by steeping the plant material in a solvent – often a mixture of propylene glycol and water – to allow some components to diffuse into them. This process produces what people in the business call tip-ins. They are easy to handle water based extracts which are mainly motivated by a desire to be able to put the name of the plant on the pack. Essential oils are quite different. These are made by steam distillation and produce strong smelling oils that often have been identified to have particular therapeutic activity. They also have have the word oil in the name as it appears on the ingredient list.
The website talks about essential oils, but it would appear that this doesn’t have any relevance to the product itself.
Anthemis nobillis (chamomile) extract – again this looks like an extract.
Prunus amygdales dulcis (sweet almond) extract – as does this.
Eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus) oil – but it looks like actual eucalyptus oil is what we have in this case. Eucalyptus oil has a known antiseptic effect which is probably a useful thing to have in a cleanser. The anti-congestant effect is probably not going to come into play in a cleanser.
Citric acid & Sodium hydroxide will be present at vanishingly low levels to keep the pH in the desired range.
The last four ingredients are safe, effective and completely synthetic preservatives. They all have the potential to cause sensitisation reactions to particular individuals, but are probably a good choice for this kind of product.
All in all, this is a good well formulated product. I don’t think it can claim to be particularly natural, but is probably a bit more so than an equivalent mass market product. I can see why it is popular, and although the price tag is perhaps a bit steep for what it is it certainly isn’t outrageously so. I’d prefer it if they didn’t use tip-ins and if the website description was a bit more straight forward, but by the standards of the beauty industry generally Liz Earle are definitely not that bad when it comes to misleading advertising.
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