[Update 181017: Sunday Riley has admitted to having employees post fake reviews on Sephora after a whistleblower leaked an email outlining the practice to Reddit’s SkincareAddiction. Read more about the story in my post.]
I have to confess that when I published my review of more than 15 first-step cleansers back in 2015, I thought I’d retire from beauty blogging before buying another oil cleanser again.
Well…oops, I’ve lasted longer than I thought I would. In the time since then, some of the products I tested and liked have been discontinued, and new products have been released — including some Western oil cleansers that address issues I had with the Korean beauty offerings. Here’s one of them.
Sunday Riley Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm Review
About the brand: Sunday Riley has some amazing, seemingly undupable (so far) skincare products. At prices that drive me insane.
What it is: a oil-based, first-step cleanser. Use this to remove makeup and sunscreen, then use a second-step, water-soluble cleaner.
Where to put it in your routine: in the first cleanser slot. Need a basic outline of when to use your products? Here you go:
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Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sucrose Laurate, Jojoba Esters, Acacia Decurrens Flower Wax, Glycerin, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Polyglycerin-3, Glyceryl behenate, C10-18 Triglycerides, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, PEG-8 beeswax, Cetyl Alcohol , Ceteth-20, Steareth-20, Polyglyceryl-6, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswaxl, Squalene, Tangerine (Citrus Tangerina) Oil, Citrus sinensis (Sweet Orange) Oil, Tanacetum annuum (Blue Tansy) Leaf Oil, Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile) Essential Oil, Vanilla planifolia fruit extract, Ylang ylang (Canaga Odorata) Flower Oil, Citrus aurantium var. Amara (Neroli) Flower Oil, Anthemis nobilis (Chamomile Roman) Flower Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Moringa Oil/ Hydrogenated Moringa Oil Esters (Moringa Butter), Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol. CosDNA analysis.
Ingredient breakdown: this balm has a few ingredients that could set skin off, depending on your chemistry. Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter rates 4 out of 5 as a potential acne trigger according to CosDNA. Cetyl Alcohol and Steareth-20 both rate 2 out of 5 as potential acne triggers. I’m usually more laid back about cleanser ingredients since they’re washed off quickly (unless your skin is sensitive to something in particular — in that case, absolutely avoid it, by all means), but the cacao seed butter really could pose some issues.
I haven’t noticed any weird blemishes with the exception of a cystic spot in my eyebrow that may very well have been caused by an eyebrow growth serum I’m using or the movement of one of Jupiter’s moons 8 years ago. Beauty and the Cat reported that Blue Moon may have been behind a breakout one of them experienced. I can see why it would be under suspicion and possibly the culprit: the formula doesn’t really melt down for me as well as good oils and it doesn’t emulsify as fully as the best oil cleansers I’ve used, meaning that it doesn’t wash away sunscreen and makeup as effectively. It also leaves my skin…not coated or gross, but it certainly gives back more than it takes, which could mean that some of those common trigger ingredients are left on skin to potentially cause problems.
NO PLASTICS, YAY: a major selling point for this balm, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t contain microplastics. I wrote about how all of the kbeauty balm cleansers I tested (including those by Banila Co and Su:m 37) contain polyethylene in my review of 15 first-step cleansers:
On top of this, polyethylene, a plastic that is not readily biodegradable without special treatment, appears in the balm cleansers, but none of the other products I’m reviewing. In fact, polyethylene is the only ingredient that appears in all five of the balms, suggesting that this waxy resin is a significant part of what helps oil become solid yet melt on contact with skin. Remember the campaigns to end the use of plastic microbeads in beauty products (in the US)? Yeah, those beads are made of polyethylene. Polyethylene beads are non-toxic to humans, but they’re an environmental problem because they’re too small to be filtered by water treatment plants and they end up picking up pollutants, meaning that when fish and other stuff that lives in the sea eat them, they’re scarfing down a bunch of polluted plastic.
I have more questions about polyethylene in balms than answers at this point. Since the polyethylene in the balm is more…liquidy than microbeads, does this make it more or less harmful to the environment? And is this polyethylene, when it ends up in my drinking water, but it’s had time to pick up pollutants, still non-toxic to me? These are honestly questions that I’m not able to answer, but I’m concerned and hope anyone with expert knowledge in the field (whatever field this even is) can weigh in.
I’m still not certain about the impact of polyethylene in skincare products, but the idea of washing it down the drain, loose, doesn’t seem like the best idea, long term. The fact that Sunday Riley made a balm without polyethylene (and it manages to keep its form) is encouraging. That said, in my coldass house, it keeps its form too well (more on that later).
What type of skin might like this: dry and normal skin that isn’t prone to product-caused breakouts.
Packaging: very durable plastic. There’s no spatula included with the balm, which raises some questions about how I’m supposed to use this. Should I be digging my fingers into a $50 product each evening? Do I need to wash them first? What about getting water in my balm? If I wipe my hands off on my bathroom towel, no doubt loaded with human waste particles, am I clear to stick my hands in the balm? Or do I need to exit the bathroom, find a paper towel, and dry off my hands and then stick them in?
Just to be clear: I’m not a germophobe and I totally stick my fingers in creams. But doing the same with a product that emulsifies just doesn’t make sense imo. I also suspect that it could lead to using too much product, since my fingers certainly aren’t as precise as a skincare spatula. My feeling is that if I’m spending, say, $45 or more on a jarred product, there should be some sort of spatula provided, bonus points if it is thoughtfully integrated into the packaging design. Like, Etude House and Tony Moly include spatulas with their cheap cleansing balms, why am I having to track one down for a Sunday Riley product? Keep in mind that while I tested a jar about 1/3 the size of a regular Blue Moon, the full-size jar also lacks a spatula.
Smell: it smells like a mix of essential oils and seed butters. I don’t detect a heavy synthetic fragrance. It smells fine to me, but the scent isn’t a huge draw.
Price: $50/£46.00 for 3.5 oz./100g
Value: I use a ton of this each time I cleanse in order to try to get my makeup off. It’s really not very economical (see the “What’s not good” section below for more on why I’m having this issue). I received a 1 oz. Blue Moon in the Sephora Beauty Sleep sampler (full size is 3.5 oz.). The package arrived on Wednesday, November 9th. It’s now the 25th and I’m rushing to get this review done because I’m just about to run out — it’s hard to do a complete review without photos of the product! Keep in mind that I don’t wear makeup every day and therefore haven’t used this every day. At that rate, I’d maybe get one month or 1.5 months out of one full-size tub. That’s wild, especially when great oil cleansers can be found quite cheaply.
This rate of use might not be the same for everyone, but it’s winter here in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s only getting colder, so your balm may want to stay solid-er like mine does. If you’re very concerned about makeup removal, this could lead to using a lot of product very quickly.
What’s not good: my house is pretty cold. NYC landlords pay for heating costs, and my apartment is fairly big while the rent is low, so my landlady isn’t exactly looking to blow tons of cash on fuel. Isabella (oldest cat) sleeps all day in a heat-up nest and Alessandro (baby cat) crawls under piles of blankets for his naps. My fingers are legit cold right now. It’s not inhumane, but it’s certainly not toasty.
What does that have to do with this product? I can’t get the little scrubby particles in this cleansing balm to melt down, as other reviewers have. This means that I can’t get this anywhere near my eyes and I can’t get it to fully mix with my makeup.
Blue Moon is a pretty expensive, halfway effective makeup and sunscreen remover.
What’s good: I actually kind of love the scrubby, not-scratchy exfoliation provided by the little waxy particles that refuse to melt down for me. I’m on a ton of hardcore acids and Curology to control my acne, so I usually skip physical exfoliation like scrubs, but this feels great and my skin ends up SO smooth from the particles and buttery formula. I actually like the experience of using it, but my rational side thinks this is a high school romance: we’re going to part at the end of this jar and move on with our lives.
- As I recommended in my review of Sunday Riley’s Ceramic Slip, get a sample. Sephora will actually make samples of products for you and it’s possible to buy samples on eBay.
- Pair this with a cleanser that has a bit of firepower; this is not the time to bust out the non-foaming, ultra gentle morning cleansers. It worked fine with Sunday Riley’s Ceramic Slip, which I found to be a bit much usually — in this case the cleansing power removed the balm quite well and left me less paranoid about getting blemishes from it. I suspect it would also be ok with CosRx’s Good Morning cleanser.
Will I repurchase it: no. But if it ends up in a sampler I buy in the future, I’ll keep it around for travel.
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