the ordinary squalane cleanser review

Stop the press! The Ordinary has finally come out with its first cleanser – and it removes makeup, too!

It’s the news we were all waiting for. I love having my pick of exfoliants and retinoid serums, but a girl needs a cleanser to complete her skincare routine, know what I mean?

I knew I had to get a tube ASAP. But when I put it to the test, something was off…

Don’t get me wrong. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser is a great cleanser. I’m just not sure it lives up to the hype. Here’s what I mean…

About The Brand: The Ordinary

DECIEM, the umbrella company for The Ordinary, was founded in 2013 by “the beauty world’s most exciting disrupter”, Brandon Truaxe. He wanted to create a skincare brand that was transparent and told the truth about the science of skincare and what products can really do.

The Ordinary aims to bring anti-aging, skin-lightening, anti-acne actives previously reserved for high-end products to the mass market at incredibly affordable prices. How is this possible? By investing in ingredients and cutting corners on the marketing. Each formula is simple, using only one or two actives that allows the product to do what it says on the tin. Sure, a few products are more gimmicky than science, but isn’t that true for any brand?

Key Ingredients In The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser: What Makes It Work?


Squalene is a natural component of human sebum. It’s super moisturising… and super unstable. It goes bad quickly and makes you breakout.

But hydrogenate it (ie, turn it from a liquid to a semi-solid using hydrogen gas) and it turns into squalane. It’s way more stable and 100% non-comedogenic.

Squalane’s main job is to moisturize skin. But In The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, it pulls another trick. It melts away makeup, excess oil and other impurities from your face.

Sucrose esters then trap this dissolved gunk with water and rinse it away down the drain.

Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Squalane Oil In Skincare


The more hydrated skin is during the cleansing process, the less likely it is to get all dry and tight.

Squalane goes a long way in keeping skin moisturised and cleansed at the same time. But it doesn’t play alone. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser has glycerin, too.

It’s a moisture magnet that attracts moisture from the air into the skin, helping to keep it soft and supple.

Related: Why Is Glycerin In All My Skincare Products?!

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The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Aqua (Water): The base of this cleanser, it’s a solvent that dissolves the other ingredients in the formula.
  • Coco-Caprylate/Caprate: Derived from coconut, it’s used as an alternative to silicones to give the texture a pleasant feel.
  • Sucrose Stearate: An emulsifier that helps the oily and watery parts of a product from separating.
  • Ethyl Macadamiate: Derived from macadamia oil, it’s another alternative to silicones to create easy-to-spread formulas.
  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: Derived from coconut oil, it creates a protective barrier on the skin that prevents water loss.
  • Sucrose Laurate: Like most sucrose ingredients, it’s an emulsifier that keeps the formula together by preventing it from splitting into its watery and oily parts.
  • Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate: It moisturises skin, making it softer and smoother.
  • Sucrose Dilaurate: Oil and water don’t mix. Enter this baby. It makes them get alone so well, so the formula doesn’t split into its oily and watery parts.
  • Sucrose Trilaurate: It suspends the other ingredients in the formula.
  • Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6: Used to thicken water-based formulations.
  • Isoceteth-20: An emulsifier and stabiliser that helps oily ingredients mix into water-based formulas that would otherwise repel them (oil and water don’t mix, remember?).
  • Sodium Polyacrylate: It’s a stabiliser that also thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Tocopherol: A form of Vitamin E, it’s used here for its preservative properties. It helps to extend the shelf life of the cleanser.
  • Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone: According to the manufacturer, it has anti-oxidant and soothing properties. It can also boost the activity of hyaluronic acid, a powerful hydrator. Too bad these studies were done in Petri dishes, not real skin.
  • Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate: It binds to the metal ions in the water that would otherwise spoil the formula and inactivates them.
  • Malic Acid: Although it has exfoliating properties, in the tiny concentrations used here, it only helps to adjust the pH of the cleanser.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin: It makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Chlorphenesin: It’s a preservative that extends the shelf life of the product.


This cleanser has the weirdest texture I’ve ever come across in a skincare product. Bar none. At first touch, it feels like a thick balm. Doesn’t matter how much water you use, the texture never relaxes. It stays thick, a little sticky, and doesn’t spread too easily. I feel it tugging a little… It definitely doesn’t turn into an oil, like promised by the brand.


The cleanser is fragrance-free. I personally use fragrance-free products exclusively these days. Fragrance is the most irritating ingredient used in skincare and I don’t need my skincare products to smell like a garden of roses, so this works just fine. But if scent matters to you, this may be a dealbreaker.

FYI, ever wondered why fragrance-free products still have a scent? What you’re smelling are the ingredients (yep, they have their own smell too!)

How To Use It

It’s a cleanser, so it’s the first step of your skincare routine, both morning and night. In case you were wondering, you don’t need to double cleanse at night. This cleanser is so powerful, it can remove everything.


The cleanser comes in a great and white tube. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s typical The Ordinary and it does the job well. It keeps the ingredients inside safe from anything that could spoil them and is very practical to use. This is drugstore and pretty packaging is the first corner brands cut.

Don’t know which skincare products you can mix and match together and which ones deactivate each other? Download your FREE “How To Layer Actives Like A Pro” cheat sheet to get the most out of your skincare products:

Performance & Personal Opinion

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser has a balm-like texture that’s supposed to turn into a clear oil when you rub it between your palms. I’m not sure that’s happening to me…

No matter how much I rub, the cleanser never turns into a full-on oil. It’s alway stays a little thick and sticky, and you feel like you don’t have enough product on your hands to cover your entire face. It’s just weird.

You’ve guessed it, it doesn’t spread that well on the skin. While it does a great job at removing everything, you need to work at it.

Its low spreadability means you have to massage it for a few minutes to get waterproof mascara and sunscreen off. But off they do come – and without leaving a greasy residue behind. Once I’m done, my skin feels both clean and soft.

I’m impressed by its cleansing power, but I feel the texture needs some improvement. That’s the problem with The Ordinary products, isn’t it? The brand values performance over elegant textures. Can you blame them? They have to keep the prices low somehow.

If that’s what you value, too, this cleanser is a great option to consider. Me, I want the whole package. It costs a bit more, but for now I’ll stick to Clinique Take The Day Off.

the ordinary squalane cleanser

What I Like About The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

  • It’s fragrance-free.
  • It effortlessly removes all traces of impurities and makeup, including waterproof makeup.
  • Gentle, doesn’t dry out or irritate skin.
  • Practical packaging.

What I Don’t Like About The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

  • Thick, a little sticky texture that doesn’t spread easily and never turns into an oil.

Who Should Use This?

Women on a budget who want a cleanser that takes everything off and are not too fussy about the texture (that’s the case with a lot of The Ordinary products, isn’t it?).

If an elegant texture is important to you, you won’t like this. I really wish The Ordinary invested a bit more in creating pleasant textures because their products just work, you know what I mean?

Does The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser Live Up To Its Claims?

A gentle cleansing product formulated to target makeup removal whilst leaving the skin feeling smooth and moisturized.  True.
When rubbed between your palms for approximately 10-30 seconds, the product undergoes an important textural change from a balm-like consistency to a clear oil-like consistency. It does not change texture.

Is The Ordinary Cruelty-Free?

The Ordinary is cruelty-free. They don’t test on animals, don’t outsource the process to a third party, and don’t sell in countries were animal testing is still mandatory by law.

Price & Availability

£5.50 at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique

The Verdict: Do You Need It?

It depends on your criteria. It does the job, but the texture doesn’t make it very pleasant to use. I personally am not going to buy it again. But I do appreciate that talks off all kinds of makeup and impurities without irritating my skin – or breaking the bank.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil (£25.00): On the plus side, this cleanser removes everything and has a much lighter, more pleasant texture to use. But the essential oils that make it smell so good may irritate sensitive skin. Available at Cult Beauty.


Squalane, Aqua (Water), Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Glycerin, Sucrose Stearate, Ethyl Macadamiate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sucrose Laurate, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Sucrose Dilaurate, Sucrose Trilaurate, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Isoceteth-20, Sodium Polyacrylate, Tocopherol, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Malic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Chlorphenesin.