In our column That One Product, we tell the story of how your favorite beauty brand’s cult-classic products came to be—and why we can't stop buying them.

By Erin Lukas
Updated Dec 12, 2018 @ 9:00 am
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Credit: Courtesy

I look forward to washing my face every night. It's oddly satisfying to watch all of my makeup break down and melt off as I massage cleanser all over my face. The only problem is that given how much I love this step in my skincare routine, I'm overenthusiastic when it comes to how much face wash I use. Since I go through a bottle of cleanser faster than any other product, buying an expensive one feels like I'm literally sending my money down the drain.

However, Philosophy's Purity Cleanser has always been one cleanser I'm willing to splurge on. It turns out I'm not alone: The $24 cleanser has such a devoted cult-following that it was number one prestige cleanser in America in 2016, according to NPD Beauty Trends.

What's so special about this cleanser? It's gentle enough to use on sensitive skin, but the lather still wipes away dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping skin of its natural oils. Even though there's so many options on the market, people still swear by Purity. So, I turned to the brand to find out how they landed on the magic formula.

The fact that Purity is mild, but effective is exactly what inspired it in the first place. Philosophy founder Cristina Carlino thought there were a lot of great gentle cleansers out there, but there was only one problem: none of them removed makeup. The brand tells me that it took four or five times to get Purity "right" so that it was the perfect balance of soft cleansing and makeup removal. At the time, it was one of the first products that successfully cleansed and removed makeup in a single step.

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And that's why a decade later, customers still reorder it. Today, there's an entire Purity product line, including a pore-extracting mask and moisturizer. But, the brand told me that in the early days of Purity they couldn't make enough product as fast as the orders came in. If that's not a sign you have a hit on your hands, I don't know what it is.