Toners and essence are essential to my skincare routine, and I’ve not been hesitant on investing in an effective one. I have been using the SK-II Facial treatment essence for about 2 years now, and it has changed my skin for the better.
💰With an expensive essence like this, it was crucial for me to find the right cotton pad to apply it with. Although sometimes I just pat the essence on with my hands, cotton pads still come in extremely handy when I want to make sure there is no leftover makeup on my face.
I have tried over 10 different brands and types of cotton pads, ranging from drugstore, amazon finds, k-beauty, j-beauty, to silk pads. I finally found the perfect one. Without any more spoilers, here is a comparison of 3 different cotton pads I’ve used and let you guess which one was the winner.
- Up&Up Basic Cotton Rounds – simple resealable plastic bag
- Muji Cut Cotton – Larger plastic bag, wipe resealable opening
- Unicharm Silcot Sponge Facial Cotton– cardboard box with tearable opening and resealable tab
Price & Quantity:
- Up&Up Basic Cotton Rounds $2.99 for 100ct – $0.03/ piece
- Muji Cut Cotton $3.00 for 180ct – $0.17/piece
- Unicharm Silcot Sponge Facial Cotton$3.99 for 40ct – $0.1/piece
💰Yes, the Unicharm one is drastically more expensive than the other two. But as you can see, each piece of the Unicharm cotton can be separated into 2 piece when unfolded.
Thickness and Texture:
- Up&Up – Straight out of the package, the cotton round already looks a bit rough. The thickness varies throughout the cotton round due to the quilted surface.
- Muji – This one is quite thick, but extremely soft and easily compressed. It may seem like a multilayer cotton pad, but it is just one so I do not recommend trying to separate it.
- Unicharm – The Unicharm one feels true to its name, a sponge facial cotton. It has a unique spongelike texture with the softness of a cotton pad. The single layer sponge, when unfolded and separated, is actually quite thin and flat.
Size & Shape
The biggest difference in terms of size and shape is the curved silhouette of the Unicharm facial sponge. The curved top makes it easier to reach nooks on the face like the under-eye when the cotton sponge is wrapped around the finger.
PRODUCT RETENTION TEST
The last thing I want from a cotton pad is wasting product. Especially with an expensive essence, I want every drop that I put on the pad to end up on my skin, not in the trash. To demonstrate the product retention level of these 3 cotton pads, I conducted a simple test below.
I applied 15 drops of toner to each of the dry pads. As you can already see, the product spreads a lot more on the Up&Up and Muji pads. I moved the Up&Up pad over an inch or so to photograph it, and the product has visibly leaked onto the table.
I wiped the wet cotton pads to my arms for about 20 seconds each, to get as much of the product out of the pads as possible. As shown above, the three pads reacted to the thorough wipes very differently.
The Up&Up pad become more dense and the cotton surface started to bunch up, it felt like it can easy be pulled apart. The Muji pad visibly flattened in damp areas, but unlike the Up&Up pad, the overall structure of the pad remained intact. Finally, the Unicham cotton sponge held up the best. Little changed about the shape and the surface remained soft, it is also significantly less damp than the other two.
👀Now time for the geeky press test. I know, this looks really crafty and dramatic. But by pressing the leftover product on to beige craft paper, I can get a visual representation of how much product is leftover on the pad, and going into the trash. I got a friend to help me press and squeeze alongside me to prevent unfair results from the product evaporating from the pads.
Wow. I was hoping this test would work but I didn’t expect it to work this well. From left to right, the stains on the craft paper are noticeably different. The Up&Up cotton round had so much product pushed out of it, it dampened it and started to seep through the paper. The stain from the Muji Cut Cotton is more surface-level, but the surface area of it shows how much the product traveled. Last but not least, the Unicharm cotton sponge left a stain so small it looks like I barely pressed it down. But I did, and broke a sweat doing it…
💧Result : There was the most product left in the Up&Up cotton round and the least amount of product left in the Unicharm cotton sponge.
Knowing the product retention level of these three cotton pads, I can better analyze the pros and cons of each one. In terms of value, the Muji one is a clear steal. I would pass on the Up&Up cotton rounds, and save it for an emergency “I forgot to bring cotton pads” situation given that it is the most accessible of the three (CVS and Targets are everywhere). The Unicharm cotton sponge is my winner, despite the less mainstream availability and higher price. Especially when paired with an expensive product like the SK-II essence, the Unicharm sponge facial cotton saves money in the long run by minimizing product waste.
👍You can find the Unicharm Silcon Sponge Facial Cotton online, I usually buy them on reputation Asian beauty retailers like Yamibuy or YesStyle. If you stumble into a Japanese beauty store somewhere and see these money-saving champions, I strongly recommend you to pick up a box or two.