Are Your Cotton Pads Wasting Product And 💰💰💰?

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.

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.

Final Thoughts
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.




All comments (24)

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  • anamishublog

    I also dont use cotton pads for toners. Only for cleansing oil or water to remove makeup. I realised it is much efficient. Thank you for the post. Very informative!

  • Shanti Jessie

    When it comes to me using toners, serums I have stopped using pads to save on product. I do use cotton pads with my micellar water to clean off any leftover residue and makeup.

  • Jennifer Henning

    Wow, really amazing review. I'd love to try all three. They all seem to have some type of great benefits that can really help take makeup off with. I've always used the round cotton pads but I've never seen any other kinds that could be good to use. Thanks for sharing these products.

  • Pauline

    Thanks for this post of testing out cotton pads. I prefer the round cotton pads for make up removal. Great for nail polish remover too.

  • Sam west

    Wow great review

  • Tonilynn Rosario

    wow what a great review! I never thought about wasting product on pads like you did. I will now pay more attention to things like this. I loved also all the photos you took and the way you demonstrated the process

  • Kate D.

    Hello, Kachina! I just wanted to stop by and comment to say thank you again for writing this incredibly helpful post. I read your post a couple of days ago, and I learned a lot about cotton pads and how certain pads contribute to product waste. I have been using the standard cotton pad rounds that can be purchased at just about any store for a very cheap price. I guess you get what you pay for! After reading this post the other day, I was so intrigued that I immediately searched online for the Muji and Unicharm pads. I found both of these products on Amazon. The Unicharm pads were a little too expensive for me at this time, and there weren't many in the package, so I wasn't able to purchase them. I then searched for the Muji cotton pads. I found these on Amazon, as well. I got excited when I saw them, because they were fairly reasonably priced. I was able to purchase the MUJI Makeup Facial Soft Cut Cotton Unbleached Pads. The size of the pads are 60x50mm. The package contains 180 cotton pads. I purchased these Muji pads for a mere $6.15. That's a great price, especially for 180 pads. That's definitely a good value for the money. Plus, your review convinced me that they're 100% worth trying. My new Muji pads are on the way from Amazon. I can't wait to use them for applying my toner. I want to thank you again for introducing me to these wonderful cotton pads. I'm very thankful to you. Once I receive the pads and use them, I'll have to write up a post to give my review and opinion on their quality. I can't wait until they arrive! :)

  • Kelly Anderson

    I want to try the unicharm cotton because I have tried the up and up basic cotton round & not the biggest fan.

  • Jacquie Fisher-Wisor

    Thank you for doing such an amazing job testing these cotton pads thoroughly, putting them through an intense amount of different ways they're used, I believe you covered each area thoroughly and gave your expert opinion which I clearly seen in your demonstration and agreed with each outcome. I have to say you seem to be a "Pro" at putting things to the test on different levels! Thank you for your review I honestly loved it was thorough and your honest opinion!! Great job!!

  • Kate D.

    Oh wow. I never really thought about the quality of the cotton pads that I use for my toners. This article definitely opened my eyes! I currently use the worst kind up there: Up&Up Cotton Rounds from CVS. Now that I've read this article, I'm going to immediately buy more. I'll be checking out Amazon plus other sites once I'm finished on PrismPop. Thank you so so so much for this very informative post. It wad the most helpful post I've read in quite some time.

  • Sarah Wennihan

    Great review! I often wonder how much product I'm wasting. If I only have a deluxe sample or travel size I will opt to just use my hands. Definitely looking into the unicharm ones. Thanks for the thorough review.

  • Melissa Collins

    Wow, you really put these though the ringer. I am glad that you took the time to do all this for everyone to know what is best. Some how I knew just by looking at them before I started reading it was going to be the (one on the right). THANKS AGAIN.

  • Jesika Ford

    OOOOH good tips!

  • Zaira

    Wow! Very detailed information and review, thank you!

  • Brinay

    This a really great and helpful review. Especially when using expensive products like SK-II, it’s important to me to not waste product. Glad to learn about the Unicharm sponges!

  • haku izunami

    it seems like the charm one is the best one so far! and thank you for testing multiple so that we can see a comparison for a few different kinds!

  • Melissa Griffith

    This is probably the best review I have seen on Prismpop. Cotton pads are something I use daily ,and have been looking for the perfect one that won't waste product. You did all the work for us so thank you so much. Will be picking up the unicharm ones.

  • melissa

    I think they can be helpful for small beauty problems but for bigger problems like wiping you rt face with products that remove dirt on your face, you get the cotton wet and wipe your face down with it and it tears the cotton apart.

  • Anna hudson

    Nice review

  • Rachel mello

    Wow this in-depth test is just what I was looking for! Now a days we all tend to use just what we are comfy with or have on hand. I wanted something also to not suck up much product,but still able to clean my face at the end of the day!! Thank you guess I know what my next purchase will be!!

  • Mirta Sanchez

    This is an incredible review! I’ve actually stopped using pads altogether because I felt it was sucking up way too much product!

  • Jennifer Duarte

    Great information thanks for sharing. I found this extremely helpful. And had always been curious as to how much product actually goes on my face using the facial pads so I appreciate you testing this out.