Cow Brand Beauty Soap (Red Box) Review

Cow Brand’s been around since the Showa Era. For a reason. Their products are said to cleanse deep, lather well, and be full of mild ingredients safe for the most sensitive of skin. And they’re dirt cheap.

Our editing department purchased what may be their flagship product–Beauty Soap Red Box–and put it to the test. We rated the efficacy of the formula and analyzed the ingredients. This is everything we learned.
  • Last updated: 10-27-2019
  • 3,332 views
Table of Contents

Tell Me More about This "Miracle Product"

Tell Me More about This "Miracle Product"

Cow Brand's Beauty Soap (Red Box) is chock full of natural, plant-derived oils and fats. It also contains milk butter and squalane--all of which work to hydrate and reinforce your skin's natural barrier.


Cow Brand uses what's called the "soap-kettle saponification method." Basically, it's a traditional--but time-consuming and labor-intensive--way of making soaps. Workers spend 5 - 7 days stirring the ingredients in a giant kettle. The soaps that come out of this method are mild and lather into clouds of dense, springy foam.


As a company, Cow Brand prides itself in its commitment to both ingredients and production methods. This particular Red Box first appeared on the market in 1928. It's been 91 years since then, and it still enjoys widespread popularity.

Putting Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap Red Box to the Test

Putting Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap Red Box to the Test
We had a group of editors put Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap (Red Box) to the test. Specifically, we were looking for the following three factors.
Test ①: Cleansing Power
Test ②: Hydration
Test ③: Ingredients
We also purchased 52 other face washes for oily skin and compared them all. Curious about where Cow Brand’s Red Box landed in our rankings? Learn more below.

Test ①: Cleansing Power

Test ①: Cleansing Power
We painted a mixture of oleic acid and stearic acid (the main components of human sebum) onto a glass slide. We then lathered up a bar of Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap and laid the foam on top. After 20 seconds, we dipped the glass into warm water. We then compared how much sebum was on the glass slide before and after cleansing.

Lathers Well and Cleans What It Needs to Clean

Lathers Well and Cleans What It Needs to Clean
It lathered easily into a mountain of plush foam. Most of the sebum came off, but not all of it, which is what you want. That’s about enough to wash off any impurities, including excess oil and dead skin, but not enough to strip away necessary moisture.
And you can get a pack of three soap bars for under two bucks.

Test ②: Hydration

Test ②: Hydration
We used a device called the Corneometer, which can measure moisture levels. We compared water levels in our skin before cleansing to water levels five minutes after cleansing. (During cleansing, we massaged foam into our skin for 20 seconds before rinsing off.)

Squalane and Other Oils Kept Skin Supple and Hydrated

Squalane and Other Oils Kept Skin Supple and Hydrated
Cow Brand’s Red Box may be high in cleansing power, but it wasn’t dehydrating in the least. Rather, the moisturizing ingredients–including squalane–nourished and protected skin. The formula was just enough to wash away impurities without depriving the skin of essential oils.
However, skin will still slowly dry out over time. Don’t skip out on the toners and lotions after cleansing.

Test ③: Ingredients

Test ③: Ingredients
We asked an expert who used to work in cosmetics R&D to look at the ingredients list for us. Specifically, she analyzed the balance between the drying surfactants on one hand and the moisturizing oils on the other before passing a final judgement on the formula.

Simple, Mild Formula that Works but Offers No Extras

Simple, Mild Formula that Works but Offers No Extras
The formula was simple. All the cleansing power came from basic soap ingredients–nothing extra was added in. However, the same held true for moisturizing ingredients. Only the bare minimum was used, which may feel lacking if you want more skincare benefits.
Still, what more can you ask for a face wash that sells for less than a buck apiece? All in all, it’s a mild formula that includes milk butter and squalane, which earned about an average score.

The Final Verdict: Cleansing Power and Hydration in an Affordable Package. Out of 52 Japanese Face Washes for Oily Skin, Cow Brand’s Red Box was Our Pick for First

The Final Verdict: Cleansing Power and Hydration in an Affordable Package. Out of 52 Japanese Face Washes for Oily Skin, Cow Brand’s Red Box was Our Pick for First
The key to the success of Cow Brand’s Red Box lies in its simple ingredients and traditional processing. It contains only the bare minimum, powerful enough to wipe away excess oil and impurities, but gentle enough to allow the moisturizing oils to hydrate and nourish. That’s how Cow Brand offers such quality at a low price.
We also loved the scent–a light, classy rose. Honesty, from the cleansing to the fragrance to the price, everything was just right, and we’d recommend the Red Box to not only those with oily skin but also those with dry and sensitive skin as well.

How to Use Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap Red Box

How to Use Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap Red Box
This is how you can get the most out of cleansing with Cow Brand’s Red Box.
  1. Using your hands or, hopefully, a foaming net, to lather up the soap, adding in just a bit of water at a time.
  2. Once you have a tennis ball-sized mound, lay the foam on your face.
  3. Massage your face from the center out for 20-30 seconds, making sure that the foam forms a cushion between your fingers and skin.
  4. Cup warm water in your hands and rinse by splashing onto your face. Check for any residue, especially around your jaw and hairline.
  5. Use a clean towel and dab gently on your face to remove excess water. Then moisturize as usual.

A few things to keep in mind. Always massage or dab, but never rub or scrub. And make sure you use warm, not hot or cold, water. Try aiming for 32 – 34℃ (90-32℉).

What’s the Difference between the Red Box and the Blue Box?

The Red Box is the moisturizing one. The Blue Box, on the other hand, only contains milk derivatives as its moisturizing ingredients and lathers into softer foam. It smells of jasmine. It's supposed to feel lighter and more refreshing than the Red Box.


And at $1.60 for a 3-piece box, it's even cheaper than the Red Box, which we didn't think was possible.

Summary

We put Cow Brand’s Beauty Soap (Red Box) to the test. We were impressed by how it juggled cleansing power, hydration, price, and mild ingredients and would recommend to pretty much anyone.

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