Sunday, 7 October 2012

Guest Post - The Cotton Experiment

A beautiful friend of mine who resides in sunny California, who is best known in our respective makeup circles by her alias of Roxina, recently conducted The Cotton Experiment.

Roxina posted her findings on a forum that her and I both frequent - her experiment was an absolute hit.

As such, I asked the lovely Roxina to put together a guest post for Diabolus in Cosmetica, to expand on her findings and present a full report.

Roxina delivered.

Here it is peeps - The Cotton Experiment


Cosmetic cotton is available readily on the market, from drugstores to high end boutiques.  They range in price, with the least expensive cotton balls at around $0.01 per cotton ball, and the most expensive hovering around $0.20 per cotton.  Aside from the usual range in makeup prices, does the quality also vary?  That is the question to which this experiment sought to answer.

What is cosmetic cotton?

Cosmetic cotton, including cotton balls, has many uses.  A straw poll at a popular online makeup forum revealed that the most common uses are to apply toner, to remove makeup (including eye makeup), and to remove nail polish.  One forum member even reported using cosmetic cotton for polishing jewellery; another said that in a pinch she used some as toilet paper; yet another said she soaks a cotton ball in perfume and places it inside her bra for a long lasting fragrance.

Armed with this knowledge of the most common uses, we set out to test eight different cottons as follows:

- Chanel
- Cle de Peau
- Cotton Balls
- Koh Gen Do
- MUJI Ecru
- MUJI White
- Shiseido

Eyeball comparison

The first test was an eyeball comparison of the cottons.  As shown in figures 1 and 2, the size and thickness vary considerably.  CVS cotton looked the largest, and MUJI Ecru looked the smallest.  MUJI Ecru also looked the thickest, while Shiseido looked the thinnest.

Figure 1: eyeball comparison
Figure 2: eyeball comparison

The second test measured the volume of each cotton (figure 3).  CVS, Koh Gen Do, and cotton balls had the highest volume, with an average of 2.18 cubic inches.  In the mid-range were Muji, Chanel and Cle de Peau, averaging 1.39 cubic inches.  Finally, the cottons with the lowest volumes were Shiseido and MUJI White, with an average of 0.54 cubic inches.
Figure 3: volume comparison

Cost per cubic inch

Next we performed a cost per cubic inch analysis (figure 4).  We found that although price went down per cubic inch, the most expensive cottons were still the most expensive per unit.  For example, Koh Gen Do is one of the most expensive cottons at $0.20 per cotton, and continues to be expensive at $0.13 per cubic inch.  Similarly, due to its smaller volume, MUJI cotton is both $0.01 per cotton and per cubic inch.
Figure 4: cost analysis

Blind testing: softness, integrity and lintiness

For the next part of the experiment, five consenting participants tested the softness, integrity and lintiness of the cottons, perhaps the most important indicators of a cotton's worth (Bernadette agrees!!)  The participants were given samples of each of the cottons and asked to score them after using toner and removing makeup.  Results were then tallied and averaged.  Of note, is that these participants were not avid makeup users and as such were not familiar with cosmetic cottons or their uses.  This unique characteristic of the participants, coupled with blind testing in which the participants did not know which cotton brand they were using, strengthened the reliability of the results in this section.

Softness was measured on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the softest and 1 being the roughest.  As shown in figure 5, Chanel scored the highest in the softness category, followed closely by Cle de Peau.  Cotton balls and CVS rounded out the bottom.
Figure 5: softness comparison

Integrity (will the cotton fall apart?) and lintiness (will I end up with white linty fluff all over my face?) were also measured on a 10-point scale.  These categories were arguably the most surprising.  As for integrity, Chanel and Cle de Peau scored the highest with an average of 10, compared to CVS, Koh Gen Do, MUJI and the cotton balls, which scored in the mid range.  Chanel, Shiseido, Cle de Peau and MUJI White all came out strong for lintiness.  Of note is the poor showing Koh Gen Do made, scoring below its CVS counterpart (figure 6).
Figure 6: integrity comparison

The final score

So the moment you have been waiting for - the final score.

Chanel came out on top with an average score of 30, with Cle de Peau and Shiseido close on its heels.  The losers in this experiment are unfortunately the cotton balls, MUJI Ecru and CVS cotton.

Fun facts

The winner doesn't necessarily take all!  A few more fun facts about the cottons according to our participants:

Best nose blowing cotton: Chanel (CVS too rough, Koh Gen Do falls apart, Shiseido too small).

Best makeup remover: Shiseido - just the right size.

Best nail polish remover: MUJI Ecru - so cheap you don't feel guilty, and thick enough you only have to use one for both hands.

Participant quotes

"Why does this cotton have a "c" on it?  Wait, there are two!"  -  Participant A

"What's the purpose of cotton if it just falls apart?"  -  Participant A, referring to Koh Gen Do

"(MUJI White) is the perfect size and thickness for makeup removal but (Koh Gen Do) is bigger and works for removing nail polish better."  -  Participant B

"(Cle de Peau) is as soft as a baby's arse, or softer!"  -  Participant B

"I preferred (Cle de Peau) but no I wouldn't purchase special cottons.  I'll stick with cotton balls." -  Participant C

"I think my favourite was (Chanel) because it didn't ball up like (MUJI Ecru) did."  -  Participant D

"(MUJI Ecru) sucked."  -  Participant D

"(MUJI Ecru) is real nice - the size is perfect and it's nice and thick for nail polish removal.  Toner, not so much."  -  Participant E
"At first I thought (Shiseido) was thin and small but it's a real workhorse!"  -  Participant E

"(Chanel) is worth its weight in gold - I love this shit!"  -  Participant E

A special thank you goes out to the five participants of this experiment; to the forum members who participated in straw polls prior to this experiment; and to whooobie for her data presentation expertise!

There you have it peeps!  Chanel cotton is where it's at... the lovely Roxina is sending me some of these to try, as unfortunately I cannot get them in Melbourne.

A massive thank you to my dear friend Roxina for this amazing report.  She is amazing, no?!

Roxina is also working on another special experiment that her and I have commissioned together, so stay tuned peeps!!

Thanks for reading!

Bern x


  1. My gosh, that's the most serious study I've ever seen conducted on a makeup blog! lol

    I do love those cottons, but I buy mine from Japanese sellers or on eBay (again from Japan) for really cheap and I'm very happy with the ones I use, they're called Attirer Puff.

    1. Roxina did an amazing report didn't she dear?! I am so impressed, and grateful to know this woman!
      Attirer Puff you say... I will be sure to have a look! I am new to cottons myself... I have been using cut up pieces of surgical gauze in place of cotton. Something a little more luxe would be nice!

  2. Amazing job, roxina! Can't wait to see you two in action on your next project. :)

    1. She's awesome, isn't she Koushi!!
      The next project is going to be AMAZING!

  3. Roxina did a great job, and as a result, I ended buying Shiseido cotton!!! Anyway, I do feel guilty to use them for nail polish and eye makeup remover. I just feel it's so luxury -it's about double the price here in Mexico.

    Anyway, congratulations on this post, it's just great!!! I'm sharing it everywhere!!! :D

    1. She did, didn't she Anne!!
      How to you like the Shiseido cotton? And it is double the price in Mexico? Wow! Interesting... I must look into how much it is here in Melbourne.
      And, thank you for sharing!

  4. The most epic beauty study ever! I read this on the board and ran out and bought Muji whites. They are awesome. I also have many boxes of Olive Young "Silky Mine" (what a weird name) that I am going through from Korea. I was going to be so sad when they run out and now I am loving the Mujis.

    1. I can't wait to try some of these cottons Belly!!
      I've been using crappy cotton balls or gauze - looking forward to something a little luxe :D
      And Roxina did a wonderful study didn't she? Wait until you see her next project!!

  5. I LOVE this review! *clutches Shi cotton* Thank you both ♥ sal

    1. Thank you my dearest of dears!! ♥
      Roxina is amazing, no? All credit goes to her :D

  6. Replies
    1. Roxina is amazing, isn't she Emi?! :D
      Looking forward to presenting her next project!!