Fun in the Sun with Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Series & A Review of the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream

After much nail-biting drama on my part in the countdown to earning an exclusive invite this Butterfly Bloggers event, I was excited when it was announced that I had won a spot to join The Butterfly Project and Kiehl’s in celebrating a new and fresh addition to the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream series!

The Butterfly Project X Kiehl's

The Butterfly Project X Kiehl’s ~ Fun in the Sun Event

(Psst! If you’re interested, you can view my Dr Seuss-inspired entry post here but I warn you, it’s a poem written by yours truly and not about to win any Pulitzers lol)

I’m grateful that the lovely folk at Kiehl’s and The Butterfly Project could see beyond my saucepan-song and grant me a place among the butterflies anyway! Thank you! It was especially meaningful because this was the first time I’ve ever applied for an exclusive Butterfly event slot so it was truly beginner’s luck for me 😉

So, brace yourself for my mammoth pic-heavy post and review of the new star in the Kiehl’s universe as I finally manage to join the Butterfly Bloggers for the first time ever for what turned out to be an amazing blogging event with brand Kiehl’s!

Fun in the Sun was the theme for the day!

‘Fun in the Sun’ was the theme for the day and that was apt because it really was a very hot and sunny day!

The gods were smiling on us that day because despite a full month of heavy rains during almost every day of May, the event which was held in the earliest days of June was made for Kiehl’s Fun in the Sun theme and turned out to be a literal way to usher in Kiehl’s arsenal of hot weather cleansing and skin hydration products.

It was an extremely dry and hot morning and the venue was the Secret Garden at 1Utama Mall’s rooftop which turned out to be the perfect place to stress about good skincare and the importance of keeping skin well-hydrated and comfortable.

Good pick, Kiehl’s. I really love the gorgeous venue! The garden came replete with waterfalls, ponds, winding pathways and lush greenery – who knew that this even existed above one of KL’s busiest malls. It’s so impressive that it warrants a personal visit – do go and check it out if you’re at 1Utama.

The Secret Garden Venue at the rooftop of 1Utama came with it's own waterfall and ponds!

The Secret Garden Venue is at the rooftop of 1Utama Mall and is so secret that most of us didn’t even know it existed

These lilypads are the real deal

No plastic plants here. These lilypads are the real deal – I double-checked that!

Proudly made in the US of A, Lady Liberty shows us the way to the main event.

Kiehl’s products are US-made so it’s apt that Lady Liberty directs the way to the main event area

Now, the Ultra Facial range itself isn’t new to the Kiehl’s family but we were gathered there that day to learn about Kiehl’s oil-free series and, in particular, celebrate an exciting reformulation of  Kiehl’s original and bestselling Ultra Facial moisturising creams for people who look shiny all the time.

The Ultra Facial League

There’s a new oil-free Fresh Hydration addition to the Ultra Facial League!


So yes, the Ultra Facial cream family now sports a version that is refreshing, non-greasy and most critically, ultra-hydrating for normal to oily skin types and it’s this little fella here in the blue jar…

The newly formulated Gel Cream

The newly formulated Gel Cream is the feather in the cap for Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free range and delivers a new level of comfort for oily-skinned folk like me.

The new formula retains the best functions of the originals but this time, we can welcome an innovative, oil-free formula that has intensified the hydration and shine-control qualities for those among us who struggle to through our days with an oily face. Hands up, that’s me!

A path to better skin?

Kiehl’s has designed their entire Ultra Facial Oil-Free Series to be an effective foundation skincare range for oily-skin types

In general, this lighter-weight incarnation of the Ultra Facial series makes this product really good for our long, warm days at the Equator where shiny skin and constant oil-blotting can be a way of life for some of us.

The whole team

Cleanse * Tone * Moisturise

The full series is a trio of oil-free products but the star product of this range is the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream and, with its tagline of Fresh Hydration, speaks volumes about the kind of emphasis Kiehl’s has placed to make this product a suitable all-day moisturising formula for normal to oily skin types.

The Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream is a star product that has been reformulated to be better at oil-control, but most importantly, moisturising!

The Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream is a star product that has been reformulated to not only be better at oil-control, but more importantly, better at moisturising the skin!

Being an unfortunate creature of grease, I speak frankly of my frustration and the uphill task of trying to find a skincare series that has oil-control properties while at the same time keeping the skin comfortable. Not only do I suffer from an ultra-shiny T-zone, but I also experience dry skin symptoms with flaking and discomfort at the areas outside of the T-zone.

In the past, the day-in and day-out use of de-greasing products has only managed to give me temporary relief and my skin has continued to be greasy anyway and worse…plagued with dry and itchy patches too.

To be honest, I’ve always imagined that that the best products for my oily skin were products that could remove all visible grease from my skin immediately and I equated feeling instantly squeaky clean to a successful product in that respect but I was so, so wrong!

I’ll say more on this later but before I do, let me just tell you that Kiehl’s had set up a skin testing station for us to get have our Shine Level determined at the event. This was a quick and easy way for us to determine our skin’s oil-levels in only a few seconds.

We were provided with some clever little Skin Barrier Tabs and a handy reference chart to decipher our shine level.  The skin tabs are first held against specific areas of the face to absorb oil, if any, from the skin’s surface and the tabs give a reading to indicate what state of oily or dry skin you have in that area of your face.

These were the two areas that were tested that day-:

  • The patch of skin on the forehead where the T-zone intersects
  • A patch of skin on one of the cheeks
The kit to measure shine levels

Ew! My T-zone area is very oily but my cheek area is quite dry

The Kiehl’s staffer in charge of the station advised me to use the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner and Gel Cream but to not use the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser. The analysis made sense. She was concerned that the oil-free cleanser might be unsuitable for my dry cheeks and recommended that I only use the toner and gel cream moisturiser from the range.

Now, it has really only been in the last year that I’ve come to the realisation that many cleansers are very skilful at oil-removal from the skin’s surface with instant results but that the bulk of these cleansers seem to take care of de-greasing at the expense of drying out the skin.

I find that most foaming cleansers leave my skin feeling taut and sometimes raw and even peeling. Further to that, the mattifying effect of these cleansers is also very temporary and it’s not long before my skin becomes shiny and slick again.

As a result, I have actively turned away from any products with a heavy lather or intense astringency and have been seeking more emollient-based cleansers and moisturisers for about a year now.

Unfortunately, the downside with emollient products is that while the drier areas of my skin have soothed, the oilier formulas tend to make my T-zone as shiny as ever so I’m still blotting away the excess during the day.

Anyway, for most of my life I could not understand why my skin was so oily all of the time but quite recently, I read online that the number one reason for oily skin was not actually an excess of oil per se or even the need to degrease.

Surprisingly, it turns out that the critical and underlying factor of oily skin is actually the skin’s constant lack of hydration and the excessive oil production is actually the skin’s natural attempt to address this imbalance by compensating for a lack of moisture with oil. OMG!

Dear readers, this realisation has been a complete lightbulb moment for me! I can’t even begin to tell you how important it was for me understand this and, if you suffer from oily skin like me, I hope this clarifying point might help you in your skincare journey too.

My Lightbulb moment has changed the way I care for my skin!

My lightbulb moment is changing the way I care for my skin!


Anyway, I’ll let Kiehl’s Consulting Dermatologist, Dr. Adam Geyer, put the fact more succinctly to you in this quote…

“When caring for oily skin, it is important to strive for balance rather than simply using products to remove oil and degrease the skin. Although it seems counterintuitive, oily skin still needs hydration and protection of its barrier function. I frequently see patients try to reduce oil by over-drying their skin, which often leads to more oil as the skin compensates to protect its essential moisture. A product with an oil-free gel cream formula that does not add oil but maintains moisture is a good foundation for an effective skin care regimen for those with oily skin.”

Water, water, everywhere!

Water, water, everywhere!

So, in a nutshell, the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free range marries gentle oil-reducing properties to hydration and cleans away grease without neglecting the skin’s need to be balanced appropriately with an adequate level of hydration.

And, it manages to do this best with the final step in the series – The Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream – where Kiehl’s says that the secret to its fresh hydration lies in the product’s patented combination of specialised water-retaining ingredients in the formula.

The Active Ingredients

The Active Ingredients

Below is an explanation of why the above ingredients are successful to the performance of the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream -:

 Glacial Protein

The new Gel Cream contains a rare and active glycoprotein that comes all the way from Antarctica that is known as Antarcticine and this offers excellent protection against dryness. Antarcticine has the superior function of helping the skin maintain and retain moisture and has the added ability of also shielding skin from environmental damage.

Desert Plants

Specifically, Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract, this is a desert plant that thrives in some of the harshest and driest terrain known to man because its roots are high in potassium that is rich in the ability to retain moisture.

Oil-Free Skin Conditioner

The other key ingredient in the formulation of this Gel Cream is Glycerin which has a natural ability to attract and pull moisture from the air to replenish and hydrate skin.

Party Time

Party Time

Anyway, an event is not a party without cake and the creative team at Kiehl’s kept us lovingly fed and watered with a buffet spread of pastries, cakes and blue sodas but they also lined up another very special activity for the amusement of all the Butterfly Bloggers that day.

Can you guess what it was?

Well, what better to illustrate the hardiness and magnificent moisture retaining properties of desert plants (a key ingredient in the Kiehl’s new Gel Cream!) than to set up a Terrarium Station where we were all encouraged to build-our-own Terranium from a cactus & pebbles buffet!

Terranium construction was a fun first for most of us and it really made our day. Really, who knew that all it took was a bit of dirt, stone and shrubbery to unleash the happy kid in all of us. Amazing activity, Kiehl’s – two thumbs up!

The Terranium Station

The Terranium Station with Frozen Trees

Assisted by the friendly team from Frozen Trees, each blogger was able to put her green thumb to work and create her very own lovely souvenir whilst at the same time learning about the care and watering of it in the process. Ala hydration!

We were all so very excited that you’d think we had never seen a plant in our lives but yeah, blogging can be quite a City Slicker thing so that explains how dazzled we all were by the complete novelty of this little bit of gardening.

For me, I think this counts as one of the best beauty blogger event activities I’ve ever taken part in and it didn’t even have to involve makeup!

At the event, some bloggers were talking about how much they wanted a rooftop garden wedding after the lovely morning at 1Utama’s Secret Garden but I could not help but think that a DIY cactus spread would be what I would want at my wedding …haha if I was getting married, but that’s another story lol

A Cactus Smorgasbord

The Cactus Smorgasbord

And the final result? I tried to apply a less-is-more principle to making my terrarium…so it’s a simple little soul compared with some of the other bloggers’ terraniums but I love him anyway because he’s mine.

My baby!

He may not be the the handsomest but he’s my baby!

A bonus for attending the event was that Kiehl’s loaded us up with full-sizes of all three products in the Ultra Facial Oil-Free skincare range so that we could try the full regimen in the creature comforts of our own home.

So, with such a generous bounty in my kit, I think that it’s only fair that I share with you how the products have fared on my ridiculously greasy T-zone and these dry and itchy cheeks of mine.

The Trial & Review

I’ve been using the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free 3-Step set daily since the day of the event which makes it about three weeks now and here are my notes and recommendations.

Kiehl's Program for Oily Skin

Kiehl’s 3-Step Program for Normal to Oily Skin

Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser ~ RM85/ 150ml

Although I was advised at the event to skip this cleanser in the set, I still felt that I wanted to include it in my trial to have a complete experience of the set.

Given my dry cheeks, however, I decided on a more localised application of the cleanser by restricting use to only the oily T-zone and chin area.

For this purpose, the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser was very effective in removing oil and shine and works immediately. My skin felt instantly cleansed each time  and it didn’t aggravate my eczema.

The result after each use was an instantly matte skin surface and a squeaky clean feeling. That said, I still think that this may still be a little too astringent for the rest of my face to use on a daily basis and will try to keep to T-zone use and then again, only once or twice a week because of my combination-type skin.

The formula is fragrance-free and from the tube, has a neutral scent. The colour of the cleanser is white with a little pearlescence and has a smooth creamy texture that mixes well with water to produce a light lather.

Now, this product is ultra-efficient and a little goes a very long way so use sparingly.

By sparingly, I mean that a small squirt of product that’s only about the size of a grain of rice is actually sufficient for my needs at each cleansing. Dispensing this amount is really easy as the tube tip is one of the smallest I’ve seen on a tube of that size and this makes it easy to control the amount you want to use each time.

I learned the hard way and in my usual heavy-handed style accidentally used too much on my first wash and the product lathered so quickly and generously that I must have got some in my eyes because it really, really stung!

Be warned, the cleanser can sting the sensitive eye area a great deal so you’d be wise to keep it well away from this area or from any open wounds. I think this is because the product contains extracts of lemon.

If you have all-over oily skin, I think you will find this Kiehl’s cleanser perfect for your needs. For me, however, I can only use it down the middle of my face so it’s a bit of a hassle to have to find another product for my skin’s drier areas. I am prone to both oily and flaky skin so I am still looking for a cleanser that handles my dual-condition more effectively.

Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser

The Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser

 The Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner ~ RM85/ 250ml

The next step after cleansing was to apply the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner and this one is refreshing but alcohol-free. It’s a pleasant non-drying toner that doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight or sensitive. I did, however, find that there’s a very, very slight tackiness that eases as the product dries.

I actually like this toner more than the range’s cleanser and can swab it all over my face without drying out my skin.  Unlike the cleanser, I can use this everyday.

Texture-wise, this toner is lightweight and water-like. It smells fresh and has a light, summery scent that reminds me of cucumber slices. A few swabs across the face leaves me looking shine-free and refreshed but for some minor stickiness that dissipates with time.

Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner

Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner

The Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream (Fresh Hydration) ~

RM100/ 50ml

The final step in the series is the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream and has been touted by Kiehl’s as the answer to all my shiny-faced woes.

Unlike it’s predecessors, this moisturising formula is not sticky, not creamy, completely oil-free and now, much more suitable at holding in moisture for comfortable but shine-free skin.

This Gel Cream is a translucent watery gel that has been designed to smell neutral and achieves this but for a very slight sorbolene-like scent but, unlike sorbolene which is oil- rich, the Kiehl’s Gel Cream is not greasy at all so it doesn’t aggravate my shiny skin further.

A second thing that makes it unlike sorbolene is that the Gel Cream absorbs so easily it’s astounding.

In fact, in only a few light strokes, the gel cream sinks in like a completely second skin.

It’s really quite amazing to witness how easily it absorbs, feels completely weightless and as if I have applied well, nothing. What I did notice, however, is just how elastic, silky and relaxed my skin is after application.

Indeed, this gel imparts a lovely non-greasy feeling and is literally as if I am giving all my skin cells a much-needed drink.

I love how lightweight it is and because it is oil-free, it really adds zero shine to the skin surface and leaves me looking matte. I’m also overjoyed that it is a really natural shine-free effect that doesn’t look like I’ve achieved it with powder.

For the most effective no-shine effect, however, the best time to use this is after the skin is properly cleansed and toned. I tried applying it over greasy skin without cleansing or toning, and while the skin feels comfortable, the shine-free effect isn’t quite as stellar.

You really ought to apply it to skin that’s already de-greased for it to leave the skin looking matte and perform at its best for further oil-control.

According to the media wrap sheet accompanying my set, the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream contains a mild menthol-derivative that gives the skin a cool sensation on application but this is so mild that you won’t end up with anything like a ‘spicy’ moisturiser.

The menthol must be in a very nominal amount because it’s just enough to make the gel cream feel fresh but non-irritating.

Notably, this product does contain alcohol danat as an ingredient but whether or not this is an issue for you is debatable and ultimately comes down to how you feel about skincare products which contain alcohol.

Fresh Hydration in a jar

Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream ~ Fresh Hydration in a handy jar

The product does claim to give a full 24 hours relief against shine and while I think this Gel Cream does provide a very decent level of comfort and reduced shine for most of my workday, 24-hours is a tall order for any product in the world.

I haven’t been able to test the 24-hour efficacy of this product because who actually leaves their face unwashed and untouched for that long after applying a product? I’m in the shower as soon as I get home from my long days and that’s well before the 24-hour point.

In Conclusion…

This 3-step program used in unison with my BB Cream and a dusting of face powder to seal in any straggling oily skin issues has given me a powerhouse combination with an impressive level of oil-removal, some very decent long-wear shine-control and comfortably relaxed skin.

I do think that the best product in the range is the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream because I think it does offer something a little different from everything else that is available out there.

I’m currently happy with my Cetaphil and Vagheggi cleansers and most toners in my stash are adequate but I have struggled to find a good moisturiser that makes my skin feel comfortable yet isn’t oil-rich. The fact that this moisturiser goes an extra step to control-shine is very attractive for me as an oily-skinned person.

So, the Gel Cream is really very innovative as far as skin moisturisers go and these are my conclusive points about this Kiehl’s product-:

  • Oil-free/ Silicon-Free/ Fragrance-Free/ Paraben-Free/ Colorant-Free & Non-Comedogenic but contains Alcohol Danat
  • It applies easily and absorbs beautifully, disappearing into the skin for a completely matte result without visible residue
  • It feels non-greasy & leaves no shine
  • Once absorbed, I can’t even feel that I have applied anything at all so it is an invisible and weightless second skin
  • It’s non-irritating against my eczema and other dermatological issues
  • I have no feelings of tautness or dryness from this product at all
  • The gel cream leaves my skin feeling elastic, supple and comfortable
  • I’m delighted that I can use it effectively on my oily T-zone and dry cheeks too; saving the need for separate products for these areas
  • There’s a proven oil-control function and my skin actually looks naturally matte for most of the day
Perfectly summarised

Perfectly summarised…Cool Down & Stay Fresh

If you get a chance to try only one Kiehl’s product for oily skin, I would recommend this Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream because it is the most important step for the hydration of oily skin and you will still be able to use it effectively with your other cleansing and toning products.

I really adore that this product fills the void in the market for a crucial hydrating step for people with oily skin.

The fact that it hydrates the skin and has the mechanics within it to control-oil and enable me to feel fresh for extended wear is truly an innovative feature for those of us with greasy faces. It puts a lid on oil production without suffocating my skin and is a lot more comfortable than wearing a makeup primer under my foundation as a means to control oil.

My only gripe is that the Gel Cream comes in a jar which then makes me have to work it out with a spatula or clean fingers.

Here are some ‘swatches’ of the above three products so that you know what to expect in terms of look and consistency of each of the products in the series.

Product swatches!

Product swatches!

And, finally, I’m going to leave you with a few scenes from this Fun in the Sun event.

Team Kiehl's Malaysia

Team Kiehl’s, Malaysia

No Kiehl's Event is complete without Mr. Bones

Meet Mr. Bones…the brand’s global mascot in every Kiehl’s store

100% Satisfied & Try Before You Buy

FREE Try Before You Buy Sampling is available at all Kiehl’s stores worldwide! Go for it!

Team Kiehl's with Mr. Bones

No Team Kiehl’s is complete without Mr. Bones

This was the first time I was asked to sign a skeleton. My life feels complete now.

This was the first time I was asked to sign a skeleton. But not just any skeleton. This is Mr. Bones. My life feels complete now.


For more information about these Kiehl’s products…

Kiehl’s Website

Kiehl’s Malaysia Facebook




  1. @ KJ, The Secret Garden really is a lovely bit of green lung – and uniquely on top of 1Utama at that! As for Mr. Bones, I’m not surprised he looks he happy. He was quite the rockstar given that he had butterflies fawning all over him that day 😉

  2. Awesome, awesome write-up! Had tons of fun with you on the day and I couldn’t agree more that I love the moisturiser most! Ironic since it was the product I hated most from the range a year ago.

  3. @ Arpitabread: aw…shucks, you gush, but yeah, thanks! I had fun with you too (as always because birds of a feather and all that) and I’m so glad I finally made a Butterfly event. Perhaps another soon? Fingers crossed X

    I’m glad that companies like Kiehl’s are starting to consider the needs and intolerances of us oily-skinned folk.

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