Cleaner Cleansers: Your post-Cetaphil skin-care regimen

Washing your face_cleansers

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When we first broke the news that cult- and dermatologist-favorite cleanser Cetaphil was not doing your skin (or general health) any favors, we know, it was a major buzzkill.

And so we set out to create a list of better-for-you substitutes to make breaking up with it slightly easier.

Since then, more and more natural and organic brands have debuted and introduced cleaner cleansers we can get behind—and we’ve tried them all to bring you this list.

Instead of mostly water and a few irritating chemicals, they’re made primarily with plant-based ingredients, and several are organic. Most importantly, none contain potentially toxic beauty ingredients like those on the Dirty Dozen list.

Of course, just like your organic tomatoes, they may cost slightly more than mainstream face washes, but most on this list come in at less than $40, so you won’t get total sticker shock compared to your drugstore (or Sephora) faves.

Speaking of which, you’ll mostly have to have to look beyond your neighborhood CVS to find many of them, to stores like the Whole Body section of Whole Foods and boutique natural beauty shops or websites like Spirit Beauty Lounge or Saffron Rouge. Or, to make it super easy, you could just click through, below.

Here are ten cleanser cleansers to start scrubbing with, now.

burts bees1. Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser ($14) Burt’s Bees is arguably the cleanest (and most time-tested) drugstore brand out there, and this acne-preventing cleanser contains willow bark, a natural source of salicylic acid, which is a proven pore penetrator and skin calmer.

2. Amala Beauty Purifying Gel Cleanser ($48) Blue lotus and white clay removes what you don’t want (shine, dirt of the day, etc.) but leaves your skin feeling soft and looking like you’ve just used blotting papers. It’s best for combination skin and adult acne.

kahina-cleanser-z3. Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser ($56) Exfoliating papaya enzymes and omega-rich argan oil helps brighten and nourish skin that feels clean but shrink-wrapped when washed. The ingredient list couldn’t be more clear: “99.0% of plant ingredients are organic; 99.4% Natural,” and even though it’s a luxe option, 25 percent of the profit is donated back to the woman who work to produce the raw materials used.

4. One Love Organics Easy Does It Foaming Cleanser ($30) One Love’s formula—filled with organic Chilean soap bark, cold-pressed apple oil, and vegetable glycerin—feels just right for normal skin after a sweaty workout when you need a little scrubbing action on your face. And it comes with just the right amount of foam and bubbles, so you feel super refreshed.

166221605. Acure Sensitive Facial Cleanser ($15) If you’re missing the gel-like texture of your traditional drugstore cleanser, you’ll love this one. It’s a super gentle, creamy cleanser for sensitive skin, with a barely-there scent. It takes off makeup with ease, and the argan oil hydrates and softens your skin. (Oh, and it’s now available at Target!)

6. Intelligent Nutrients Plant Stem Cell Science Purifying Cleansing Gel ($38) Algae bioactives purify and balance your skin (especially if it’s oil-prone) when you wash with this certified organic soothing gel cleanser, and it calms sensitive skin with summer lilac plant stem cells, too.

beautycounter-routine_clean-cream_cleanser-495x6507. Beautycounter Routine Clean Cream Cleanser ($24) This gentle cream cleanser is formulated using the safe, scientific principles the brand is known for, with skin-soothing organic coconut oil and aloe (that make it great for dry skin), healing botanical extracts, and a light-yet-refreshing citrusy scent from essential oils. And it gets your makeup off and cleans underneath in one, easy step.

8. Shamanuti Activated Charcoal Cleanser ($36) Charcoal is this year’s hottest beauty ingredient, and its detoxifying properties make this cleanser perfect for acne-prone skin. (It leaves your face feeling deeply clean after you rinse.) Other anti-inflammatory ingredients—like Roman chamomile and rooibos tea—help reduce redness, too.

suki-face-exfoliate-foaming-cleanser9. Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser ($33) This exfoliating wash starts as a thick, coarse  material but quickly transforms into an ultra-creamy cleanser as it touches water and you rub it into your skin, and the citrus base leaves your skin feeling extra fresh and taut. It’s a deeper scrub than the rest, though, and might be too harsh for every-day use.

10. S.W. Basics Cleanser ($22) S.W. Basics signature cleanser is the ultimate product for super sensitive skin. Made with only three all-organic ingredients (rosewater, vegetable glycerin, and tea tree oil) you can apply it with a cotton pad and rinse for an ultra gentle clean feeling. (However, you may need something a bit stronger to get makeup off beforehand.)

*This is an update to an earlier article published on July 27, 2010.

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12 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. September 19th, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Arbonne products are botanical, safe (non-toxic) and no animal testing or animal ingredients as well. 20-80% off with yearly membership. Check out the website!

  2. October 14th, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Thanks for this article. I just found this website and am obsessed with it.

  3. January 6th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Hi Melisse,

    Just thought you’d like to see this review of the REN line – somewhat critical. Would love to know your reaction!


  4. January 15th, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    checked Burts Bees Acne solutions out on EWG’s Skin Deep site and it got a 6. NOt a very safe rating. Can you explain why? I am researching an acne solution for my daughter.

  5. January 15th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I know sodium laurel sulfate is toxic but is this related. Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino-Acids

  6. Well+Good
    January 15th, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Judy,

    The alcohol used in the Burts Bees formulation may be the cause, but I can’t be sure, since these products have not been evaluated by the EWG. And according to that site, SODIUM LAUROYL OAT AMINO ACIDS has a toxicity rating of zero. Are you using another source? Please let me know.

    Two suggestions for you, besides trying another brand I’ve mentioned here. Shop by companies who’ve signed the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:

    Try this $10 sample pack of acne-prone-skin products from SpiritBeautyLounge.com. This retailer only stocks rigorously natural and organic options:


    Good luck! Melisse

  7. March 12th, 2012 at 6:08 am

    This was a great post, thanks for the info.

  8. April 12th, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Even though I don’t agree with every thing you’ve claimed, its a fascinating perspective.

  9. September 29th, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    I checked out Pur Minerals, they conatin Bismuth. I found a makeup called Real Purity Healthy Glow Creme Foundation, it only conatins: Distilled Water, Glycerin, Clay, Rice Bran Oil and Iron Oxides. It’s bismuth-free, titanium dioxide free, zinc oxide free, and mica free. I ordered a sample size should receive it sometime next week. Fingers crossed. If I still have problems then we know that either I’m allergic to iron oxides (which is in all mineral makeup) or it is actually my hormones.

  10. October 18th, 2012 at 1:46 am

    [...] Image Credit: 5 [...]

  11. December 12th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Burt’s Bees is now a Clorox company. The formulations might be the same as always, but I cannot support a company that produces so many other toxic products that cause health and environmental harm.

  12. February 8th, 2013 at 6:42 am


    In my opinion this is the great post.We have to maintain our skin very healthy by using natural anti aging products.

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