The Best Natural Face Washes (Based on Ingredients)

4 min reading time

When you were a kid, you might have been told to wash your face with soap and water, but that’s actually not such great advice. It’s far better to use a specially-formulated face wash to get the job done.

Regular soaps—whether they’re bar or liquid—strip away oils from the skin, drying it out and doing more harm than good. With industrial surfactants, synthetic fragrances, harsh sulphates and more, plain soap can also damage skin microflora, impairing the skin’s function.

Dry skin stripped of its natural oils is not only less healthy, but also looks worse.

Even those with the oiliest of skin shouldn’t be using plain soap—stripping away the oils can stimulate the skin to produce even more oil, making the problem worse.

Not All Cleansers Are Good For Your Skin

Just because a product is labeled as a face cleanser doesn’t mean it’s any better than a regular soap. Like every other type of personal care product, cleansers can also have iffy ingredients.

From skin-drying alcohols and sulfates to parabens, there can be ingredients in face washes you’ll want nowhere near your face.

We looked at 20+ of the most popular clean and natural face cleansers on the market

Common Ingredients of Note in Face Cleansers

Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB) – This functions as both a cleanser and foaming agent. It’s an organic compound derived from coconut oil, and is found in several of the natural cleansers we looked at.

CAPB is known to cause skin irritation in some users. In fact, CAPB was named The American Contact Dermatitis Society’s “Allergen of the Year” in 2004. (source),

It’s not the ingredient itself that causes contact dermatitis, but the residues of other chemicals used in its production. While pure CAPB should not have the risk of causing irritation or dermatitis, it’s impossible to know whether a product is using pure CAPB or not.

While we don’t give a product a negative rating based on including this ingredient, we highlight all products that do so you can make a decision accordingly.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – None of the natural face washes we looked at contained SLS, but it’s a common ingredient in many cleaners you’ll find at the drugstore. Its purpose is to give the foamy consistency we typically associate with cleaning. In skincare, SLS can cause skin and eye irritation, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis, as well as increase transepidermal water loss—drying out the skin. (source)

Drying alcohols – These include ethanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol (when used as a main ingredient). These alcohols will dry out the skin, causing more harm than good. This doesn’t apply to fatty alcohols you’ll find in some of the cleaners we looked at, including cetearyl alcohol.

Our Methodology

We looked at social media, popular online shops like Credo, Sephora, and iHerb, and reviews across the internet to find 21 of the most popular face cleansers.

We reviewed 20+ of the most popular clean and natural cleansers available. They’re rated on this scale:

Best ???? – These products are the best of the best. They contain all-clean ingredients, are non-toxic and are often the best choice for our environment.

Good – These products are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.

Iffy – These products are typically okay, but have some issues that make us unable to give them a “Good” rating. Often times they contain ingredients that are questionable.

Bad – These products typically have toxic ingredients or issues that make them dangerous or unsuitable to use. These products should typically be avoided.

The Best Natural Face Washes

These natural face cleansers are the best ones we looked at. Any of these are a great choice for anyone looking for a natural, safe, and reliable face wash.

Indie Lee

Brightening Cleanser
Price: $34 ($8.1 per oz)

It’s possible to have a face wash with the simplest of ingredients. Rich in antioxidants and plant extracts, Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser can also work as a makeup remover and face mask. The natural formula won’t strip the skin of natural oils, nor will it dry the face. There’s even a fruity, strawberry scent due to the inclusion of strawberry seed oil. When you’re done with this product, the bottle is fully recyclable as well.

For those who may have certain skin allergies, be aware that this product contains ethylhexylglycerin. Make sure to take extra care when applying products with this ingredient around the face, as it can be a mild skin and eye irritant.


Potential irritants: 1*


Pink Cloud Rosewater + Squalane Makeup Removing Face Wash
Price: $24 ($7.06 per oz)

With absolutely no ingredients of concern, nor potential irritants, this cleanser is one of the best ones out there. This face wash will give you the crispy clean feel without leaving your skin feeling dry, thanks to the added tremella mushroom, which hydrates and maintain moisture. Organic rose water and coconut water serves as a base of this cleanser, which products its pretty cloudy pink color and pleasant rose fragrance.


One Love Organics

Easy Does It Foaming Cleanser
Price: $25 ($3.97 per oz)

The Easy Does It Foaming Cleanser from One Love Organics is a combo of organic Chilean soap bark, cold-pressed apple oil, and vegetable glycerin. All this works to thoroughly clean the skin without stripping your skin, while providing a light, honeysuckle-like scent for an even more soothing wash. This non-drying, gentle cleanser has a clean list of ingredients with no potential irritants, and is suitable for those with sensitive skin to use twice daily. For this reason, we give it a top rating.


Tata Harper

Regenerating Cleanser
Price: $84 ($20.49 per oz)

A balanced combination of exfoliating and cleansing properties can make for a great cleanser. Tata Harper’s Regenerating Cleanser can buff and polish the skin using BHAs from white willow bark and perfectly-sized apricot microspheres that won’t scratch the skin, but are strong enough to smooth. Although on the pricier side of popular cleansers on the market, this one tops for its gentle exfoliating qualities.

A couple of ingredients in this product to be aware of are limonene and linalool. These are well-recognized consumer allergens and beware of this if you’re prone to skin reactions.


Potential irritants: 4*


Ocean Cleanser
Price: $48 ($9.6 per oz)

Apart from cleansing, this face wash from OSEA works to provide a healthier complexion using its natural ingredients, such as vegan (beet-derived) lactic acid, lime, cypress, and juniper. If the skin is looking a little dull or uneven, the Osea Ocean Cleanser will help it to look more energized. Its fresh, but not overbearing scent can also help with invigorating the skin. Although it’s one of our “best” rated cleansers, this one has a few potential irritants to watch out for in its ingredients list if you have sensitive skin.


Potential irritants: 4*

Natural Face Washes Rated: Good

These natural cleansers are good, but have one or two ingredients that stop us from giving them a “best” rating.

The Outset

Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser
Price: $32 ($6.4 per oz)

This fragrance-free micellar water has a clean list of ingredients, with no harsh chemicals to remove makeup and impurities. The packaging is 50% post-consumer recycled plastic, and comes at a reasonable price.


The Ordinary

Squalane Cleanser
Price: $23 ($4.6 per oz)

There’s certainly nothing ordinary about this Squalane Cleanser’s ability to clean the face. The Ordinary’s cleanser is super gentle and can remove makeup effectively, leaving baby soft skin and zero residue afterwards. Its powerful cleansing ingredients make it suitable for acne-prone skin to keep the breakouts at bay.

This product does contain isoceteth-20, which can be an ingredient of concern. It can be contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are possible human carcinogens.


Potential irritants: 2*

Moon Juice

Milk Cleanse Gentle Wash
Price: $32 ($8 per oz)

For something a little different, Moon Juice’s Milk Cleanse Gentle Wash is made up of milky ‘bubbles’ full of cleansing goodness. Their made from unique ingredients like coconut ferment, adaptogenic reishi, and silver ear mushroom. Its formula allows for pH matching on the skin, which means it won’t mess with your skin’s natural barrier. Fragrance wise, this face wash has a mild, woodsy rose aroma using essential oils, that doesn’t smell artificial or sickly sweet.

However, this cleanser also contains an ingredient that was named The American Contact Dermatitis Society’s “Allergen of the Year” in 2004: cocamidopropyl betaine. It can be contaminated with amidoamine and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine, both of which are potential skin and eye irritants.


Potential irritants: 4*


Brightening Cleansing Gel
Price: $9.99 ($2.5 per oz)

Good for fixing dullness and livening up uneven tones, the Brightening Cleansing Gel from Acure is definitely more than just a face wash. It cleans, hydrates, and has been said to brighten the skin in a few washes according to some users. This cleanser can feel and smell like a smoothie bowl for the face, as it’s nutrient-packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients like pomegranate, blackberry, and acai.

While it may sound like a fitting cleanser, it’s best to avoid this product if you’re prone to skin irritation or allergies, as it contains cocamidopropyl betaine.


Potential irritants: 4*

Ursa Major

Fantastic Face Wash
Price: $30 ($3.75 per oz)

The last thing you want your cleanser to do is to strip your skin of moisture and mess with its pH balance. Ursa Major’s Fantastic Face Wash won’t dare to do that, but can still provide thorough exfoliation and cleansing. In a foaming gel form, this fresh-scented wash can clean the most stubborn of eye makeup without over-drying the skin.

Ingredients of concern include glyceryl laurate, a penetration enhancer, which can be unsafe when included with other ingredients. There’s also sodium benzoate, a chemical preservative, which can induce contact allergy for those with sensitive skin.


Potential irritants: 3*

Drunk Elephant

Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser
Price: $32 ($6.4 per oz)

Drunk Elephant is big on focusing on healthy pH levels and their Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser is no exception. Formulated at a non-stripping pH level of 5.5, this face wash is gentle enough to use on sensitive skin and will effortlessly lift makeup without leftover residue. Its various ingredients are mixed into what they call a ‘smoothie’, designed to support the skin’s acid mantle.

Be aware that this product contains cocamidopropyl betaine, which can potentially be skin and eye irritants if contaminated with amidoamine and 3-dimethylaminopropylamine. It also contains preservatives, sodium benzoate and phenoxyethanol – which has shown to give skin irritation in animal studies even when exposed to very low amounts.


Potential irritants: 4*

Evolve Organic Beauty

Daily Detox Facial Wash
Price: $22.98 ($6.76 per oz)

Even those with oily skin can’t be fully stripped off of their natural oils. A cleanser that re-balances the oils in the face is needed and the Daily Detox Facial Wash from Evolve Organic Beauty may be the solution. This foaming facial wash has organic papaya enzymes for exfoliation, and aloe vera for softening of the skin. Its soothing and natural scent, combined with other ingredients like goji berry and moringa peptides, helps with calming the skin from environmental stressors.

Potential irritants include cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium benzoate. There’s also “natural fragrance”, which we consider an “iffy” ingredient, as it’s a blanket term for unknown fragrance ingredients. This can be a skin irritation or cause an allergic reaction if you’re prone to these issues.


Potential irritants: 5*


Sea Foam Complete Face Wash
Price: $10 ($2 per oz)

You can turn to Pacifica for its interesting take on natural products and their Sea Foam Complete Face Wash is no different. As you can gather from its name, their cleanser uses marine phytonutrients, such as coconut water sea algae complex, and foams when applied on the skin. Even though it’s strong enough to clear waterproof eye makeup, there won’t be any feeling of tightness or itchiness post wash.

This product contains cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium benzoate, ethylhexylglycerin, and natural fragrances. Additionally, there’s also tocopheryl acetate, which is at risk of being contaminated with hydroquinone – a known human carcinogen. While we believe this risk to be small, we consider tocopheryl acetate an iffy ingredient.


Potential irritants: 5*

Andalou Naturals

1000 Roses Cleansing Foam
Price: $14.99 ($2.73 per oz)

A very science-forward cleanser, Andalou Naturals’ 1000 Roses Cleansing Foam is formulated with alpine rose stem cells to help with inflammation and premature aging. Making up the base of this cleanser is organic aloe and water, while pomegranate improves tone. Foams often leave the skin feeling stripped or dry, but the inclusion of aloe vera lifts the skin’s moisture barrier. Users also praise its easily spreadable consistency.

However, be aware of a few other ingredients such as cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium benzoate, and ethylhexylglycerin.


Potential irritants: 7*

Alba Botanica

Acne Dote Deep Pore Wash
Price: $6.22 ($1.04 per oz)

Got problem with zits? Cleansers with salicylic acid are your best friend. Alba Botanica’s Acne Dote Deep Pore Wash is formulated with this magic ingredient, plus willow bark extract – for cooling – to unclog pores, as well as getting rid of and preventing future zits. With a few small drops daily, it can be the best treatment for acne.

This salicylic acid cleanser has mostly-clean ingredients, with a few exceptions: cocamidopropyl betaine, phenoxyethanol, and sodium benzoate.


Potential irritants: 9*

Alpyn Beauty

PlantGenius Creamy Bubbling Cleanser
Price: $36 ($9 per oz)

The PlantGenius Creamy Bubbling Cleanser from Alpyn Beauty contains their unique formula of botanicals that are grown in the mountains in Wyoming. Apart from cleansing and refreshing, it exfoliates using papaya and pomegranate extract, glycolic and lactic acid. It also has plenty of antioxidants, as well as a creamy consistency, making it the go-to choice for dehydrated skin. If you’re sensitive to fragrance or essential oils, this cleanser’s scent has a delicious citrus scent that is very subtle.

Only potential concerning ingredient is benzyl alcohol, which might concern you if you have sensitive skin. It’s listed by the The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) as a well-recognized consumer allergen.


Potential irritants: 5*

Paula's Choice

Hydrating Gel-to-Cream Cleanser
Price: $18 ($2.69 per oz)

Dry skin will rejoice when being treated to a hydrating cleanser. The Hydrating Gel-to-Cream Cleanser from Paula’s Choice gives the right amount of hydration and moisturizes sans the greasy texture. It’s lightweight and non-abrasive but works efficiently to remove dead skin layers using the exfoliators, leaving your skin soft and plump.

There are potential irritants to take note of, including cocamidopropyl betaine and the common preservatives, phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate. Also included are ethylhexylglycerin and pentylene glycol, which can cause contact dermatitis and is considered a sensitizing ingredient.


Potential irritants: 7*

Natural Face Washes Rated: Iffy

These cleansers have a few ingredients that we consider iffy, making these products some we wouldn’t recommend.

Glow Recipe

Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser
Price: $34 ($6.3 per oz)

This cleanser has a clean list of ingredients until you get to the end: fragrance. The brand’s website states very little about the fragrance, saying:

“We formulate using the minimum amount of fragrance, when needed, to create a sensorial, enjoyable skincare experience. Fragrance is always less than 0.5% of our formulations, and all fragrances are vegan and free of PCM compounds, acetone, and much more.”

This implies that it’s not a natural fragrance, and therefore we cannot recommend this cleanser.


Potential irritants: 2*


Foaming Facial Cleanser
Price: $9.99 ($2.36 per oz)

We don’t recommend this cleanser because it contains Cocamidopropyl Betaine, which was named The American Contact Dermatitis Society’s “Allergen of the Year” in 2004.


Potential irritants: 8*

Youth to the People

Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser
Price: $36 ($4.5 per oz)

We don’t recommend this product because it contains polysorbate-20 and chemical fragrance.


Potential irritants: 4*

Natural Face Washes Rated: Bad

For the reasons stated in our overview, we don’t recommend these face washes.

Juice Beauty

Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser
Price: $28 ($6.22 per oz)

This cleanser has a clean list of ingredients. However, lemon juice is the second ingredient, which may be a concern for a few reasons. (source)

Lemon juice is very low pH, making it extremely sensitizing to skin. Lemon juice applied to the skin can cause photosensitivity. This means that your skin will be much more sensitive to sunlight, even if applying sunscreen. There have been reports of people going into the sun with lemon juice on their hands, resulting is horrible blisters and burns.

Lemon juice has also been linked to chemical leukoderma – uneven lightened patches of skin.

For this reason, we don’t recommend this product.


Potential irritants: 4*


Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Price: $14 ($2.76 per oz)

We can’t recommend this product because of its inclusion of several ingredients we don’t recommend, including cocamidopropyl betaine, polysorbate-20, and ethyl hexanediol.


Potential irritants: 6*


Gentle Skin Cleanser
Price: $9.59 ($0.6 per oz)

Cetaphil’s cleanser is one of the most popular cleansers on the market, but unfortunately, we can’t recommend it because it contains multiple types of parabens.


Potential irritants: 2*


All of the products we looked at are marketed as being clean and natural. Like many other product categories, just because a product claims to be clean, it doesn’t mean it actually is.

For a simple choice in a cleanser, look at any of the products we gave a rating of “best”—any of them are a great choice.

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