The 7 Best Cruelty-Free Face Washes (& Cleansers)

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The 7 Best Cruelty-Free Face Washes (& Cleansers)
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE

ZELEN Life Cleanser

The best cruelty-free face wash and cleanser is not the one that is not just tested on animals but is the one that doesn’t use animal ingredients as well.

As the world moves away from animal testing, people have realized that they can still achieve healthy, radiant skin without using skincare products that have exploited animals.

Annually, 100 million animals die from testing and experimentation in the United States alone.[1]

We’ve compiled a list of the best cruelty-free face washes and cleansers that you can choose from.

Read further to find our complete list of the best cruelty-free cleansers, along with their pros and cons.

Quick summary

Before you buy: 8 Questions to consider when purchasing a cruelty-free face wash

Before you dive deep into our list of cruelty-free cleansers, there are a few things you must know before you buy one.

This information will help you make an educated purchase, so you won’t have to buy and, worse, return a product. Knowledge is power, and we want you to have all the power as you make your purchase.

1. Are you willing to make the switch?

Many people are willing to go vegan, yet they purchase products with animal oils and ingredients. If they have chosen “organic” cleansers, they haven’t necessarily chosen cruelty-free skincare.

Is there a difference?

Yes, cruelty-free face washes and brands don’t just use organic ingredients, but they also don’t test their products on animals.

2. What’s your skin type?

Our list of the best cruelty-free cleansers has different ingredients. A few exceptional ones are suitable for all skin types. But, most cleansers are formulated with a particular skin type in mind.

The benefit of this is their blend of ingredients will suit the characteristics of your skin and bring the best results. However, there are potential drawbacks if you select one that is not suitable for your skin type.

For example, some cleansers have glycolic acids that peel and cause the skin to flake. This may be great for combination skin but horrible for someone who also has eczema.

Also, face washes made for oily skin can contain alcohol. Alcohol is known to dehydrate the skin and strip it of its natural moisture. This can leave the skin dry and irritated. So a person with a dry skin type using such a cleanser would find it particularly uncomfortable.

Similarly, some cleansers can contain astringents, which can sting and burn sensitive individuals.

Your skin type determines the type of cleanser you must use. Selecting one that is most tailored to your skin will enhance the benefits and eliminate the risks.

3. What are your associated problems?

No one has perfect skin. Hormones, pollutants, the sun, and the weather wreak havoc and causes people to have issues. This could be acne, scarring, blemishes, fine lines, sun damage, dry patches, and the list goes on.

Some of us might have large pores that require toning cleansers. Others have blackheads that need a stronger cleanser. Cleansers are formulated to deal with multiple problems now and not just “cleanse.”

Identify your problem areas and choose a cleanser that serves both functions.

4. Are you sensitive?

Skin reacts differently to different ingredients. Some might handle a dose of antioxidants very well, while others might break out in hives with the same grapefruit extract. Others might find cucumber extract soothing, but it would be too much of an astringent to handle for many.

What are your sensitivities? If you had allergies before to any product, what ingredients caused you to develop a reaction.

5. Do you read product ingredients?

Spend time reading the ingredient list. If you have sensitive skin, you shouldn’t even purchase a product that has more than ten ingredients. Does alcohol dehydrate your skin? How about AHAs and BHAs? Are they too strong? Or has your skin been exposed to it before, so they are accustomed to it?

What about organic oils? Do they clog your pores, or are your pores large enough to aid the removal of impurities? Can you recognize animal ingredients on the label? Do you know what they are?

All these questions should prompt you to spend some time researching what goes into making your cleanser.

6. Do you prefer a certain texture?

Since skin varies in thickness among many people, there’s no telling what sort of formula you will like, even if you have identified your skin type. Lightweight formula versus a thick cream? Gel or serum? These are personal preferences.

The texture depends a lot on the hydration of our skin and the weather. Even if it’s summer and you have dry skin, you may not want a heavy cream that just sits on your skin without getting fully absorbed. Or a formula may be lightweight but leaves you with a residue and makes you feel oily after the wash.

Know what you like and how you want to feel after your face wash. Tight and squeaky clean or soft and supple.

7. What’s your budget?

We understand price matters. Cleansing is the first step in the skincare routine. For people who wear makeup or have jobs that require them, they will need more. On average, if you wash twice a day, you will need lots of cleansers all season long.

As you invest in a cleanser, you have to consider how much you’re going to spend.

For our list, this time, we’ve considered cleansers that are within an affordable range. The cruelty-free face washes will not burn a hole in your pocket, and many of them use simple ingredients sourced from the earth.

The 7 best cruelty-free face washes and cleansers

Here’s our list of the best cruelty-free face washes and cleansers on the market right now. There’s something for everyone.

Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser (Best for skin tone)

Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Formulated to brighten up the skin
  • Smoothens uneven skin tone
  • Stylish glass bottle

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Normal skin looking for exfoliation and cleansing.

Notable ingredients:

Strawberry seed oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and tomato extracts

Overview:

This is a popular cleanser by cruelty-free brand Indie Lee. At first glance, you wouldn’t quite get that cruelty-free impression. Perhaps because it looks kind of cosmetic.

But Indie Lee most certainly does not test their products (or any ingredients) on animals. The same goes for all their suppliers, and they do not sell skincare where animal testing is mandatory by law, such as in China. The same goes for all the cleansers we feature in this review.

First, let’s look at this one in more detail:

This cleanser contains all-natural ingredients but it has a unique goal compared to the average cleanser. It focuses on brightening up the skin by promoting an even skin tone and improving pigmentation.

Its main ingredients consist of strawberry seed oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and tomato extracts.

Looking into their ‘brightening benefits’, the strawberry seed oil is a very rich source of polyphenols, anthocyanins, and vitamins. As a result, it possesses a high total antioxidant capacity and provides a protective effect on skin cells against UVA-induced damage [3]. Strawberries are rich in Vitamin C (richer than oranges in fact!) making them really effective for brightening up the skin as Vitamin C is known for its incredible skin brightening abilities.

The Tomato extracts also contain Vitamin C, adding this way to the brightening effect provided by the strawberry seed oil, but also helping to smooth out uneven texture. Tomatoes’ Lycopene (carotenoid) possesses antioxidant properties and prevents photodamage of the skin, which reduces the effects of aging. Lastly, the hydrolyzed wheat protein helps to keep the skin at optimum hydration levels maintaining its balance.

If you like strawberries then I am sure you will love the naturally derived scent of Indie Lee’s Brightening Cleanser. It smells like fresh strawberries ready to be eaten. As for the packaging, it feels luxurious and as I said, it has that cosmetic look to it. The bottle is very premium and is made of glass. But handle with care as it will certainly break if you dropped it.

Using this cleanser I believe it provides great value for money. It helps to cleanse impurities and it is equally effective for makeup removal (including waterproof eye makeup). This is achieved in a lightweight, non-greasy texture. Just a pea-sized amount will get the job done.

Due to its all-natural formula, it is suitable for all skin types and particularly for those with an uneven skin tone. However, if you have very dry skin I’d recommend using Juice Beauty’s 2-in-1 Cleanser that’s on our list. This is because it offers greater moisturization properties due to the inclusion of aloe vera. Alternatively, if you are looking for a cleanser that addresses your acne, you might find boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser a more suitable option. It contains natural beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid), which is known for its effectiveness in reducing breakouts. For those who remove makeup, all of these cleansers are equally effective.

However, it is important to remember that when it comes to brightening the skin, Indie Lee stands out from the crowd! The ZELEN Life Cleanser is also a good option for illuminating the skin with a lower risk of dryness.

The price point for its bottle size of 4 fl oz / 125ml makes this cleanser a little bit on the expensive side. However, for what you get in return I would say it is totally worth it.

Pro tip:

Consider using this cleanser as an exfoliating mask from time to time. Simply leave it on for 5 minutes before rinsing.

The good:

  • Brightens the skin- it works!
  • Great makeup removal action
  • Fruity formula with a vibrant scent
  • Suitable for all skin types

Things to think about:

  • Comes in a glass bottle
  • Can dry the skin in some individuals

Bottom line:

Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser is a great cleanser that succeeds in brightening up the skin, provides great makeup removal action, and doubles over as an exfoliating mask.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

ZELEN Life Cleanser (Best for clean skincare)

ZELEN Life Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Handmade formulated with premium organic ingredients
  • Unisex and suitable for all skin types
  • Cruelty-free and premium eco-friendly packaging

The best face wash/cleanser for:

All skin types, and natural skincare enthusiasts who are looking to take care of their skin with a product that contains pure botanical ingredients.

Notable ingredients:

Jojoba, aloe vera, sunflower.

Overview:

If I had to sum up the ZELEN Life Cleanser in a few words, I’d say it is a product that grasps the essence of nature.

Let’s look at why:

Well, it is enriched with a blend of organic plant-based ingredients. The ones that grab my attention are, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, and aloe vera. The active botanicals are all packed with essential vitamins and antioxidants that improve your skin’s health in many ways.

Jojoba fights wrinkles, speeds up the skin’s healing process, prevents the build-up of natural oil (sebum) on the surface while balancing hormones on the skin—a fantastic ingredient for those who are prone to blemishes. Sunflower retains moisture to keep the skin hydrated for a more extended period. It absorbs quickly to form a protective layer on the surface. This helps the skin become less sensitive and more resilient against damage.

Aloe vera helps restore the skin’s natural pH balance. It is an anti-aging powerhouse. Studies have shown that aloe vera increases collagen production, which helps to reduce scarring, regenerate skin cells and improve elasticity.[2] It is also a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.

A smell of nature:

I just adore this raw floral/citrusy scent. It smells light and fresh, like a spring morning. It’s not overpowering compared to other organic products that I used. This aroma really compliments the luxurious feel that this product is going for. The packaging is really calling out the word ”premium” to me. Plus, the matte-silver pump bottle is very convenient in terms of dosage. Just a dime-sized amount on your fingertip is enough to get a thorough cleanse. The pump bottle is also airless, which means that no contaminants can enter the product. A big plus for hygiene and welcome news for acne sufferers, as it prevents the growth of bacteria.

The end result of this blend is a lightweight cream that doesn’t have a greasy texture. Even though it’s gentle, it’s powerful enough to unblock the pores of daily debris, and leave the skin refreshed and balanced. It is suitable for all skin types including sensitive skin, due to the absence of harmful chemicals. However, it is important to note that even though this cleanser is less likely to cause any skin irritation, if you are allergic to any of the ingredients, it is advisable to use another product from this list.

While this product contains natural anti-aging properties (such as vitamin C), if you are looking for a stronger action then you might find the DERMAdoctor Wrinkle Revenge Cleanser a better option for you. It contains AHA (alpha-hydroxy-acid) which is a potent anti-aging ingredient. Just be sure that your can skin can tolerate a more aggressive action.

Similarly, I think this cleanser is great for keeping the occasional blemishes at bay. But if you are prone to regular breakouts and want a more powerful anti-acne solution, then you should consider boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser instead.

The price tag of the ZELEN Life Cleanser may be a bit high for some. If you are looking for a comparable option that is more “budget-friendly” then consider Mario Badescu’s Cucumber Cleansing Lotion from our list. It offers a larger volume at 16 fl oz / 472 ml compared to ZELEN Life’s 3.4 fl oz / 100 ml. However, it does contain alcohol and artificial fragrance which doesn’t quite capture that same essence of nature.

The good:

  • Oil-balancing formula prevents the build-up of sebum
  • Regenerates the skin and reduces scarring
  • Keeps the skin hydrated and neutralizes free radical damage
  • Cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, of course!

Things to think about:

  • Contains organic oils which may not appeal to some

Bottom line:

The ZELEN Life Cleanser is a great all-around natural cleanser. It has a gentle, lightweight formula that produces a powerful action to purify the skin while offering anti-aging and anti-acne benefits.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser (Best for deep hydration)

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Multi-purpose cleanser that also helps tone skin. Hence the name, 2-in-1
  • Superior hydration
  • Anti-aging

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those looking for a hydrating cleanser for their dry skin.

Notable ingredients:

Lemon juice, apple juice, grape juice, aloe vera

Overview:

Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular 2-in-1 is a cleanser that offers great moisturization capabilities while deeply cleansing impurities (and removing makeup, if required).

It contains organic ingredients. Let’s analyze the most noted ones:

Aloe leaf juice is high in glycoproteins and has hydrating and calming properties that help the skin to retain its natural moisture. The hydration from aloe is enhanced by the organic vegetable glycerin and algae extract.

Lemon Juice is rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C which assist in lightening up the skin while reducing skin damage, inflammation, and acne scars. The malic acid from the apple juice is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It is a potent alpha-hydroxy acid that helps promote healthy skin. The grape juice and the grape seed oil extracts are rich in resveratrol.

Resveratrol helps to protect the skin from different hazardous environmental factors and also helps reduces the effect of wrinkles and fine lines. It is has been shown scientifically that grape extracts can release endothelial growth factor.[4] This promotes healing, causing skin wounds to contract and close due to its antibacterial properties. However, even though this cleanser is marketed for all skin types it is not suitable for sensitive skin. Resveratrol-rich grapes can burn and sting those prone to irritation.

All in all, Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser has a great combination of organic ingredients that offer great moisturization, reduce wrinkles and fight acne. Its texture is more on the lightweight side but if you are looking for something even lighter, we have several options in this review. Applying a small amount is all you need for clean skin that would smell fresh due to its citrus grapefruit scent.

The packaging however is nothing fancy with a lot of people reporting problems with the pump. (Although this didn’t happen to me!). Nevertheless, I would agree that the packaging doesn’t reflect the price tag of this product. I would expect a higher quality pump bottle, such as ZELEN Life’s. However, you do get a higher quantity with Juice Beauty at 4.5 fl oz / 133 ml.

If I had to sum up this cleanser in one word, I’d have to say “ultra-hydrating”. Or is that two words?! I think it is superior to the ZELEN Life Cleanser in this area, however, if you have sensitive skin you may prefer ZELEN Life’s as the organic formula has a more gentle action.

While the manufacturer advertises this cleanser as specifically formulated to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. I believe it is not as good in this department as DERMAdoctor’s Wrinkle Revenge. This is because it offers stronger anti-aging and anti-acne action due to the inclusion of AHA glycolic acid.

Lastly, for the makeup users out there–While this cleanser does a good job in removing makeup, for stronger action you might want to take another look at Indie Lee’s Cleanser.

The good:

  • Hydrates and soothes with aloe, algae, and organic vegetable glycerin
  • Rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C
  • Grape juice and grape seed oil extracts help reduce wrinkles (but have realistic expectations!)
  • Antibacterial and wound-healing action

Things to think about:

  • Can cause allergic reactions
  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

Bottom line:

Overall, Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser is a great cleanser that provides great hydration, good antiaging, and makeup removal action. A reliable all-rounder.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser (Best for acne)

Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Acne-focused
  • Contains a natural version of salicylic acid
  • Playful skincare brand

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Blemish-prone skin with hyperpigmentation and dark spots.

Notable ingredients:

Willow bark extract, rosemary leaf extract, geranium, jojoba oil

Overview:

If you never experience a bout of blemishes, then count yourself lucky. The chances are, acne will affect each and every one of us at some point in our lives.

So it’s a good job that there are cruelty-free cleansers on the markets that target our breakouts, such as boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser. This gentle cleansing gel is formulated with natural ingredients that (yes, you guessed it) are specifically for acne-prone skin.

The willow bark extract contains salicin. Basically, the natural version of synthetic salicylic acid. Thus, willow bark can offer similar benefits without the synthetic salicylic acid’s drawbacks, which are irritation and dryness to sensitive skin. It also provides a gentle exfoliation, promoting healthier-looking skin and tightens up the pores making their appearance smaller. Based on studies, it can also reduce the visible signs of skin aging when applied topically [5] and assist in locking in moisture keeping the skin hydrated.

The rosemary leaf extract improves circulation while also acting as a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This helps blemishes and can also alleviate skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. The geranium extract improves skin elasticity by increasing circulation and balancing sebum development. Geranium’s antibacterial and antiseptic properties are also worth mentioning as they are vital in combating acne. Jojoba fights wrinkles, balances hormones on the skin, and like geranium balances sebum, making it an essential ingredient for those who suffer from blemishes.

I am finding it difficult to be critical of this product.

If you have oily acne-prone skin you will find this cleanser really effective (even if your skin is on the more sensitive side). However, if you have dry (or sensitive-dry) acne-prone skin then it is suggested to use a cleanser that provides superior hydration while still being able to combat acne.

Clear complexion? Check! What about user experience?

The texture of the gel is very lightweight and foamy while its scent is fresh but not overpowering. From its ingredients, you can definitely distinguish the rosemary and geranium in its aroma. The packaging and bottle give a minimalistic feel which perfectly makes a basic look, appear more luxurious.  Also, the pump makes it easy to measure how much you should apply.

Even though boscia presents a fun image (i.e., their slogan – “products that are made for play”), they mean serious business when it comes to ethics. Their products are cruelty, vegan-friendly and chemical-free.

Pro tip:

One pump is all you need. Simple as that!

The good:

  • Gently exfoliates and helps prevents acne
  • Minimizes dark spots
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
  • Balances the production of sebum
  • Improves skin elasticity

Things to think about:

  • Might dry out the skin for some

Bottom line:

boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser is a face wash suitable for those dealing with blemishes, pigmentation, and dark spots. I like this product and I’m sure you will too.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion (Best for on a budget)

Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Cucumber-inspired
  • Can be used as a toner
  • Tightens pores

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Budget-conscious individuals with large pores that need toning.

Notable ingredients:

Cucumber Extract, 4% Alcohol

Overview:

Describing the Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion comes easy. The words micellar water instantly come to mind.

Its main ingredients are just cucumber extract and 4% alcohol.

The cucumber extract is a refreshing, disinfecting astringent. Many reviews reveal the phytochemical benefits of cucumber extract. It reduces irritation and swelling, alleviates sunburn [6], and also assists in soothing the skin. Isopropyl alcohol helps to kill and prevent bacteria on the skin. It disinfects the skin’s surface, thoroughly cleaning to prevent future acne breakouts, and also removes pore-clogging residue.

However, it is important to note that alcohol can be slightly dehydrating for some and it can cause irritations specifically on sensitive and dry skin types. While this is a popular product and used by many with no issues. It is advisable to avoid it if your skin is prone to irritation. If that’s you, you might be better off with a hydrating cleanser such as Juice Beauty’s Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser. Similar to this product, it can also double up as a toner.

I consider this a standard, “out of the box” kind of cleanser. It’s not going to win any awards but on the other hand, what you see is what you get.

It’s reliable and affordable. In fact, this is the most budget-friendly cleanser we have on our list. The bottle size which is 16 fl oz / 472 ml is huge for the price tag, but it is important to note that the bottle design is on the basic side compared to our other options.

As for the scent, I found that the alcohol smells a little bit too much for my taste. So if it is an important factor for you, then you are better of with any other cleanser. For example, if you like a more fruity scent, the Indie Lee Cleanser is lovely with its strawberry smell. If you are looking for a more floral/citrus scent then you might find ZELEN Life Cleanser more suitable. Or, if you like more of a honey-based scent then the Hey Honey Cleansing Foam is more for you.

The good:

  • Has astringent properties, so it works as a toner too
  • Evens out the skin tone and complexion
  • Unclogs pores and residue leaving the skin looking brighter
  • Tried and trusted brand

Things to think about:

  • Has fragrance
  • Contains alcohol

Bottom line:

This budget-friendly Cucumber Cleansing Lotion by Mario Badescu should not be underestimated. It’s a generous size and doubles up as a toner. On the other hand, it’s not going to revolutionize your routine. If you are looking for some skincare excitement, this one is unlikely to fully satisfy you.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Hey Honey Don’t Miss A Spot Fresh Honey Cleansing Foam (Best for shaving)

Hey Honey Don’t Miss A Spot Fresh Honey Cleansing Foam


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Targets acne
  • Foamy texture
  • Honey is at the forefront of its formula

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Combination and oily skin that is prone to redness and acne.

Notable ingredients:

Bee propolis, honeysuckle, green tea

Overview:

Hey honey, I’m home…

Hey Honey’s Don’t Miss A Spot Fresh Honey Cleansing Foam is a silky, daily cleansing foam enriched with honey extract and vitamin B5.

Ingredients:

Bee propolis is an antimicrobial that has numerous wound healing properties making it great for reducing acne breakouts. Honeysuckle is rich in antioxidants, which protect the skin from free radicals that cause damage and premature aging. Studies have shown that honeysuckle reduces inflammatory cytokines [7]. It also promotes greater tissue regeneration, more fibroblasts, and the formation of new blood vessels, which aids in healing. Green tea balances and controls sebum on your skin, protects against harsh environmental substances, and assists both with acne and aging.

The texture of this propolis-inspired cleanser (which may come as a bit of a surprise), is actually very lightweight and nongreasy,

The packaging is minimalistic but more on the premium side, which is something I would expect for this price tag. However, the scent while not unpleasant is a little bit strong for my taste. For others, it may not be a bad thing. If I would describe it, I would describe it as sweet with hints of honey and lavender. I believe lavender is a “love it or hate it” kind of smell.

Which camp are you in?

If you are looking for a cleanser with a lighter scent, then turn your attention to DERMAdoctor’s Wrinkle Revenge Cleanser or the ZELEN Life Cleanser.

Like other cleansers on our list, it has the ability to calm irritated skin. Interestingly, where I think this cleanser comes into its own, is when you use it for shaving. Its unique foamy texture can double up as a shaving cream (or aftershave). It has the capacity to prevent possible skin irritations when let’s face it, during an action where the risk of irritation is at its highest.

It can also serve as a gentle makeup remover but only a light amount. If you are looking for the real deal, there are better options in our review.

Finally, a decent size at 5 fl oz / 150 ml, and as a foam, it will feel like it lasts forever!

The good:

  • Honey has an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic effect
  • Useful as a blemish treatment
  • Leaves skin soft and bright
  • Good for shaving

Things to think about:

  • It can dry out the skin
  • Too gentle, and so doesn’t work for  heavy makeup removal

Bottom line:

Hey Honey Don’t Miss A Spot foamy cleanser is useful in many departments but does not excel in one particular area. If you are prone to blemishes and have difficulties shaving, this product will benefit you the most.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

DERMAdoctor Wrinkle Revenge Cleanser (Best for anti-aging)

DERMAdoctor Wrinkle Revenge Cleanser


Analysis:

MoisturizingMoisturizing
Drying Drying
Moisturizing Moisturizing
Balanced

FormulaFormula
Artifical Artifical
Natural Natural
Balanced

SensitivitySensitivity
Non-Sensitive Non-Sensitive
Sensitive Sensitive
Balanced

ThicknessThickness
Lightweight Lightweight
Thick Thick
Balanced

GreasinessGreasiness
Non-Greasy Non-Greasy
Greasy Greasy
Balanced

ScentScent
Unscented Unscented
Strong Strong
Balanced

PackagingPackaging
Basic Basic
Premium Premium
Balanced

PricePrice
Low Low
High High
Balanced

Checklist:

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF

Unique features:

  • Attacks wrinkles and can help acne
  • Contains AHA’s, exfoliates the skin giving it a radiant glow
  • Oil-free for those with oily to combination skin

The best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with aging skin and want to improve wrinkles and fine lines.

Notable ingredients:

AHA glycolic acid, white tea leaf extract, pomegranate extract.

Overview:

Last but by no means least, let’s look at a great anti-aging option. Introducing, the DERMAdoctor Wrinkle Revenge Cleanser.

Fighting wrinkles can feel like fighting a losing battle. Raise your hand, anyone wanting to exact revenge? I thought so! Let’s consider if this cleanser should be your “weapon of choice”.

Main ingredients:

AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) glycolic acid is a plant-derived acid (from sugar cane) that offers a tremendous amount of benefits. It acts as an exfoliator to the skin to remove dead skin cells. Dead skin cells build up with aging and enhance the appearance of wrinkles, acne, and fine lines. So removing them makes the skin look younger and fresher. Studies have shown that using AHA for approximately three weeks can result in a significant reduction of the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The white tea leaf extract in skincare is known to reduce sebum production. It is also effective in enhanced skin microcirculation and photoprotection against harmful UV irradiation.[8] Pomegranate extract is rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants which also assist in combating the effects of aging.

The evidence suggests this blend of ingredients is a potent age-defying formula. Unfortunately, wrinkles do not disappear overnight whatever product you use. For me to give a thorough opinion on this product I would need to try it daily for at least 3-6 months. However, the early signs were good. After 2-3 weeks my fine lines did seem less visible. There was certainly a strong exfoliating action with this product that kickstarted my sluggish skin back into life. It felt re-energized and looked luminous.

A word of caution:

Due to its alpha-hydroxy acid content, this cleanser can come with a risk of sunburn. This is because it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and as such, the possibility of sunburn is greater. While using this product ensure you have sunscreen in your routine, preferably above SPF 30+ and limit your exposure to direct sunlight.

The downside of this strong action is that it can be a bit irritating to the skin. This is not an issue that’s unique to this cleanser. It comes with the territory when using anything that contains AHAs.

If you are looking for something less aggressive that still has some anti-aging benefits, then ZELEN Life’s Cleanser is more suitable for you. But don’t expect the same short-term results that this product offers. Even though this product is cruelty-free, be aware that it does contain chemicals, such as parabens and sulfates. If you are sensitive to any of these chemicals I would advise you to avoid this product and pick an alternative organic option like Juice Beauty’s or ZELEN Life’s.

The texture of the product is pretty lightweight and does have a subtle scent (even though it is marketed as unscented). It is a little bit greasier than the other options on the list but not by much. The bottle design is very basic though and it almost feels like it is very easy to break.

The good:

  • Acts as an exfoliant and mini peel
  • Brightens the skin
  • Glycolic acid keep acne at bay and prevents breakouts

Things to think about:

  • Not for sensitive skin
  • Can cause sunburn if skin is left unprotected
  • Contains parabens
  • The packaging is very delicate and breaks easily

Bottom line:

The exfoliating action of DERMAdoctor’s Cleanser helps you get revenge on those dreaded wrinkles. But, be prepared for some sensitivity and dryness. Keep your SPF nearby!

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

How we chose these products

First, we had to look at whether the cleansers we chose were not just vegan or organic but also cruelty-free. We also looked for the leaping bunny label or the bunnies for beauty labels by PETA. The cleansers on our list are not tested on animals in any way.

We also looked at something that would cover every skin type. Some of the cleansers can double up as toners and exfoliating masks.

Win!

It was important to find cleansers that also improved other problems. This included acne prevention, sebum control, improvement of blemishes, diminishes fine lines, countering sun damage, and improving skin tone.

We also tried to choose cleansers with different textures, since that matters to a lot of people. Our focus was on ingredients. For the ones that contain alcohol, we’ve listed the ingredients so that you can read them and choose for yourself.

Finally, we looked at the price. We chose cleansers that were within an affordable price range, suitable for many without breaking the bank.

Frequently asked questions

What is a cruelty-free face wash?

A cruelty-free face wash means the face wash or cleanser has not been tested on animals in any way. This means that there’s no acute toxicity testing, eye or skin irritation testing, no carcinogen testing, no sensitivity testing on the skin, and no developmental testing on animals.

Does animal friendly and cruelty-free mean the same thing?

Not necessarily. Animal-friendly means that the cosmetic in question didn’t harm the animals tested. It does not mean that they didn’t suffer any side effects. Cruelty-free means animals weren’t used for testing. The synthetic human epidermis was used instead.

How can you tell a cleanser is cruelty-free?

Face washes and cleansers usually carry a label saying that they haven’t been tested on animals. They also carry the leaping bunnies or bunnies without the beauty logo. This is a good label of authenticity that signifies the brand carried out no animal testing.

Leaping Bunny was founded in 1996 to make it easier for consumers. They created consistent labeling with standards that lived up to the code of ethics. To receive the Leaping Bunny accreditation, a product must be 100% free of all animal testing, and every ingredient in the product must not be tested on animals.

What is a cleanser?

This is the first step in your skincare routine. Not all cleansers require you to wash before your cleanse. However, before you apply any serum or moisturizer, you want to unclog the pores and get rid of any dirt, makeup, and bacteria. If you want to start with a clean canvas, a cleanser is your first step.

How is a cleanser different from a face wash?

A face wash foams while a cleanser is more gel or creamy like and does not foam. Some are thin and require only a cotton pad without any water or dampness to begin with.

How to use a cleanser?

You must use a cleanser before toning and moisturizing your skin. This could be applied dry to the skin and then rinsed off. It could be applied via a cotton pad to cleanse or worked up as a lather on wet skin.

How many times a day can I use a cleanser?

You can use it twice a day at most. Many cruelty-free cleansers are gentle. Some may be drying, so use them only once. Every wash removes some moisture and the upper layer of the epidermis from the skin. Cleansers can add more moisture or dehydrate depending on the skin type.

When’s the best time to cleanse?

Ideally, before you apply any makeup in the morning, you should cleanse. Before going to bed, cleanse again. If you’re repeatedly applying makeup, then you may want to start with a clean slate and cleanse as needed.

How do you choose a cleanser?

We’ve highlighted a few things to know before you choose a cleanser at the beginning. To pick the right cleanser, you have to know your skin type. For dry skin types, natural oils like jojoba and sunflower can add that moisture back. Many cleansers have dual actions, and you can pick one that serves both.

Do I use my hands to cleanse?

You must wash your hands first. Use clean hands to wash your face. Alternatively, you can use a brush. However, a facial brush works well only with foaming cleansers that lather well.

Do oils clog pores?

Some oils may clog pores. However, many oils in cleansers go through a process called saponification, so they will not clog your pores. Also, look out for oils that are “non-comedogenic,” which means they do not clog pores—for example, jojoba oil.

What is the best water temperature while cleansing?

The best option is to use lukewarm water. Cold water closes your pores, and hot water causes them to open. If you want to steam your face once a week before cleansing, that’s fine. But after you use your face wash, spread an ice cube over your face to close the pores.

After cleansing, should I air dry or towel dry?

Pat dry your skin and avoid any rubbing.

What happens if I develop a reaction?

It is natural to see an initial reaction to a new product. You might experience some tingling, burning, and heat. As new skin comes through and brings to the surface underlying bacteria and clogged pores, you may even breakout.

However, if it’s been a week and you’re still experiencing symptoms, discontinue the product immediately. Other signs of irritation include redness and itching.

Before you discontinue the product, thoroughly read the expiration date, and make sure you’ve purchased an authentic product from a verified vendor. Try using the product again if possible, and if you do develop a reaction a second time, then it is best to discard the product.

How to deal with a reaction?

Stop the product. If you have hives or swollen lips, seek medical help as you may need a steroid to calm the inflammation. Avoid any products on your face. Drink lots of water and use a cold compress.

Conclusion

Have you made the switch to cruelty-free skincare?

If yes, tell us what’s the best cruelty-free face wash and cleanser that you’ve used and why.

If not, then what are you waiting for? We’ve provided you with a comprehensive list of products to consider.

Switch over to the other side and see how plant-based cosmetics sourced from the earth with natural, organic ingredients can benefit your skin.

Did you find this article useful? Enter your email to receive subscriber-only skincare advice to help you perfect your routine and achieve radiant skin. Get tips and tricks, how to's and exclusive offers direct to your inbox...

References

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Annual Report Animal Usage by Fiscal Year,” 27 September 2018.
  2. Cho S, Lee S, Lee MJ, et al. Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity, and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo. Ann Dermatol. 2009;21(1):6-11. doi:10.5021/ad.2009.21.1.6
  3. Gasparrini M, Forbes-Hernandez TY, Afrin S, et al. A Pilot Study of the Photoprotective Effects of Strawberry-Based Cosmetic Formulations on Human Dermal Fibroblasts. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(8):17870-17884. Published 2015 Aug 4. doi:10.3390/ijms160817870
  4. Hemmati AA, Foroozan M, Houshmand G, Moosavi ZB, Bahadoram M, Maram NS. The topical effect of grape seed extract 2% cream on surgery wound healing. Glob J Health Sci. 2014;7(3):52-58. Published 2014 Oct 29. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v7n3p52
  5. Gopaul R, Knaggs HE, Lephart JF, Holley KC, Gibson EM. An evaluation of the effect of a topical product containing salicin on the visible signs of human skin aging. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010;9(3):196-201. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00512.x
  6. Mukherjee PK, Nema NK, Maity N, Sarkar BK. Phytochemical and therapeutic potential of cucumber. Fitoterapia. 2013;84:227-236. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2012.10.003
  7. Chen WC, Liou SS, Tzeng TF, Lee SL, Liu IM. Wound repair and anti-inflammatory potential of Lonicera japonica in excision wound-induced rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12:226. Published 2012 Nov 23. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-226
  8. Koch W, Zagórska J, Marzec Z, Kukula-Koch W. Applications of Tea (Camellia sinensis) and its Active Constituents in Cosmetics. Molecules. 2019;24(23):4277. Published 2019 Nov 24. doi:10.3390/molecules24234277
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About The Author

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Doctor and Seasoned Medical Writer

Doctor of Medicine MD (Angeles University College of Medicine)

United States

Pamela Q. Fernandes is a doctor and medical writer. Born and raised in Kuwait, she graduated from Angeles University College of Medicine, Philippines in 2007. Soon after that, she started her career as a medical writer and physician. Pamela is an advocate of preventive health, rural medicine, women’s health and tele-medicine having been active in these roles for the majority of her decade long career in medicine. As a seasoned medical writer, she has worked with many medical publishing houses and doctors, as well as pharmaceuticals, hospitals and practices. She specializes in training material for doctors and patient education material. As an academic writer, she is a qualified writer of articles for medical journals, case reports and medical presentations.

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