The 6 Best Sulfate-Free Facial Washes (& Cleansers)

If you buy through external links, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure in full.

The 6 Best Sulfate-Free Facial Washes (& Cleansers)
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE

ZELEN Life Cleanser

BEST FOR MAKEUP REMOVAL

Klorane Micellar Water

As a society, we are moving towards more natural products that are not only environmentally friendly, but they are also beneficial for our skin.

One movement has been away from sulfate products, which are frequently found in cleansers such as shampoos and face washes.

While in the past, it was uncommon to find a sulfate-free cleanser. Now it tends to be the “go-to” product for most people and what most skincare brands strive for when creating a product that is both consumer-friendly, environmentally-friendly, and effective simultaneously.

Well, you are in luck:

Because today, we will share with you scientifically approved sulfate-free products that are also effective face washes and cleansers.

As sulfate is an irritant and also a common allergen, it is important to be aware of the best sulfate-free facial washes and cleansers.

In this review, we will be touching over the 6 best sulfate-free facial washes and cleansers, how we chose them, pros and cons, and frequently asked questions.

Quick summary

Before you buy: 5 Things to consider when purchasing a sulfate-free facial wash or cleanser

1. Make sure you know your skin type

Identify if your skin type is oily, dry, combination, or sensitive skin to determine which cleanser or wash may best suit your skin.

For example, if your skin is prone to acne, you may want to choose a cleanser for oily skin that is also non-comedogenic and oil-free, so that you don’t break out while using the cleanser or skincare product.

2. Identify goals you would like the cleanser to do for you

Think about what bothers you about your skin and what you would like to improve. Are you starting to develop fine lines, wrinkles, and signs of photoaging?

Perhaps you want a cleanser that also has a skin brightening and tightening effect to shave off some years and bring out your youthful side.

3. Know and understand the ingredients

Being knowledgeable and aware of all the ingredients helps to narrow down and bring out what you like and don’t like about the product.

If you are looking for protection from free radicals, which are widely present in our environment, choosing a product with several antioxidants helps accomplish this purpose.

4. Read reviews

Reading reviews and asking around to make sure the products are effective and well-liked by consumers is vital.

It is also essential to read through several reviews in-depth to make sure they are genuine and not fake (there are actually companies that pay their employees to write fake reviews – both good and bad, to highlight their company).

Thus doing your due diligence on product history and consumer reviews is important.

5. Ask your dermatologist

Suppose you suffer from a skin ailment or a dermatologic condition, and you have any doubts whether or not a particular item is ok to use. In that case, it is always best to ask your dermatologist for his/her opinion on adding this particular product to your skincare routine.

This is especially important if you have sensitive skin and are prone to many allergies or suffer from extensive rashes and allergic reactions to ingredients and allergens.

The 6 best sulfate-free facial washes and cleansers

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

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

Unique features:

  • Organic ingredients and chemical-free
  • Made by hand
  • Matte silver airless pump bottle

The best sulfate-free cleanser for:

For those who love clean skincare. It is suitable for all skin types, particularly sensitive and acne-prone skin.

Notable ingredients:

Jojoba, aloe vera, sunflower

Overview:

Sulfate is basically a chemical compound. If you are keen on a sulfate-free cleanser, the chances are you’re looking to avoid chemicals altogether. The ZELEN Life Cleanser is the polar opposite of what a chemical-based cleanser represents. It contains a blend of natural botanicals without any synthetic colors, fragrances, petrochemicals, and parabens. And of course, without sulfates.

Now we know what ingredients it doesn’t have. Let’s take a look at what ingredients it does have in this vitamin-rich botanical mix:

Jojoba has been used in dermatology for thousands of years. It is a clever ingredient that closely mimics the skin’s natural oil (sebum). This may sound simple but the benefits it brings are vast. When jojoba is applied to the skin, it sends a message to the sebaceous glands that the skin is adequately hydrated and that they do not need to produce any more sebum.

This is why jojoba is known as a “sebum regulator”, as it ensures there is a natural balance. This helps to prevent acne outbreaks because the sebaceous glands are tricked into not overproducing sebum. This results in fewer clogged pores and less risk of acne. Jojoba also has anti-aging benefits. It is packed full of vitamins and antioxidants that help skin elasticity and speeds up its healing process, which slows down the signs of aging.(3)

Sunflower and its oils serve several purposes, including the retention of moisture so that the skin remains hydrated for a more extended period of time. It also absorbs rather quickly and makes the skin less sensitive, reducing inflammation and redness while neutralizing free radicals.(2)

Aloe vera has a moisturizing and anti-aging effect to help bind moisture into the skin. It stimulates collagen and elastin fibers to make the skin appear less wrinkled and more elastic. It also helps to soften the skin, by sticking epidermal superficial cells together. It improves the integrity of the skin, decreases redness and the appearance of fine wrinkles. Also, its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties have an anti-acne effect.(1)

How about texture?

Sulfates are often used in skincare as an emulsifier and surfactant. This gives products their texture and makes for a smoother application. Even though there are no sulfates present in the ZELEN Life Cleanser, I am a fan of its texture. It is lightweight and non-greasy but still has enough thickness to offer a creamy, cleansing experience.

Being chemical-free it is gentle and doesn’t overly dry or irritate the skin. Yet the active botanicals ensure that it offers a powerful deep-cleanse while remaining hydrating.

Even though this is a lightweight cream, if you are looking for something even thinner then you’ll be more suited to micellar water or a gel-based cleanser. You’ll see we have cleansers on our list that cover these two preferences–Klorane’s Micellar Water and boscia Cleansing Gel. The ZELEN Life Cleanser is a unisex product, but if you are a man looking for a gel with a stronger action, then taken a look at Baxter of California’s Cleanser.

I personally prefer a cleanser with a creamy texture. If you are the same but would rather not have to rinse it off after use, then you might like AHAVA’s All-In-One Cleanser. However, keep in mind it is not as natural as ZELEN Life’s and it is tested on animals.

ZELEN Life’s packaging is very premium-looking. I give it extra marks for the attention to detail with the silver features and accompanying carton. I believe it would complement anyone’s skincare collection, both males and females. The airless pump mechanism deserves a mention. Being airless, the cream is prevented from getting contaminated from the air, water, or daily dirt. This maintains good hygiene as contaminated creams run the risk of developing bacterial overgrowth, which can upset the skin.

Despite the packaging being a big plus in my book, the size of this cleanser is 3.4 fl oz / 100 ml. If you are looking for a comparable cleanser with a greater volume then consider Juice Beauty’s Cleanser, which is slightly bigger but also slightly more expensive.

How about the smell?

Consistent with ZELEN Life’s unisex approach, this cleanser comes with a delightful aroma of citrus. I think it also has a floral undertone but it’s very light. When applied it will feel and smell like your experiencing a spa day.

The good:

  • Gentle and conditioning formula that cleanses the skin while leaving it hydrated
  • Contains useful vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids to help with skin protection.
  • Cruelty-free and vegan-friendly, no animal testing performed
  • Non-comedogenic–helps prevent acne breakouts and oily skin
  • Chemical-free and hypoallergenic

Things to think about:

  • As with any non-comedogenic facial cleanser, balance the facial cleansing with good hydration and moisturization

Bottom line:

Not only is this a clean product. It keeps your skin clean too! The ZELEN Life Cleanser provides a deep cleanse while also moisturizing the skin. You can feel safe in the knowledge that it is sulfate-free. In fact, it’s totally chemical-free. Goodbye irritated skin.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser (Best for anti-aging)

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

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

Unique features:

  • Stem cellular–a blend of fruit stem cells
  • 2-in-1
  • Specially formulated for those concerned with skin aging and those who want help with skin toning

The best sulfate-free cleanser for:

Those with fine lines and wrinkles. It is also suitable for dry skin.

Notable ingredients:

Grapeseed, malic acid, aloe vera

Overview:

Feeling fruity? This sulfate-free cleanser by Juice Beauty lives up to its name. It is derived from fruit stem cells to specifically target wrinkles and fine lines.

All achieved by these ingredients:

Grapeseed oil is rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids. It is much revered in the skincare industry for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-aging characteristics. It also has a pleasant sensory effect and is beneficial to overall health. Its positive effects can be attributed to its constituents–mainly resveratrol, an antioxidant, linoleic acid, tocopherol, carotenoids, and polyphenols, which help boost the skin’s protection and defend it from the harm of free radicals.(4)

Malic acid is a form of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), one of the oldest tricks in the dermatology and skin care handbook. It is used in cosmetic formations as a superficial peeling agent, and also helps to improve the appearance of acne in dermatology. In addition, it is rich in vitamins and phytonutrients which are rich in antioxidants that help protect and promote resilient and radiant skin.(5)

Aloe vera is a succulent within the aloe family that is promoted for a variety of skin conditions. It helps wound healing and inflammation and can be beneficial in alleviating skin issues, such as dry skin, burns, irritation, acne, and psoriasis. Its soothing agents and glycoproteins cool and calm the skin and ensure it is hydrated.(6)

What is “stem cellular”?

The stem cellular aspect of this product is related to its formula. Juice Beauty claims that it is fused with fruit stem cells. Due to technological advances, it is now possible for scientists to extract actual cells from fruits and plants, and insert them into skincare products as active ingredients.

But why is this good for the skin? Well, stem cells naturally consist of antioxidants. These antioxidants can boost the skin’s production of collagen and encourage cellular turnover. Consequently, over time, this can promote more youthful skin with a better tone, texture, and fewer wrinkles.

In theory, I really like this unique feature. When we think of anti-aging skin care products, our usual “go-to’s” are moisturizers, night creams, and exfoliators. However, a cleanser can be a useful anti-aging add-on. Think about it–most of us use a cleanser at least twice a day. It presents a useful (yet often overlooked) opportunity to double down on our anti-aging endeavors. So if you are suffering from aging skin, why not seek the benefits of an anti-aging cleanser to support the rest of your anti-aging regimen.

That’s the theory. But does it work in practice?

Stem cellular or not, you should always have realistic expectations when it comes to any anti-aging product. The truth is, we can’t halt time. But we can try to slow down the rate at which our skin ages. With this in mind, I must say that I liked the results of this cleanser. My favorite element is that it also provides toning benefits. My skin felt firmer and my pores looked tighter. Refreshed skin instantly has a more youthful glow, and this cleanser provided that.

This cleanser is suitable for all skin types, particularly dry skin. One word of advice to those with sensitive skin, though. If you have very delicate skin, this cleanser is probably not for you. The resveratrol-rich grapes can affect those prone to irritation. If you are looking for a cleanser that brings anti-aging benefits with a more gentle formula, then the ZELEN Life Cleanser is more suitable for you. It is also a bit cheaper than this product. However, it is only 3.4 fl oz / 100 ml compared to Juice Beauty’s 4.5 fl oz / 133 ml.

As this product helps with skin toning, fine lines, and wrinkles, it is more geared towards mature skin. If you have youthful skin and are looking for a comparable cleanser without the need for toning, then boscia’s Cleansing Gel is perhaps a better choice. However, as it’s a gel, it is a little less moisturizing. Therefore boscia’s is more suitable for oilier skin than dry skin.

Other thoughts:

This cleanser has a lightweight texture. Despite being light on the skin, it is a decent makeup remover. It is marketed as a 2-in-1 (cleanser and toner), but I consider it a 3-in-1 (a makeup remover too.)

I am not that impressed with the packaging. I think they could have done better in this department. The bottle is not the most elegant and does not represent the true value of the cleansing cream that it holds inside. If I am paying a high price for a luxurious cream-based cleanser, I prefer a transparent bottle so I can see the luxury inside. For example, I think the ZELEN Life’s transparent bottle with matte-silver edgings is more premium-looking. On the other hand, Juice Beauty’s pump mechanism is more user-friendly and easier to dispense the cream.

If you are looking for a lower price entry, then you might prefer Klorane’s Micellar Water. Similar to Juice Beauty, it offers a cleanser, toner, and makeup remover in one. It is slightly cheaper and offers greater volume at 13.5 fl / 400 ml. But the bottle itself is nothing to get excited about.

The good:

  • Powerful anti-aging cleanser
  • Formulated without artificial dyes, synthetic fragrances, pesticides, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfates, petroleum, parabens, propylene glycol, and butylene glycol
  • Resveratrol-rich grapeseed
  • Helps to tone and refresh the skin

Things to think about:

  • Since it helps with skin toning, fine lines, and wrinkles, it may provide too much skin toning for younger skin that does not yet have signs of aging.

Bottom line:

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular is a sulfate-free 2-in-1 cleanser. It provides a deep cleanse and moisturizing action. It also helps target those concerned with skin toning, fine lines, and wrinkles through its unique formulation containing vitamin C, fruit stem cells, and organic ingredients such as resveratrol-rich grapeseed.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

Klorane Micellar Water (Best for makeup removal)

Klorane Micellar Water


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

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

Unique features:

  • Sesnstive, ph balanced micellar water
  • 3-in-1
  • Large quantity–13.5 fl oz / 400 ml

The best sulfate-free cleanser for:

Those looking to remove makeup and for cleansing around the eyes.

Notable ingredients:

Organically farmed cornflower water

Overview:

Sulfate can irritate the skin and facial features. But just because a product is sulfate-free, does not guarantee that it is sensitive enough not to irritate delicate areas such as the eyes.

Unless your name is Klorane’s Micellar Water. This sulfate-free micellar cleansing water is suitable for the lips, eyes, and the rest of the face. Klorane is a brand that commits to plant-based products and this product is formulated with organically farmed cornflower water.

The versatile nature of cornflower makes it a good multi-tasker–skin soother and skin conditioner. It is an astringent with toning properties that helps to firm and tighten the skin. While being hydrating to dry skin and providing cooling benefits to areas of irritation. Cornflowers contain anthocyanins, which bring potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-radical benefits. It is a skin purifier that can clear the skin of dirt, oils, impurities (and makeup), as well as offering comfort to tired, dry, and puffy eyes.

Ultra-gentle?

Absolutely! This water has a similar pH that is found in our tears. Thus, it is hypoallergenic and safe around the eyes by dermatologists and ophthalmologists (eye doctors).(7) I found that it is so geared toward sensitive skin, it doesn’t need rinsing off. It is suitable for all skin types and particularly sensitive skin.

Makeup users, look here:

This is an ideal cleanser for those who are looking to effectively remove makeup.  As mentioned above, it is very good around your eyes. Even those who wear contact lenses should be able to tolerate this product.

What else:

A great plus about this micellar water is its size. It is a hefty 13.5 fl oz / 400 ml which represents great value for money. The packaging is nothing special, in fact, it is pretty basic. But you should take into account the low price tag. Whatsmore, it is made from recyclable plastic. So not only is it budget-friendly, it’s environmentally friendly too.

However, if you are looking for a cleanser with recycled packaging but simply looks better, then you might prefer boscia’s Cleansing Gel. It is also similar in areas, such as, how hydrating and how natural it is. They also have the same price point, however, boscia is a smaller size at 5 fl oz / 150 ml.

Similar to Juice Beauty’s Cleanser, I like that this micellar water is a cleanser, toner, and makeup remover all-in-one. Juice Beauty offers more moisturizing and anti-aging benefits than this product but it is not as good for sensitive skin.

The good:

  • No-rinse micellar cleansing water with a pH is similar to that of tears
  • Reduces irritation in the skin, helpful for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Dermatologist-tested, ophthalmologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and vegan
  • Sulfate-free, fragrance-free, oil-free, MIT-free, alcohol-free, silicone-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, phenoxyethanol-free
  • Made from recycled packaging

Things to think about:

  • Although it is suitable for individuals who wear contact lenses, is ophthalmologist-tested, and can be safely used around the eyes, it is best to remove contact lenses to thoroughly cleanse the eyes.

Bottom line:

Klorane Micellar Water is a gentle no-rinse sulfate-free micellar cleanser. It cleanses skin while serving as a toner, and makeup remover. It is suitable to use on the face, lips, and around the eyes. It contains a unique plant-based formula with organic cornflower water and has a balanced pH to reduce irritation on the skin.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.5 Overall Score

boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel (Best for oily skin)

 boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel


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

Paraben-free
Paraben-free
Hypoallergenic
Hypoallergenic
Non-Comedogenic
Non-Comedogenic
Cruelty-free
Cruelty-free
Vegan
Vegan
SPF
SPF
  • Helps against free radical damage through antioxidant properties
  • Natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits
  • Purifies the skin and minimizes pores

The best sulfate-free cleanser for:

Those with oily skin. It is also suitable for sensitive skin.

Notable ingredients:

Botanical amino acids, hydrangea leaf, green tea, willow herb extract

Overview:

When looking for a cleanser we all have one thing in common – we want it to be purifying to our skin. boscia has hit the nail on the head with the naming of this product. But a name is one thing. Whether it is up to the job is another.

Let’s dig deeper:

boscia (short for, botanical + science) uses a formula of natural botanical ingredients. Botanical extracts are widely used in cosmeceuticals and topical formulations in the support of skin health, texture, and integrity of the skin, hair, and nails. They fulfill today’s demand for natural products. These plant extracts helped form the basis of ancient medical treatments, many of which are used in skincare products today.(11)

Green tea is a potent anti-inflammatory that can help calm a range of skin concerns by reducing irritation, redness, and damage. It is packed with antioxidants that help protect the skin from free radicals that attack healthy skin cells and wreak havoc on our complexion. Studies have shown that topical application of green tea extracts could be effective for various skin concerns, such as aging, acne, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis, although further research is needed to confirm its full potential.(10)

Hydrangea leaf extract has positive effects on skin moisturization and diminishing wrinkles in the skin. It has been studied and investigated with an assessment of several parameters, including roughness, skin texture, elasticity, hydration, and wrinkles. Over time, the appearance of wrinkles in studies has shown improvement, and skin hydration has been significantly enhanced. Thus, it has been used as a supplement for anti-aging effects on the skin.(12)

Willow extract may help to reduce visible signs of skin aging, including pigmentary changes, lack of firmness, poor skin texture, wrinkles, dryness, and enlarged pores. It is a potent anti-inflammatory agent in its oral form and is believed to have anti-aging properties when applied topically to the skin.(9)

Skin purifying test = Passed!

This cleanser offers a gel-based texture. If you are the same as me and prefer a creamier cleanser, then you will find other options on this list more suitable. Such as ZELEN Life’s and Juice Beauty’s. But don’t discount this cleansing gel just yet. If you have oily skin, I think you’ll like this product a lot. It produces a nice lather and does not have a drying effect on the skin, which is often the case with products of this type.

Many cleansers that are formulated for oily skin often have a drying effect, which can actually be counterproductive. They remove excess oil on the skin but in the process, they can also rid the skin of the moisture it needs to function correctly. The result is an imbalance of skin oil. This imbalance can trigger the skin to produce more oil. And as many of us who suffer from breakouts know, an overproduction of skin oil (sebum) can lead to blocked pores and acne.

In my opinion, boscia’s Purifying Cleanser clears the pores and removes excess oil without stripping the skin of moisture. I’m sure this is sound news to those with oily, acne-prone skin.

As a brand, I like boscia’s fun and playful approach to skincare. So, I am a fan of their minimal yet quirky and colorful packaging. But I appreciate it will not be to everyone’s taste. This is backed up with user reviews. There are mixed opinions of this bottle online. If you are looking for a premium bottle then this one is not for you.

But where it falls with a luxurious feel, it rises high from an ethical standpoint. The packaging is made with recyclable materials. Top marks for being environmentally conscious.

The good:

  • Gel produces nice lather
  • Enjoyable cleansing experience: Rids skin of impurities and clears clogged pores
  • Does not dry or strip the skin of oils and moisture
  • Interesting brand and packaging (eco-friendly too.)

Things to think about:

  • Vehicle is a gel-type formula that sometimes contains alcohol-based products that can be drying to the skin yet provides a cooling and refreshing effect. This was not apparent with this cleanser but it’s best to keep in mind.

Bottom line:

boscia’s Purifying Cleansing Gel is a fun-loving, sulfate-free facial wash. It cleanses the skin of impurities and dirt while helping maintain the natural moisture barrier in the skin without irritating oily skin types.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

AHAVA All-In-One Toning Cleanser (Best for on the go)

 AHAVA All-In-One Toning 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

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

Unique features:

  • All-in-one product
  • No rinsing needed
  • Quick and easy to use, minimal fuss

The best sulfate-free cleanser for:

Those looking for a quick and easy “rinse-free” cleanser.

Notable ingredients:

Signature mineral catalyst, osmoter; dead sea minerals; witch hazel extract; date extract; Dunaliella algae

Overview:

Aha, its time for AHAVA. This is a sulfate-free cleanser and botanical toner, an all-in-one gem.

It is made with active ingredients such as minerals, vitamins, and witch hazel extract to cleanse and balance the skin.

Like all AHAVA products, this cleanser is formulated with dead sea minerals, they have coined Osmotor™. Mineral ingredients have recently become a popular sought-after necessity, particularly in individuals with sensitive skin or those who prefer more naturally formulated products.(13) AHAVA claims its signature mineral ignites the skin’s own moisture reserves and enhances its ability to grow stronger. This cleanser also contains Date extract and Dunaliella algae which are full of vitamins and potent antioxidants.

The ingredients sound impressive but also somewhat confusing. Let’s analyze the basics:

When you strip all the jargon away, it’s actually a very straightforward and useful product. Right off the bat, convenience is what sets this cleanser apart from the rest. It has a milky texture but it is rinse-free, meaning that it does not leave excess residue after the cleansing process. This is ideal for those who live busy lifestyles and have minimal time in the morning to do their skincare regimen. This is a ‘cleanse and go’ type of product.

Whatsmore, it’s not just a cleanser. It’s a toner too. It helps those looking to simplify their cleansing and makeup removal regimen into one step. So the convenience goes even further.

The downside is that despite being billed as a makeup remover. It doesn’t have the strongest action in the world. It is very lightweight, which is great for being gentle and non-greasy, but it is lacking a bit of power. If you are looking for a comparable gentle cleanser but with a more powerful action then the ZELEN Life Cleanser is more for you. Or, if you are a heavy makeup user, you will probably find Klorane’s Micellar Water a better option.

With all the talk in skincare about oily skin, acne-prone, and sensitive skin. It is easy to forget that many of us actually just have normal skin types. This no-fuss product suits quite simply, no-fuss normal skin.

I really like the scent of this cleanser. The smell is very refreshing and uplifting. What I don’t like is that AHAVA is not a cruelty-free brand. If you are you are also passionately against animal testing, then you’ll be better off with Juice Beauty’s, ZELEN Life’s, or boscia’s Cleansers, as they are all PETA approved. This cleanser is suitable for vegans, though.

The good:

  • One-step makeup remover and botanical, milky cleanser
  • Minimizes pores and creates a balanced skin tone
  • Hypoallergenic, vegan, paraben-free, and sulfate-free
  • Vitamin-rich ingredients contain antioxidants
  • Ideal for those always on the move

Things to think about:

  • Since no rinsing is required, if you like to wash your face after using your cleanser for an extra refreshing sensation, there may be other sulfate-free cleansers that require rinsing as part of the cleansing process.

Bottom line:

AHAVA All-In-One Toning Cleanser is a convenient rinse-free multi-tasker. The formula sounds technical and complicated, but its cleansing action is anything but. It can be used to remove makeup and cleanse the skin with mineral-rich botanicals that clear pores without being overdrying.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

Baxter of California Daily Face Wash (Best for men)

Baxter of California Daily Face Wash


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

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

Unique features:

  • Masculine product
  • Foamy gel
  • Strong action

The best sulfate-free cleanser for:

Men’s skin.

Notable ingredients:

allantoin, aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, caffeine extract

Overview:

California here we come! This cleanser for men by Baxter of California packs a mean punch. Baxter claims its formula hydrate and energizes the skin while minimizing redness.

Ingredients check:

Allantoin is a substance derived from the roots of leaves of the comfrey plant. It is known for its role as a moisturizer as well as a keratolytic agent in the skin, which eliminates excess keratin that may be contributing to rough textures.(15) It is also an anti-inflammatory and encourages skin cells to regenerate faster to promote healthier-looking skin.

Aloe is a natural substance that is widely used in complementary medicine and natural skincare. As mentioned above, it cools the skin and alleviates inflammation, which is useful for enhancing the healing of wounds.(14)

Caffeine extract’s high biological activity and ability to penetrate the skin barrier make it increasingly popular in skincare and cosmetics. It has potent antioxidant properties that protect it from ultraviolet light radiation, slow photoaging, and increase circulation.(16)

This cleanser certainly eliminates the skin of dirt and oils. Despite its strong action, it leaves the skin feeling immediately refreshed and not too dry. It has a gel-based texture with foamy action.

This is not a cleanser a man should buy for its smell. The scent is quite unusual. I am struggling to give a good description. It is neither light and sensual, or strong and powerful.

For an alternative gel with a nicer aroma, consider boscia’s Cleansing Gel. It has a similar texture and hydration properties but the packaging is not as masculine. If however, you’re a man who prefers a cream and would enjoy a light, citrus scent then the unisex ZELEN Life Cleanser could be more suitable for you.

Alternatively, if you’re a man looking for a cleanser and toner in one, AHAVA All-In-One Cleanser could be a great option. Particularly if you are a man on the move and want to simplify your skincare with an uncomplicated rinse-free cleanser.

The good:

  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin
  • Uniquely formulated for men
  • Energize the skin and leaves it feeling refreshed
  • Can be used in beard-grooming routine, before or after shaving to soften/prepare facial hair
  • Sulfate-free, paraben-free, and fragrance-free

Things to think about:

  • While this product is suitable for all skin types and can be used by women, it is uniquely formulated for men.

Bottom line:

Baxter of California’s Daily Face Wash is a deep cleaning sulfate-free cleanser that removes excess dirt and impurities in men’s facial skin. It is suitable for all skin types, leaving the skin smooth, clean, and well-prepped for shaving.

  • Performance
  • Ingredients
  • Value for money
4.0 Overall Score

How we chose these sulfate-free products

We chose the best sulfate-free face washes and cleansers on several factors, including reviews, ingredient formulations, efficacy, and evidence-based supporting clinical articles surrounding these products’ ingredients.

We carefully considered other market options ensuring that the products would be compatible with most skin types.

Initially, we made sure the cleansers and washes were sulfate-free and that they fulfilled their primary goal of washing and cleansing the skin effectively.

Then we checked reviews, customer feedback, and social media sources to make sure the products worked well. We checked the reviews and reviewers were from reliable sources, and that feedback was not fabricated or false.

We also considered the brand’s history, goals, and reputation to make sure that the products selected meet the highest standards and quality considerations.

Secondly, price points, ingredients, and budgets were analyzed to ensure they were accessible to most consumers. Most of the products contain natural or organic ingredients and have defined goals and benefits such as oil control, anti-aging, antioxidant properties, etc.

We also sorted through various products that are formulated for different goals, population types (such as men), and skin types, which come in a variety of formulations such as gels, foams, etc.

Through this extensive research, we hoped to come up with a product that was right for almost everyone.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions

Why is choosing a sulfate-free product important?

Although there is little to no data stating that sulfates can harm the skin or hair, some surfactants (which are frequently found in cleansers and shampoos) have been associated with increased dryness, fragility, and roughness in the skin and hair.

Also, sulfate-free formulas for cleansers and washes have become more popular as an alternative way to cleanse the skin and scalp with a milder detergent, particularly among individuals with very sensitive skin or sulfate allergies and sensitivities.(17)

Who can benefit from a sulfate-free wash or cleanser?

Individuals who may benefit the most from a sulfate-free wash or cleanser are those with sensitive skin or who are sensitive or reactive to sulfates.

Sulfur is a common allergen, particularly with oral medications such as antibiotics, and can sometimes produce diffuse, even life-threatening rashes.

Sulfates are typically considered surfactants and are found in cleansers, washes, and shampoos. The most commonly used sulfates include lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl slate, and ammonium lauryl ether sulfate.

They assist in helping remove dirt and sebum from whatever surface they cleanse. Sulfate-free washes and cleansers with cleansing properties exist to help wash and cleanse the skin without inducing skin sensitivity, abrasiveness, or irritation on the skin.

Lipids in the skin can be extracted from the skin, leaving it depleted of moisture with repeated washing with high cleansing detergents with a high amount of sulfates, leaving it vulnerable and susceptible to developing other skin conditions associated with skin sensitivity and irritation.(17)

Will a sulfur allergy make me allergic to sulfates?

Although a sulfur allergy is common, substances that contain sulfates or sulfites are different from sulfonamides. There has been no case report or evidence showing any allergic reaction of any sulfate or sulfite-related drug or substance in individuals with a history of a sulfa allergy.

Thus, there is no evidence of a cross-allergy or a molecular-based similarity for cross-reactivity between sulfates with sulfonamide antimicrobials or medications and sulfates or sulfites found in washes, cleansers, or shampoos.(18)

Conclusion

Although sulfates are not the same as sulfa products, further investigational studies into their advantages and disadvantages in cleansers are needed.

In detergent formulations such as cleansers and shampoos, they may be too abrasive to the skin and hair, causing fragility and irritation.

If you are building a sulfate-free skincare and haircare routine for yourself, you can begin with a cleanser that isn’t just sulfate-free but is also packed with good ingredients and positive benefits to cleanse, moisturize and give you healthy, flawless skin.

Which is your favorite sulfate-free product currently in the market?

On this same topic, where do you stand on your views regarding sulfate-free products?

We look forward to hearing your viewpoints and responses.

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. Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53(4):163-166. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.44785

2. Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, et al. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013;30(1):42-50. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x

3. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Ghassemi MR, Kazerouni A, Rafeie E, Jamshydian N. Jojoba in dermatology: a succinct review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013;148(6):687-691.

4. Garavaglia J, Markoski MM, Oliveira A, Marcadenti A. Grape Seed Oil Compounds: Biological and Chemical Actions for Health. Nutr Metab Insights. 2016;9:59-64. Published 2016 Aug 16. doi:10.4137/NMI.S32910

5. Tang SC, Yang JH. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. 2018;23(4):863. Published 2018 Apr 10. doi:10.3390/molecules23040863

6. Feily A, Namazi MR. Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2009;144(1):85-91.

7. Kuś PM, Jerković I, Tuberoso CI, Marijanović Z, Congiu F. Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus L.) honey quality parameters: chromatographic fingerprints, chemical biomarkers, antioxidant capacity and others. Food Chem. 2014;142:12-18. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.07.050

8. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

9. 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

10. Pazyar N, Feily A, Kazerouni A. Green tea in dermatology. Skinmed. 2012;10(6):352-355.

11. Stallings AF, Lupo MP. Practical uses of botanicals in skin care. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009;2(1):36-40.

12. Myung DB, Lee JH, Han HS, et al. Oral Intake of Hydrangea serrata (Thunb.) Ser. Leaves Extract Improves Wrinkles, Hydration, Elasticity, Texture, and Roughness in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1588. Published 2020 May 28. doi:10.3390/nu12061588

13. Bi MY, Katta R. Mineral makeup and its potential utility in patients with contact dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010;62(3):519-522. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2009.06.052

14. Hashemi SA, Madani SA, Abediankenari S. The Review on Properties of Aloe Vera in Healing of Cutaneous Wounds. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:714216. doi:10.1155/2015/714216

15. Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427

16. Herman A, Herman AP. Caffeine’s mechanisms of action and its cosmetic use. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2013;26(1):8-14. doi:10.1159/000343174

17. Gavazzoni Dias MFR. Pro and Contra of Cleansing Conditioners. Skin Appendage Disord. 2019;5(3):131-134. doi:10.1159/000493588

18. Shah TJ, Moshirfar M, Hoopes PC Sr. “Doctor, I have a Sulfa Allergy”: Clarifying the Myths of Cross-Reactivity. Ophthalmol Ther. 2018;7(2):211-215. doi:10.1007/s40123-018-0136-8

ZELEN Life Cleanser
BEST FOR CLEAN SKINCARE
ZELEN Life Cleanser
  • Organic formula packed with essential vitamins and antioxidants
  • Gentle yet powerful deep cleansing action, boosts hydration
  • Free from sulfates, parabens, silicones, mineral oil, petrochemicals, synthetic colors & fragrances
All skin types
All skin types
Check It Out
Our score:
Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser
BEST FOR ANTI-AGING
Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser
  • Gentle formula conditions and refreshes skin
  • 2-in-1 cleanser and toner
  • Hydrates and soothes skin
Dry skin
Dry skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
Klorane Micellar Water
BEST FOR MAKEUP REMOVAL
Klorane Micellar Water
  • Plant-powered ingredients, contains organic cornflower water
  • Gently cleanses the whole face, including lips and eyes
  • No-rinse micellar cleansing water
All skin types
All skin types
Check on Amazon
Our score:
boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel
BEST FOR OILY SKIN
boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel
  • Removes impurities while maintaining moisture
  • Antioxidant formula fights against free radicals
  • Purifies skin and minimizes pores
Oily skin
Oily skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
AHAVA All-In-One Toning Cleanser
BEST FOR ON THE GO
AHAVA All-In-One Toning Cleanser
  • Reduces pore size and evens skin tone
  • Enriched with active, natural ingredients
  • Rinsing is not required
Normal skin
Normal skin
Check on Amazon
Our score:
Baxter of California Daily Face Wash (for Men)
BEST FOR MEN
Baxter of California Daily Face Wash (for Men)
  • Natural cleansing agents, such as aloe vera and coconut
  • Helps soften beard ready for cleansing
  • Made for men, can be used pre and post shave
All skin types
All skin types
Check on Amazon
Our score:

About The Author

avatar

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dermatology (University of Southern California)

United States

Dr. Anna Chacon is a board-certified dermatologist from Miami, based in South Florida. She graduated from Brown University’s highly selective Program in Liberal Medical Education. She completed her dermatology residency at the University of Southern California, where she learned firsthand about skin disorders that others only read about. She loves to write, see patients, and practice all aspects of dermatology.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FREE shipping above $40 in US, CA, UK & EU (delivery 2 - 5 days). Above $75, internationally (delivery 7 - 14 days).