It’s a buzzkill to discover that your favorite facial cleanser—and one that dermatologists love to recommend— is not so clean.
But an increasing number of natural and organic brands are vying for a chance to purify your pores. To find them, you may have to have to look just beyond your neighborhood Duane Reade or CVS. Try the Whole Body section of Whole Foods or ABC Home, a font of luxe natural beauty lines, or go online and check out Spirit Beauty Lounge or Saffron Rouge.
Here are some cleaner cleansers to choose from—all of which I’ve tested extensively and recommend wholeheartedly. Instead of water and chemicals, every one of these facial washes contains 85 percent or more plant-based ingredients, and several are organic. Also important: None contain ingredients on the Dirty Dozen list or that are considered potentially toxic.
Just like your organic tomatoes, these cleansers may cost a little more than chemical-based facial washes, but they’re no more than a couple of cocktails, and a heck of a lot better for your skin.
Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Purifying Gel Cleanser
It’s one of the cleanest drugstore-brand lines in the acne category. The new Acne Solutions line contains willow bark, a natural source of salicylic acid, which is a proven pore penetrator and skin calmer. $10, www.burtsbees.com
Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Liquid Soap
The closest thing to a natural Cetaphil, this liquid soap is affordable, all natural, and contains tea tree, a natural anti-bacterial. It’s gentle enough to use in conjunction with acne treatment products—and by other skin types after yoga class. $5.99, www.drbronner.com
Sensitive, all types
Living Tree Botanicals Essential Cleansing Lotion
It’s a gentle creamy cleanser with green tea, roman chamomile and honey, all of which are natural anti-inflammatories. The company is founded by a Brooklynite and all products are handmade. $20, www.livingtreebotanicals.com
Combination skin, adult acne
Amala Beauty Purifying Gel Cleanser
Blue lotus and white clay removes what you don’t want (shine, dirt of the day, etc.) but leaves your skin feeling soft and looking like you’ve just used blotting papers. Also sold at ABC Home. $48, www.amalabeauty.com
Dry, delicate, and mature skin
Red Flower Nature Lymphatic Phytopower Sea Cleanser and Masque
Organic mushrooms, algae extracts, and antioxidant berries. It’s like an all-natural protein bar for your freakout-prone skin, and doubles as a face mask (thanks to white peat) when you leave it on for five minutes. $38, www.redflower.com
And a few special cases:
Skin that feels tight after you wash it
Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser
Exfoliating papaya enzymes and omega-rich argan oil helps brighten and nourish skin that feels clean but shrink-wrapped when washed. Love the clear disclosure: “99.0% of plant ingredients are organic; 99.4% Natural” and the profit-sharing: 25 percent goes to Berber women. $46, kahina-givingbeauty.com
Skin addicted to foaming cleansers
HGO Labs Grapefruit Face Wash
How to get foam without sodium laureth sulfate? This aerating pump froths the organic deep-cleansing ingredients as they’re dispensed from the bottle. Genius. Another boon: The cleanser’s handmade every few weeks. $19, http://bit.ly/cOhAkr
More natural brands with really clean cleansers: Pangea Organics at Whole Foods, Jurlique at Spirit Beauty Lounge, Intelligent Nutrients at ABC Home, REN and Nude Skincare at Sephora, Naturopathica at Naturopathica.com