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Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers | According to Dermatologists

Ever thought about the impact your daily cleanser might be having on your skin? What if some of those innocent-looking ingredients in your cleanser or face wash are secretly causing harm?

To know more about clean beauty, read our articles about cruelty-free face washes, and gluten-free face washes.

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Infographic - Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers
Infographic – Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers

The Detrimental Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers & Face Washes

Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

Foaming cleansers have that satisfying bubbly action thanks to ingredients like SLS and SLES. They create tons of foam, making you feel super clean. But here’s the catch – all that foam might actually be bad for your skin. These ingredients can snatch away the good oils your skin needs to stay protected. Dermatologists, skin care experts, warn that this can lead to dryness, irritation, and even wrinkles popping up sooner than you’d like.

So, what’s the trick? Dermatologists have some wise advice. Look for cleansers with gentler stuff, like Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate. These still get the job done – cleaning off the dirt and grime – but they keep your skin’s natural moisture in check

Alcohol (Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol)

Alcohol might seem like a quick fix to get rid of oils and give your skin a fresh vibe. But hold up, there’s a catch. According to Dermatologists, using alcohol-based cleansers might be doing more harm than good. The swift evaporation of moisture can leave your skin barrier compromised, leading to dehydration and even accelerating the aging process.

Her advice? When seeking cleansers, opt for those that are alcohol-free or contain nourishing fatty alcohols such as Cetyl Alcohol or Stearyl Alcohol. These alternatives won’t sabotage your skin’s natural balance; instead, they provide a gentler approach to cleansing while maintaining essential hydration.

Multiple Actives in a Single Cleanser

The temptation to include multiple active ingredients can sometimes backfire. Combining potent ingredients like AHAs, BHAs (salicylic acid), or essential oils in a single cleanser might lead to excessive dryness. Dermatologists advise opting for a cleanser with a unique active ingredient.

Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers

Fragrance and Essential Oils

While not inherently drying, fragrances and essential oils can wreak havoc on sensitive skin. Dermatologists explain that these culprits trigger irritation and sensitization reactions, culminating in inflammation and compromised skin integrity. For those with sensitive skin, she recommends embracing fragrance-free or hypoallergenic cleansers.

High pH Cleansers

The pH level of cleansers can significantly impact skin health. Dermatologists caution against using inexpensive cleansers with higher pH levels that disturb the skin’s natural acidity. This disruption can lead to moisture loss, heightened sensitivity, and signs of aging. Seeking cleansers with a pH around 5.5, akin to the skin’s natural pH, is a proactive step toward maintaining optimal skin health.

Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers

The Path to Radiant Skin

Dermatologists underscore the importance of opting for gentle, hydrating cleansers tailored to your skin type. They emphasize the benefits of cleansers enriched with moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, glycerin, and aloe vera.

Additionally, the choice of surfactants like Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, along with solvents like Cetyl Alcohol or Stearyl Alcohol, can contribute to retaining moisture, fortifying the skin barrier, and averting excessive dryness – a preventive measure against wrinkles.

To further diminish the risk of irritation, particularly when using active ingredient-based cleansers, Dermatologists suggest opting for micronized formulations. These formulations ensure the potency of the actives while minimizing potential side effects.


1. Best Organic Face Wash For Dryness And Dehydration

Product | Botanical B Enzyme Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover – One Love Organics
Features | Certified Cruelty-Free, Synthetic Fragrance-Free, Dermatologist Tested, Certified Organic And Natural Ingredients
Review | 4.8/5 Stars On 579 Reviews
Price | $42
  • Gentle cleansing oil. 
  • Formulated with sunflower seed oil, skin-softening papain, a vitamin B complex, and antioxidant-rich ingredients
  • Your skin feels polished, fresh and rejuvenated but never dry.
Customer Review

One of my all time favorite products by one love organics and definitely my go to cleansing oil. It smells so good and is amazing at removing waterproof mascara. So gentle and nourishing but not greasy! Would 100% recommend!”

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2. Best Cruelty-Free Face Wash For Dry And Sensitive Skin

Product | Brightening Cleanser – Indie Lee
Features | Certified Cruelty-Free, Phthalate And Parabens Free
Review | 4.8/5 On 131 Reviews
Price | $36
  • Cleanser, makeup remover and mask in one. 
  • Strawberry Seed Oil, hydrolyzed Wheat Protein and Tomato extracts exfoliate and nourish your skin.
  • Delicious strawberry scent for hydrated, silky and luminous skin.
Customer Review

This is the best cleanser that I keep repurchasing! I have dry, sensitive skin and this product cleans my face and does not leave a film after that you find with a lot of cleansers! Plus the smell is fantastic and I love the clean ingredients! Give it a try!”

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3. Best Vegan Face Wash For Dryness

Product | Mini Squalane Cleanser – The Ordinary
Features | Certified Cruelty-Free, Vegan, Gluten Free, Free Of Parabens, Formaldehydes, And Phthalates.
Review | 4/5 Stars On 93 Reviews
Price | $9
  • Cleanser to remove makeup and dirt.
  • Squalane ingredient supports skin’s moisture barrier through hydration.
  • Non-comedogenic and soap-free formula.
Customer Review

“I love this I been using it for a new months it’s my favorite face wash. Leaves me feeling soft and hydrated unlike most brands. I love that it doesn’t have harmful toxic perfumes or ingredients.”

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4. Best Natural Face Wash For Dehydrated Skin 

Product | Deep Cleansing Oil – DHC
Features | Certified Cruelty-Free, Natural Ingredient, Fragrance, Colorant, And Parabens-Free
Review | 4.78/5 Stars On 1275 Reviews
Price | $15
  • Removes makeup, dirt and other pore-clogging impurities.
  • Water-soluble formula infused with olive oil and vitamin E.
  • Nourishes and hydrates the skin, while rinsing completely clean.
Customer Review

“Love to use this oil to remove my make up. Its very gentle and leaves my face smooth and hydrated.”

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5. Best Gluten-Free Face Wash For Balanced pH

Product | Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel
Features | Certified Cruelty-Free, Dermatologist Approved, Gluten-Free, Phthalate-Free, Vegan
Review | 4.8/5 Stars On 153 Reviews 
Price | $68
  • Soap-free foaming gel.
  • Minimizes the appearance of pores and soothes inflammation.
  • Removes impurities without disturbing the skin’s natural moisture balance.
Customer Review

I have been using this cleanser for 10+ years. I’ve experimented around with other brands but always end up coming back to dermalogica. This is the perfect gentle cleanser that gives your face a deep clean without the irritation of exfoliating. Highly recommend using their precleanse before (added bonus: it smells soooo good).” Tori

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6. Best Face Wash With Prebiotics

Product | Juice Beauty – Prebiotics Cleansing Cream
Features | Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Gluten-Free, Organic Ingredients
Review | 4.5/5 Stars On 483 Reviews 
Price | $29
  • Gentle cleanser to soothe the skin
  • Helps balance your skin micro-flora for a healthy and glowing appearance
  • Ideal for dry skins
Customer Review

I love that it is formulated with organic ingredients, vegan and most of all cruelty free. I found that all I need is to dispense one small pump to completely remove my make up and clean my face. It is also soothing! All around it?s a great product. I love the gentle scent that it has as well. It is the most used cleanser in my shower right now!” Robin

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