Top Vegan Cleansers: How to Pick a Face Wash, Cleansing Oil, or Foaming Cleanser
These days, you don’t have to go far to find vegan, cruelty-free facial and body care. As we develop a greater consciousness of the treatment of animals in our society, the market has begun demanding more ethical beauty products. Large corporations are now participating alongside boutique labels, offering products brandishing the Leaping Bunny logo, which indicates a cruelty-free certification.
But not all vegan beauty products are created equal – and some fantastic products don’t want to spend the money for the certification. So how to choose?
A quick walk down the skincare aisle will reveal a wide range of prices for vegan cleansers and other facial and body care products. From facial cleansers to eye make-up remover, from cleansing oils to foaming cleansers, which products are worth the money, and which ones are just fluff?
The Basics: You’re Not a Teenager Anymore
Even if you’re developing a full-blown skincare regimen for the first time, you probably already understand how important it is to cleanse your face properly every day. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who made it out of adolescence without broken-out, oily skin, you likely developed a consistent face-washing habit in your teens.
But now that you’re a bit older, it might make sense to revisit your habits. The conventional wisdom has shifted a bit on how to treat the different skin types and which products are best to solve various skin problems.
Opt for Gentle
Regardless of your skin type, the name of the game is gentle. While salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and tea tree oil remain popular products for oily and acne prone skin, they’re all quite harsh, stripping away the natural oils that hydrate your skin cells.
You’ll definitely find these ingredients in a number of vegan cleansers marketed toward these skin types, but don’t take the bait. Natural ingredients like tea tree oil aren’t automatically safe and gentle. Oftentimes ingredients like this exacerbate the problem. By stripping natural oils away, they encourage the skin to produce excess oil, causing blackheads and further irritation. So skip the harsh stuff, even if you’re feeling oily.
If your skin is on the oily side, opt for a foaming face wash with anti-inflammatory aloe vera or green tea extracts, which will infuse your skin with antioxidants while reducing redness at the same time.
This cleanser by Youth to the People contains both, in addition to other antioxidant ingredients for anti-aging.
Made from Earth also makes a foaming cleanser with green tea and aloe, packed with superfood ingredients to nourish and hydrate at about half the price.
Both of these are free from sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate (SLS), paraben-free, and mineral oil-free. And neither of them leaves your skin feeling tight or overly dry.
For dryer skin, consider a cream cleanser rather than a foaming one. Cream cleansers are gentle and hydrating, while effectively removing make up and grime from the day.
Just the Goods offers the most cost effective vegan cream cleanser we’ve come across, featuring organic and natural ingredients for dry and combination skin.
Radically Rejuvenating Cleansing Cream by Acure also works well for dry or sensitive skin. Featuring a lineup of deeply hydrating ingredients like olive oil and hyaluronic acid, this product is great for mature skin as well.
Bottom Line: Skip the harsh tea tree oil and opt for gentle alternatives.
Every good skincare regimen includes an exfoliator. Regardless of skin type, it’s important to slough away dead skin cells at least once a week to brighten and polish your face. Not only does it help promote dead cell turnover, it can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, bringing your best face forward.
But again, gentle is the name of the game. You can opt for a physical (think scrubs) or chemical exfoliant (think glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acid), but whichever way you go, be on the lookout for overly harsh ingredients – especially if you have acne-prone or sensitive skin.
On your hunt for the best vegan exfoliating cleanser, you’ll likely come across products that use crushed apricot pits or pumice to slough off dead skin. These products, while great for calloused feet or an overall body scrub, are too harsh for facial use. They create tiny abrasions in the softer skin of the face, opening it up to bacterial invasion, which can lead to breakouts and pustules. Obviously not what you’re looking for.
Then there are the salt and sugar scrubs that have become so popular. Many of these are set in a rich formula of carrier oils and essential oils that moisturize and smooth the skin. While nearly all of the natural and organic versions of these are vegan, the salt versions fall into the same category as the crushed seed shells and pumice: great for the body, too harsh for the face.
The sugar options can offer a wonderful remedy for flaky, dry skin, however, as sugar is less coarse than salt and dissolves in warm water. A gentle scrub featuring fine sugar granules that’s free from synthetic fragrances is a good choice for sensitive or dry skin.
Other gentle physical exfoliators include ground oats, jojoba beads (not to be confused with the banned-in-the-USA plastic microbeads), or powdered walnut.
Renewed by Feel combines the gentle powdered walnut physical exfoliator with a powerful alpha hydroxy acid chemical exfoliator. Great for weekly or twice-a-week use, this gentle, yet effective, option gives you the best of both worlds. And the best part? It works for all skin types.
Good and Clean by Alba Botanica makes for a wonderful chemical exfoliant if you want to skip the texture all together. This formula also uses alpha hydroxy acids to promote healthy cell turnover and bring your best face forward.
Bottom Line: Skip the rough, sandpapery scrubs and opt for a gentle physical or chemical exfoliator.
The Whole Routine
Now that we’ve narrowed down the options for vegan facial cleansers, excluding the harsh and gritty stuff and opting for more gentle options, let’s talk about the rest of your routine.
While you might be tempted to skip the toner, it’s beneficial for a number of reasons. For dry skin, toners with a base of witch hazel and aloe leaf extract give an additional gentle cleanse after a cream cleanser. They also help prep your skin to better absorb your moisturizer. Opt for either fragrance-free or a product containing only gentle essential oils for fragrance.
For oily or acne-prone skin, toners not only help release more dirt and grime from the pores, they also shrink and tighten pores, preventing future breakouts. If your toner contains a chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid, it can also help prevent ingrown hairs (irritated follicles that can also lead to whiteheads).
We left this category vague because just about every treatment you’d do at home, regardless of skin type, should likely be applied between toner and moisturizer. Most treatments are meant to absorb directly into the skin and can be diluted and less effective if applied in the wrong order.
Whether you’re using a deep hydrating serum like Earth Science's Hyaluronic Acid or a blemish-fighting one like Juice Beauty’s Blemish Clearing Serum, treat facial surface dampened from toner and allow to dry before applying your moisturizer.
Great vegan moisturizers run the gamut, whether you’re referring to skin type or price point. We’ve spent a lot of time researching the best ones, so head over to this post to find out which ones are right for you.
As far as application goes, if you aren’t applying a treatment to your skin after toning, moisturize right away while your skin is still damp so that the toner can help usher the moisture into your pores.
In some cases, you’ll apply your eye cream before your moisturizer the way you would one of the treatments we mentioned above. If you’re using a serum, a light oil, or a light cream, then those should go on before your moisturizer. If you’re using a thick, heavy eye cream, that should be the last thing you apply before heading off to bed.
We’ve outlined the best products and ingredients for a natural eye cream, so have a look for more details on how to pick.
Regardless of age, we can’t emphasize enough how critically important sun protection is. Your face should be protected every day, rain or shine.
Ideally, you’re using a mineral-based sunscreen that also moisturizes so that you’re combining the moisture step with the protection step. If you’re too in love with your non-SPF moisturizer or facial oil to change it out for one with an SPF, opt for a mineral-based foundation. Not only will it even out your skin tone, but a mineral-based SPF will give you the lasting protection you need to prevent fine lines and wrinkles, and most importantly, skin cancer.
Your Vegan Skincare
With the vast array of choices at every makeup and skincare counter, it can seem like an overwhelming feat just to pick something and get on with life. Keep to the guidelines we created for a gentle vegan face wash, whether it’s foaming, cream, exfoliating, or ideally a combination of two or three to help simplify your hunt.
Take care of your skin and Mother Nature by making ethical choices for your vegan skincare products.