Best Sulfate-Free Face Wash Cleansers

November 13, 2019

When you go shopping for beauty products and face wash cleanser, you’re generally not looking for a chemistry lesson or history lecture. But in this case, it’s worth knowing exactly what’s up with sulfates and why you might (or, since you’re here, definitely) want to invest in sulfate-free face wash cleanser.

Long story short, sulfates are a chemical compound that attract both oil and water, and a result, they help lift dirt and junk when you’re scrubbing, then carry it away when you rinse. They’re also responsible for creating that wonderful lather we’re now so used to seeing when we soap up — sulfates were developed in the 1930s and became regular ingredients in shampoos and face wash cleansers in the 1950s, so generations of people have grown up using them. It’s basically built into our perceptions — you see lather and bubbles, you inevitably think of cleanliness.

So, what’s wrong with that? Why should you want sulfate-free face wash cleanser? Lathering and bubbles are good, right? Well, sure, they feel good, and when it comes to shampoo, some people are generally OK with sulfates as long as they’re not too concentrated. But over the years, people (and doctors) have found that sulfates tend to have some significant negative effects. In short, they often do too much cleaning, and that’s a big problem. They strip hair and skin of good oils in addition to the bad ones, and wash away antimicrobial peptides and proteins, too. This is particularly troublesome in body washes and face wash cleansers, because it leads to dry and irritated skin as well as the worsening of some types of acne. In short, having sulfates in your face wash cleanser can often lead to skin that looks worse than it would have if you didn’t use it at all.

The good news is that there are now a ton of sulfate-free face wash cleansers on the market. The bad news? Just because a label says a facial cleanser is sulfate-free doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re actually sulfate-free. Drug stores and online shops are filled with what claim to be sulfate-free face wash cleansers, but plenty of them still have chemicals that are very, very close in composition to sulfates, to the point that they cause the exact same problems. But don’t worry — MASSE is here to help and clean up any confusion.

At MASSE, we provide a trustworthy list of the best sulfate-free face wash cleansers that don’t mess around with sulfate-like chemicals. These sulfate-free face wash cleansers are all recommended by real shoppers who have really used them, so you can be sure they actually deliver what’s being advertised, so your skin stays clean, well-hydrated, and rash-free. We don’t allow paid reviews or sponsored posts, either, so you can wash your worries away with the list below!

  • Orange Essence Facial Cleanser


    By Burt's Bees

    You might know Burt’s Bees best for its lip balms, but it also makes some fantastic skincare products. That includes this orange essence facial cleanser, which combines the refreshing scent of oranges with a face-reviving wash. It cleans away dirt, oil, and makeup without being too harsh or drying, and keeps the skin tight and nourished with aloe and olive oil. MASSE shoppers love the smell and how clear it leaves their skin!

  • Brightening Cleansing Gel


    By Acure

    With core ingredients that would also make for a very delicious exotic fruit salad, Acure’s Brightening Cleansing Gel is an antioxidant rich, sulfate-free face wash cleanser that gets the job done while leaving your skin “bright and fresh,” as one one MASSE shopper raved. What else would you expect from a face wash cleanser that includes pomegranate, blackberry and acai? It’s also 100% vegan, as another MASSE shopper points out, so you can feel good about looking good.

  • Naturals Pore Purifying Scrub


    By Neutrogena

    MASSE shoppers can’t stop raving about the Pore Purifying Scrub from Neutrogena’s Naturals line of soaps, and their praise is everything you want to hear about a facial wash. According to very satisfied MASSE users, this sulfate-free face wash cleanser, made with willowbark bionutrient & jojoba beads, is “perfect for sensitive skin” and reduces blackheads “within the first day,” while leaving skin “so smooth and radiant.” At the risk of hyping this sulfate-free face wash cleanser too much, one user even called it one of her “holy grails.” If that’s not a good enough endorsement for anything, let alone a facial scrub, we’re not sure anything is!

  • Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser


    By Drunk Elephant

    You don’t see a ton of gel-based face washes, but Drunk Elephant’s Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser is an excellent sulfate-free face wash cleanser that really gets the job done. It expertly removes all traces of makeup, bad oils, and other impurities with mild, fatty acid-based cleaning agents that create a nice lather; then, it hydrates and repairs skin with glycerin (hence the jelly) and cantaloupe fruit extract that is rich in antioxidants. MASSE shoppers “swear it’s amazing” and call it a multi-tasker, and promise it’s great for combination and sensitive skin.

  • Sleepy Face Naked Cleansing Balm


    By Lush

    Lush’s Sleepy Face Naked Cleansing Balm looks and feels exactly like it sounds — it’s an adorable nude-color bar with a sleepy little face on it, and it works wonders in removing all manner of “stubborn eye makeup and lipstick,” as one MASSE user raves. It’s not so much a face wash as a soft cleansing bar you apply to your face, and paired with a damp cloth, the most difficult-to-scrub makeup and oils will come right off. Plus, it smells of gorgeous lavender!