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Choose a natural face wash

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Natural face wash provides a green clean sans the dirty ingredients found in many conventional products. But with so many options—organic, cruelty-free, "natural", and more—choosing the best face wash for you and the planet can get overwhelming and a bit pricey. Knowing what to look for when purchasing a natural face wash can help you make sense of environmentally friendly standards so you can be a wise consumer.

What to look for when choosing a natural face wash

In your search for a natural face wash, study the labels carefully. Look for the following:

  1. Avoid antibacterial agents: A recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that triclosan—the main antibacterial agent in soaps—can be linked to cancer in lab animals, may disrupt hormone function in humans, and is a non-biodegradable toxic agent that pollutes ecosystems and threatens wildlife when it is discharged into the water stream.
  2. Look for plant-based, biodegradable ingredients: Conventional soaps are made from petroleum-derived chemicals that persist in the environment, creating pollution and threatening human health. Face wash that uses plant-based ingredients and essential oils for fragrance replaces these dangerous ingredients with ones that are healthy for you and the earth. In particular, try to avoid ingredients like parabens and phthalates, and seek out a face wash labeled as biodegradable.
  3. Go organic: Because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spends only a tiny portion of its budget investigating the chemical composition and toxins in skin care products, soaps can tout their use of organic ingredients and still have up to 30 percent synthetic materials, even the ones labeled "organic" or "made with organic ingredients." The only way to be sure that the product you are purchasing is, in fact, USDA Organicorganic is to look for the USDA Organic Seal on the label. This seal guarantees that every ingredient is organically produced as defined by the National Organics Standards Board, which bans the use of harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetic engineering.
  4. Look for soaps that do not contain animal fats or employ animal testing: While you're contemplating green attributes, you may also wish to join the cruelty-free movement. Just keep in mind: a company may claim that they don’t employ animal testing for their products, but without third-party verification, it’s hard to know whether these statements are in fact completely true. Leaping BunnySo stick to those products certified as cruelty-free by looking for products with the Leaping Bunny Logo or the Certified Vegan Logo. You can rest assured that no bunnies (or monkeys or cats for that matter) were harmed in the making of these non-animal-tested products.

Find it! Natural face washes

GreenYour has highlighted some of the cleanest and greenest face washes out there, ranging from increasingly easy-to-find natural brands to prestige selections. If you're looking for something a little more heavy duty, check out a scrub, mask, or targeted acne treatment.

Before you buy

One thing to be aware of as you look for "greener" face cleansers, you'll likely be confronted with a higher price tag as chemicals are generally cheaper than botanical, organic-certified ingredients. For example, a 6.67 fluid ounce container of the White Tea Facial Fluid Cleanser from Korres will set you back $21.00, while 4 fluid ounces of Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser cost $4.99.

Choosing a natural face wash helps you go green because...

  • They are comprised of ingredients found in nature, not harmful chemicals
  • They are petroleum-free. Mineral oil is made from petroleum, a non-sustainable resource with various eco-repercussions.
  • Many makers of natural face wash also follow green business practices, such as using recycled packaging and harnessing renewable energy sources like wind power.

Supplementary preservatives in many face washes include BHA, which has a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems and bioaccumulates in the tissues of organisms, and parabens, known endocrine disrupters that are not only detrimental to human health, but also destructive to animal hormones and development. (Studies have found higher levels of parabens in tumors from human breast tissue, but, because the potential damage to the endocrine system has yet to be proven, the controversy surrounding the toxicity of parabens is still being debated.)

Additionally, the potent synthetic antimicrobial agent triclosan, used in some face washes and other personal care products, has been found in 55 percent of streams examined in 2002 at levels high enough to disrupt the natural life cycle of frogs.[1] Another common synthetic to look out for in face wash is diethanolamine (DEA), a foaming detergent. While DEA is infrequently used in skin and hair care products because it is a known carcinogen, the more commonly used chemicals TEA and MEA are often contaminated with diethanolamine.


The fragrances in facial cleansers and other skincare products pose risks as well. Fragrances are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which add to air pollution, are persistent in the environment, and contaminate waterways and aquatic wildlife. An estimated 5.72 million Americans have skin allergies to fragrance, while asthma sufferers often claim that their condition is triggered by synthetic fragrance.[2] Face wash with artificial fragrances can also contain phthalates, widely used industrial chemicals that are estrogenic or anti-androgenic. Studies conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health reveal a link between monoethyl phthalate, a chemical used to preserve scent in perfumes and colognes, and sperm damage. Click here for a breakdown of the leading chemicals found in fragrance products and their related health effects.

Petroleum-derived ingredients

Face wash may also contain petroleum-based ingredients, such as mineral oil. The production of the petrochemicals used in bath and skin care products pollutes the environment by releasing hazardous chemicals into the air and water. These products support the hazards of the petroleum industry, which include about 2.6 million gallons of oil spilled every month during transportation and about 71 million pounds of toxins released into the air and water during refinement.[3]


In a recent study that shook the natural products industry, 100 “natural” and “organic” soaps, shampoos, dish liquids, lotions, and body washes were tested and nearly half contained 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogenic chemical. This toxin has been found in conventional personal care products but this study, commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), was the first to test green products.

In scientific studies, 1,4-Dioxane has caused cancer in animals; scientists have not yet confirmed the long-term effects on humans. The FDA says current levels do not pose a hazard to consumers but have advised manufacturers to lower amounts in cosmetics as much as possible. None of the products tested that were Certified Organic by the USDA contained 1,4-Dioxane. In response to this study, some of the affected companies have said they will work toward removing 1,4-Dioxane from their products.

Organic labeling

The personal care industry is in turmoil trying to agree upon a set of standards for organic labeling of personal care products. While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains clearcut standards for organic food, the same can’t be said for body care products. Some companies use the USDA certified organic food standard, which requires 95 percent of the ingredients to be organic. Others use the less stringent California state standard for organic cosmetic products, which requires at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients. And still others label their products organic without meeting any external criterion. Fortunately, the guidelines for labeling a soap as "100% Organic" are strict. Products carrying this label maus contain all organic ingredients.

To clear up this confusion, a nonprofit standard-setting group called NSF International has released a draft set of rules for organic personal care products and a group of 30 cosmetic companies recently devised their own set of specifications called Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS). How it all washes out remains to be seen.


  • 1,4-dioxane: A petroleum-derived contaminant classified as a probable human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole): A chemical preservative used in cosmetics and certain foods to prevent fats and oils from becoming rancid.
  • DEA: Diethanolamine (also related to the additives TEA and MEA). Suspected carcinogen, used as an emulsifier or foaming agent.
  • parabens: This family of synthetic preservatives (which includes methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, and butyl-parabens) can possibly disrupt the endocrine system.
  • phthalates: Additives commonly used in plastics and other materials, mainly to make them soft and flexible, that may damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system, particularly the developing testes, according to animal studies.
  • triclosan: An antibacterial agent that may form dioxin and chloroform in the right circumstances, both probable carcinogens.
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air and may cause immediate and long-term health problems.

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One of my favorite brands for facewash is BWC (Beauty Without Cruelty) - very pure, no parabens or fragrance. You can get it at most healthfood stores and some WholeFoods

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