Finding the right face wash isn’t easy. Everybody’s biological needs are different yet face wash ads on TV (I still have nightmares about Proactiv commercials) and elsewhere promise one-size-fits-all cures that. And I’ll admit it, trying to find a sustainable face wash only makes things more difficult.
But the plastic crisis keeps growing and recycling just isn’t doing the trick. Then, throw in toxic ingredients, animal testing, and other questionable practices, and that single bottle of face wash can do quite a bit of harm.
This guide breaks down what to look for in a sustainable face wash. I’ll focus on certifications/ethics, ingredients and packaging, and recommend some brands along the way. I can’t guarantee that the products I recommend will work for you, but they will certainly be Earth-friendly!
Certifications and ethical considerations
As Vanessa Cunningham put it in HuffPost, “If you thought the (Food and Drug Administration) does a subpar job in regulating what goes into our food supply, you’ll be equally appalled, if not more, on its regulation of cosmetic and personal-care products.”
Since we can’t rely on the FDA, we look instead to third-party organizations to certify ingredients and practices. One of my favorites is Certified B Corporation or B Corp. This rigorous process evaluates businesses for the “impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.”
Using the B Corps directory, I found two certified Home & Personal Care companies in Washington state. And wouldn’t you know it, they both make incredibly sustainable face wash and other products!
- Sea Witch Botanicals Radiant Pearl Facial Bar ($12) – This face wash checks every sustainability box and for a good price.
Other Sea Witch Botanical products you may enjoy:
- Moon Valley Organics Herbal Soap ($4.99) – This B Corp operates on a 4-acre “pollinator sanctuary” and it donates 10% of its profits to pro-pollinator organizations like Pesticide Action Network and The People & Pollinators Action Network.
- Washington State Department of Agriculture certified organic
- Boxes made from post consumer recycled content
- Gluten free
- Natural ingredients
Other meaningful certifications to look for:
- Leaping Bunny/Beauty Without Bunnies/Choose Cruelty Free for no animal testing policies
- USDA Organic or a state agricultural department for organic ingredients
- Forest Stewardship Council for certified sustainable wood products
- Certified Vegan
Sustainable face wash ingredients
I’m in no position to give dermatological advice — a dermatologist should do that. But here’s a few ingredients to avoid in a sustainable face wash, or any other hygiene and beauty products for that matter, according to HuffPost.
- Synthetic colors
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
- Propylene Glycol
Ok, that’s a lot to remember and it’s hard to avoid them all, but do your best. If it’s toxic to the human body, it’s probably not much better for the environment and wildlife. Here’s the other way to go about it.
Look for MADE SAFE Nontoxic Certified products. MADE SAFE screens and certifies products that are free of ingredients with links to “bioaccumulation, persistence, and general and aquatic toxicity.”
EWG Skin Deep
Another route is to use Enironmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep database. EWG certifies and grades products based on their ingredients, transparency and manufacturing practices. This database is fun to use, because you can search by brands and ingredients, or you can sort products from best to worst or worst to best.
Naturally, I sorted worst to best to find that Sephora and Olay are among the biggest offenders for face washes and cleansers.
As far as EWG verified products, Beekman 1802’s Charcoal Milk Bar ($12) stood out for its ingredients, minimal packaging and cruelty free status. Honey Sweetie Acres’ Avacado Facial Bar ($6.99) jumped out for the same reasons and is about half the price. Both products feature goat milk and therefore are not vegan. However, Honey Sweetie Acres is Certified Human Raised and Handled, so it sounds like their goats are in good shape!
Sustainable face wash packaging
The world is simply drowning in plastic bottles and our recycling system can’t keep it. So what’s the solution? My motto is “buy as if nothing gets recycled.” That means opting for minimal and/or compostable packaging to reduce demand, and, in turn, supply of plastic.
Unfortunately, most face washes come in liquid form and are therefore packaged in plastic bottles and tubes, but bar forms use much less packaging. Do your best to find a bar with minimal or compostable packaging. They seem to run between $3 and $28. Here are a few under $20:
- Soapwalla Lavender & French Clay Cleansing Bar ($18) – Pricey, but full of certified organic ingredients. Soapwalla products are unisex, vegan and never tested on animals.
- Rocky Mountain Soap Facial Soap ($4.95) – Choose between Fennel & Charcoal, Juicy Orange or Avacado. For under $5 you can’t really go wrong. Plus, if you find the one you like you can a 16-bar slab for $54.95! The bars are made from natural ingredients and are cruelty free, vegan, GMO free and organic, depending on the product.
- LANO Cleansing Bar ($8) – This bar is made almost entirely from natural ingredients, including cruelty-free lanolin (from Australian sheep), egg whites, goats milk and sulfur. The bar comes in cardboard packaging and LANO has a goal to phase out all plastic packaging.
If you are willing to spend over $20 on a bar of soap, check out these options on mindbodygreen.