11 Best Sulfate-Free Facial Washes (Cleansers) Of 2021

Written by Sneha Manandhar
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We often assume that cleansers do no harm to our skin, but that may not always be true. For those of us with extremely sensitive skin, finding a sulfate-free cleanser is essential to prevent breakouts. A rich facial skin wash that contains sulfate is capable of creating foam that may dry out your skin and strip its natural barrier of moisture. Ever woken up one fine morning and wished that your face was free of acne, grime, clogged pores, and excess sebum production? You might not be aware but using products choked with sulfate can cause these skin aggravations, which often lead to more skin breakouts, so staying away from ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate are essential.

Sulfate-free cleansers also help with dry and broken skin by gently lifting off the grime, without aggravating irritated skin. The most ideal sulfate-free products contain natural and botanical ingredients that are gentle on your skin and leave a soothing effect. Take a look at our list of the 11 best sulfate-free facial washes that you can buy over-the-counter, to give your sensitive skin the added care that it needs.

Top 10 ProductsCheck Price
Vanicream Gentle Facial CleanserCheck Price
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle CleanserCheck Price
Era Organics Cleanse + Restore Sensitive Skin Face + Body CleanserCheck Price
Ktchn Apothecary Hydrating Facial CleanserCheck Price
Garnier SkinActive The Gentle Sulfate-Free CleanserCheck Price
Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial CleanserCheck Price
Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Face CleanserCheck Price
Ursa Major Fantastic Face WashCheck Price
Touch 10% Glycolic Acid Face WashCheck Price
Honest Beauty purify + refresh Gentle Gel CleanserCheck Price

11 Best Sulfate-Free Facial Cleansers For Smooth Skin In 2021

1. Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

Formulated specifically for sensitive and acne-prone skin, the Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser is free from dyes and fragrances and treats your skin with the gentle care that it needs. This sulfate-free face wash does not contain lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde releasers, and other preservatives, making it the ideal choice to help remove dirt, oil, and makeup without drying your skin. Not only does the dermatologist-tested, soap-free formula safeguard you from clogged pores or blackheads, it also lets you avoid common chemical irritants and harsh cleansing agents while keeping your skin smooth.

Pros:

  • For acne-prone and sensitive skin
  • Does not contain betaine, gluten, amines, and amides
  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Dermatologist-tested

Cons:

  • It may have a slightly overpowering scent.

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2. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

Ideal for normal to dry skin, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser is a daily sulfate-free face wash that helps your skin retain essential moisture while cleansing. Infused with prebiotic thermal water, ceramide-3, niacinamide, and glycerin, this face cream and cleanser gently remove makeup, dirt, and other impurities from the surface of your skin, while maintaining your skin’s natural protective barrier. The dermatologist-tested formula is allergy-free and safe for sensitive skin types and leaves your skin’s pH levels balanced, as you feel fresh and hydrated.

Pros:

  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Cleanses gently and retains moisture
  • Soap-free formula
  • No added fragrance
  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Paraben-free

Cons:

  • It may have a watery consistency and may not foam or lather up on your skin.

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3. Era Organics Cleanse + Restore Sensitive Skin Face + Body Cleanser

No matter what your skin type, the Era Organics Cleanse + Restore Sensitive Skin Face +  Body Cleanser will not disappoint you. This moisturizing plant-based face wash balances out your skin’s pH levels, while it hydrates and restores moisture to your skin. The gentle, non-drying ingredients like organic aloe vera leaf juice, cehami, and organic orange oil help cleanse sensitive skin that may be prone to psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, acne, and more without causing any irritation. With food-grade ingredients like manuka honey and aloe vera, and hyaluronic acid this cleanser restores skin cells, tones skin, restores dull and dry skin and reduces the appearance of premature aging.

Pros:

  • No harmful chemicals
  • No alcohol, allergens, or drying ingredients
  • Does not contain mineral oil or parabens
  • Cruelty-free
  • Suitable for men, women, and children.

Cons:

  • This product may have a watery consistency and a slightly pungent scent.

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4. Ktchn Apothecary Hydrating Facial Cleanser

The highly-concentrated Ktchn Apothecary Hydrating Facial Cleanser gently cleanses away impurities, leaving your skin hydrated, supple, and fresh. The rich and creamy texture and the lightly-foaming formula washes excess oil, dirt, and impurities. The natural, sulfate-free face wash lathers lightly without stripping your skin of its natural beneficial oils or drying it out. The cleanser also contains targeted natural anti-aging botanicals and potent antioxidants to visibly renew skin and protect you from daily environmental damages. Rich with natural essential oils like sweet almond oil, apricot oil, avocado oil, jojoba leaf extracts and jojoba seed oil, rosehip fruit oil, and more, this cleanser is a treat for your skin.

Pros:

  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Ideal for both men and women
  • Contains anti-aging botanical extracts
  • Can be used daily
  • Non-drying formula

Cons:

  • It might have a slightly overbearing fragrance.

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5. Garnier SkinActive The Gentle Sulfate-Free Cleanser

For sensitive skin types, the Garnier SkinActive The Gentle Sulfate-Free Cleanser gently foams to remove oil, impurities, and makeup to reveal soft and healthy-looking skin. The oil-free and alcohol-free cleanser rich in glycerin has a non-irritating formula and the soap-free product will keep your skin soft, free from any dirt or grime. The sulfate-free formulation is vitamin-rich and leaves your skin feeling fresh, clean, and hydrated, which is more than you need from an ideal face cleanser for sensitive or mature skin.

Pros:

  • No added fragrance
  • Paraben-free
  • Extra gentle, non-irritating formula
  • Dermatologist-tested

Cons:

  • It may not be entirely suitable for those with extremely dry skin.

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6. Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser

The Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser gently removes impurities and cleanses skin to give you an improved complexion. With natural salicylic acid from willow bark and bio-nutrients to remove dirt, oil, and makeup, this sulfate-free cleanser penetrates deep to help detoxify and cleanse your skin without leaving behind pore-clogging residue. The hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic pore face wash is formulated with 90% naturally-derived ingredients and is suitable for acne-prone skin, as it does not clog your pores.

Pros:

  • No parabens
  • No petrolatum
  • Free from dyes
  • Phthalate-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons:

  • It may not be best suited for those with extremely sensitive skin.

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7. Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Face Cleanser

The Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Face Cleanser is an excellent option if you’re looking for a naturally healthy and fresh glow. Use this sulfate-free, refreshing orange cleanser to wash away dirt, excess oil, and makeup to unveil a brighter and more luminous complexion. Infused with a blend of orange oil and soap bark extracts, along with a refreshing citrus aroma, this face wash gives your skin a deep-cleaning experience. The 99.9% natural plant-based cleanser also contains olive oil, aloe vera, and vegetable-based glycerin that will give you a naturally-hydrated feeling when used daily.

Pros:

  • Contains natural, plant-based ingredients
  • For normal to dry skin
  • No parabens or phthalates
  • Does not contain petrolatum or SLS

Cons:

  • It may leave a slightly waxy residue on your skin.

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8. Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash

The Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash is a natural facial cleanser that delivers a deep invigorating cleanse with added AHA exfoliation, all without stripping your skin of moisture or messing with its pH balance. Ideal for normal, combination, oily, and acne-prone skin, this brightening face wash is formulated with naturally-derived ingredients including aloe vera, sugarcane, rice seed, and coconut-derived surfactants for the ultimate soothing, brightening, and moisturizing benefits. The foaming cleanser is non-drying and helps prevent breakouts and acne, while its woodsy aroma infused with cedar, spearmint, lime, lemon, rosemary, black spruce, owyhee, vetiver, and lavender leave you enthralled.

Pros:

  • Ideal for men and women
  • Works best for normal, oily, combination, and temperamental skin types
  • Cruelty-free
  • Contains no petrochemicals, glycols, silicones, or PEGs
  • No added synthetic colors or fragrances
  • Paraben-free product

Cons:

  • It may not lather up as you expect it to.

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9. Touch 10% Glycolic Acid Face Wash

The Touch 10% Glycolic Acid Face Wash is a foaming and sulfate-free exfoliating facial cleanser made with 10% glycolic acid to exfoliate, brighten, and revitalize your skin. The mild and effective gel-based formula removes makeup with ease and is effective for skin with fine wrinkles, acne, pores, uneven skin tone and texture, blackheads, and hyperpigmentation. The glycolic, sulfate-free face wash has a low pH of 3.5 that helps fight the effects of aging, reduce blemishes, and promote healthy, glowing skin with no skin irritation. Infused with aloe vera, green tea extracts, and chamomile, this product has soothing anti-inflammatory and anti-irritation properties that protect your skin.

Pros:

  • Blend of gentle surfactants and humectants
  • Suitable for all skin types including acne-prone, oily, dry, or combination skin
  • Can be used daily
  • Cruelty-free
  • No added parabens, phthalates, or drying alcohols

Cons:

  • It may dry out extremely sensitive skin.

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10. Honest Beauty purify + refresh Gentle Gel Cleanser

This Honest Beauty gel cleanser is an ideal addition to your day and night skincare regime as it gently removes makeup and impurities from your skin surface. Suitable for all skin types, this sulfate-free gel-formula contains yucca root and does not over-dry your skin. Infused with a botanical blend of chamomile and calendula extracts that instead calms and soothes your skin, this hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested product is ideal for sensitive skin types.

Pros:

  • Cruelty-free
  • Dermatologist-tested and hypoallergenic
  • Does not contain parabens or phthalates
  • Free from SLS and PEGs
  • No added dyes or synthetic fragrances

Cons:

  • It may not foam as expected.

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11. Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel

For normal, dry, oily, and combination skin types, the Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel is an ideal sulfate-free face cleanser. To gently purify your skin of dirt and impurities while helping maintain and balance your skin’s natural moisture barrier, trust that this product will not cause any irritation. Formulated with nourishing botanical amino acids, this cleansing gel refines and minimizes pores, and will not irritate your skin, and instead eliminates dirt, and oil, leaving skin conditioned and debris-free.

Pros:

  • Cruelty-free
  • 100% vegan
  • Preservative-free
  • No artificial colors or fragrances
  • Gluten-free

Cons:

  • It may have a slightly watery consistency that makes it difficult to lather.

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Before you make a suitable choice from our list of cult-favorite sulfate-free cleansers to help you get rid of dirt and impurities, you might have a few queries about choosing the face wash that is right for you. Without really aggravating skin irritations, these products are scientifically proven to be effective in cleaning your skin surface.

How To Choose A Sulfate-Free Facial Wash: A Buying Guide

As sulfate is an irritant and also a common allergen, it is important to be aware of the best sulfate-free facial washes and cleansers available in the market.

What To Keep In Mind When Buying A Sulfate-free Facial Cleanser

  • Know your skin type

Identify whether your skin type is oily, dry, combination, or sensitive to determine which cleanser or wash may best suit you. If you have sensitive skin and are prone to acne, you may want to choose a cleanser that’s suitable for oily skin that is also non-comedogenic so that your skin doesn’t break out from using the cleanser.

  • Ingredients

It is also important to know about the ingredients in the product you are considering. If you are looking for protection from free radicals, choosing a product enriched with antioxidants in its ingredient list will definitely help you.

  • Purpose of the product

When choosing the best facial cleanser, think about what skin issues you face and what you would like to improve. If you are beginning to develop fine lines, wrinkles, and signs of photoaging, then perhaps you need a cleanser that also has skin brightening and tightening properties.

  • Skin conditions

In case you suffer from a skin concern or a dermatological condition, or have second thoughts about particular products or ingredients, it is always best to consult with a dermatologist for their opinion before including the product in your daily skincare regime. Those with extremely sensitive skin and allergic skin types, have all the more need to consult a specialist so that they can steer clear from any aggravations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is choosing a sulfate-free product important?

Although there is little to no evidence that sulfates deeply affect the skin or hair, some surfactants (commonly used in cleansers and shampoos) have been linked to increased skin and hair dryness, fragility, and roughness. Sulfate-free cleansing formulations have also grown in popularity as a gentler way to cleanse the skin and scalp, particularly among those with extremely sensitive skin or sulfate allergies and sensitivities.

Who can benefit from a sulfate-free wash or cleanser?

Those with sensitive skin or who are sensitive or reactive to sulfates can benefit the most from a sulfate-free wash or cleanser.

Sulfur is known to be a common allergen, particularly for those taking antibiotics or oral medications, and it can cause widespread rashes. Sulfates are commonly used in cleansers, washes, and shampoos as surfactants. They may aid in the removal of dirt and sebum from the surface of your skin. Sulfates can be classified as a potentially hazardous chemical substance that absorbs both oil and water while stripping your skin of both good and poor oils, as well as antimicrobial peptides and proteins. This may be particularly problematic in face wash cleansers because it can lead to dry, irritated skin as well as the worsening of acne in some cases.

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Sneha Manandhar holds a Master’s degree in English from the University of Pune. She has previously worked with media and publication houses in varied capacities as a lifestyle writer, an editor, a copywriter, and a translator. She reviews beauty, skin care, and wellness products from specialized curated lists. She believes that SEO-driven content is the present and the future and keeps herself busy by dabbling in SEO-related tools and honing her editing skills.