Eco-Friendly Facial Cleansers: From Soap to Scrub to Eye Makeup Remover

BlogHer Original Post

Naturally clean, healthy, glowing skin's every eco beauty seeker's desire -- but the exploding eco-friendly beauty product market's got quite a few green-but-not-effective duds in it. And since each facial product really takes at least a month to show what it can do, finding a green and effective beauty product that works can be an excruciatingly long-term endeavor.

So excruciatingly long and full of potential skin perils, in fact, that makes some women just stick to the ungreen but cosmetically acceptable products they're already using. Unless you're like my fellow green BlogHer contributing editor Beth Terry, in which case you've started washing your face with baking soda.

I'm not ready for the baking soda routine, so I've done the product research work for you. Over the life of this blog, I've put quite a lot of beauty products to the test, and now have a regimen I'm happy with. Good skin begins with a good cleanse, so to kick off this series of green beauty posts, here are the best eco-friendly facial cleansers I've found and use now -- along with a runner up:

Arcona cleansers

Best facial cleanser: Arcona Toner Tea Bar ($38 for a 4 oz bar)

Balking at the $38 price tag on a simple bar of soap? Rest assured that one generous bar of Toner Tea Bar lasts me well over six months -- which makes this facial cleanser a money-saving beauty product as well as a very effective one.

I discovered Toner Tea Bar when I got a facial at the Arcona studio, which puts together a five-product skin care regime complete with generous free samples of each of the products for any first time facial customers. If you live in the L.A. area, I recommend you go this route since the facials at the spa are eco-friendly and effective, too. This bar cleanses thoroughly without drying out the skin and without leaving any residue. Plus, Toner Tea Bar smells like a fresh, light, citrus-infused tea.

All of the bar's ingredients are clearly disclosed, and all but two rank low hazard on Skin Deep, Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database. Those two are grapefruit seed extract which ranks a moderate hazard, and Lecithin, which also gets a moderate hazard ranking IF ingested or left on the skin. So don't eat your soap!

The biggest downside of this bar: It comes in an heavy and bulky plastic jar which, if recyclable, still seems unnecessary.

Runner up: Avalon Organics Facial Cleansing Gel ($12 for 7 fl. oz. bottle). Prefer a liquid cleanser? Avalon's cleansing gel's not wow-worthy, but does a perfectly decent job -- and has the side benefit of being widely available at Whole Foods. It does, however, rank a moderate hazard 4 on Skin Deep -- which is probably higher than what Toner Tea Bar would rank -- and lasts a couple months at most, which means you'd be going through a decent amount of plastic packaging.

Best facial scrub: Arcona's Cranberry Gommage ($42 for a 3.4 ounce jar)

Not ALL my favorite products come from Arcona, but the company does make some stellar stuff. If you're used to the average apricot scrub, Cranberry Gommage will be a delicious fruity treat. This scrub has much smaller granules than the average apricot scrub -- which means it's gentler on your skin while providing you with a more intense cleanse and an intense burst of fresh cranberry scent. Use it a few times a week to wake up your skin with a deeper, scrubbier cleanse.

Earth Science Eye Make-Up Remover and organic cotton balls

Best eye makeup remover: Earth Science Eye Make-Up Remover ($6.50 for a 4 fl. oz. bottle)

This fragrance-free, paraben-free product is a clear gel that's non-greasy and does its job quite well. The product scores a 2 on Skin Deep -- and is conveniently available at Whole Foods and Co-opportunity. I may, however, keep experimenting with new removers, because Skin Deep does list quite a few removers with a 0 hazard rating -- though I've learned to avoid removers that are primarily made with oil, as those are just too greasy and gross.

To remove makeup, I use Organic Essentials organic cotton balls. I tried Ecotools Eco Foam cleansing sponges, but found the pads not only to be rough on my skin, but also just poorly made -- the glue between the sponge and cotton seeps out the edges, and is really painful to get out if you happen to get a granule of the stuff in your eye, like I did once. Plus, despite being called "Eco Foam," the cotton used is not organic -- though the pads are reusable.

Last but not least: While the beauty industry would like to convince us that we need only buy their products to get gorgeous, flawless skin, what you eat and how you live are by far the biggest influence on how your skin looks. This fact really hit home for me when I went on an alcohol break at the beginning of this year, then cut out all sugar, fried food, and processed food -- even bread! -- in February. My skin really started looking fantasti, though I just can't eat like an anal health freak for the rest of my life, as evidenced by the fact that I'm drinking organic wine as I blog this....

Related links:

>> Katherine at EcoSalon put 5 organic facial cleansers to the test -- except the products aren't actually certified organic. Like the products I reviewed in this post, the products she reviews simply contain some organic ingredients.

>> M.J. Prest at The Ethical Style blog recommends a facial cleanser from Beauty Without Cruelty in a roundup of products she recommends to give yourself a $50 spa vacation.

>> Gretchen at Green Gretchen documents her quest for beauty products greener than the Kiehl's stuff she was using. Like me, she found the first greener products she found on the market didn't work so well -- though she's holding out hope for Jurlique.

BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at

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