top of page

Clean Cleansers

Time to get CLEAN! Here are some cleansers that I've tried so far - specifically with the Clean at Sephora* seal. For a refresher on cleanser basics, check out my other blog post on choosing a facial cleanser! As well, stay tuned for future blog posts regarding cleansers for specific skin concerns. I also want to be transparent that this post contains affiliate links to my shelf, but you'll only find products I believe in - from effective active ingredients to clean formulations. So, if you do decide to try out any of the products I've reviewed, I would really appreciate your support by purchasing this way!

When selecting a cleanser, there are a couple things that I always keep in mind. Some of these are my personal preferences, so I feel it's important to give a brief explanation of how I attempt to assess a cleanser:

  1. Is it GENTLE? A cleanser’s purpose is to remove dirt and impurities and unclog pores without stripping the skin barrier, being abrasive/scratching the skin, or causing irritation.

  2. Does it remove ALL MY MAKEUP? I'm not really a fan of double cleansing, unless excessively sweaty/have caked on makeup from a big event. Therefore, I expect one cleanser to easily remove all my makeup.

  3. Does it LATHER NICELY? {personal preference} Cleansers that are oily/milky and don't lather just don't have me feeling as fresh afterwards; your skin shouldn't feel greasy/tacky after cleansing. You want the cleanser to wash off impurities and unclog pores, not sit on top of your skin. However, a lather is not necessary and cream cleansers that don’t foam are appropriate for some skin conditions.

  4. Does my face feel SMOOTH, SOFT, and HYDRATED after cleansing? Any cleanser that leaves your face feeling tight or dry afterwards is a no-go. Cleansers should be gentle and soothing!

The other aspects I look at include scent, type (gel, cream, oil etc), whether the cleanser has clean ingredients, value (cost in CAD), and if it is fragrance- and paraben-free. Everyone's skin is different, so make sure to patch test (use a small amount of product on your inner arm before using all over your face, to see if you react) first. Let's start with my top 3 cleanser picks!

Top 3 Clean Cleansers

#1 THE INKEY LIST Fulvic Acid Brightening Cleanser

  • How it works: A gel cleanser, this gently removes makeup (including eye) as well as exfoliates and calms the skin.

  • Impression: This gel cleanser leaves skin feeling so fresh! I don't find that it has a scent, it foams nicely, and my face feels soft and clean after use. I don't notice the nordic peat (small brown chunks) that are in the formula at all; it feels like a regular gel cleanser. I have noticed my skin feels more even, bright, and clear since I've started using this. It's cost of $13.99 is reasonable given the large tube, as you don't need much for a nice lather. My combination + sensitive skin does not feel dry, irritated, or coated after use.

  • Verdict: This takes No. 1 as an inexpensive, gentle, clean-ingredient cleanser with great soothing and brightening results!

  • Clean at Sephora

  • Cruelty-free

  • Vegan

  • Gluten-free

Key Ingredients:

  • 0.5% Nordic Peat high in Fulvic Acid which acts as an antioxidant (exfoliates for bright, smooth, rejeuvenated skin; anti-inflammatory)

  • 1.5% Kakadu Plum Complex high vitamin C content (boosts radiance, nourishes)

  • 1% Liquorice Root Extract potent antioxidant (soothes, reduce hyperpigmentation, brightens)

  • 0.5% Aloe Vera (soothes, calms)

Cleanser Properties:

  • Texture: Gel

  • Exfoliating property: Gentle

  • Best for: Everyone, including sensitive skin

  • Skin concerns: Dark spots, uneven texture, dullness

  • pH: 4.5 - 5.5

#2 TATCHA The Rice Wash

  • How it works: I find it fascinating that for centuries, when rinsing rice with water to prepare for cooking, Japanese women reused the leftover water in beauty rituals - this nutrient-filled water was a source of various vitamins and moisturizing proteins, helping to soften and add health to hair and skin. Tatcha claims this cleansing ritual was the inspiration for this daily cream cleanser, with Okinawa red algae, hyaluronic acid, and Japanese rice powder to moisturize and cleanse skin while leaving it hydrated, soft and luminous. The cleanser gently washes away impurities and is pH-neutral, so it doesn’t strip the skin. However, it does have a faint fragrance, so be aware of this if scents are irritating for you.

  • Impression: The first thing I noticed was the quality of this cleanser. It is a thick, creamy texture, so you really do not need very much; a pea sized amount is perfect for your face! It makes the price tag ($46 for 120mL) a little more reasonable. I love the refreshing scent! It foams into a creamy lather with water, and my skin felt silky and well-moisturized after rinsing. I think it's the rice powder that adds a tiny bit of grittiness to the texture - but it isn't abrasive. However, it does say to avoid the eye area, so not helpful if wearing eye makeup. I really like how it helps replenish ceramides in the skin, and I've noticed my skin definitely feels plump and nourished after using this!

  • Verdict: I typically prefer gel cleansers, but this creamy foaming cleanser is a dream to use! It hydrates, softens, and gives a healthy glow, while keeping skin balanced with it's neutral pH. The only reason this isn't No. 1 is because of the cost, but I will be repurchasing as overall its a worthy splurge! This takes No.2.

  • Clean at Sephora

  • Cruelty-free

  • Vegan

  • Gluten-free

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Non-irritating

  • Non-sensitizing

  • Dermatologist-tested

  • No mineral oil, synthetic fragrance, sulfate detergents, phthalates, parabens, urea, DEA, or TEA

  • Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Futures program (each Tatcha purchase supports equality in education)

Key Ingredients:

  • Okinawa Algae Blend + Hyaluronic Acid captures water, replenishes ceramides to help retain moisture for smooth plump skin (softens, deeply nourishes)

  • Hadasei-3 restores radiance

  • pH-Neutral Amino Acid Base removes impurities without stripping essential oils from skin (cleanses, balances skin pH level)

  • Japanese Rice Powder (softens, moisturizes, boosts luminosity)

Cleanser Properties:

  • Texture: Cream

  • Exfoliating property: Mild

  • Best for: Normal, dry, combination

  • Skin concerns: Dryness

  • pH: Neutral

#3 GLOW RECIPE Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

  • How it works: This gentle 3-in-1 gel-foaming cleanser contains antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, gentle AHAs, and nourishing oils to remove makeup. Appearance of pores is improved and skin looks clear, radiant and glowing. It claims to work three ways: as a cleanser (add water to create a lather), makeup remover (massage into dry face before rinsing), and a mask (apply a layer to clean dry skin and rinse after 5 minutes)! It received the Byrdie Skincare Award 2019 for Best Cleanser Gel/Foam, and is made with the minimum amount of vegan fragrance (always <0.5% for Glow Recipe formulations).

  • Impression: This texture is definitely a "bouncy gel" that lathers really nicely with water. It hydrates the skin without stripping it, and I 've noticed it helps reduce blemishes and breakouts with continued use. It has a fruity blueberry/light floral scent, and again you don't need very much for a complete face wash, so the price of $45 for 160mL isn't terribly unreasonable as it lasts a long time. I love that it really removes makeup well, and how fresh it leaves my skin feeling afterwards!

  • Verdict: This is a great gel cleanser for acne-prone/combo/oily skin that lathers nicely for a complete clean. I am a huge fan of glycolic acid, so the fact it is in this cleanser to help remove dead skin cells is great! The reason it's not higher up on the list is just the price, as the Fulvic Acid cleanser gives comparable results for 1/3 the cost. Overall though, at No. 3 it's a lovely cleanser!

  • Clean at Sephora

  • Cruelty-free

  • Vegan

  • Gluten-free

  • No parabens, mineral oil, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, alcohol, synthetic dyes

Key Ingredients:

  • Blueberry Extract vitamins and antioxidants to prevent premature aging (fights free radicals, hydrates, calms inflammation, minimize discoloration)

  • Hyaluronic Acid (hydrates)

  • AHA blend of lactic acid and glycolic acid to gently exfoliate by removing dead surface skin cells (exfoliates, hydrates; refines pores, smoothes, brightens)

  • Hydrating Suds microfoaming bubbles (remove makeup, dirt, grime)

Cleanser Properties:

  • Texture: Lightweight gel

  • Exfoliating property: Gentle

  • Best for: Normal, dry, combination, oily, sensitive

  • Skin concerns: Acne, blemishes, pores, oiliness, dullness/uneven texture

  • pH: 5.5 - 6

The above are my current top three gentle, everyday CLEAN cleansers - and to be honest, I use all three as I like switching up my routine! Since I've tried quite a number of cleansers to find my favourites, here are my quick thoughts on other clean-ingredient options.

Runner-Ups Worth Considering:

TARTE | Sea Deep Dive Makeup Removing Gel Cleanser A more watery-gel cleanser with a faint but calming spa-like scent. Foams nicely for a fresh cleanse

SEPHORA | Clean Skin Gel - Cleanse + Tone Collection Great budget cleanser with a smooth gel texture for a refreshing cleanse, has a stronger scent

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE | Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser Light natural scent, this gentle watery cleanser leaves skin feeling fresh and rejuvenated

TATCHA | The Deep Cleanse I love this cleanser as a deeper exfoliation - still gentle, but really leaves skin feeling new! I have it in the new value size which comes in a tube (the above packaging for the regular size I find hard to get all the product out) and use it when I really want that fresh-faced spa-facial feeling!

FIRST AID BEAUTY | Pure Skin Face Cleanser Gentle, unscented cream-to-foam cleanser great for all skin types

Not A Fan:

  • BLUME | Daydreamer Very creamy cleanser, doesn't foam. Skin felt coated after use

  • HERBIVORE | Pink Cloud Gel cleanser with low foaming action, couldn't stand the scent

  • FRESH | Kombucha 2-in-1 No-Rinse Cleanser & Prebiotic Treatment I'm not a fan of no-rinse cleansers. This is like water and has a funny smell

  • KORRES | Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser A thick cream that foams nicely, but the smell is overwhelming

  • DRUNK ELEPHANT | Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser Light gel that foams nicely and is fragrance free, but is pretty basic and doesn't do anything spectacular for the price

  • CAUDALIE | Vinopure Pore Purifying Gel Cleanser Cleanses well but has salicylic acid so can be drying; doesn't foam very well and don't like the strong scent (smells sort of like a cleaning product)

  • FARMACY | Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm Not really a fan of cleansing balms, as I haven't found one that leaves skin feeling fresh afterwards (always feel like a layer of oil or something on top after), but this one is a good makeup remover

  • TARTE | Frxxxtion Stick Exfoliating Cleanser Supposed to be an exfoliating gel, mine was hard and needed water added to enable it to spread onto the skin. Quite coarse, not gentle and not a great cleanser

  • GLOW RECIPE | Papaya Sorbet Smoothing Enzyme Cleansing Balm & Makeup Remover Normally I love Glow Recipe products, but this is one I'm not a fan of. A cream that turns into an oil when rubbed into the skin, I found this actually didn't remove all my mascara (and I don't even use waterproof). Left a greasy feel on skin after rinsing and didn't like the plastic smell

There you have it! I hope this has given some insight into cleansers I think might be worth trying for that daily gentle cleanse, and which ones to skip out on. Have you found your favourite cleanser?

*Clean at Sephora products are formulated without: Sulfates—SLS + SLES, Parabens, Formaldehydes, Formaldehyde-releasing agents, Phthalates, Mineral Oil, Retinyl Palmitate, Oxybenzone, Coal Tar, Hydroquinone, Triclosan, Triclocarban, Undisclosed synthetic fragrances (Products can be formulated with disclosed synthetic fragrances that meet the following two criteria: (1) the synthetic fragrances do not include any of the ingredients listed in numbers 1 through 12 above and (2) the synthetic fragrances are at a concentration below 1% of the total formula) The following type of acrylates: (ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, methyl methacrylate, butyl methacrylate, hydroxypropyl methacrylate, tetrahydrofurfuryl methacrylate, trimethylolpropane trimethacrylate , aluminum salts), Animal Oils/Musks/Fats, Benzophenone + Related Compounds, Butoxyethanol, Carbon Black, Lead/Lead Acetate, Methyl Cellosolve + Methoxyethanol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone & Methylisothiazolinone, Mercury + Mercury Compounds (Thimerisol), Insoluble Plastic Microbeads (This prohibited ingredient applies to products that are meant to be rinsed off ), Resorcinol, Talc (Talc that is free of any asbestos can be used in the formulation provided that Brand conducts testing to ensure that talc is free of any asbestos.), Toluene, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) that is 0.1% or more of total formula, Ethanolamines DEA/TEA/MEA/ETA, Nanoparticles as defined by the European Commission, Petrolatum and Parrafin that is not USP grade, Phenoxyethanol that is 1% or more of total formulation, Polyacrylamide & Acrylamide, The following types of Styrene (Bromostyrene, Deastyrene/acrylates/dvbcopolymer, sodium styrene/divinylbenzene copolymer , styrene oxide, styrene), 1,4 Dioxane in final formulas must comply with the thresholds as follows: (10 or < ppm for products that are meant to be rinsed off, wiped off or removed, 3ppm or < for products that are meant to remain on the skin).


Back to Blog | Home | About | Follow on Instagram


Thanks for stopping by!

Hi, I’m Pharmacist Chelsea! I have a clinical Doctor of Pharmacy degree and have been practicing as a Pharmacist in Canada since 2018.

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Instagram
bottom of page