The good news: Clean beauty is becoming increasingly popular, from direct-to-consumer cosmetics brands that value ingredient transparency and ethical manufacturing practices, to big-box beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta rolling out “clean” and “natural” stamps of approval on certain products. The not-so-good news: Without an
FDA-regulated definition for “organic” as it applies to cosmetics labelling, beauty brands are given more leeway to greenwash their products (aka misrepresent their products as “clean”). But back to some good news: Genuinely clean brands do exist, and you can easily find some of the best clean beauty products on Amazon.
But how do you know what’s really clean and what’s not? The first step is understanding the differences among buzzwords like “natural,” “organic,” and “clean.” Nastya V., a Skin Therapist at
Heyday in Los Angeles, broke it down for Bustle:
“‘Organic’ is more of a technical term,” she says. “Various regulating bodies have definitions of ‘organic,’ but they can differ from state to state. ‘Natural’ suggests that the ingredients in the product are derived from nature, but it’s basically a blanket term for a product that is unregulated but can appeal to a particular consumer. ‘Clean’ is like a hybrid of natural and organic: Part marketing term like ‘natural,’ but with more legitimacy as far as what the product is free from (no sulfates, no parabens, etc).”
A few more
no-go ingredients to look out for include synthetic colors and fragrances, phthalates, triclosan, propylene glycol, toluene, formaldehyde, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate. Some of these ingredients can be irritating or allergenic, while others can possibly cause more serious health problems.
To clarify a few more clean-adjacent buzzwords, “cruelty-free” means that the brand doesn’t test their product on animals, while “vegan” means that the product doesn’t contain
animal-derived ingredients, which are technically natural.
But Violet S., also a Skin Therapist at
Heyday in L.A., reminded me that a product billed as "clean" doesn’t necessarily make it better for your particular skin. “I like to remind my clients that ‘synthetic’ doesn’t always mean ‘bad,’” she says. “Synthetic ingredients in skin care are formulated and tested for your skin. Ultimately, it goes back to personal preference. I encourage everyone to do their own research and ask themselves what matters most to them in their skin care.”
To make things easy for you, dear reader, I did the research for you and rounded up 17 of the best clean beauty products on Amazon right now. From a potent clay mask to an all-purpose oil to a sunscreen that’s as good for your skin as it is for the coral reef, there’s a (truly) clean beauty product out there for everyone.
The Best Clean Cleanser For Dry And/Or Sensitive Skin
I love this
First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser for its comforting whipped texture — every application feels like an act of indulgent self-care. Key ingredients include soothing aloe, moisturizing glycerin, and a plant-derived antioxidant blend; absent from the formula are First Aid Beauty’s list of 1,300+ no-go ingredients, like parabens, propylene glycol, and artificial colors and fragrances. Its gentle, creamy formula will work on just about any skin type, but it's especially ideal for dry, sensitive, or irritation-prone skin.
The Best Clean Cleanser For Oily And/Or Acne-Prone Skin
Boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser ticks all the boxes necessary to join the ranks of the best cleansers for oily skin. The exfoliating gel formula contains non-comedogenic oils like avocado and olive, which provide your skin with the moisture it needs while breaking down makeup and environmental pollutants. It’s free of chemical preservatives that can further irritate inflamed skin, and and it’s packed with antibacterial ingredients that work to unclog congested pores, like rosemary leaf and willow bark — the latter of which contains salicin (the substance that can be chemically converted into acne-fighting salicylic acid). Use it as the first step in your double-cleansing routine, or on its own as a daily morning cleanser.
The Best Clean Day Cream For Dry And/Or Sensitive Skin
Almond oil extracted from fair-trade almonds gives
Weleda's Soothing Facial Cream its “soothing” moniker — this fan-favorite moisturizer is packed with nutrient-dense fatty oils, but it’s gentle enough to use on babies (or particularly sensitive-skinned adults). It's definitely moisture-rich, but since it absorbs so quickly, this cream works well as a pre-makeup primer, too. Weleda is also certified natural by NATRUE, an international non-profit association that’s created a rigorous criteria for “natural” and “organic” labelling.
The Best Clean Day Cream For Oily And/Or Acne-Prone Skin
Knours. Skin Meditation Gel Cream does for broken-out, irritated, stressed skin that meditation does for a broken-down, irritated, stressed nervous system: chills it right out. In this formula, peppermint oil, a natural astringent, curbs excess oil production and cools inflammation. Meanwhile, ceramides and glycerin impart hydration without leaving behind a greasy residue. This moisturizer actually provides a lightly mattifying effect, so it can double as a pre-makeup primer for shine-prone (or really, any type of) skin. And Knours. products are free from EDCs, toxic chemicals found in skin care products that can disrupt the body’s hormonal function, so this lightweight cream can literally keep you balanced both inside and out.
The Best Clean Night Cream For Dry And/Or Sensitive Skin
If I could only use one cream for the rest of my life, it would be this
Ursa Major Golden Hour Recovery Cream. By some stroke of magic (or really smart chemistry), this golden cream is somehow both rich enough to quench and refresh dry, dull skin, and lightweight enough that it won’t turn your face into an oil slick. It’s chock-full of naturally healing, hydrating, and firming ingredients — like rose, sea buckthorn, and sandalwood, which gives it its clean, earthy scent — and free from irritants like petrochemicals, parabens, and synthetic fragrance.
The Best Clean Night Cream For Oily And/Or Acne-Prone Skin
Andalou Naturals is one of my favorite clean brands, especially for their scientific approach to vegan ingredients. Their non-comedogenic
Argan Stem Cell Recovery Cream includes concentrated stem cells extracted from argan, apple, and grape, which work together to moisturize, heal, and firm up skin. At the same time, willow bark and salicylic acid clear up clogged pores and tone down inflammation. If this overnight cream works for you, check out Andalou Naturals’ Clear Skin line, a comprehensive product range that uses non-GMO, plant-derived ingredients to treat acne-prone skin.
At $80 a pop,
Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Booster Serum is not affordable by any stretch of that word (although Juice Beauty is definitely a prestige brand, and many prestige serums go for double the price on the lower side). But according to its near-perfect Amazon reviews, you get exactly what you pay for: Users say this airy, gel-textured serum is immediately effective for plumping, smoothing, and boosting your skin’s glow. That’s because this serum is packed with basically every ingredient you could ever want on your face, like hyaluronic acid for hydration, vitamin C for luminosity, and natural emollients for nourishment. All of Juice Beauty’s products are produced sustainably and filled with certified-organic ingredients, and many ingredients are sourced from farmers local to the brand's California HQ.
The Best Clean Facial Oil
It makes sense that
Pai's Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil has gained such a cult-like following. This hardworking oil does almost everything you could ask of a single product, from rejuvenating tired skin to repairing damage to nourishing extreme dryness. That’s all down to just four natural ingredients: rosehip seed extract, rosehip fruit extract, Vitamin E, and rosemary extract (Nastya, the Heydey Skin Therapist I interviewed for this article, loves rosehip for treating hormonal acne). It can also be used on your body and nails, though you'll probably want to save this precious oil for your face.
The Best Clean Eye Cream
The thin, fragile skin around your eyes is notoriously delicate, even for people who don’t typically have sensitive skin. Dabbing on
Nourish Organic's Renewing & Hydrating Eye Treatment feels like a lovely way to treat an area of your skin that needs a little extra kindness. There are lots of natural moisturizers at work in this formula, like avocado oil, argan oil, and shea butter, while zingy aloe lifts and brightens puffiness and dark circles. Its cooling metal applicator feels especially rejuvenating on tired eyes, especially (pro tip!) when stored in the fridge.
The Best Clean Acne Treatment
Honest Beauty's Clearing Night Serum contains salicylic acid and retinol, a powerhouse duo when it comes to clearing up acne, evening out discoloration, and fading unwanted scars. But in this formula, those ingredients act nicely: The salicylic acid is derived from natural wintergreen, and retinol is time-released to minimize the irritation that can occur when you apply heavy doses of the stuff. Fatty acid-rich barbary fig and rosehip extract also work to counteract the retinol’s drying effects. Like all of the brand's products, it's made without common irritants and is PETA-certified cruelty-free.
The Best Clean Detoxifying Face Mask
Few beauty products have garnered as devoted a following as the
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, whose truly shocking number of Amazon ratings is equal to that of a small city (25,818, at last count). This no-nonsense mask/viral phenomenon is made of 100% calcium bentonite clay, which has been used for centuries to purge impurities, soothe irritation and rashes, and even boost your skin’s collagen production. That said, people with especially dry skin should probably steer clear of this clay mask (or mix it with water instead of the suggested apple cider vinegar), which beauty YouTuber Kathleen Lights somewhat ominously called “the most intense mask in the history of the world.” You can use it as a body mask or as bath powder, too!
The Best Clean Moisturizing Face Mask
On the other end of the mask spectrum is the
Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Mask, a skin-quenching treatment that boasts 1,000 sizes of hyaluronic acid molecules — which, in plain English, essentially means you’re infusing your skin with one of the most powerful natural hydrators a thousand times over. The mask’s 100% natural, non-toxic ingredients — many of which are grown on the brand's Vermont farm — also work wonders to calm redness and balance discoloration.
The Best Clean Lip Balm
When I think of clean lip balm, I think of
Burt’s Bees Lip Balm. This drugstore staple spikes its responsibly sourced beeswax base with nourishing oils and conditioning vitamin E. Get it in its classic, peppermint-tinged flavor, or this fruity, tropical-inspired four-pack. Just a heads up: In addition to beeswax, these lip balms contain lanolin, an oil secreted from sheeps’ sebaceous glands. So even though it’s "natural," it’s not a vegan product.
The Best Clean Body Wash
Everything about this
Puracy Natural Body Wash will make you feel good. The cruelty-free formula is made of entirely renewable plant-derived cleansers and preservatives, it’s biodegradable, the packaging is recyclable, and Puracy donates a portion of every sale to a charity local to the company’s Austin, Texas home base. And the product itself gets nearly perfect ratings from thousands of reviewers on Amazon, who love its sulfate-free lather and skin-soothing effect. I’ll be trying all three (synthetic-free) scents.
The Best Clean Body Lotion
Every ingredient in
Pacifica's Island Vanilla Body Butter is plant-derived and free from harmful synthetics — including its warm vanilla scent, which Pacifica makes themselves with a blend of natural and essential oils. Rich, nourishing, luxurious, cruelty-free: It’s like slathering yourself in vegan vanilla frosting, if you’re into that kind of thing. If you don't love dessert-inspired scents, it also comes in Tunisian Jasmine Lime, Brazilian Mango Grapefruit, Tuscan Blood Orange, and more.
The Best Clean Sunscreen
Sunscreen is necessary if you’re spending a day in the sun. Unfortunately, most sunscreens feel absolutely disgusting on your skin. But this
All Good Sport Sunscreen SPF 30 feels like you’re applying lotion that’s actually meant to be on your body — it’s non-tacky, non-greasy, and contains organic plant extracts like shea butter, rosehip, and calendula (one of Nastya's favorite natural anti-inflammatory ingredients), which work to heal and moisturize dry, damaged skin. The biodegradable formula is also free from common sunscreen ingredients that can be lethal to coral reefs, like oxybenzone and octinoxate. Instead, environmentally-safe zinc oxide delivers UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection for up to 80 minutes.
The Best Clean Hand Cream
Growing up, my sister and I used to mix olive oil and coarse sea salt in a Tupperware container, slather it over our hands, lock in the concoction with cotton gloves overnight, and marvel at our baby-soft hands in the morning. This
Nubian Heritage Olive Oil & Green Tea Hand Cream takes a similarly lo-fi approach, combining olive oil and a handful of other raw ingredients to naturally (and effectively) nourish dry hands. In this formula, green tea replaces the sea salt in our DIY mixture to gently exfoliate flakes, while shea butter, cocoa butter, and a fleet of fatty oils revive dull, thirsty skin. Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently of Bustle's editorial and sales departments.