7 Zero Waste Face Washes That Work For Any Skin Type (2023)
You’ve probably been looking for a face wash that’s both sustainable and keeps your skin clear.
Even if you have sensitive skin, there’s a zero waste face wash out there for you, but it may be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.
So, find the best options in both bar and liquid form in this easy to follow guide.
Giving up something as basic as face wash isn’t something you have to do if you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, because plenty of brands are coming up with environmentally safe formulas.
Jumping right into the cleansers:
Zero Waste Face Wash Options
EcoRoots – Top Choice
EcoRoots makes a few different facial soaps, with fragrances like grapefruit and shea oatmeal – but my favorite is actually their bamboo charcoal bar.
Personally, I like my face wash to have a very mild scent and foam up to an absurd degree to remove all grime if possible. And EcoRoot’s bar easily meshes with my needs, because it lathers up great in my hands and has the slightest hint of charcoal.
Another thing about these bars is that they’re pretty sturdy, unlike a lot of other softer soap bars. Which means if you leave them in your shower, they don’t immediately turn into a nasty, goopy mess.
They also make some soap saver bags and dishes which can further reduce any waste or mess, but I find as long as you take care of them it should be fine as is.
EcoRoots also makes a popular shaving cream bar that I use pretty often as well!
Extra EcoRoots Info:
- 1% For The Planet Member
Ethique has two facial cleanser bars, which should work for any type of skin, whether you have oily, balanced, or dry skin.
My preferred cleanser from Ethique is the “Deep Green” one, as I have pretty average skin – but their other bar is unscented and doesn’t add any essential oils, so it’s perfect for sensitive skin.
The deep cleanser bar has more kaolin clay added along with sea salt, so it works well for skin that can handle a bit of extra scrubbing.
And it does have a scent – it smells mildly like clay! The other thing I really like about these bars is the small size, which makes them easy to travel with, keeps them fresher compared to big bars, and they foam up easily due to the small size.
Ethique’s moisturizer is another one of my favorite products, so definitely check that out.
Extra Ethique Info:
- Certified B Corp
- Certified Palm Oil Free
- Leaping Bunny Member
- 2% sales to charity
Meow Meow Tweet
Meow Meow Tweet’s liquid face cleanser comes in a small aluminum bottle with an optional plastic pump.
It has a pretty strong and unique scent – juniper and bergamot. And while I enjoy it, some people who are totally against fragrance in their cleansers may not be into this option.
Why am I recommending it if it contains plastic?
Well, like I said before the plastic pump is optional. And they have it setup in a way where you can order bulk refill bottles without the pump, and just screw yours back on when it arrives, which is what I’ve done.
The cleanser itself comes in a creamy, milky texture and leaves your skin both grime-free and hydrated, and it’s definitely the best liquid cleanser I’ve tried.
Meow Meow Tweet has quite a few other fantastic products as well, like their tubes of plastic free deodorant.
Extra Meow Meow Tweet Info:
- Certified B Corp
- Leaping Bunny Member
Etee’s simple organic facial cleansing bar is meant for all skin types.
It’s a cleanser bar that cleans and moisturizes without drying your skin, so if you’re looking for a bar to get your skin squeaky clean and dry or remove makeup, this may not be it.
But if you’re someone with average skin or you already have dry skin – this could be a perfect option for you.
And while it’s going to depend on an individual level entirely, sometimes the best thing for acne prone skin is to stop cleansing it with such harsh chemicals all the time and try something more gentle.
Like all of their skincare essentials, Plaine Product’s liquid face wash comes in a recyclable aluminum bottle with an optional plastic pump.
But since you can order refills without the plastic and reuse old bottles as well, a lot of people choose to get a pump the first time they order.
And since it’s a pretty concentrated liquid (which is a good thing), a little goes a long way with this cleanser as long as you lather it up into a foam with your hands.
You can choose from a mild citrus scent or an unscented version, depending on your needs, which is a nice touch as you don’t often see fragrance free options.
Plaine Products also ships their bottles in reinforced boxes so the metal bottles I’ve ordered have never arrived dented or broken as they’re snug in their cardboard box.
Extra Plaine Products Info:
- Certified B Corp
- Leaping Bunny Member
- 1% For The Planet Member
Fat And The Moon
Fat And The Moon makes a unique oil free, soap free, exfoliating powder cleanser, with added coconut and clay to polish and clean skin without the harshness of traditional chemicals.
It sounds weird to use, but all you have to do is mix it with water in your hands until it forms a creamy paste before applying it like a normal cleanser.
They do also have quite a few other options too, if powders aren’t your thing – also this powder contains honey, if you’re trying to avoid it.
Because of how strict airlines are about liquids, powder cleansers like this are perfect for travel if you don’t like having to deal with soap bars or randomly having your liquids confiscated.
Butter Me Up Organics
Butter Me Up Organics is another Etsy based, small business that makes face soap bars in a variety of scents.
These ones are made out of vegan ingredients like castile soap and french sea green clay, which gives it the ability to cleanse oil and makeup easily without irritating sensitive skin.
It leaves your skin with a slight layer of moisturizing oil from the added soap, and also has a noticeably mild scent compared to other clay-based bar cleansers.
I’m a big fan of a few of Butter Me Up Organic’s other products as well, like their suncream that comes in a large screw top glass jar.
Face wash has a plastic pollution problem
Plastic microbeads in face wash are old news, right?
Well, not exactly. Some countries such as the US, UK, South Korea, and France have banned microbeads in personal care items, but you can still find plastic microbeads included in the formulas of products like face wash and toothpaste.
This is going to depend entirely on where you live and what health and environmental policies are in place, unfortunately.
While it’s great that microbead bans exist to prevent microplastic pollution, most face wash still comes packaged in plastic bottles and tubes – so there’s always a substantial amount of plastic waste involved.
If we use the US as an example, your average person probably goes through 2-3 containers per year (with some going through a lot more or using none at all)
So, there’s probably close to a billion plastic bottles being produced and thrown out in the US from face wash alone, and that’s without considering the amount of “expired” products that’s thrown out due to ridiculous policies.
Seriously, the trash and expiration policies that a lot of supermarkets and stores have in place are insane, at least in the US – and things like dumpster diving aren’t always allowed if you’re someone planning to rescue forgotten cleanser bottles.
Some plastic containers might be recycled, but most end up in landfills simply because plastic is not easy to recycle, if it’s even attempted at all. Some of this is also due to how hard it is to fully clean out excess cleanser from the inside.
So, eco friendly face washes with sustainable packaging are the way to go, because they simplify recycling and are formulated with safer ingredients, which makes composting expired products much easier.
What face wash ingredients should you avoid?
Take a look at the back of your face wash bottle and see how many ingredients you recognize (or can even pronounce easily).
The truth is, most of the stuff you’ll see listed isn’t good for your health or the environment; common ingredients include various petrochemicals and animal products – some of which I’ve highlighted below.
Stop and think about where these chemicals end up after being washed off our bodies and down the drain. And not just by you, but billions of people everyday.
We swallow, inhale, and absorb small amounts of these chemicals through our skin when we use cleansers and other skincare products.
And if you wash your face in the shower, it’s easy to imagine how the steam swirling around you is a mixture of both water and chemical molecules floating about.
I’ve written a more complete guide to cosmetic ingredients to avoid if you want more details on potential health and environmental impacts, but let’s look at two that are commonly found in face washes: parabens and sulfates.
Parabens are used as preservatives in a lot of products, including many skincare formulas, and they’re produced in staggering amounts around the world each year.
You can find parabens in anything from face wash to fast food items. And because of how common they are, there’s a constant flow of them from both residential and industrial wastewater into our rivers and oceans.
On the topic of wastewater, when dirty water is treated at your local water treatment plant, there’s a good chance chemicals like parabens are not being fully filtered out as well.
Instead, they often accumulate in a nasty goo called sewage sludge.
Sewage sludge contaminated with parabens and other chemicals like PFAS present in our wastewater is then turned into fertilizer and used on agricultural plots and fields all over the place.
So at this point, parabens can be found in water and sediments everywhere on earth, and they’re widespread enough to be found in most living organisms in small amounts – a growing issue.
Sulfates are used as foaming agents in countless cosmetic and household products. If you’ve used any kind of “foaming” cleanser or disinfectant spray, you’ve seen sulfates in action.
In skincare products, their main job is to strip away oils and prepare your skin for a moisturizing layer.
The most common sulfates you’ll come across are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES); and while sulfates can be produced from palm kernels or coconut oil – most sulfates are petroleum based.
In reality, both petroleum and oil palm production are devastating to ecosystems anyways, so you should avoid using face wash formulas with either included, if you can.
The industrial sulfate production process also comes with another risk: contamination by impurities like 1,4-dioxane, a possible carcinogen.
So even if sulfates were “okay” to use healthwise, the way in which they’re manufactured may expose you to even more questionable chemicals that you’d never want anywhere near your skin.
Animal products in face wash
If you want to avoid animal products, look for vegan and cruelty free face washes that don’t endorse animal testing (the list above has plenty of those to choose from).
While there are some plant based alternatives of these ingredients, many brands still use animal products like:
- Honey (bees, of course)
- Hyaluronic acid (from rooster combs, the red fleshy things on their heads)
- Glycerine (animal fats)
It’s frustrating when you finally find a face wash that works for your skin, but it’s packaged in plastic and filled with unsafe ecotoxic ingredients.
The good news is, a ton of zero waste face wash brands are coming up with formulas full of safe, beneficial ingredients that cleanse your skin without harsh chemicals.
Finding a cleanser that works for your skin type is an essential part of a sustainable skincare routine, so don’t feel like you have to miss out!