If you’re one of the select few who’s allergic to phenoxyethanol, you’re at a disadvantage because it’s EVERYWHERE.
In this article, we’ll go over a long list of holy grail products that are both phenoxyethanol-free, and decently-affordable (because let’s face it, not everyone has money to burn on skincare products).
Without further ado, let’s get started.
IN THIS ARTICLE
1. Cerave Foaming Cleanser (Best for normal to oily skin)
Cerave is one of my all-time favorite skincare brands.
They make no-fuss, utilitarian products that are gentle, affordable, and readily available—win, win, win.
This product, like many others in their line, contains skin-healthy ingredients like glycerin, ceramide, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, which can help support your skin’s protective barrier (otherwise known as your stratum corneum).
So instead of drying you out (like a lot of other traditional cleansers), this one will leave you feeling clean without stripping your skin of its natural oils.
Plus, you get a good amount of product for the price.
Personally, I can get a good 4 months of daily use out of my Cerave cleansers.
Ingredients: Purified Water, Cocamidopropyl Hydrosultaine, Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, PEG 150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, Niacinamide, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Propylene Glycol, Ceramide 3, Ceramide 6-II, Ceramide 1, Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Phytosphingosine, Citric Acid, Edetate Disodium, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum
- Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3 with a never-ending list of benefits. It can: (1) fade hyperpigmentation, (2) moisturize skin, (3) provide antioxidant activity, (4) reduce the appearance of fine lines, and the list goes on (source). There’s one more thing worth mentioning. It’s well-tolerated by virtually all skin types—dry, oily, eczema-prone, rosacea-prone, and acne-prone. Whoot!
- Ceramides are the lipids that glue your skin cells together. Generally speaking, they do two things: (1) strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and (2) prevent moisture loss. If you’re using products that compromise your protective barrier, adding Ceramides 1 and 3 to your routine has been proven to reduce TEWL (transepidermal water loss) and, consequently, reduce skin irritation (source).
FYI: If your skin is dry and/or dehydrated, I recommend using Cerave’s Hydrating Cleanser. It’s even gentler than the foaming cleanser and it’s also phenoxyethanol-free. Read my full review here.
- Alternative preservative(s): Methylparaben, Propylparaben
- Size: 16 ounces
- Texture: Watery texture that lathers to a light foam
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this foaming cleanser here on Amazon.
2. COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser (Best for dry skin)
When you use products that don’t jive with your skin’s natural pH (aka a slightly acidic 5.5), you can disrupt its protective barrier. When this happens, your skin isn’t able to keep the bad stuff (i.e. bacteria) out and the good stuff (i.e. moisture) in. Which can sometimes lead to dryness, flaking, breakouts, or even worse, dehydrated skin.
You might like: What Causes Dehydrated Skin + How to Fix It
The good news is that a lot of companies are changing their cleanser formulations for the better. This COSRX cleanser (which is a cult-favorite by the way) has a pH that’s between 5 and 6, making it perfectly skin-balanced.
Side Note: Just because it’s marketed as a morning cleanser, doesn’t mean that you have to use it exclusively in the AM. A lot of people use this as a part of their double cleansing routine (and others use it as a full-on makeup remover).
Ingredients: Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Polysorbate 20, Styrax Japonicus Branch/Fruit/Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Allantoin (find out more about allantoin here), Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Betaine Salicylate, Citric Acid, Ethyl Hexanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA
- Cocamidopropyl betaine is a cleansing agent (or surfactant) often synthesized from coconut oil. Since it’s gentler on skin than some of the other ingredients in its class (such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), it’s been becoming more and more popular to use in cosmetics.
- Tea tree oil. Some people love it, while others hate it (I mean, I kind of get it—it’s a very smelly botanical). But its skin-healthy benefits are undeniable. According to a review, tea tree oil has: antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-skin cancer benefits (source). Studies have also shown that it can be used to treat mild-to-moderate acne (source).
Pro Tip #1: Because this cleanser contains so many plant extracts, avoid getting it in and around your eye area—at all costs.
Pro Tip #2: Skip this cleanser if you’re allergic to tea tree oil or other plant extracts. Always spot test your products if you’re unsure.
How to use: The COSRX website says to use this like any other cleanser (i.e. massage onto wet skin and rinse). But I’ve seen some reviews that recommend massaging it onto dry skin to get rid of makeup and sunscreen. You can certainly try both methods to see which one you like better.
- Alternative preservative(s): Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Benzoate
- Size: 5.07 ounces
- Texture: Clear gel that foams up to a nice lather when mixed with water
- Fragrance: No (but it smells like tea tree oil)
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this low pH cleanser here on Amazon.
3. Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water (Best for removing makeup)
If oil-cleansing isn’t your thing, try this French-girl favorite instead.
Like other micellar waters, it works by sweeping away makeup, dirt, and oil from your skin. And yes, it’ll even work on stubborn makeup (like waterproof mascara and eyeliner).
Unlike other micellar waters, it doesn’t leave a filmy residue on your face. Which is a big win when you want to feel cleansed and refreshed.
It’s also really gentle, so it’s unlikely to dry out your skin, sting your eyes, or cause allergic reactions. FYI: CosDNA hasn’t flagged any of its ingredients, so they’re unlikely to be comedogenic too.
You can use it as your daily cleansing agent. Or as a dedicated makeup remover. It’s especially good for those lazy days when you don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on a long-winded skincare routine.
The last thing I want to mention is that it’s a little pricey. But since it comes in a 16-ounce bottle, you’re definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck.
Ingredients: Water (aqua), Peg-6 Caprylic/capric Glycerides, Cucumis Sativus (cucumber) Fruit Extract, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Propylene Glycol, Disodium Edta, Cetrimonium Bromide
Pro Tip: If you have sensitive skin, always buy the Sensibio version of this product (the one with the red cap) because the Hydrobio version (the one with the blue cap) is formulated with fragrance, which can be irritating for some people.
- Alternative preservative(s): Cetrimonium Bromide
- Size: 16.7 ounces
- Texture: It’s a lot like water
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this makeup-removing micellar water here on Amazon.
1. S.W. Basics Toner (Best all-natural toner)
This used to be my go-to toner when I was dealing with a sudden onset of acne in my mid-20s.
As someone with oily skin, it was a perfect fit because it helped balance my skin’s oil production.
And after consistent nighttime use, I found that I didn’t turn into an oil-well by lunchtime. Being less oily definitely helped lessen my acne—although I had to add some other products to make it go away completely.
Formulated with only 5 ingredients, I found it to be gentle. I mean, the less ingredients something has, the less likely you are to experience irritation, right?
The cool thing about its ingredients is that they’re “certified organic, fair trade, or sourced from family farms” (source). So if you’re eco-conscious, this would be a good choice for you.
Ingredients: Water, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Witch Hazel, Organic Clary Sage Essential Oil, and Organic Sandalwood Essential Oil
- Apple cider vinegar. You probably want to learn more about this ingredient, especially because it’s been trending for quite some time now. The thing is, there aren’t any studies that prove its efficacy. And as a layperson, I don’t feel comfortable theorizing about its benefits. If anyone publishes a study on the matter, I’ll make sure to update this section.
- Witch hazel. Essentially, it’s an age-old plant with a high tannin content. In regards to skin, it’s mostly known for providing astringent, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant benefits. But research has shown that it can also help alleviate sunburns and sensitive scalp conditions (source 1, source 2). Although it’s generally well-tolerated, it’s not recommended for rosacea-prone skin.
Pro Tip #1: There are a lot of DIY toner recipes out there on the interwebs. But I’d caution you to steer clear of these recipes. Making ACV toners at home is risky because if you get the pH wrong and leave it on your skin long enough, you will end up with a chemical burn.
Pro Tip #2: When you get this product, you might notice some particles floating around the bottom of the bottle. Fear not. S.W. Basics uses unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar with the mother. So they’re supposed to be there.
- Alternative preservative(s): None
- Size: 4 ounces
- Texture: It’s like a watery apple cider vinegar
- Fragrance: No (smells like vinegar—thankfully the smell doesn’t linger)
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check it out here on Amazon.
2. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Toner (Best acne busting toner)
Want a product that’ll kick your acne to the curb?
Well, Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Toner is the ultimate holy grail when it comes to acne products!
The reason why it’s so good is that it contains 2% salicylic acid (the maximum concentration allowed in OTC products).
What can salicylic acid do?
Essentially, it can exfoliate your skin and unclog your pores.
In terms of efficacy, it’s often compared to benzoyl peroxide (the OG acne product). But unlike benzoyl peroxide, it won’t bleach your towels, shirts, and sheets, so it’s easier to incorporate into your skincare routine.
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Even though this is a great product, I have to admit, it’s not right for everyone. Because of its exfoliating properties, it won’t work so well on dry or dehydrated skin.
Ingredients: Water, Methylpropanediol, Butylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Sodium Hydroxide, Tetrasodium EDTA
- Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant naturally found in willow bark. Unlike fruit acids which are water-soluble, salicylic acid is oil-soluble. This means it can penetrate your pores to clean out the oily bits. So if you have oily, clog-worthy skin, it can often make your pores appear smaller.
Pro Tip: When you’re first starting out with this toner, go slow. Start by using it once a week. And once your skin gets used to it, increase your usage to twice a week. If you ever feel dry or flaky, cut down usage or stop altogether.
How To Use: Swipe the toner across your face with a cotton pad. Wait 5-15 minutes for the toner to work its magic on your skin. Then move onto the rest of your routine. Words of the wise: Since salicylic acid can be quite drying, don’t skimp out on moisturizing!
- Alternative preservative(s): Tetrasodium EDTA
- Size: 4 ounces
- Texture: Clear watery liquid that leaves a slightly sticky residue
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this acne-fighting toner here on Amazon.
1. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum (Best antioxidant + skin-brightening serum)
I’m in love with this serum! And I can’t recommend it enough!
When I started using it, I initially didn’t see any results. But after two months, I looked at myself and thought, “holy cow, I’m glowing.”
The formulation is phenomenal. It combines a wide range of ingredients with a wide-range of skin-healthy benefits.
For one, Vitamin C is a free-radical fighting antioxidant that can protect you against UV damage and pollution.
Next, hyaluronic acid is a skin-plumping hydrator that can draw moisture onto your skin.
And it doesn’t stop there (read my full review to find out more about Mad Hippie’s ingredients and their benefits).
Another cool thing about it is that it absorbs into my skin beautifully. I mean, I’m oily so whenever a serum doesn’t make me look oilier, I’m happy. But it’s also non-drying, so I think it would work just as well on dry skin.
Ingredients: Deionized Water, Vitamin C (sodium ascorbyl phosphate), Akyl Benzoate, Vegetable Glycerin, Water, Glycerin, Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate, Clary Sage (salvia sclarea), Grapefruit (citrus grandis), Hyaluronic Acid, Amorphophallus Konjac Root Powder, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Vitamin E (tocotrienol), Ferulic Acid, Chamomile Flower Extract (recutita matricaria), Sodium Phytate, Xanthum Gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) is a shelf-stable Vitamin C derivative. Unlike other types of Vitamin C (like L-AA), SAP doesn’t go bad quickly, so you don’t have to worry about going to great lengths to keep it fresh—no refrigeration required! It’s also the type of Vitamin C that can help treat acne. One study pointed out that it can kill P.acnes (acne-causing bacteria) and prevent sebum oxidation (another acne precursor) (source).
- Ferulic Acid is a fierce antioxidant. In serums (like this one), it’s often combined with Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Multiple studies have shown that these three ingredients work together to better protect you from the sun’s harmful rays (source 1, source 2).
- Alternative preservative(s): Sodium Levulinate, Sodium Anisate
- Size: 1.02 ounces
- Texture: It’s a watery oil that blends into skin flawlessly
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this phenoxyethanol-free Vitamin C serum here on Amazon.
2. Proactiv 0.1% Adapalene Gel (Best acne-fighting serum)
Unfortunately, my favorite over-the-counter adapalene gel (otherwise known as Differin) contains phenoxyethanol. So I had to do some major sleuthing to find a comparable product—which wasn’t easy considering that the FDA approved this stuff not too long ago.
Luckily, Proactiv’s made a nearly identical Differin dupe that’s phenoxyethanol-free. Yay!
Ingredients: Adapalene 0.1%, Carbomer 940, Edetate Disodium, Methylparaben, Poloxamer 182, Propylene Glycol, Purified Water and Sodium Hydroxide. May contain hydrochloric acid to adjust pH.
- Adapalene is a third-generation retinoid that’s primarily used to treat acne. When compared to benzoyl peroxide (the ultimate OTC acne ingredient), adapalene performs just as well as BP in treating non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne (source). In terms of scarring, Nestle Skin Health (yes, the guys who own Differin) funded a study to find out if a 0.3% adapalene gel could help with indented scarring (source). After a 24-week trial period, they found promising results. I wouldn’t normally add-in a funded study like this, but ever since I’ve started using Differin, I’ve been noticing positive changes in my own icepick scars (aka remnants of teenage acne).
How To Use: Incorporating adapalene into your routine can be tricky. Because it increases cell turnover, it can cause purging. And because it’s a supercharged exfoliator, it can cause dryness. There isn’t much you can do about the purging, but you can certainly do something about the dryness. When you first start using adapalene, it’s recommended that you buffer the product. That means, use it after you’ve applied moisturizer (not before). This will give your skin a chance to get used to it. Once that happens, you can do as the instructions intend and use it before your moisturizer.
Pro Tip: Since adapalene makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, it’s best to apply it at night and wear sunscreen during the day.
Caution: Waxing and retinoids are mortal enemies. If you get an upper lip wax while using this gel, there’s a good chance that you’ll rip some skin off. Yikes!
- Alternative preservative(s): Methylparaben
- Size: 1.6 ounces
- Texture: It’s a fast-absorbing whitish gel
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out Proactiv’s adapalene gel here on Amazon.
Phenoxyethanol-Free Face Masks
1. Aztec Healing Clay (Best for reducing acne and excessive oiliness)
Aztec Healing Clay has a special place in my heart. When I was dealing with acne in my teens, it was the only thing that seemed to work. So I diligently applied it once a week to clear out my pores and calm my inflammation.
Another perk was that it made my skin less oily. Again as a teen, I was so greasy. And since mattifying foundations were out of the question for me, I was happy to find something that made my skin look normal for once. The effect is temporary, but it’s very tangible.
Although this stuff doesn’t have the most sophisticated formula (it’s literally a tub of dry, powdered clay), it’s a great option for those of you who are on a budget. FYI: You get one entire pound of clay for around $10.
Ingredients: 100% Natural Calcium Bentonite (Green) Clay
- Bentonite clay is a mineral-rich clay that’s known for its high cation-exhange capacity. Which means it’s really good at drawing things out of your skin. Although there aren’t any direct studies on how it affects acne, bentonite clay has been known to normalize oil production (source) and speed up wound healing (source)—two things that can impact new and existing acne lesions. Fun fact: Bentonite clay is derived from weathered volcanic ash (pretty cool, eh?).
You might like: 9 Badass Benefits of Bentonite Clay for Skin
How To Use: To use bentonite clay, you need to mix it with some type of liquid. Typically, people prefer to use apple cider vinegar because it balances the pH of bentonite clay. I’ve also found that using apple cider vinegar (rather than water) makes my skin smoother. Once you’ve concocted your mixture, apply it to your face in a thick layer. Leave it there for about 10 minutes and remove it using a wet cloth or wet paper towel.
Caution: Don’t pour this mask down the sink. If you do, there’s a good chance that it’ll solidify in your pipes and you’ll have to call a plumber to fix your mess. Yes, I’m speaking from experience!
- Alternative preservative(s): None
- Size: 1 pound
- Texture: It’s a dry, powdery clay. When you add liquid to it, it turns into a thick mud mask.
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out Aztec Healing Clay here on Amazon.
2. Mediheal NMF Aquaring Ampoule Mask (Best for sheet maskers who need a little hydration in their lives)
If sheet masks are your jam, then make sure to give this one a try—it’s pretty much the only one I could find that’s phenoxyethanol-free, alcohol-free, and decently affordable.
Like many other Asian beauty products, the primary purpose of this mask is to enhance your skin’s moisture content.
But since it’s formulated with a bunch of NMF-specific ingredients, it can also help maintain a healthy stratum corneum, which as I mentioned earlier is just a fancy word for the protective outer layer of your skin.
The formula is pretty gentle, so I can see it working on most skin types. Because it’s uber-hydrating, it’ll probably be best utilized by dry skin types.
Heads up: The only thing that I don’t jive with is the addition of fragrance, which can cause sensitizing reactions in some people.
Ingredients: Water, Glycereth-26, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Rosa Centifolia Flower Water, Fomes Officinalis (Mushroom) Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Seed Extract, Glutamine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, Alanine, Phenylalanine Proline, Ortulaca Oleracea Extract, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Beta-Glucan, Xanthan Gum, Butyelene Glycol, Boswellia Serrata Resin Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Panthenol, Trehalose, Betaine, Carbomer, Allantoin, Polysorbate 80, Adenosine, Disodium EDTA, Tocopheryl Acetate, Fragrance, Polyglumatic Acid
- Hydroxyethyl urea is a synthetically-derived version of a naturally-occurring ingredient. Urea actually makes up about 7% of your skin’s natural moisturizing factors (NMF). It makes sense for this ingredient to be so high on the ingredient list because this mask has NMF in its name. But what does it do? As a humectant, it’s really good at hydrating skin. A lot of the time it’s used to treat dry skin conditions. (Head’s up: Being “synthetically-derived” isn’t necessarily a bad thing—hydroxyethyl urea actually has a “1” rating on EWG’s website.)
- Alternative preservative(s): I’m not sure. This one’s got me stumped. But phenoxyethanol is nowhere to be found, so there’s that.
- Size: Contains a pack of 10 sheet masks
- Texture: It’s a slippery, slimy, cotton sheet mask
- Fragrance: Yes (unfortunately!)
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this sheet mask here on Amazon.
3. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (Best for brightening skin and improving texture)
The Ordinary is killing it right now. They’re pretty much the whole shebang when it comes to skincare. Meaning they have cool packaging, they use minimal ingredients (which reduces the irritation potential of their products), AND they’re seriously affordable.
This particular product has been on my wishlist for quite some time. And after reading a boatload of reviews, I think I’m ready to buy it for myself.
Arguably, the coolest thing about it is that it’s formulated with a long list of chemical exfoliants. Let’s break it down:
- AHA’s (alpha-hydroxy acids): glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid.
- BHA (beta-hydroxy acid): salicylic acid. (FYI: Salicylic acid is the one and only BHA.)
Ingredients: Glycolic Acid, Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Potassium Citrate, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol
- AHA’s (like glycolic and lactic acid) can be found naturally in foods like cane sugar and milk. When applied to skin, they jumpstart your skin’s exfoliation process. This can lead to improvements in pigmentation, skin texture, and fine lines. And it doesn’t end there. Studies have shown that glycolic acid can accelerate collagen synthesis (source). Sign me up!
Caution: According to The Ordinary’s website, this peel shouldn’t be used on “sensitive, peeling, or compromised skin.” So if you react negatively to a lot of products, this isn’t your calling. Also if you have dehydrated (or over-exfoliated) skin, this can make your skin even worse.
Pro Tip: The FDA recommends that you use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure whenever you use AHA’s (which this product contains a lot of).
FYI: A lot of people think of this as a dupe for Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial (which is about 10 times as expensive). If you’re so inclined, check out the Drunk Elephant version here on Amazon.
- Alternative preservative(s): Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate
- Size: 1.01 ounces
- Texture: The first thing I thought of when I saw this peel was: “REDRUM.” It’s blood-red (thanks to Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract) and definitely looks a little scary when it’s applied to skin. Also, it has a runny consistency.
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this master exfoliator here on Amazon.
Phenoxyethanol-Free Face Creams
1. Vanicream Lite Lotion (Best for sensitive-skinned budgeters)
Even though it flies under the radar most of the time, Vanicream is freaking amazeballs!
Its products are often recommended by dermatologists because they cater to sensitive skin. That means that they’re dye-free, fragrance-free, lanolin-free, paraben-free, formaldehyde-free, and non-comedogenic (aka they won’t clog your pores). And hey, most are even approved by the National Eczema Association.
Sure, it might not contain any trendy ingredients. But its simple formula is what makes it work so well.
This lotion is light, layerable, absorbs quickly (in 5-10 minutes), and hydrates your skin. And since you’re getting one whole pound of product, you can use it all over.
You Might Like: Cerave Vs. Vanicream: The Quest for the Holy Grail
Ingredients: Purified Water, White Petrolatum, Propylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sorbitol Solution, Ceteareth-20, Simethicone, Glyceryl Monostearate, Polyethylene Glycol Monostearate, Sorbic Acid, BHT
Side Note: This product includes fatty alcohols (which are often derived from coconut oil). So if you know you have an allergy to this type of ingredient, you might choose to pass on this product. Or at least spot test it beforehand.
- White petrolatum. You might know this stuff by another name—petroleum jelly. This well-tolerated ingredient is often praised for its occlusive properties, meaning that it can form a protective layer on top of your face to seal-in moisture and prevent water loss. In order to get the most out of this ingredient, you can apply it over damp skin for an extra dose of hydration.
- Alternative preservative(s): Sorbic acid, BHT
- Size: 16 ounces (that translates to 1 whole pound!)
- Texture: Thin, white lotion
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this lotion here on Amazon.
2. Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream (Best for oily skin)
Yes, this moisturizer is made up of 92% snail slime. And sure, that’s gross.
But when all is said and done, applying it to your skin can do wonders.
What makes snail slime so special?
By most accounts, it has skin-regenerative properties.
One study honed-in on the three things that make it so regenerative (source):
- It has antioxidant activities
- It stimulates fibroblast proliferation (FYI: fibroblasts are the cells responsible for making collagen)
- It stimulates the extracellular matrix (which is something that can impact skin aging and wound healing)
Now, let’s go over a real-world example:
When applied daily, another study found that it significantly reduced fine lines after only 8-weeks of use (source).
I think I’ll save the rest of my snail facts for another article. But in the meantime, let’s talk a little more about the cream in question.
The cream itself sinks-in incredibly fast and dries down incredibly matte. Which makes it ideal for oily skin (and not-so-ideal for dry skin).
Other than that, a lot of people have found that it smooths skin and helps with hyperpigmentation.
Personal Opinion: I use COSRX Advanced Snail Essence (not phenoxyethanol-free by the way) and I’m convinced that it’s been helping with my constantly-dehydrated skin. I’m guessing that this cream would do the same thing because it contains the same main ingredient—that is, snail secretion filtrate.
Ingredients: Snail Secretion Filtrate, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Polyacrylate-13, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Ethylhexylglycerin, Caprylyl Glycol, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Polyisobutene, Sodium Polyacrylate, Water, Adenosine, Tropolone, Polysorbate 20, Disodium EDTA, Betula Platyphylla Japonica Juice, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Propylene Glycol, Alcohol, Glycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Gentiana Lutea Root Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Artemisia Absinthium Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Beta-Glucan, Potassium Sorbate, Copper Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, rh-Oligopeptide-1
How To Use: If you’re oily, you can probably get away with using just one layer of this cream. But if you’re dry and you want to try this out, I’d suggest using one layer of this cream + another layer of your favorite hydrating moisturizer.
Caution: This product isn’t perfect. While most people love it, others find it irritating. So if you’re someone who reacts poorly to fatty alcohols, fatty acids, dimethicones, and/or vegetable oils, you might want to find something else. Or if you’re unsure, spot test this product on an inconspicuous area first.
- Alternative preservative(s): Potassium Sorbate
- Size: 2.54 ounces (or 75 mL)
- Texture: It has a very lightweight, very slimy gel texture
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this slimy snail cream here on Amazon.
3. COSRX Honey Ceramide Moisture Cream (Best for dry skin)
Have dry skin?
Well this moisturizing cream should be right up your alley.
It’s thick AF and can provide you with hours of hydration.
Plus, its formulated with honey, ceramides, and beeswax to help soften, strengthen and moisturize your skin.
The best part?
It comes with a tiny spatula! So you don’t have to worry about mucking-up your cream with the bacteria that lives under your fingernails.
Ingredients: Honey Extract, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Betaine, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Dimethicone, 1,2-Hexanediol, Beeswax, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) oil, Elaeis Guineensis(Palm) Kernel Oil, Hordeum Vulgare Leaf Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol “Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate, Copolymer”, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ceramide 3, Xanthan Gum, Adenosine
Pro Tip: This cream contains plant oils, beeswax, and dimethicone which can be ever-so-slightly irritating to acne-prone skin. If you think your skin might react negatively to any of these ingredients, spot test this moisturizer before adding it to your routine. (For the curious: Here’s the CosDNA analysis.)
- Alternative preservative(s): 1,2-Hexanediol, Ethylhexylglycerin
- Size: 1.76 ounces
- Texture: It has a rich, waxy cream texture.
- Fragrance: No
- Dyes: No
- Where to get it: Check out this honey-ceramide cream here on Amazon.
Phenoxyethanol isn’t a “bad” skincare ingredient. It’s just that some people are allergic to it.
If you’re one of those people, choosing the right skincare products can be daunting.
So here’s a breakdown of the phenoxyethanol-free products mentioned in this article:
- Face Creams
- Phenoxyethanol in Skin Care: What You NEED to Know
- The Top 3 Over-the-Counter Azelaic Acid Products To Buy Right Now
- Salicylic Acid (BHA) For Skin: 7 Proven Pros and Cons