Beyond Soap: A Facial Cleansing Oil Breakdown

By Bethany Johnson in Natural Products

You've probably heard you shouldn't buy anything if the ingredients list has words you don't recognize or can't pronounce. I respectfully disagree. If an item is unfamiliar, I don't automatically nix it from my family's pantry or bathroom cabinet. Instead, you can do some quick and simple research to see what you're working with.

This is especially important when it comes to personal care products. Of particular interest are facial cleansing oil ingredients, because the face's skin is so distinct. I always assumed plant-derived elements are best, but what's the purpose behind each one? Why would a company include one oil and not another? Here are nine common oils you'll find in natural personal care products, and why they are there.

Sodium Palmate, Sodium Cocoate, and Sodium Palm Kernelate

As you might discern upon pronouncing it, these three cleansing oils are derived from palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil. Their general purpose is to lather up quickly, cleanse your skin, and wash off easily—leaving you with a fresh finish. As a facial cleansing oil, this botanical approach lets healthy skin shine, and a good cleanser can help you feel more confident.

Decyl Glucoside

Another mouthful, this oil sometimes plays the role of a cleansing agent and emulsion stabilizer. Decyl glucoside can be derived from corn, coconut, or palm kernel oil, making it a plant-based ingredient you can feel good about. According to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) strict Skin Deep Analysis, this ingredient is as safe as topical skin products can get, which is why you can find it in Tom's of Maine Baby Shampoo and Wash. But don't feel left out; adults can use it in their body wash too.

Stearic Acid

This ingredient's name originates from "stear," the Greek word for "tallow." Conventional tallow is rendered from animal fat, but it can also be found in cocoa butter and vegetable oils. Stearic acid is what makes soap, well, soap. It's an emulsifier, which means it keeps oil and water from separating. More importantly, it also means that when you apply it to the skin, it can mix with, lift, and carry away the dirt and oil. And finally, it's a thickener. Especially when used in traditionally milled soap, stearic acid maintain's your beauty bar's solid shape in between showers—something everyone can appreciate.

Helianthus Annuus Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, and Olea Europaea Oil

The first one is better known as sunflower seed oil, whereas the last is actually just olive oil. Commonly found in cleansers, these oils can moisturize, lubricate, and condition your skin in very conservative doses. When looking at ingredient lists, opt for brands and products that disclose the origin of each ingredient so you're fully aware of each one's potential effect. The benefits of sunflower seed oil (vitamin E), olive oil (keeps skin supple and moisturized), and jojoba oils (helps combat oily skin) seem endless.

Essential Oils

On a scale of 1 to 10, the latter being most hazardous, the EWG tests and ranks the safety of topical ingredients for consumers to view and decide on. The ingredient "Fragrance," when found on personal care products, ranks with nearly the worst number an ingredient can achieve. Essential oils, the pure volatile essence of an aromatic plant, are the perfect alternative. Those who use essential oils to perfume daily life can (and often do) sing their praises. So, for a pleasant aroma, keep things simple. Opt for a soap that incorporates calendula, wood spice, eugenol (from clove oil), honeysuckle rose, tea tree, or apricot.

You don't need a chemistry background to understand common cleansing oils and their derivatives. The research has already been done for you, and the easy-to-understand information is arranged clearly on Tom's of Maine's transparent online ingredient list. If I adhered to the "nix every ingredient you don't recognize" rule, I would've missed out on beneficial ingredients like Helianthus annuus and the powerful antioxidant vitamin E (tocopherols), and my beauty and personal care routine would've suffered.

What do you look for when checking ingredients on the back of a body wash bottle? What about beauty bars or facial cleansers? Snap a picture and tweet it to @TomsofMaine!

Image source: Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom's of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom's of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Pay no attention to the doomsday buzz out there surrounding natural ingredients in soap. Instead, find a product you can trust by checking out these common facial cleansing oils and other natural ingredients. You can enjoy yourself knowing you've provided the best, safest, and most effective products for your family.