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The irony of Philosophy's Purity Made Simple facial cleanser

Is a Solution for:
Dull Skin, Oily Skin
Reviewed by Copley June 17, 2009 15 Comments
The so-called "philosophy" behind Philosophy Purity Made Simple one-step facial cleanser begins: "Purity is natural. We come into this world with all the right instincts. We are innocent, and therefore perceive things as they should be, rather than how they are." How profound. This philosophical nugget is emblazoned across the front of the packaging. Meanwhile, the microscopic ingredients list resides on the product's backside (where it belongs). Not to sound glib, but the unfortunate additives polluting Purity's formula are the cosmetic equivalent of crap.

As Philosophy portends, "we are innocent" and, thus, don't know any better (or at least, that's what they're hoping). If a skincare product poses as natural and pure, maybe we will buy into it without turning around the bottle and glancing at the back. Too bad Truth in Aging isn't so naive. This product may have been the winner of the 2008 "Best of Sephora" award, but we know better than to be fooled by bells and whistles when it comes to our cosmetics.

Philosophy's Purity recently materialized on my medicine cabinet shelf (a Sephora-induced purchase of my roommate, I presume). So naturally, I did my due diligence and scrutinized the rear label, expecting to find a concise, "pure" list of ingredients. And upon an initial scan, the formula didn't look so bad, densely populated with natural oils drawn from a range of botanicals including meadowfoam, geranium, rosewood, sandalwood, and sage. These plant components are known to nourish and soothe the skin, except perhaps, black pepper extract, which can cause severe skin irritation. But once I got past the bevy of botanicals (which might trick the average eye to trust Purity's all-natural pretense), the formula tells a different story.

Starting from the top, the ingredients list gets rolling with plain water and disodium lauroamphodiacetate (which looks much scarier than it actually is), essentially an inorganic salt used as a surfactant. Additional surfactants such as coco-glucoside, sodium trideceth sulfate, and PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate ensure that your skin gets a thorough clean, though possibly at the expense of your health (since PEGs are known to contain harmful impurities that can lead to organ system toxicity). From there on, you may need your rose-colored glasses to find anything pure in Purity's formula.

Hexylene glycol, like propylene glycol, is widely used in industrial and household cleaners and can be a mild skin irritant. One of the most common preservatives in cosmetics, imidazolidinyl urea releases formaldehyde to protect against the growth of bacteria and, thus, has been shown to cause contact dermatitis and other health problems. Worse still is the pH adjuster triethanolamine, both an irritant and a potential carcinogen. It goes without saying that the evil twin parabens drag the formula further into the dark side. Philosophy's Purity is about as pure as New York snow...or Spitzer's marriage...or Oprah's diet. You get the idea.


Water, disodium lauroamphodiacetate, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, coco-glucoside, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, geranium maculatum oil, guaiacum officinale, cymbopogon martini oil, rosa damascena extract, amyris balsamifera bark oil, santalum album (sandalwood) oil, salvia officinalis (sage) oil, cinnamomum cassia leaf oil, anthemis nobilis flower oil, daucus carota sativa (carrot) seed oil, piper nigrum (black pepper) seed extract, sodium trideceth sulfate, hexylene glycol, cocos nucifera (coconut) alcohol, polysorbate 20, glycerin, carbomer, triethanolamine, methylparaben, propylparaben, imidazolidinyl urea, fd&c yellow no.5

  • October 8, 2016

    by Lisa

    For many years I have heard only great things about this product range. Recently on QVC there was an amazing deal...32oz of Purity Cleanser, 32oz Microdelivery exfoliating cleanser, 8oz Hope in a Jar, and 4oz of When Hope is not Enough Serum...all this for $141.00. I figured this was the opportunity I was waiting for, and ordered. After using the Purity Cleanser, my skin felt incredibly smooth and wonderful, however my eyes burned and felt uncomfortable...even after a thorough rinsing with water. Hope in a Jar moisturizer made my skin feel like velvet. However around twenty minutes after application, it got a bit itchy, but then this passed. This morning I am feeling itchy again. I have not tried the serum as of yet. QVC is giving a 60 day trial, so I will continue and see how it goes...Moral of the story is sometimes a great sale is not the way to go. Will probably return (if the itching and burning eyes don't stop) and stick with M. Asam (German cosmetic company that bases products off of resveritrol and natural ingredients) as there are no issues with their products on my aging dry sensitive skin.

  • August 10, 2016

    by Michelle

    What is the ph level of Purity?

  • June 11, 2016

    by Lindsay

    If you're looking for a product with the same scent but all vegan than LUSH cosmetics has a facial cleanser called "angels on bar skin" and in my opinion it actually smells a bit better

  • April 7, 2016

    by Connie

    I've been using Purity for several years with good results with the exception of the last year or so whereby I've developed some odd bumps on my face. I saw my dermatologist and she asked what products I used when cleansing my face. When I told her Purity - she stated that I might want to switch to a more natural product. So it's too bad that Purity is not "Pure" because it did a good job cleansing, but I can do without bumps on my face! And certainly without the chemicals and parabens mentioned as well. The hunt is on for a new product.

  • February 3, 2016

    by Sarah

    I feel like I should give a voice to the other side of things. Purity has been the best product that I've used on my skin so far. It made a huge difference as soon as I started using it. It moisturizes my skin without making it oily, and it doesn't make me feel red or itchy, as some people here have experienced. I LOVE it and swear by it!

    That being said, as someone mentioned earlier, just because it feels good doesn't mean there aren't longterm bad effects. In general, I have transitioned little by little to natural products in deodorant, shampoo, mineral powder, and body wash, simply because my body seems to react badly to anything else. For face wash, I like Philosophy, but I may consider going more natural eventually. I will say that I use a high quality sunscreen every day too which has also helped my complexion. So, I'll try to be aware of it, but haven't seen any adverse effects thus so far. Cheers!

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