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The irony of Philosophy's Purity Made Simple facial cleanser

Is a Solution for:
Dull Skin, Oily Skin
June 17, 2009 Reviewed by admin 19 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

  • December 30, 2017

    by Debbie

    Since ive started using philosophy products ,my face burns.

  • December 27, 2017

    by Jessica

    So I have to say I used to love purity .. but in recent years the ingredient has had a change and now it is drying and I can't use it . I also can no longer use my bareminerals as it has also been changed after a sell out of the company . Now it makes me breakout .

  • November 3, 2017

    by Dreamgirl9

    For anyone looking for truly natural pure products check Chagrin Valley. They have a ton of skin care products and decent prices. They’re a small family owned company and u can order online. They also have tons of useful info on their website. I learned so much on there.

  • August 26, 2017

    by Shana

    After so much positive press about this cleanser I decided to buy it. Been using it for about 4 days when I noticed my skin seemed super sensitive. Thought maybe it was my time In The sun and my sunscreen had washed out. Next day I start noticing my red face and my pores are looking huge. So finally I start researching this product to learn of the not so pure ingredient in purity!!! Very disappointed but so glad I now know what is harming my skin!!

  • 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!

  • December 28, 2015

    by May

    Purity facial cleanser makes my skin very soft but it also makes it very red and sensitive after I use it. If I put anything on it afterwards, including makeup, lotions, oils, or even more purity, it burns horribly bad! I just started using it so I don't know if it's just because my skin isn't used to it, but my skin has never been sensitive.

  • July 27, 2014

    by Angela

    As should the commenter claiming that a product with such irritating ingredients is able to make anyones skin "healthy". Just because not everyones skin has a bad reaction to these chemicals, doesn't mean they aren't doing harm.

  • July 27, 2014

    by Angela

    I understand why people are saying you need some type of preservative, which all my skin care products do. I do not purposefully avoid parabens and sulfates. However, to use a "formaldehyde releaser" in a product with the word "purity" on the label is simply absurd. This product caused a terrible reaction on my skin which is still healing as we speak. I have 2 giant cycts on my face that make me want to cry they are so embarrassing and my skin is red and flaking off in huge pieces. When i try to exfoliate or moisturize it becomes inflamed and burns like it's on fire. I am not so shocked now that i know i was essentially rubbing formaldehyde into my face and onto my eyes and lips 2ce a day for a week. Philosophy should be ashamed.

  • August 10, 2013

    by Jackie 45

    Jessica92...I just tried this and my face is totally rashy and itchy also. Did your face go back to normal? Hoping mine calms down.

    I have had all kinds of trouble finding a cleanser for my face that doesn't irritate it. So frustrated..

  • June 18, 2013

    by shanelle

    This was an interesting read. I have used Purity for a year and have had beautiful skin. I am always complimented on my skin. However I drink a gallon of water a day that helps balance out my PH levels.

    I think that understanding the ingredients is important. Looking at the ingredients there are natural oils essential oils etc. There are also stabilizers (because it is massed produced and will need to be stabilized to withstand shelf life); however the ingredients shown make this an easy cleanser to replicate and leave out the stabilizers (assuming one knows how to make cleansers at home).

    Either way, this cleanser worked great for me and I found the article interesting but completely biased.

  • April 30, 2013

    by grant

    so, post an article on how pegs have a bad rap and are okay in a leave on product, then say they cause organ toxicity in a cleanser...

    and completely disregard that mass produced cosmetics need some stabilizers and preservatives to be... stable and preserved.

    not trying to say natural isn't good. but for something like this, i think you guys totally blew it out of proportion.

  • April 13, 2013

    by Kris Lee

    Actually, you can get Meadowgrass Oil and a nice blend of essential oils and use that to clean your face. Why use all the chemicals? I love how Purity works, but it so expensive and now I just use the main, good-for-u stuff and am very happy.

  • March 19, 2013

    by Andrukills

    I believe that this arrticale is based on a biast opinion and untruthful.

    Purity, does not stand for "pure ingrediants" .. It stands for great CLEAN healthy skin.

    Truth in aging, I'm surprised that your skin care professionals are not awear of the greatness in pepper. It's only full of vitamin
    A and C, two antioxidants that together neutralize free radicals.

    Further more, Purity Made Simple is offered in
    Four different formulas for your comfort and convenience. One of them being 100% paraben free.

    Also Truth in aging, your OPINION on NY snow, spitzers wedding, and Oprah.. Again completely biest and not based on fact.

  • March 19, 2013

    by Jessica92

    I recently began using Purity and it was the worst decision I have ever made. My entire face is covered in a sore and itchy rash that seems to just be getting worse by the day. After reading this article I wish I had found this prior to putting this cleanser on my face because my skin hasn't been the same since. I have tried applying hydrocortisone cream for a few days but nothing it working so I will be visiting the dermatologist to get some stronger medication to help with the healing.

  • September 14, 2012

    by Annie93

    So essentially the active ingredients are water and glycerin? Awesome, thanks :) Now I can make it myself!

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