Cleansing your skin daily is important. It washes away dirt, oil, and debris, and prevents clogged pores which lead to acne. It also helps your other products work by giving you a blank canvas with no sebum in the way, ensuring maximum benefit.
I don’t care where I am – at home, at a hostel in Hanoi, or on a 7-Day backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains – I always wash my face. This skincare step is extra important to me, because I have oily, acne prone skin that clogs very, very easily.
That being said, not all cleansers are created equal in the eyes of a traveler. Traditional cleansers just will not cut it – they take up too much space, are inconvenient to carry, and are a pain to pack on a carry-on bag. Through my own experiences, I’ve found that certain types of cleansers work much better than others for travelers, and I’ve made a list of them to aid you in finding a travel friendly cleanser that suits you. I hope it helps!
Cleansing balms are a type of oil cleanser that are solid rather than liquid. They effectively remove oil, dirt, and impurities off the skin without stripping it, and work wonders for those with dry or dehydrated complexions.
They fit in with a travelers lifestyle because they are solid, which makes packing them in a carry-on bag a breeze, and because you can use them without water. If you don’t have access to potable water, you can use a warm washcloth to wipe off the balm, and if you do, you can rinse it off – it’s a versatile cleanser.
On a side note, in an effort to be environmentally responsible, I avoid recommending products that contain microplastics. All the following balms are polyethylene free.
1. Clean It Zero Original Balm
Banila Co’s line of Clean It Zero balms have an almost cult-like following worldwide, and for good reason – they’re awesome. The entire line is hypoallergenic, EU allergen free, and formulated without sulfates, alcohol, or mineral oil. Each of the cleansing balms easily melts away oil, dirt, debris, and even the most waterproof makeups without stripping your skin.
Their texture and consistency is also phenomenal, and has only gotten better with their recent reformulation. (which is when they removed polyethylene) It’s smooth, clumpless, and has a higher melting point that makes traveling with it during the hotter months of the year easier.
The original balm’s formulation is centered on botanical extracts, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It plays well with all skin types, and I have no issue with recommending it to anyone and everyone.
2. Clean It Zero Nourishing Balm
Differing from the original balm, Clean It Zero Nourishing focuses less on botanical extracts and more on hydrating and moisturizing ingredients. It has the highest oil concentration of all four of the cleansing balms, and is extra well suited for those with dry skin.
Its some of its best ingridients include ginseng extract, royal jelly, safflower seed oil, evening primrose oil, and sunflower seed oil.
3. Clean It Zero Purifying Balm
Banila Co’s Clean It Zero Purifying variation was created for individuals with sensitive complexions, and its focus is providing the skin with calming ingredients. Some of the formulations highlights include glycerin, centella asiatica extract, green tea extract, licorice root extract, rosemary leaf extract, chamomile extract, and chamomile flower water.
Of all the different variations, this one is my favorite. This is because I have sensitive skin and it does a superb job of limiting post cleanse redness.
4. Clean It Zero Revitalizing Balm
If you’re looking to boost antioxidant levels in your skincare, cleansing with Clean It Zero Revitalizing Balm is an effective way to do so. It’s formulated with more antioxidants and free radical fighting ingredients than any of the other variations of clean it zero.
Its ingredients include resveratrol (which is one of the best antioxidants in and out of skin care), rooibos extract, gardenia extract, angelica extracts, olive oil, and grapeseed oil.
Finding a bar of soap that’s safe to use on facial skin can be difficult to say the least. There are a few factors you have to take into account, the most important being pH and whether the bar is traditional soap-free.
Just because it’s difficult, though, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I’ve done it before, and I often opt to use bar soap when traveling. It’s so much easier to carry and bring on a plane, and it lasts much longer.
But it’s not easy. The large majority of bar soaps were not designed for facial use, and I’ve learned, from my own experiences, what a mistake it is to cleanse with non pH balanced traditional bar soaps. To help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made, heres a list of gentle bar soaps that are safe for facial use, and even designed for it.
5. Drunk Elephant Pekee Bar
As you may or may not know, Drunk Elephant is on the pricier side of skincare, so if you’re not willing to splurge a little on a good bar of soap, I’d skip this and the next listing.
Drunk Elephant’s bar soap line was, and is, very well received. It’s good – really good. They’re some of the few bar soaps that play well with facial skin, and it’s no surprise why so many people vouch for them despite their high price tag.
Their Pekee Bar is infused with blueberry extract, marula oil, honey, and glycerin. It gently cleanses the skin, and leaves it feeling balanced and supple, which is quite the feat for bar soaps. It’s got a skin balanced pH of 6.5 and is soap-free, which are the reasons it doesn’t strip your skin the way most bar soaps do.
Also, for those of you who struggle with fungal acne, this is one of the only cleansers on this list that is fungal acne safe.
6. Drunk Elephant Juju Bar
Much like their other bars, Drunk Elephant’s Juju Bar is expensive, yet overwhelmingly effective. It differs from the Pekee Bar in that it not only cleanses, but exfoliates as well.
With ingredients like thermal mud and bamboo powder, the bar lathers into a gently exfoliating cream that washes away oil, grime, and dead skin cells. It includes notable ingredients such as acai fruit extract, goji berry extract, sunflower seed oil, marula oil, and bamboo extract. It’s gentle and non stripping, has a skin balanced pH of 6.34, and is soap-free, making it safe for some of the most sensitive complexions.
7. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar
On the entirely different end of the spectrum, if you’re looking for a cheap bar of soap that is safe for facial use, look no further.
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar is the bar soap version of their highly acclaimed hydrating cream cleanser. If you’re battling with a damaged skin barrier, this is the bar of soap I would recommend for you. It contains ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, all of which aid in the restoration and maintenance of the skin barrier. It also has a skin balanced pH of 5.5 and is soap-free.
8. Sebamed Sensitive Skin Cleansing Bar
Another more affordable option, Sebamed Sensitive Skin Cleansing Bar is one of the very first pH balanced, soap-free bar soaps ever to be produced. That it’s still relevant and sought-after to this day shows just how great of a facial cleanser it is.
Like all the other bar soaps on this list, it has a skin balanced pH (5.5). It’s also a hundred percent soap/alkali free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic. It’s formulated with vitamin E, amino acids, inulin, and panthenol – a wound healing ingredient, and one of my all-time favorites.
It’s ultra-mild and compatible with sensitive skin, and gently cleanses without stripping like standard soaps can.
Enzyme cleansers have been popular in Asian skincare for quite some time, but are relatively new to the U.S. market. They’re a powder cleanser that you mix with water to create a creamy or foamy lather. They have exfoliating properties that are adjustable depending on your need – if you want stronger exfoliation, use less water, if you want more mild exfoliation, use more water.
Powdered cleansers fit perfectly with a travelers routine. They’re condensed, which means you won’t have to buy cleanser as often, and are solid so you can pack them in a carry-on bag with no limitations. I will say, though, that if you have dry or dehydrated skin, enzyme cleansers may not be for you. They aren’t as gentle as some of the other cleansers on the list due to their exfoliating properties.
9. Wishtrend Green Tea Powder Wash
I like this enzyme powder by Wishtrend specifically because it’s use of green tea. My skin loves all things Camellia sinensis, and it’s one of the main ingredients in this powder. That’s not all there is to love though – it’s got a bunch of other great ingredients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and sodium hyaluronate. It’s also pH balanced (5.5) and cruelty free.
10. Hanalei Papaya Powder Cleanser
Hanalei’s Papaya Powder Wash is another enzyme wash that I have no trouble recommending. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, grapefruit seed oil, aloe vera leaf juice, collagen, and papaya enzymes (which are what give it its exfoliating properties). It is also cruelty free and pH balanced (5.5).
11. SRB Rice Bran Enzyme Powder
This enzyme cleanser was created by SRB, a Korean skin care company, and it’s got thousands of reviews online from loyal customers who swear by it. It’s formulated with over fifty different kinds of nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants derived from rice bran.
Some of its best ingredients include grapefruit seed extract, carotenoids, vitamin B, aloe leaf juice, collagen, pollen extract, and of course, rice bran. It exfoliates physically with rice bran and chemically with papaya extract. This is probably my favorite of the powder cleansers because I found it to be more gentle than the others, and because it cleansed thoroughly without being overly drying.
Cleansing sticks are similar to bar soap, but are even easier to carry around because they come in a self-contained container. There aren’t many on the market yet, and a lot of the ones that are don’t live up to my standards. To save you from buying a no-good cleansing stick, I’ve included one of the ones I’ve tried, and love the most.
12. Neogen Real Fresh Cleansing Stick
I really like this cleansing stick by Neogen. It’s one of my go-to cleansers when traveling and backpacking, and I have nothing but good things to say about it. It has a skin balanced pH, removes everything but the toughest waterproof makeup, and it doesn’t leave a film or strip my skin. I’ve also had no breakouts as a result of its use and prefer it over most of the other cleansers on this list because of its ease of use and convenient packaging.
Its formula includes ingredients such as green tea leaves, olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, glycerin, green tea seed oil, and evening primrose oil. If that list looks like a lot of oils, that’s because it is. This cleansing stick was designed to work as a makeup remover and a cleanser, so that when you’re traveling you don’t have to rely on a double cleansing method. The majority of the formula is oils actually, with thirteen out of twenty ingredients being naturally derived oils.
I love this cleanser, and if I were to recommend just one travel friendly face wash out of this entire list, it would be this.
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Hi, I'm Ash!
I’m a travel blogger who loves experiencing new things and deeply connecting with people. My missions are to help others around the world realize their travel dreams, and to spread the word about sustainable travel. Feel free to send me a message here.