Review: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser For Sensitive Skin, Creamy Formula

Standard Disclaimer: I am obviously not a licensed professional by any means, I just know what has worked for my skin.

I’ve been using this Neutrogena cleanser for almost 3 years now. It’s what you might call my “HG” cleanser if you will.

It’s a really basic, simple, affordable cleanser which checks off all my boxes for everything I think a cleanser should have. It’s gentle, fragrance-free, has no pore-clogging ingredients, and is ph-balanced. Since cleansers typically just get washed down the drain and don’t stay on your skin, I think it’s best to not invest so much money in them — you just want it to get the job done. Which this one does! It does a great job of removing excess oil, dirt, and leftover makeup on your skin without leaving your skin feeling dry, dehydrated, or tight.


Before I get into all of this, let me first start by describing my own skin type.

I have sensitive, acne-prone skin. My skin tends to get oily on my T-zone and is normal everywhere else. I also tend to get hyper-pigmentation from any breakouts I get and very minimal, shallow scarring. I used to have pretty dehydrated skin (probably due to all the harsh products I used to use which most likely compromised my skin barrier), but I think I have mostly fixed that issue now and am not as dehydrated as I used to be. I also used to have moderate acne but I hardly break out anymore and I think most of this I can attribute to lifestyle changes and having an overall more gentle skincare routine.

A quick note on lifestyle: I genuinely believe that lifestyle is one of the most important contributors to having good skin (so is genetics but seeing as that is out of our control, we’ll stick with lifestyle habits and skincare products for now). This means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating whole food and lots of greens, minimizing processed junk food and animal products, and trying to manage stress as best as possible.

OK, back to the cleanser.

This Neutrogena cleanser has a lightweight, creamy, gel-like consistency. I typically use between 1-2 pumps per wash. A single bottle of this cleanser usually lasts me around 3-4 months. This makes it quite affordable since you can usually get it in-store or off Amazon for about $7.50. This cleanser is quite ideal because it is:

  • Non-irritating and noncomedogenic. Your products should be very gentle with little to no irritating or pore-clogging ingredients. Irritating ingredients are things like fragrance or essential oils. Pore-clogging ingredients are things like coconut oil, etc. (see here for a pretty comprehensive list of potentially pore-clogging ingredients). Obviously different skins can react differently to ingredients. What causes someone to break out might have no effects on someone else. But in my opinion, it’s always good to err on the side of caution. And as you can see, this particular cleanser has no pore-clogging ingredients, fragrances, or essential oils in its ingredients list.
  • Gentle. It should not contain any drying alcohol or sulfates which will strip your skin of its oils or leave it feeling tight.
  • pH-balanced. Well, kinda. Cleansers should ideally have a pH of about 4-5.5 since that is the skin’s natural pH and you don’t want to disturb it since this is how the skin fights off bacteria. This cleanser in particular is a little out of that range, but I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker. I have seen people testing it at home themselves and it’s just slightly out of this ideal range, usually coming in at around 6.2.

With all of that being said, I do think there are a few things which can be improved upon. Namely:

Animal testing. On Neutrogena’s U.S. website, they claim: “We want you to feel good about how we make Neutrogena products. You can only do that if you have the facts. The fact is, Neutrogena doesn’t conduct animal testing of our cosmetic products anywhere in world, except in the rare situation where governments or laws require it. At Neutrogena, we won’t ever compromise on the quality or safety of our products or stop seeking alternatives to animal testing.”

This is a little complicated and it’s due to the fact that Neutrogena has adopted the animal testing policy of cosmetic products from its parent brand — Johnson & Johnson. I think China is technically the only country that requires animal testing to be done on cosmetic products being imported into the country.  However, there has been a recent change in regulation in China which makes it easier for companies to get around required animal testing.

While I think this is really great progress in the right direction, it only came about as a result of relentless animal welfare activism and consequently consumer demand for products not tested on animals. As a result, companies who wanted to keep their “cruelty-free” logos and certifications could no longer sell their products in China. And so, I think it only makes sense to keep pushing companies to be more ethical and more transparent if we actually want to eventually get rid of animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

Better packaging. While I appreciate that this product comes with a pump (thus making it more hygienic), I have noticed that when I get to the bottom of the bottle, the pump essentially becomes useless. This is a little ridiculous considering I can use the last remaining bits of the face wash that the pump can’t get to for at least another 3 weeks or so.
I also think that companies should be doing more to make their packaging more eco-friendly. This bottle is already recyclable but it would be cool if more can be done to get biodegradable packaging options.

Overall, I really do think this product is great. I’ve been using it for years and something tells me I will continue to use it for quite some time. I think it would be cool if Neutrogena can do more to be a more ethical and transparent company especially when it comes to stuff like animal testing and the environment, because, quite frankly, if I can find a product as gentle, effective, and (somewhat as) affordable as this and also takes into account the environment and animal welfare, I’ll switch over to it in a heartbeat (cue Lush entrance).

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