Reviewed: Philosophy's Purity Oil-Free Cleanser is Like Liquid Blotting Paper

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Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser

Bryan Levandowski/Design by Cristina Cianci

What We Like
  • A little goes a long way

  • Scent is pleasant and not overpowering

  • Cleans effectively without stripping skin

  • Oil-free formula leaves a matte finish

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for drier seasons or less oily skin types

  • Dense gel formula takes time to work up a lather

Philosophy's Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser results in a clean feel and a matte appearance, all without stripping skin. While it may be a bit strong for frequent use with drier weather or skin types, it provides an effective and lasting solution for oily skin, especially on humid days.


Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser

Bryan Levandowski/Design by Cristina Cianci

We put the Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.

Washing your face feels great, doesn’t it? Whether you’re resetting from the day with a heavy-duty wash or starting your morning with a light rinse, the formula you use between the water and your face ends up being a pretty crucial part of your daily regimen, so when you find a cleanser that really complements all your skincare goals, it can be a pretty monumental experience. 

And that’s just what I was hoping for when I finally got my hands on a bottle of Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple Oil-Free One-Step Mattifying Facial Cleanser. It was the middle of July, it was hot as a sauna outside, and the humidity had turned my face into an oil slick. Needless to say, when I read the word “mattifying,” I said yes, give me all of that. 

Did this cleanser live up to its promising name? Keep reading to see what I think. 

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser

Best for: Combination to oily skin types

Uses: Rinses skin clean of oil, dirt, and makeup build-up, leaving it fresh and oil-controlled for hours afterward.

Star Rating: 4

Potential allergens: Fragrance

Active ingredients: Bamboo extract

Price: $25

About the brand: Philosophy is a wellbeing beauty brand that promotes healthy skin and a healthy lifestyle with products that embrace science and dermatological innovation. 

About My Skin: Oily, sensitive, and moody

It’s the usual story: acne in my teens and early 20s, spurred on by hyperactive oil glands and an addiction to skincare. Luckily, a course of Accutane and a proper dermatological education set me on the straight and narrow. Now, in my 30s, most of the oiliness is still going strong, but I’ve noticed my skin isn’t as resilient as it used to be. Lately, even mild acids result in days of redness and general upset-ness afterward. I keep to a pretty basic routine, but the fact that I shave the upper part of my beard two or three times per week can leave my skin inflamed if I’m not careful pre-and-post-shave. 

The Feel: A viscous gel with a dense lather

Philosophy's Purity Oil-Free Cleanser is a super viscous gel that you need to work a bit until you finally get some foam, but once it gets going, it leaves you with a dense lather that you can feel working as you rub it into your skin. You really don’t need to use a lot, so the standard eight ounce bottle should last ages. 

The Ingredients: Simple, but effective

Much of the power of Philosophy's Purity Oil-Free Cleanser comes from traditional cleansing agents, such as sodium lauroamphoacetate, which is known for its mildness, as well as sodium tricedeth sulfate, which helps to create the dense lather that whisks away dirt and oil. However, there are also a few other ingredients here that help take that cleanse to the next level without stripping skin.

Glycerin: Glycerin is a potent humectant, which means it binds water to the skin, helping to maintain healthy moisture levels. It’s also great for oily skin, as it’s non-comedogenic.

Bamboo Extract: I can’t say much for the bamboo extract’s “mattifying properties and ability to absorb oil,” especially considering how far down on the list of ingredients it is, but if having matte skin hours later is anything to go by, it’s got to be doing something.

The Scent: Refreshing and pleasant

The Philosophy Purity Oil-Free Cleanser has a really unique fragrance: a fresh, herbaceous combination of citrus, lavender, and maybe even a floral edge. I’m usually not one for fragrance in products, but I can overlook it in a cleanser—especially when it’s as pleasant as this. 

The Results: Fresh, clean skin with a healthy matte finish

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser Results on Bryan Levandowski

Bryan Levandowski/Design by Cristina Cianci

One of the promises of Philosophy's Purity Oil-Free Cleanser is that it “delivers a squeaky-clean feeling, without over-drying skin,” and I’ll admit seeing “squeaky-clean” left me with a few misgivings. While back in my teen years such a thing would be welcomed, in my 30s squeaky-clean equates to surface dryness that causes tiny wrinkles to form in places I’d otherwise be smooth, along with a major bout of redness and sensitivity. But hey, trying new stuff out is part of the job, so I gave it a go anyway and was pleasantly surprised to discover how my skin felt afterward. It was fresh and clean (even to the point of squeaky), but if I pushed on it with my finger, it felt soft and plump, not smooth like paper, as is often the case after a cleanser has stripped skin dry. 

The Value: Definitely worth it

At around $25 for an eight-ounce bottle, Philosophy's Purity Oil-Free Cleanser isn’t exactly cheap, but after using it for almost a month, I’m convinced it has that “special something” that could warrant such a price. My skin is definitely smoother and more matte than before, and I don’t think I could have gotten this result with any other oil-controlling cleanser I’ve tried before. Plus, as I said, it could last for ages.

Similar Products: You've got options

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash for Oily Skin: This back-to-basics foaming face wash from La Roche-Posay ($16) is formulated to wash away dirt and oil, and contains the brand’s signature thermal water along with ceramides and glycerin to maintain that essential moisture balance. While the foam may not be as thick as Philosophy’s, it’s a suitable contender. 

Versed Wash It Out Gel Cleanser: This gentle yet thorough cleanser from Versed ($10) is ideal for dealing with oily skin without bringing in harsher ingredients like salicylic acid. Put its light, frothy foam to work and enjoy the glowing skin that follows. 

Final Verdict

If you’re the type who seeks out that squeaky-clean feeling but want to avoid the aftermath of stripping your skin, Philosophy's Purity Oil-Free Cleanser has your name written all over it. Targeted to combination and oily skin types, it has proven it can stand up to excess oil while being gentle on drier parts of the face. It’s effective without being aggressive and makes for a welcome part of your routine. 


  • Product Name Purity Made Simple Oil-Free Cleanser
  • Product Brand Philosophy
  • Price $25.00
  • Weight 8 oz.
  • Full Ingredient List Aqua/water/eau, sodium lauroamphoacetate, sodium trideceth sulfate, acrylates copolymer, polysorbate 20, sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate, glycerin, lauryl betaine, isopropyl alcohol, phenoxyethanol, peg-150 pentaerythrityl tetrastearate, sodium chloride, peg-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, parfum/fragrance, sodium hydroxide, disodium phosphate, linalool, citric acid, sodium citrate, bambusa vulgaris shoot extract, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate.
Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Safety assessment of glycerin as used in cosmeticsInt J Toxicol. 2019;38(3_suppl):6S-22S. doi:10.1177/1091581819883820

  2. Spada F, Barnes TM, Greive KA. Skin hydration is significantly increased by a cream formulated to mimic the skin's own natural moisturizing systemsClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018;11:491-497. doi:10.2147/CCID.S177697

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