We all want great skin and we want clean products. But we also want it to be convenient. Read below for my top 15 picks for best + cleanest moisturizers you can get at Target!
Fortunately, big-box retailer Target recently launched their “Clean at Target” program which identifies products “formulated without propyl-parabens, butylparabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), oxybenzone, SLES, retinyl palmate, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban, BHA, BHT, aluminum and oral care without artificial sweeteners.”
The “Clean at Target” program is definitely a step in the right direction, but the brands with this stamp of approval aren't all as clean as you would hope. Just because you list a whole bunch of things that aren't included doesn't automatically make it clean. Retailers like Target, Sephora, and others use this tactic because it gives the “clean” label more clout.
Unfortunately, some brands have taken advantage of this definition as a way of greenwashing their products. Just because something does *not* contain something doesn't mean it's clean.
So I took to the streets AKA the aisles of Target to look for the brands that are truly clean to make your shopping experience quicker and easier!
In this post, we're going to focus on moisturizers, as that is probably the most important skincare product you need for healthy skin — more important than serums, cleansers, facial tools, and even *gasp* sunscreen.
The reason for this is that moisturizers are basically like a seal for your face — it protects your skin's moisture barrier and prevents both dryness and overproduction of oil. If we skip moisturizer, we are leaving our skin exposed to pollution, UV rays, and other environmental stressors which can lead to breakouts, fine lines, irritation, and other skin issues we want to avoid.
It's important to note that moisturizers are not one-size-fits-all! The right moisturizer for you depends entirely on your skin type. I made notes on different products for different skin types so you can pick the best one for you!
A note about specific ingredients
To come up with this clean list, I did the dirty work of cross-referencing the EWG, SkinCarisma, and manually vetting known toxic ingredients. Because there are literally hundredsssss of moisturizers available on the Target website and because there is so much variability from local Target to Target, I included several for each skin type so that hopefully you can find one in stock!
This one is a big no-no. If a product included “fragrance” as one of their ingredients I automatically reject it. The problem with “fragrance” (or “parfum” or “aroma”) is that it is not just made up of one single ingredient, but is usually thousands of synthetic chemicals — including phthalates and other chemicals that have been linked to hormone disruption, allergies, cancer, and many health issues.
Thanks to the “fragrance loophole,” companies aren’t required to list all of the ingredients in their fragrance concoction because it’s a “trade secret.” This makes it extremely difficult for consumers to know exactly what’s in the products they’re using. How messed up is that?!
This one is a toughie. Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that is commonly used in skincare products and a favorite among clean beauty brands. “If it's clean, why the need for preservatives at all,” you ask? Because otherwise, your products would need to be stored in the refrigerator as they only are shelf-stable for about 5 minutes before they start growing mold — yikes. I don't know about you, but my skin wouldn't do well with me consistently applying mold on it.
So is phenoxyethanol good or bad?! There are two leading third-party certifications for non-toxic personal care products: MADE SAFE and EWG Verified. Both have carefully reviewed the science and consider phenoxyethanol safe when used within the E.U.’s guidance. The widely respected E.U.’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety stated that phenoxyethanol is safely used as a preservative at less than 1% of the product formulation.
When I was pregnant with my first child, at my very first OB appointment, my midwife told me I had to stop using retinol. I was confused. You mean, like the stuff that's in my eye cream? What's the big deal? Turns out, it's a REALLY BIG FREAKING DEAL as it could lead to birth defects and serious reproductive issues. I had so many questions. Why had no one told me this before? Why does anyone use retinol? Why aren't there warning labels on it like there are on cigarettes? Why is this allowed in the U.S.?
Besides the whole birth defects thing, prolonged use of retinol also makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, cigarette smoke, and other environmental stressors which could cause more wrinkles — the very thing we are trying to prevent!
What's frustrating is I later found out you can get the exact same anti-aging results as retinol from a plant-based version of it — it's called bakuchiol. It is safe to use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Big beauty manufacturers just choose not to use it because it's a change to what they've already been doing for years and it's trickier to source.
On to the good stuff!
Top 10 Clean Moisturizers Found at Target
In addition to being free of parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), oxybenzone, SLES, retinyl palmate, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban, BHA, BHT, and aluminum, all of the products listed below are artificial fragrance-free and retinol-free.
- Honest Beauty Everyday Radiance + C Moisturizer — My #1 pick for a clean moisturizer at Target. This one is EWG verified which is the strictest safety standard and means the product went through manual vetting and there are no ingredients that are cause for concern. I generally love the Honest brand and use their products regularly in my rotation! They are for the most part clean, but the EWG verified distinction always takes the cake! This moisturizer would be great for someone with dry skin that is not sensitive. 96% low risk. $27.99
- Derma-E Acne Rebalancing Cream — Derma-E is considered one of Target's “Clean” brands (but don't take that as the Bible, some of Derma-E's other products go as high as a 6). I reached out to the company about their use of fragrance and they replied “We don’t use synthetic fragrance we use natural essential oils. Depending on the product line but mostly flowery like lavender and citrus.” The fact that I got a response is a good sign! But they didn't include any proof so we have to just take their word for it. This particular cream isn't yet EWG rated, but on SkinCarisma, it's rated 96% clean so that's great news! It would probably be best for someone with dry or oily skin, but there are a couple ingredients that could be irritating for sensitive skin so just keep that in mind. $19.49
- Burt's Bees Daily Face Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin — Rated a 2 by EWG, this one checks out on SkinCarisma, too (95% low-risk). Although some Burt's Bees products do contain artifical fragrances, this one is clean! And it's inexpensive! Only $12 at Target which goes to show clean doesn't have to break the bank. This one would be good for dry skin. And although is marketed for sensitive skin, Skin Carisma shows a few ingredients that may cause issues, so check the return policy. $12.19
- Hero Clear Collective Clarifying Prebiotic Moisturizer — This one isn't EWG-rated yet but according to SkinCarisma the ingredients are 95% low risk! This one is a “Target Clean” pick that actually lives up to the name. Since it has clarifying ingredients, this would be good for oily or combination skin. $12.99
- Burt's Bees Fragrance Free Firming Moisturizing Cream — Not yet rated by EWG but it's 95% low risk according to SkinCarisma and it has bakuchiol in it!!!! It is so rare to find bakuchiol intead of retinol in big box stores!! This is a huge win for clean beauty! This would be great if you have aging or dry skin but is not recommended for oily/acne-prone skin as there are several ingredients that could potentially cause breakouts. $15.49
- Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion — So Cetaphil is not my favorite brand, but this particular product is rated a 2 by EWG, so it's clean! Fragrance-free and no allergy, cancer, or developmental concerns! I love seeing classic brands who have been around for decades and are available everywhere, even drugstores, come out with clean products. There is hope! This moisturizer would be great for someone with dry skin, although it wouldn't be bad for oily or combo skin. 94% low risk! $12.19
- Acure Radically Rejuvenating SPF Day Cream SPF 30 — Rated a 2 by EWG, all of the ingredients are squeaky clean. According to SkinCarisma it's 94% low risk. This product is awesome if you need SPF becuase clean sunscreens are so hard to come by and this one is a sunscreen and moisturizer in one. Those with oily/acne-prone skin should steer clear though, there are several ingredients that could potentially block pores and cause breakouts. It would be great for someone with dry skin because it uses SIX powerfully moisturizing ingredients. $19.49
- Nourish Organic Lightweight Moisturizing Face Lotion — This one is 94% low risk and would be good for dry skin. A note about organic skincare — this one checks out but keep in mind just because something is organic doesn't mean it's good for you. Remember — poison ivy is also organic hah! $19.99
- Pixi Skintreats Clarity Lotion — Rated a 2 by EWG, the only concern is Phenoxyethanol which like I said before, is a necessary tradeoff since it prevents mold from growing. 92% low risk according to SkinCarisma. This moisturizer would be amazing for someone with dry skin but would also work for someone with oily or sensitive skin. $24.00
- La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer with Ceramide — This brand is hit or miss, some of the products score as high as 7 on EWG but this moisturizer is only a 2. Same goes for the SPF version, it's also rated a 2. That's great news as usually adding SPF to products brings the score wayyyy up because brands aren't too cautious about the kind of SPF they use. This is a French brand and European skincare tends to be cleaner (but not always). Take note — there are a whopping 5 ingredients that would be potentially bad for oily/acne-prone skin, so if that's you, I would avoid! If you have dry skin though, this is a solid pick. This particular product has 90% verified clean ingrediens according to SkinCarisma.com and is $19.99 at Target.
- Artnaturals Hydrating Moisturizer — This particular moisturizer is rated a 3 on EWG and is 89% safe according to SkinCarisma so it's not concerning. This would be good for oily and normal skin types, but those with sensitive skin should use caution. $12.99
Artnaturals does have a few other products that look intriguing though! Their Tone Complexion + Hydrating Formula Squalane Oil isn't available at Target but it looks amazing!! It has only one ingredient — squalane oil! It's not going to work as a standalone moisturizer but would be great to pair with your AM moisturizer if you have super dry skin or as a nighttime add-on for any skin type! If you have normal to oily skin, I just wouldn't use it during the day as it could make you look shiny but at night when you need that added hydration, who cares!?
- Acure Brightening Day Cream — rated a 3 on EWG and there are no concerning ingredients according to SkinCarisma which rates it 88% clean. This product would probably not do well for someone with oily skin though, there are 3 ingredients which are known to potentially clog pores. $16.99
- Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream — Rated a 3 by EWG which could be better IMO, I try to stick with products that are 2 or better. But there are only 4 questionable ingredients, the worst of which is rated a 4 so it could definitely be worse! Also, these four ingredients are allergy concerns, not cancer or developmental. This would be good for someone with oily skin. 86% low risk. $14.99
- Naturium Niacinamide Gel Cream 5% — rated a 3 on EWG but the only concerns are allergy, not developmental or cancer. Check the ingredients here if you are allergic to anything specific! Good for all skin types, epecially if you're looking for anti-aging. 85% low-risk ingredients on SkinCarisma. $20.00
- Sukin Australian Natural Signature Facial Moisturizer — Rated a 3 by EWG and 81% low risk, although the only real concerns are plant extracts used for fragrance. Take note, this moisturizer would be really bad for oily skin!! Would be good for dry skin though. $8.99
- BYBI Beauty C-Caf Vitamin C & Caffeine Day Cream — This is from one of their “Clean at Target” brands. This specific product is not yet rated by EWG but they do have other products that are EWG-rated and range from a score of 1-4 which isn't bad. According to skincarisma.com, the ingredients check out at 75% low risk which doesn't sound great, but that's because there are 4 fragrance oils used that EWG considers high risk for allergies. If you're not sensitive to the following ingredients, you should be fine: Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol, Farnesol. As far as skin types go, this would probably be good for all skin types, but I would steer clear if your skin is sensitive. $24.99
Moisturizers at Target to Avoid
- Soap & Glory Speed Plump Hydrating Day Lotion — I would avoid this brand altogether! On average, their products score a 5 on the EWG app! They range anywhere between 4-7 (the worst score is 10!). Their other moisturizer I found at Target Soap & Glory in the Bright of Day Vitamin C Gel cream is even worse! It's rated a 7 and contains Fragrance, FD&C Yellow No. 5 and other allergy concerns.
- Sweet Chef Superfood + Vitamins Moisture Boost — Ah, the dreaded greenwashing approach. Just because something is labeled that it has “vitamins” or is a “superfood” is not enough to make it clean. This product is rated a 4 by EWG but I would even rate it higher as it contains retinol, which is a huge no-no in my book. Retinol is a neurotoxin and there are several studies that show it could lead to developmental issues in babies!
- E.l.f. Daily Hydration Moisturizer — contains fragrance!!! Is rated a 5 by EWG which is not great at all. Just steer clear.
- Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer Pink Grapefruit — I would love to report otherwise, but this moiturizer contains fragrance. It has a lot of things going for it — paraben-free, sulfate-free, minimal ingredients, but I just can't get around the fragrance thing. Advocate for yourself by shopping for brands who offer full disclosure on ingredients — which means no “fragrance.”
- Neutrogena Combination Skin Oil-Free Moisture — rated a 5 by EWG and has some pretty shady ingredients including parabens which are a developmental concern.
- Mele Dew the Most Sheer Moisturizer Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 — Rated a 4 by EWG and considering there are sooo many other options for clean moisturizers, why even go there? Also it contains artificial fragrance which is a major developmental and neurological concern.
- Urban Skin Rx Radiant & Bright Glowing Moisturizer — Disappointed by this as they use the word “Rx” in the title to give it a medical and therefore more legit feel but alas, it's rated a 5 by EWG. It also makes me super angry that they threw “Melanin Experts” on their packaging because women of color are disporportionaley exposed to toxic chemicals in personal care products. This moisturizer contains retinyl palmitate (a version of retinol) and kojic acid which is BANNED in Japan, Korea, and Switzerland.
Kojic acid was deemed a “quasi-drug” and banned from the market in Japan, Korea, and Switzerland due to safety concerns stemming from animal test results suggesting mutagenicity. Meaning it could permanently change your genes and cause cancer.
- Derma-E Vitamin C Renewing Moisturizer — This moisturizer is one of Target's “Clean” products but isn't rated by EWG but has a score of 83% clean on SkinCarisma. I'm not a fan because it includes retinyl palmitate which is a version of retinol (potential to cause birth defects) and it includes “natural fragrance oils,” which I guess is better than just saying “fragrance” but still suspicious. Their website states “All DERMA E products are 100% Vegan, GMO-Free, Cruelty Free and Free of parabens, sulfates, petrolatum, mineral oils, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfates” but doesn't mention anything about the oils they use. I emailed the company and this is what they had to say: “We don’t use synthetic fragrance we use natural essential oils. Depending on the product line but mostly flowery like lavender and citrus.” The fact that I got a response is a good sign! But they didn't include any proof so we have to just take their word for it.
- Pacifica Vegan Collagen Every Day Lotion SPF 30 — It's rated a 3 by EWG which isn't terrible, but it contains artificial fragrance which is known to contain potentially hundreds of toxins. It also has a bunch of other health hazard ingredients — I'm actually surprised it's not rated worse than a 3! Steer clear.
- Amie Clean + Calm Mattifying Moisturizer — Rated a 6 on EWG but it's one of Target's “Clean” products. Wtf. Two of their ingredient offenders are fragrance and sodium hydroxide (toxic to reproductive organs).
- Amie Naturally Kind Glow + Bright Illuminating Moisturizer — rated a 4 on EWG but contains artificial fragrance so I wouldn't consider it.
- Weleda Sheer Hydration Daily Creme — Contains fragrance
- Weleda Skin Food Light Nourishing Cream — As of now all products by Weleda are rated between a 4-5 on EWG so I would just steer clear of this brand unless they reformulate. The Nourishing Cream is rated a 4 and the Original Ultra-Rich Cream is rated a 5 by EWG. Every Weleda moisturizer contains artificial fragrance.
This is a pretty comprehensive list and covers products for all skin types but if there's something you're specifically looking for, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love chatting clean beauty!! I will be periodically updating this list as new moisturizers are added.
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