3% Alpha Hydroxy Complex Facial Cleanser
8.5 fl. oz. for $11.95
Category:Skin Care > Cleansers (including Cleansing Cloths) > Cleansers/Soaps
Last Updated:06.15.2012
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

This cleanser contains too many problematic ingredients to make it worth considering. The main cleansing agent is too drying and irritating for all skin types, and the formula contains several fragrant oils known to be irritating (and they can be a distinct problem when used around the eyes). This is a classic example of a product whose natural ingredients comprise the good and bad, when, natural or synthetic, your skin deserves only the good ingredients. There are other inexpensive water-soluble cleansers to consider, including those from Neutrogena, Olay, Clean & Clear, and Paula's Choice.


BWC 3% Alpha Hydroxy Complex is a lightly foaming, soap-free cleanser that effectively removes dead surface skin cells, daily impurities, and excess oil without over-cleaning your skin. Nature’s own alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids gently and deeply clean and actively clarify your skin without disturbing its natural balance. Pure premium, aroma-therapeutic essential oils tone, condition, and calm—leaving your skin clean, clear, and refreshed. To Use: Rinse face with warm water. Apply cleanser to face with fingertips. Gently massage over face and neck. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Pat dry with soft cloth.


Purified Water, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) leaf juice*, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Cocoamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauryl Glucosides Hydroxypropyl Sulfonate, Panthenol, Allantoin, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Glycerin, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract*, Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Extract*, Lonicera Fragrantissima (Honeysuckle) Extract*, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Extract*, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract*, Tocopherols, Glycolic Acid, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Pelargonium Roseum (Geranium) Oil, Citrus Aurantium (Sweet Orange) Oil*, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Oil*, Lavandula Hybrida (Lavandin) Oil*.    *organic.  10% Organic Content.

Brand Overview

Beauty Without Cruelty At-A-Glance

Strengths: Inexpensive; does not test on animals (but lots of cosmetics companies can claim that nowadays); provides complete ingredient lists for all products on their Web site; one sunscreen with titanium dioxide; uses many natural ingredients that benefit skin.

Weaknesses: Does not list ingredients according to FDA labeling requirements; inelegant eye makeup removers; one of the sunscreens lacks sufficient UVA protection; ineffective AHA product; no BHA product or products to manage acne; overuse of irritating essential (fragrant) oils; jar packaging for antioxidant-rich products.

Beauty Without Cruelty, established in 1963, is a British import that began by selling makeup. At the time, they had a unique angle, in that they did not test their products on animals, and in 1963, most cosmetics companies did test their products on animals. But today, many companies can (and do) proudly boast that they do not test their products on animals, and, technically, that is true. However, despite the fact that these companies (including Beauty Without Cruelty) don't test their finished products on animals, the formulations they sell are based on ingredient research that was done primarily on animals. Sunscreens, vitamins, myriad plant extracts, and a vast range of other cosmetic ingredients have established their efficacy and safety based on recent or current animal testing. Although it is wonderful that companies like Beauty Without Cruelty do not test their products on animals, many of their formulations, just like those from every other cosmetics company in the industry, include ingredients whose effects are based on the results of animal research. Otherwise, how else would they know if their ingredients worked or if they were safe?

If Beauty Without Cruelty does excel in one area, it is that none of their ingredients are sourced from animals, which is somewhat unique in the industry and definitely a plus for vegans. However, it would be naïve to believe that any company can stay abreast of what is and isn't healthy for skin without the animal testing of the ingredients in their products. The companies may not be doing the testing, but someone is (or did), and this knowledge forms the basis for numerous new discoveries about what various ingredients can and cannot do for our skin.

Much like the rest of the cosmetics industry, Beauty Without Cruelty makes elaborate claims about the benefits of its plant extracts. And, as is also the case for many other cosmetics companies, they use plant extracts and essential oils that are both irritants and anti-irritants. For the most part their products are a mixed bag; there is one good sunscreen and some average cleansers, but many of their products are not recommended due to the presence of irritating fragrant oils. Beauty Without Cruelty is typically sold in health food stores, but also can be found in some drugstores. Their makeup line, once the driving force behind the brand, is difficult to find in the United States, and as such is not reviewed here.

For more information about Beauty Without Cruelty, call 800.824.6396 or visit www.beautywithoutcruelty.com.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment that Paula Begoun, founder of Beautypedia and Paula's Choice Skincare made over 30 years ago-to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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Like another reviewer here, I received a sample of this in my Ipsy bag, but unlike the other reviewer, I LOVED IT! I have normal to sensitive skin with some texture issues and this cleanser left my skin feeling even and smooth. If one uses this alone - without moisturizing afterwards - I can see why they wouldn't like it because it can leave the skin a tad dry feeling, but who doesn't moisturize? I use Rose Hip oil afterward and then a moisturizer on top of that & my skin has never looked better

Reviewed by
Terrible Product

I received a free sample of this product from IPSY. I used it all over my face with my clairsonic. In less than 24 hours my skin began to get raised bumps and dry out. It's been a week now and my skin in peeling and it stings when I apply Vaseline, Cetaphil face lotion, and yes to carrots face lotion. I get no relief so I just leave it as is which is uncomfortably dry. I typically don't have sensitive skin. I wouldn't want anyone else to have this experience even if it "isn't for everyone".

Reviewed by
Crystal, T

I completely disgree with the review of this cleanser. Unlike Paula's Choice acne cleanser, this facewash COMPLETELY cleared up my face. It lathered well and didn't leave me dry at all. I would definitely recommend it and I'm sorry to say but one can't give an honest review without bothering to try it. I'll trust other people's reviews over Paula's choice considering they have conflicting interests since they sell their own skincare line.

Reviewed by
Tori J
Beautypedia Team Response

Thanks for your review! Happy to clarify a few points you brought up:

1. Yes, we have our own product line; however, Paula's Choice is also the only skincare company in the world that routinely and actively recommends products other than our own.

2. We stand by our research that says there aren't any ingredients in this cleanser that can cause irritation due to several of the fragrant plant ingredients it contains, not to mention the main cleansing agent is drying. There is nothing in here that can "completely clear" skin. Your experience with this cleanser was likely coincidental, or there were other factors at play. We know from research that it takes more than a cleanser to get breakouts under control.

3. We understand that our products don't work the same for everyone, and there's a variety of reasons for that. We offer a 100% money-back guarantee, so we hope you took steps to return and get a refund for the cleanser you didn't like.

4. Last, we disagree that one cannot give an honest review without trying the product. Our reviews are as honest as it gets, and based on published, scientific research about skin and cosmetic ingredients. Just like you don't have to take an antibiotic or Advil to know they'll work to make you feel better, you don't need to try a skincare product to determine if it's good or a potential problem; the research is there to show the way.

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