Earns praise for being effective for deep cleansing and for leaving skin feeling refreshed and clean. Has a pH-balanced, oil-free formula that contains amino acids and a light scent. A bottle lasts, as a little cleanser goes a long way.
May be a bit drying on some skin types, especially for those whose skin is prone to dryness. Pump dispenser occasionally clogs.
A rich cleanser that's ideal for all skin types thanks to its dermatologist-approved formula that cleans without irritating. Also a good deal, considering you get 2 bottles for the price.
The scent is surprisingly strong. Rare reports of skin feeling dry after use.
Specially formulated for blemish-prone skin. Earns praise for being effective. Doesn't contain harmful, unnatural ingredients, animal products, fragrance, or parabens, and is cruelty-free.
A pricey cleanser for 8 ounces, but it's also made for tough problems that other cleansers may aggravate. Known to be somewhat harsh on sensitive skin.
Micellar water cleanser with nourishing ingredients. Gentle enough to be used on sensitive skin yet highly effective at cleansing and removing makeup. Has a light, pleasant scent.
Bottles with broken or leaking lids upon arrival have been reported. Priced on the higher end of the scale for this type of product.
Exfoliates without drying or irritating the skin. Suitable for daily use, and good for all skin types. Formulated with ingredients that help dissolve impurities and break down dead skin cells. Free of chemicals and artificial ingredients that can irritate and dry skin.
For some users, it’s a bit too exfoliating for daily use.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
If you’ve been reaching for whatever bar of soap is next to the sink when it comes time to wash your face, set down the soap and step away. Bath soap is far too harsh for delicate facial skin and likely to leave your complexion tight, dry, and irritated.
But with seemingly endless facial wash products on the market, how do you choose the best one for your skin? Is a cream cleanser best, or should you try clay? What about scrubs or micellar water? It’s no wonder so many people shrug their shoulders and simply reach for the same bar of deodorant soap that they use for washing their underarms.
We’re here to help clear up the confusion. If you just want to get your face clean, check out our five recommendations. But if you’d like to learn more about facial cleansers in general, including the best way to choose and use them, read on. We’ll help you make sense of this often-confusing skincare product.
While of course you can wash your face with the same soap you use on the rest of your body, there are several compelling reasons to stick with a product formulated specifically for facial skin. Body soaps are far harsher than facial cleansers, and many contain deodorants and other potentially drying or irritating ingredients.
By contrast, a good facial wash does the following:
Removes makeup, oil, and pollutants
Leaves your face feeling clean, not tight
Softens your complexion without leaving it greasy
Suits your skin type, whether that is oily, dry, normal, sensitive, or mature
Rinses easily and doesn’t irritate your eyes
Doesn’t break your budget
Is convenient to use
Many facial cleansers offer further benefits, such as moisturizing dry skin or treating acne.
There are several types of facial cleansers on the market. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and there is no one “best” type of cleanser. The right choice mostly comes down to your type of skin and your personal preference.
These facial cleansers start off as liquid or cream but turn into light, fluffy foam once dispensed. Foaming cleansers are a good choice for oily, normal, or combination skin, as this type of face wash effectively cuts through grease and makeup, removes oil from pores, yet leaves skin feeling refreshed, not dried.
Thicker than foaming cleansers yet thinner than cream cleansers, gel facial cleansers are another good choice for oily, normal, or combination skin. Some have ingredients that battle acne, and some have scrubbing grains to lightly exfoliate your complexion while removing makeup and oil.
One of the largest category of facial cleansers, cream washes are usually formulated for dry, mature, or sensitive skin. Their thick, creamy consistency removes makeup effectively while depositing moisture onto the skin.
While most bar soaps are for washing the hands or body, a few are specifically formulated for the face. Clear glycerin bars are good for any type of skin, including sensitive skin. You’ll also find bar soaps for battling acne and oily skin.
Fairly new to the beauty market, oil cleansers gently and effectively remove makeup – even waterproof formulas – while leaving the complexion clean and soft. Most oil cleansers are for normal, mature, or dry skin, but there are a few suitable for oily complexions as well.
Clay draws oil and impurities out of your pores, helps reduce acne breakouts, and removes oil, making it an excellent cleanser for combination to oily skin.
Another new type of cleanser, micellar water, contains tiny oil molecules – called micelles – that attract and remove oil, makeup, and dirt from your skin. Micellar cleansers usually don’t require rinsing, making them especially good for travel, the gym, or those late nights when you’re too tired to wash up with your regular routine. You’ll find formulations for every type of skin.
Although not as common as the other types, powder cleansers – which turn into a creamy lather upon contact with water – are a good choice for many skin types, including sensitive, combination, and oily skin.
Perfect for the gym or your travel bag, cleansing wipes are soaked with a liquid cleanser. Depending on the formula, this type of cleanser could be suitable for any type of skin. Most facial wipes do a good job of removing sweat, oil, and dirt.
Typically a gel or cream cleanser with abrasive particles, facial scrubs are good for exfoliating the skin, but be careful: too much use could irritate your complexion. Limit the use of facial scrub cleansers to once or twice per week.
It’s difficult to choose the right facial cleanser without knowing what type of skin you have. The following guidelines will help.
Dry skin: Flakiness, dry patches, a tight feeling, and a dull look are indicators of dry skin. Treat your dry skin tenderly when washing up, and choose a gentle cleanser that has moisturizing ingredients.
Oily skin: A shiny appearance, large pores, tendency towards breakouts, and greasy feel characterize oily skin. You need a cleansing product that can cut through the oil and grease, remove pore-clogging makeup, and yet leave your skin balanced – not overly dry and stripped.
Sensitive skin: Sensitive skin reacts to many cosmetic ingredients, including fragrances, dyes, or abrasive scrubs. Gentle cleansers formulated without irritants will leave your skin clean, not stinging or red.
Combination skin: This common skin type tends towards oiliness on the forehead, nose, and chin but dryness on the cheeks. Cleansers that gently remove oil without stripping moisture are best for combination skin.
Mature skin: It’s a fact of life: skin ages just like the rest of you. Mature skin is often dry, and fine lines can be a problem as well. If this is your complexion, choose a moisturizing cleanser.
You can buy a perfectly adequate facial cleanser for less than $5, or you can spend $50 on an upscale product. As a general rule, the cheapest products are likelier to be irritating or hard on your skin, while the most expensive products are likely charging you more for brand name or marketing hype.
You’ll find the largest array of effective and skin-pampering facial cleansers in the $10 to $15 range.
Some people are surprised to learn that their face-washing habits are actually hurting their skin. Here’s how to do it right.
When it’s time to wash up at night, pull your hair away from your face with a headband or scrunchie.
Wash your hands.
Wet your face with warm water.
If your skin is very dry or sensitive, use just your hands for washing. Otherwise, use a washcloth or a facial cleansing brush to thoroughly remove makeup, oil, and dirt.
Don’t go overboard with cleanser; use just enough to do the job.
Rub cleanser into your skin, paying special attention to your hairline, the creases around your nose, and your jawline.
Rinse with clean, warm water, using your washcloth if desired. Rinse several times until every trace of cleanser is gone.
Blot your face dry with a clean towel. Don’t rub or scrub at your skin.
Apply your usual moisturizers, serums, sunscreen, or cosmetics.
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