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Best Facial Cleansers

Updated July 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 43 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 172 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best facial cleansers

    Last Updated July 2018

    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.

    Washing your face with the right facial cleanser for your skin type is the first step toward healthy, smooth, soft skin. Once your face is washed, you are ready to continue your beauty regimen with treatments, moisturizer, foundation, and/or other cosmetics.

    Why use a facial cleanser?

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you prefer to avoid synthetic products, are vegan, or just like a green lifestyle, you’ll want a cleanser as natural as you are. Look for a facial cleanser with organic ingredients; there are many options on the market.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    What are the different types of facial cleansers?

    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.

    Foaming facial cleansers

    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.

    Gel facial cleansers

    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.

    If you love long-wear makeup, you’ve probably encountered some difficulty in removing it at day’s end. You need a facial cleanser that melts even stubborn makeup, whisks it away, and leaves clean, fresh skin behind. Look for a product specifically formulated to remove waterproof and long-wear makeup.

    Cream facial cleansers

    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.

    Bar facial cleansers

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    Don’t think you have to stick with the same facial cleanser all year round. It’s common to need a moisturizing wash in the dry winter months and a cleanser that removes oil during the summer.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Oil facial cleansers

    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 facial cleansers

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    Don’t fall for marketing hype. While the right facial cleanser will help your skin look its best, there is no magical cure for acne, wrinkles, or other common skin conditions.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Micellar facial cleansers

    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.

    Powder facial cleansers

    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.

    EXPERT TIP

    While buying the same brand of cleanser and moisturizer can be convenient, it isn’t required. Feel free to mix and match your skincare products among different brands to establish your best complexion-care routine.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Cleansing facial wipes

    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.

    Facial scrubs

    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.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most complexions benefit from twice-per-day cleansing: once in the morning and once before bed. If your skin is very dry, however, a splash of water in the morning might be all you need.

    How do you determine your skin type?

    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.

    • Normal skin: Not too dry, not too oily – normal skin is just right. Outside of cleansers that are very moisturizing or formulated for the oiliest skin, most facial cleansers are suitable for this skin type.

    If your face is prone to acne, don’t despair. You need a face wash that removes makeup, pore-clogging oil, and breakout-causing bacteria while treating pimples with salicylic acid or other acne-battling ingredients. But don’t go overboard; overly harsh cleansers or scrubs can actually make acne worse.

    How much should you pay for a facial 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.

    EXPERT TIP

    No matter how late it is or how tired you are, do your complexion a favor and never go to bed without first using some type of cleanser to remove your makeup. Otherwise, you’re likely to wake up with blotchy, broken out, and congested skin.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How to wash your face

    Some people are surprised to learn that their face-washing habits are actually hurting their skin. Here’s how to do it right.

    1. When it’s time to wash up at night, pull your hair away from your face with a headband or scrunchie.

    2. Wash your hands.

    3. Wet your face with warm water.

    4. 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.

    5. Don’t go overboard with cleanser; use just enough to do the job.

    6. Rub cleanser into your skin, paying special attention to your hairline, the creases around your nose, and your jawline.

    7. Rinse with clean, warm water, using your washcloth if desired. Rinse several times until every trace of cleanser is gone.

    8. Blot your face dry with a clean towel. Don’t rub or scrub at your skin.

    9. Apply your usual moisturizers, serums, sunscreen, or cosmetics.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Michelle
      Michelle
      Writer