Which type of facial cleanser you buy may not seem too important until you’ve actually seen the difference between using a face wash regularly and then switching to a harsh bar soap.
Dermatologists recommend using a facial cleanser at least twice a day as an important first step in any good. Removing all traces of makeup, oil, sweat and other grime is key to giving your other skincare products a chance to work well — applying them on skin that has not been cleansed properly is just counterproductive. And if you’re prone to acne, face cleanser is a must for cleansing thoroughly so that excess oil and bacteria is removed from your skin.
According to Dr. Caren Campbell, a board-certified dermatologist, which face cleanser you choose depends on a variety of factors, including if you have dry, combination or normal skin. Specific concerns, such as acne or sensitive skin, should be factored in when selecting a face wash as well. If you have drier skin, she recommends avoiding a foaming cleanser and instead opting for a cream cleanser. A foaming facial cleanser “can be drying and irritating, best to stick with creamy washes,” Campbell says. In general, if you have sensitive skin, stick to soap-free and fragrance-free face wash formulas.
Below, you’ll find the best facial cleanser for all different skin concerns. The list below highlights the top sellers across sites like Amazon, Sephora and Target. The prices range from high-end to more affordable drugstore finds, and some facial wash products are classic favorites, while others are newer launches that have become popular recently.
Note that these face wash and cleanser products and services are independently chosen by our editors, based on extensive research into the available options in the marketplace. The prices and availability are accurate as of publishing time, but may change. We update this list periodically.
Fresh Soy Facial cleanser is a bestselling cleanser on Sephora (with nearly 8,000 reviews) and it has a cult following in the beauty world. The gentle cleanser is formulated to remove all traces of makeup without drying out the skin with soy proteins and other hydrating ingredients that help moisturize and soothe skin. This face cleanser works for basically all skin types, including sensitive skin types or dry skin.
Beste Jelly Cleanser from Sephora works for basically every skin type and is a great face wash choice for a simple, but effective cleanser that removes all makeup and grime from your face. I’ve been using this face cleanser in the morning and after workout for months and I love it.
I’ve used some cleansers before that just don’t seem to get rid of all the makeup/grime from the day, or leave your skin super-dry after, and this one does not. This skin cleanser also has Sephora’s clean beauty seal and is fragrance-free.
Despite what you might think about exfoliating cleansers, you really don’t have to use a harsh facial scrub to get a good exfoliation — lots of cleansers contain ingredients that help get rid of dead skin cells even if you don’t feel like you’re “scrubbing” your face. Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse Exfoliating gel formula cleanser is one of those products. It’s a gel cleanser that lathers into a creamy foam and uses fibers from Luffa fruit to gently exfoliate.
Cetaphil facial cleanser is a classic go-to cleanser for many dermatologists — including Dr. Campbell. This gentle facial cleanser is also a top-seller at Target, and will not break the bank at $9.59. It’s a good face wash product for normal to oily skin types since it can help remove oil without drying out your skin. It’s also fragrance-free, a huge plus for people who have more sensitive skin or dislike fragrance.
The last time I had a facial, the esthetician recommended that I “double cleanse,” especially if I’m wearing makeup. The idea is that you use a makeup remover or cleansing balm like this to gently remove all makeup, and then cleanse with a regular cleanser.
It feels like a pain to do two steps — but I promise your skin will feel so much better, especially if you wear makeup every day. This cleansing balm from Farmacy is a top seller on Sephora and the balm works to “melt” away your makeup and will leave your skin feeling super-soft, not stripped or dry after.
This face wash from new brand HoliFrog is formulated to work like a serum for clear skin. The acids in the cleanser are formulated to penetrate your skin while you wash and target acne. Don’t let the term acid intimidate you — these are not harsh acids, but gentle ones like glycolic acid that target breakouts, impurities and clogged pores without stripping or irritating acne prone skin.
Keep in mind that this face wash does contain chemical exfoliating ingredients, so go easy on other products that also contain acids since you don’t need too much of a good thing.
This hydrating cleanser from CeraVe is a top-seller on Amazon and perfect for drier skin types. It contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid, two key moisturizing ingredients, making it super-hydrating for the skin. This cleanser is also one of Dr. Campbell’s favorites because it’s soap-free and fragrance-free with a creamy texture.
More skincare recommendations
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- Best facial moisturizers in 2021: SkinMedica, The Ordinary, Drunk Elephant and more
- The best skin care products: Basics for your skin care routine
- Best sunscreen for 2021
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.