The Best Face Wash for Every Skin Type, According to Experts
Choosing the best face wash for your skin type should be the first—and most important—step in any skin care routine. Our experts make it easy for you to get it right with their top picks.
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The best face washes for gorgeous skin
There’s little we won’t do (or try at least once) for glowing, dewy skin, including using the best moisturizers, anti-aging creams, anti-aging eye creams, facial scrubs, makeup removers, toners, masks, and at-home chemical peels, to name a few. But here’s the glitch: No matter how many products you try, if you don’t start off with the best face wash for your skin type, all these efforts will be for naught, experts say.
How to figure out your skin type
Choosing the best face cleanser starts with knowing your skin type. In general,
- Oily skin tends to be shiny and greasy
- Dry skin is flaky, itchy, and red
- Normal skin is clear and not all that sensitive
- Combination skin is dry in some places and oily in others.
If you’re not sure where you fit in, ask your dermatologist or aesthetician. Second, it’s also important to consider your goals, as many cleansers do double duty as brighteners, anti-agers, and moisturizers.
How to use face wash
Some basic rules apply to everyone. For the first step in your skin care routine, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser that doesn’t contain alcohol to protect your skin. That means no regular soap. Technique matters too: Start by wetting your face with lukewarm water and use your fingertips to apply your cleanser, but don’t scrub, since this irritates the skin. Then rinse your face with lukewarm water, and pat your skin dry with a soft towel.
How we chose the best face wash
Our picks for the best face washes are based on expert recommendations from top dermatologists, aestheticians and plastic surgeons. We combined their know-how with online user reviews and experiences as well as star ratings to develop a comprehensive list of the best face cleansers for every skin type and need.
In this list
- Best face wash for oily skin
- Best face wash for dry skin
- Best face wash for dull skin
- Best face wash for combination skin types
- Best face wash for cystic acne
- Best face wash for aging skin
- Best face wash for maskne
- Best face wash for eczema-prone skin
- Best face wash for active acne breakouts
- Best face wash for makeup removal
- Best face wash for full-body cleansing
- Best face wash for deep cleansing
- Best face wash for double cleansing
- Best face wash for skin detox
- Best face wash for brightening skin
- Best face wash for getting softer, smooth skin
- Best face wash for hydration
- Best face wash for clogged pores
- Best face wash for redness-prone skin
- Best face wash for sensitive skin
- Best face wash for blackhead prevention
- Best face wash for vegans
- Best for dark spots
- Best face wash for reducing inflammation
- Best face wash for normal to oily skin
Best face wash for oily skin
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser for Oily Skin
The best face wash for oily skin is a foaming or gel cleanser like La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser, says Ava Shamban, MD, a dermatologist in California. This wallet-friendly cleanser contains antioxidant-rich spring water that may help calm inflammation, plus other heavy hitters like niacinamide and ceramide-3. Follow up with moisturizers for oily skin.
- Won’t clog pores
- Ideal for oily, acne-prone skin
- Need to remove makeup before using
Best face wash for dry skin
Instytutum Transforming Melting Cleanser
This is the best face wash for dry skin, Dr. Shamban says. “It works to lift impurities, cleanses while hydrating, and leaves skin smooth, soft, supple, protected and balanced.” Actives include retinol to refine skin texture, hyaluronic acid to improve your skin’s moisture and elasticity, and vitamin E, provitamin B5 and allantoin to calm skin and strengthen your skin barrier, she says. Apply to a dry face first; then apply water to turn the cleanser into an emulsion.
- Ideal for dry skin
- Users must remember not to wet their face before applying
Best face wash for dull skin
Dermalogica Daily Glycolic Cleanser
Rich in alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), part of your perfect skin-care routine, this jelly-based cleanser gets rid of dead skin cells, revealing a brighter complexion. Other actives soothe skin and preserve moisture. “I love this product! My skin/texture looks brighter and healthier! It has also evened out my skin tone. Definitely appears more hydrated as well,” says an Ulta reviewer.
- AHAs may increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun
Best face wash for combination skin types
DefenAge 1-Step Multi-Cleanse
DefenAge 1-Step Multi-Cleanse is a great cleanser for women and men of all skin types, says New York City dermatologist Jessica Weiser, MD. “It contains natural prebiotics that help to support a healthy microbiome and strengthen the skin barrier,” she says. This formula does double duty to reduce debris and the effects of pollution on the skin’s surface, while dissolving all traces of makeup, even waterproof mascara.
- Supports a healthy skin microbiome
- Removes dirt and makeup
Best face wash for cystic acne
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser
You hoped you would outgrow acne as the teen years fade into your rearview mirror, but fate had different plans for your skin. It’s La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser to the rescue: This cleanser contains two percent salicylic acid, which helps get rid of blackheads, whiteheads and acne blemishes, Dr. Shamban says. It works gently and won’t further irritate your inflamed skin.
- Ideal for active acne
- May irritate eyes
Best face wash for aging skin
Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
This top-selling cleanser does triple duty: It nourishes, removes makeup and hydrates, says Taylor Worden, a New York City esthetician and founder of Taylor Worden Skin. Rich in essential oils including lavender, chamomile and eucalyptus, Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm can be used daily as a cleanser or weekly as a mask. Its pro-collagen formula benefits aging skin as well.
- Feels and smells luxurious
- Cleanses and removes makeup
- Has a screw-off top instead of a pump
Best face wash for maskne
SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Even as we take off our Covid-prevention masks, the effects of “maskne” breakouts can linger. SkinMedica AHA/BHA Cleanser has got your back, says Mona Gohara, MD, a Connecticut-based dermatologist. “Beta hydroxy acids (BHA) like salicylic acid help combat any existing active lesions, while alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) gently exfoliate the skin to prevent future breakouts,” she explains. Try those other kind of face masks—the skin-care kind—to soothe your skin as well.
- Ideal for oily, acne-prone skin
- Helps fight maskne breakouts
- Because of the AHA, it’s recommended to limit sun exposure when first using
Best face wash for eczema-prone skin
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin is the best face cleanser from the drugstore, and is packed with niacinamide, Vitamin B5 and glycerin, says New York City dermatologist Lian Mack, MD. The gentle formulation helps to clean the skin while actively soothing it, and that means less itch and irritation if you are one of the millions of people who live with eczema. Other perks? This best-selling face cleanser is hypo-allergenic, non-comedogenic (it won’t block pores), fragrance-free, paraben-free and sulfate-free. It’s a drugstore beauty product dermatologists swear by.
- Hypo-allergenic and fragrance-free
- Widely available in drugstores
- Helps relieve irritated skin
- Easy to confuse with Cetaphil Daily Skin Cleanser, a slightly different product
Best face wash for active acne breakouts
Cetaphil’s Gentle Clear Clarifying Acne Cream Cleanser
If you are mid-breakout, don’t panic: Reach for Cetaphil’s Gentle Clear Clarifying Acne Cream Cleanser, says Dr. Mack. The key ingredients include two percent salicylic acid and an antioxidant-infused white tea with aloe. You might have heard spearmint tea cures acne—this cleanser uses a similar ingredient, white tea. “The salicylic acid combats whiteheads and blackheads, preventing new breakouts,” Mack says. “The white tea and aloe soothe and nourish sensitive skin to minimize the risk of irritation.”
- May be drying if overused, reviewers say
Best face wash for makeup removal
Naked Poppy Nourish Cream Cleanser
This “naked” cleanser doesn’t contain any harsh detergents that can dry out skin. Instead, it contains gluconolactone, a gentle polyhydroxy acid, as well as lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid with moisture-preserving properties, to gently exfoliate the skin. Nourishing baobab extract, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and aloe soothe the skin. “Although it’s a water-based cleanser, its oil content also makes it an effective makeup remover, so it’s nice that it serves double duty,” shares New York City dermatologist Hadley King, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Although it costs a little more than other products, it eliminates the need to purchase additional makeup removers.
- Double duty make-up remover and cleanser
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- No harsh detergents
- More expensive than drugstore brands
Best face wash for full-body cleansing
Dove Beauty Bar Sensitive Skin
Harsher soaps and detergents strip moisture from the skin, King explains. Not the iconic beauty product Dove Beauty Bar Sensitive Skin, the best face wash that does extra duty to clean your whole body. “The Sensitive Skin Dove Beauty Bar is fragrance-free and hypoallergenic,” she says. “It effectively cleanses without drying out the skin, and there aren’t added ingredients that could irritate sensitive skin.”
- Not a soap
- No harsh ingredients
- Ideal for sensitive skin
- Not specially formulated for the face
Best face wash for deep cleansing
Caudalie’s Vinopure Pore Purifying Gel Cleanser
Foam and gel cleansers like Caudalie’s Vinopure Pore Purifying Gel Cleanser go deep to kill acne, remove excess oil and excavate clogged pores, says Worden. This cleanser contains natural salicylic acid and hydrating grape water to purify skin and absorb any excess oil. Bonus: This cleanser can be used on all skin types, but works particularly well for oily skin.
- Cleans pores
- Best for oily skin
- Test first to make sure it’s non-irritating
Best face wash for double cleansing
Environ Dual Action Pre-Cleaning Oil
Double cleansing is on trend and involves using two different cleansers—one with oil, followed by one with water—to get your face as clean as possible. Environ‘s pre-cleanse oil is perfect for step one, says Worden. “Oils are lipophilic, so they are attracted to other oils, which means cleansing oils can actually remove oil from the skin,” she explains.
- Best for oily skin
- Make-up removal
- An extra step in your skin care routine
Best face wash for skin detox
Mineral Fusion Purifying Gel Facial Cleanser
Pollution, make-up, sweat and grime can clog pores, leaving skin dull and grayish. To combat this, Mineral Fusion Purifying Gel Facial Cleanser dissolves dirt while sea clay detoxifies impurities. As one Amazon reviewer put it: “This is the most awesome product line. I have a natural glow and more color on my face. I actually sometimes go out without makeup.” That’s good, because your skin may need a break from makeup.
- Some reviewers found it too runny
Best face wash for brightening skin
Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser
This fan-favorite face cleanser is packed with vitamin C and other plant-based powerhouse ingredients for a brighter complexion. “One of my favorite cleansers, it’s like liquid gold and sunshine in a bottle! The scent is so invigorating and leaves skin clear and glowing without the harsh chemicals,” says New York City-based men’s groomer Amy Komorowski.
- Gives a glowing complexion
- Rich in vitamin C
- High price point
Best face wash for getting softer, smooth skin
Goop G.Tox Malachite and Fruit Acid Pore Purifying Cleanser
This gel-based face cleanser is formulated with malachite and fruit acids that take on pores, blemishes and oiliness. Malachite extract is rich in copper to cleanse pores, and Brazilian fruit extracts from mango, banana and yellow mombin are natural exfoliators that help slough off dead skin cells. A full 97 percent of women agreed their skin felt smooth, and 90 percent of women said their skin felt soft, after using this face cleanser.
- Works on normal, dry, combination and oily skin
- Some reviewers found it drying
Best face wash for hydration
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
“This cleansing balm can lift sebum [oil] buildup, dirt, grime and dissolve any makeup,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, director of dermatology, Mohs surgery and laser medicine at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. “This balm keeps skin hydrated, which is important for those with oily skin, and uses papaya extract, sunflower and ginger root oils to remove impurities and nourish the skin.” Follow up with the best moisturizers for oily skin.
- Ideal for oily skin
- Makeup remover
- Needs the extra step of scooping out with a spatula (included)
Best face wash for clogged pores
Replenix Gly-Sal 5-2 Deep Pore Acne Cleanser
This Replenix cleanser earns four and a half stars from many verified Amazon buyers. “This product works wonders to ‘de-gunk’ your skin, leaving it so smooth after cleansing. I also do not get oily again soon after cleansing,” says one happy Amazon customer. It contains salicylic and glycolic acid to exfoliate skin and unclog pores, along with proprietary green tea polyphenol technology to calm and soothe your skin.
- Calms skin
- Unclogs pores
- Exfoliates skin
- Some users found the top to leak
Best face wash for redness-prone skin
Obagi Medical’s Foaming Cleanser
This gentle cleanser from Obagi won’t aggravate the skin, Dr. Engelman says. “It is a dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic cleanser made without synthetic fragrance or parabens,” she says. The thick, foaming product removes oil buildup and environmental impurities while still being gentle on sensitive skin. “It contains aloe, which acts as a water-binding agent that has soothing, antioxidant and antibacterial qualities,” she says. For those prone to redness, follow up with a redness-reducing concealer.
- Fragrance and paraben-free
- May not take off all makeup
Best face wash for sensitive skin
ISDIN Micellar Solution
There’s lots of buzz lately about the beauty innovation micellar water. It comprises tiny balls of cleansing oil molecules called micelles that are suspended in water. These micelles are attracted to dirt and oil, and draw out impurities without drying out the skin. “I like ISDIN Micellar Solution to tone and hydrate the skin before bed,” Dr. Engelman says. “If the patient has dryer sensitive skin, I suggest not fully cleansing in the morning and just lightly dabbing ISDIN Micellar Solution to prep the skin for a morning routine.”
- Oil-based cleanser
- Use before bed for dry skin
- Must be applied with a cotton pad
Best face wash for blackhead prevention
St. Ives Acne Control Tea Tree Daily Cleanser
The best face wash for blackheads boasts two percent salicylic acid, which helps clean out pores and prevent them from becoming clogged. “This is a great ingredient for people with oily and acne-prone skin, and particularly for treating and preventing blackheads and whiteheads,” says Dr. King. In addition to exfoliating salicylic acid, this face cleanser also contains tea tree extract, which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can be helpful for acne, she says. Tea tree oil is one of the natural remedies that really work for your skin.
- Treats acne
- Won’t clog pores
- Does have a tea tree scent, which some users may not like
Best face wash for vegans
Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser
You are what you eat, and all the nutrients you need to stay healthy and strong are also beneficial for your skin. This green juice cleanser contains cold-pressed antioxidants from plant-based diet nutrients like kale and spinach and green tea for a powerful cleanse.
- Works well on oily, combination and normal skin
- Comes in a glass jar, which is environmentally friendly but is heavy and can break if dropped
Best for dark spots
Oxygen Infusion Wash by SkinBetter Science
This face wash is ideal if you have age spots, melasma, and/or hyperpigmentation, says Stefani Kappel, MD, a dermatologist in Corona del Mar, Calif. “This innovative cleanser contains oxygen, which helps detoxify and purify the skin to eliminate bacteria load to reduce acne,” she says. “It also has a slow release of AHAs, which are also important for anti-aging and can help brighten dyspigmentation.” Unchanged: This face wash is ideal if you have age spots, melasma, and/or hyperpigmentation, says Stefani Kappel, MD, a dermatologist in Corona del Mar, Calif. “This innovative cleanser contains oxygen, which helps detoxify and purify the skin to eliminate bacteria load to reduce acne,” she says. “It also has a slow release of AHAs, which are also important for anti-aging and can help brighten dyspigmentation.”
- Anti-aging benefits
- Reduces dark spots and patches
- It’s more expensive than other brands
Best face wash for reducing inflammation
Saje Calm-O-Mile Gel Cleanser
This is one of the best natural makeup and clean beauty brands for your skin. Made with aloe vera juice and blue chamomile essential oil, this plant-based face cleanser makes our list because it doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oils, and it smells incredible. Another active, squalene, comes from cane sugar and deeply hydrates and soothes inflamed skin.
- Very gentle
- Calms irritation
- Does have an herbal scent for those looking for fragrance-free
Best face wash for normal to oily skin
The ZO Exfoliating Cleanser
The ZO Exfoliating Cleanser does double duty for normal to oily skin, says New York City plastic surgeon Bryan Forley, MD. “This purifying gel provides a simple solution for both physical and chemical exfoliation and keeps pores clean and clear to guard against blackheads and breakouts,” he says. Actives include salicylic acid to rid pores of daily debris, jojoba esters for effective exfoliation, plus vitamin E for antioxidant protection. “It also comes in a handy travel size to throw in your gym bag after sweating,” he says.
- Ideal for normal to oily skin
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- American Academy of Dermatology: “Face Washing 101”
- Ava Shamban, MD, dermatologist in California
- Jessica Weiser, MD, dermatologist in New York City
- Mona Gohara, MD, dermatologist in Connecticut
- Lian Mack, MD, dermatologist in New York City
- Hadley King, MD, dermatologist in New York City and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University
- Taylor Worden, aesthetician in New York City
- Amy Komorowski, men’s groomer in New York City
- Bryan Forley, MD, plastic surgeon in New York City
- Stefani Kappel, MD, dermatologist in Corona del Mar, California
- Dendy E. Engelman, MD, director of dermatology, Mohs surgery, and laser medicine at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City