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22 Best Cleansers for Every Single Skin Type

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Retailers

Cleansing is the first step of any solid skin-care routine. But finding a cleanser that doesn’t damage your skin barrier by stripping it of its natural oils is the most important part of picking out a formula, says esthetician and founder of Monastery Athena Hewett. You want to set the rest of your products up for success — and not emerge from crouching over the sink with skin that feels tight, dry, or irritated.

Which cleanser should I use?

If your skin is desert-level dry, Dr. Sheilagh Maguiness, a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Stryke Club, suggests hypoallergenic formulas with glycerin and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture. She says balms are great for drier skin types, because they’re formulated with rich hydrating oils.

For acne-prone skin, Hewett recommends an oil formula and credits it with curing her own breakouts. “It is truly what a lot of acneic skin types are missing from their routine,” she says, which seems counterintuitive, but oils can better lift and dissolve impurities without drying out your face. To help with acne, you can look for formulas with any of these three ingredients, according to Maguiness: salicylic acid (for whiteheads or blackheads), benzoyl peroxide (for big, angry pimples), and sodium hypochlorite (for bacteria reduction and inflammation relief).

How often should I wash my face?

Dr. Maguiness recommends cleansing twice per day in general — “when you wake up in the morning, and at the end of the day before you go to bed.” For sensitive or ultradry skin, you may find that once a day works just fine.

Now that you’re armed with all this information, here are 22 face washes and cleansers for every type of skin-care need and concern. Get ready for an immaculately clean, nourished, and glowing complexion.

Best Drugstore Cleanser

Non-offensive, readily accessible, and transcendent of both time and trends, Cetaphil’s gentle formula has rightfully earned cult status. It’s humbly effective, works on every skin type, and is beloved by all: dermatologists, famous people, and real-life people with good skin.

Best Fancy Cetaphil

This feels like the fancy version of Cetaphil. It’s extremely gentle and designed to not be irritating to even very sensitive skin types. If you don’t wear makeup often and want a light cleanser, this is for you.

The Celebrity-Favorite Face Wash

This blue bottle appears in many a celeb skin-care shelfie because it keeps skin bright and blemish-free behind the scenes. It’s a gentle but mighty mix of willow bark (a form of exfoliating salicylic acid), which breaks up pore-clogging oil and encourages cell turnover, and antioxidants, which protect skin from free radicals and make it glowier over time.

Best Cleanser for Removing Makeup

Technically, it’s not a face wash, but why do we have to follow every single rule? This is a perfect makeup remover that dissolves even the most waterproof of makeup with a few swipes. (For particularly stubborn mascara, put it on a pad, leave it in place, and give it time to work.) It feels just like water, which is ideal when you’re too lazy to splash water on your face. Dr. Maguiness says a micellar water is a great initial step to wipe away makeup and oils before you follow up with a gentle cleanser.

Best Face Wash for Dry Skin

This antioxidant-packed, fragrance-free cleanser is loved by both dermatologists and owners of sensitive, finicky skin for its ability to cleanse while calming irritation. The pH-balanced formula is infused with soothing aloe, which is good news for people with facial eczema or psoriasis. It whips into a lovely, lightweight cream that helps maintain the skin’s natural acidity, so flare-ups become less frequent and skin stays protected and supple.

Best Cleanser for Oily Skin

Dr. Maguiness suggests this top-rated foaming cleanser for oily skin. It contains niacinamide and ceramides, which help calm redness and protect your skin barrier. “This is a deep cleanser that does not strip or dry,” she says, with the added benefit of being fragrance free and hypoallergenic.

Best K-Beauty Face Wash

This multitasker removes makeup and gently cleanses, all while feeling like a dessert for your face. The sherbet-like balm melts into a heavenly oil when it hits the skin, then transforms again into a gentle milky cleanser once water is introduced into the mix. You’re left with soft, makeup-free skin and a facial massage you didn’t know you needed.

Best Foaming Face Wash

This refreshing gel formula is soap-free and naturally foams on its own (thanks to an ingredient called quillaja saponaria, otherwise known as soapbark). It thoroughly rinses away the day’s debris without taking all the moisture in your skin with it.

Best Deep Cleanser

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
From $12

True to its name, this formula gets all up in your pores to rinse away makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and any other buildup. The fragrance-free cleanser leaves no product behind, and even waterproof mascara and eyeliner are no match for its dissolving powers. The solid 4.9-star rating and glowing reviews are proof that it works wonders, and the rosemary-leaf oil (Hello, antioxidants!) and vitamin E ensure your skin is nourished after each wash.

Best Cleanser With Natural Ingredients

Sunflower, ginger root, turmeric, and papaya serve up a hefty dose of farm-sourced ingredients, which work to remove stubborn makeup and impurities and exfoliate your skin. Fans say that this cleansing balm is gentle and nonirritating. It has more than 5,000 reviews on Sephora — with not one but two people calling it “perfection in a jar.” Pretty compelling if you ask us.

Best for Balancing Your Skin Barrier

Dr. Maguiness recommends this drugstore must-have that cleans just as effectively as it hydrates. It’s approved by the National Eczema Association and packed with ceramides, which are essential to maintaining the natural moisture of your skin. The lotion consistency might be a turnoff for those who are more used to a foam or milky texture, but once you get used to it, you won’t look back.

Best Jelly Cleanser

A dime-size amount on your fingers will just about do it. And by “it,” we mean remove all traces of makeup. Made with skin-soothing tiger grass, the formula comes out of the tube as a bouncy jelly, then turns into oil as you massage it into your skin. In its final form, the balm transforms into a milky emulsion when mixed with water. Neat, huh? Your face will feel supersoft — we’re talking baby levels, here — after it’s all rinsed off.

Best All-Purpose Face Wash

This silky gel cleanser is so well rounded, it’ll fit right in with any skin-care routine, whether it’s three steps or 15. It has a low pH, which means it keeps your moisture barrier undisturbed, and it has the perfect mix of cleansing ingredients (natural coco-glucoside and tea-cocoyl glutamate), hydrating ingredients (cucumber and hyaluronic acid), and soothing ingredients (chamomile and camellia). It will leave your skin feeling chill and ready for the next steps in your skin-care routine.

Most Nutritious Face Wash

Does your skin feel like it’s missing a little something-something lately? This refreshing gel wash contains a healthy dose of probiotics, omega fatty acids, and vitamins that make your face feel nourished and much more balanced. Fittingly, it has a nice, silky texture that feels more like a serum than a stripping soap, making it the perfect final step in a double cleanse.

Face Wash You Can Use To Shave Your Legs

Austin–based celebrity facialist Renee Rouleau tends to the skin of Demi Lovato and Busy Philipps. She’s all about maintaining skin’s moisture barrier, and this gel-to-milk formula is part of that plan. Glycerin and apricot extract help keep moisture levels in line, while aloe vera extract soothes and hydrates — so much so that leg-shaving is a popular hack with this one.

Best “Clean” Cleanser

Seattle–based dermatologist Heather Rogers created this after seeing patients’ skin react adversely to Aquaphor (yes, people can even develop sensitivity to that). This oil-free cleanser is her solution to standard face wash that might be too stripping. It’s sudsy enough to remove makeup in a formula that relies on eight ingredients, led by aloe vera and glycerin.

Facialists’ Favorite Face Wash

This botanical cleansing milk is beloved by so many facialists, including Joanna Czech, Aida Bicaj, and Karine Kazarian. They appreciate its gentleness, its brightening properties, and its ability to wash away pollutants. And since it has a consistency not unlike half-and-half, using it does feel like a nurturing milky treat.

Face Wash That Feels Like a Blanket

This delightfully rich balm is kind of like a quick version of a paraffin treatment, but without the wax or overheated burn potential. When you massage it into your skin, it feels temporarily wrapped in a blanket of soothing, hydrating ingredients. Even the removal (which Elemis recommends doing with a damp cotton cleansing clothing) has a ritualistic quality, which leaves skin feeling hydrated and with a newfound bouncy texture.

Best Oil Face Cleanser

This is the gold standard of fancy oil cleansers, with over a thousand Sephora reviews and close to five stars. The oil doesn’t feel greasy but smooth and silky, and combines with water to create a gentle, thorough face wash that won’t irritate the skin or leave a weird film.

Smoothest Face Wash

The texture of this cleanser feels like the kind of fancy butter served in a dish. Your face isn’t toast, but you’ll still like the feeling of gently massaging off all the makeup and grime. Start with a dry face, then add water to turn it into a satin-ymixture that rinses off to give you soft, clean skin. For these reasons, it’s one of the most-mentioned products in our Auto Refill series.

The Duchess-Approved Face Wash

Meghan Markle loves this cleanser. The texture of this balm is so sleek, plush, and luxurious that perhaps it helps her forget, for a moment, about the British tabloids and what mean people are saying about her on the internet. It’s a very thorough face cleanser — you don’t need to double-cleanse when using this. Just once is enough for fresh, de-grimed skin.

Best Luxury Face Wash

Vogue once called this the “best face cleanser in the world.” It’s the OG balm cleanser, the first to launch during a time when all face cleansers were foaming. t continues to be a favorite, even though its practices can seem somewhat cumbersome— it doesn’t foam, smells vaguely medicinal, comes with an eight-page foldout of lymphatic drainage massage techniques, and you must use a muslin cloth to rinse it off. If you want a quick clean, this isn’t it. But if you want a thorough clean that feels like you’re washing off the stress of the day along with the dirt, try it.

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22 Best Cleansers for Every Single Skin Type