We live in a wonderful time for skincare. In the ‘50s, American women relied on mere bar soap and cold cream to keep their faces clean. Today, there’s a never-ending list of facial cleansers to choose from. From gels, creams, and cleansers to powders, clays, and bars, the products available to us include dramatically different ingredients, and all their manufacturers make pretty big claims. So of these many options, which is the best face wash?
To navigate this maze of facial products, we turned to the experts to get the DL on the best face wash for every skin type.
So, if you’ve been dying to know which ingredients help dry skin, we’ve got the answer. If you’re worried about an oily complexion or acne breakouts, we’ve got doctor-approved products to help you out. Even if you just want the simplest method to clean your face, we’ve got all-natural products to suit your skin.
Find out the dermatologists’ top suggestions for every skin type, and soon you’ll be out of the skincare maze enjoying the best face wash ever.
Best Face Wash for Dry Skin
Multiple dermatologists recommend CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for dry skin. Margarita Lolis, MD, says, “The ingredients are simple and all serve to attract water and keep it within the skin.”
She adds that people with dry skin should look carefully at the ingredients in their cleanser. You want to add moisture, so look for things like glycerin, cholesterol, and petrolatum. Glycerin is a fat-based ingredient that softens skin, while cholesterol and petrolatum help the skin absorb moisture. If your face is irritated, find a cream with potassium phosphate, a soothing agent.
CeraVe has all these ingredients plus a healthy dose of purified water for extra moisture, so it does an excellent job of cleaning the skin without drying it out. Though the brand may not be fancy, it’s fairly easy to find, often costs less than $10, and keeps your skin beautifully hydrated.
Best All-Natural Face Wash For Dry Skin
Not everyone wants to use synthetic ingredients like potassium phosphate on their skin. While those chemical-sounding compounds aren’t harmful, we totally understand if you’d rather take a simpler, more natural approach.
It turns out that there’s an incredibly good face wash for dry skin that you might have in your kitchen. Lolis recommends 100 percent grapeseed oil. If washing your face with oil sounds counterproductive, it’s actually a great way to keep your skin moisturized. “Grapeseed oil is fantastic,” says Lolis. “It’s a lighter oil that is absorbed into the skin and won’t clog pores.”
You won’t need to worry about sudden breakouts after using the oil. It’s light enough to carry the dirt away and wash away clean. When using oil to clean your face, start with a small amount. A little goes a long way!
When choosing a grapeseed oil, make sure you get one that’s completely pure. Oils of all types often get mixed with cheaper oils to bring the price down. For example, Forbes reported that 80 percent of olive oil isn’t really the high-quality, extra virgin oil it claims to be! To avoid slathering mystery oil on your skin, invest in a product like Beauty Aura’s 100% Grapeseed Oil. It’s completely pure, cold pressed, and made in the U.S.
Best Face Wash For Oily Skin
For oily skin, Jennifer T. Haley, MD, FAAD, recommends finding a wash that contains salicylic acid. The acid helps clear up oily skin and reduce inflammation around breakouts. Her top choice is SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel. It doesn’t have any irritating fragrances and contains salicylic and glycolic acid to clean your pores and gently clear away excess oil.
Reviewers rave that the gel prevents breakouts and keeps their skin incredibly clear. The only downside is the cleanser is a bit of a financial investment. But if you have very oily skin that’s prone to breakouts and room to splurge, the SkinCeuticals gel is well worth it.
Best Affordable Face Wash For Oily Skin
If you don’t have $50 around for face wash, we totally get it. Instead, you could try this affordable, natural alternative. Rhonda Klein, MD, MPH, suggests Herbivore Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar Soap for oily skin.
The bar is made from all-natural ingredients like activated bamboo charcoal, tea tree oil, and bergamot essential oil. The bamboo charcoal lifts away dirt and sucks up excess oils on the skin. Tea tree oil is naturally antimicrobial, so it fights infections that can cause acne and other blemishes. After everything is clean, the bergamot oil comes in to balance the amount of oils on the skin, leaving your face perfectly moisturized.
The best part is that one bar costs less than $15. And this isn’t like regular soap—the bamboo charcoal bar will last you quite a long time and definitely give you your money’s worth.
Best Face Wash For Aging Skin
All the dermatologists we consulted agreed that the best face wash for aging skin has to include either lactic or glycolic acid.
“This will help remove ‘dead layers’ of adherent skin cells to allow for improved penetration of moisturizer,” says Haley. She prefers the PCA Skin Facial Wash because the lactic acid gently removes dirt and dead skin but allows your skin to maintain its pH balance.
Alan J. Parks, MD, prefers the Glytone Mild Cream Cleanser. “This cleanser utilizes glycolic acid for exfoliation and helps even out the skin tone and reduce the signs of aging. This particular face wash is creamy, so it’s great for dry skin.”
Though glycolic acid is good for oily and dry skin, it’s a little more harsh than lactic acid. It’s still perfectly safe to use, but if you’re concerned about aging and have sensitive skin, you may want to go with a lactic acid variety.
Easiest Face Wash
Some people love to have a whole routine when it comes to cleansing their face at night. Others just want to wash off the dirt and get to bed as quickly as possible. If you want the fastest, easiest face wash, you have to go with micellar water.
Maral K. Skelsey, MD, loves micellar water for its cleansing and hydrating qualities. Plus, it works so fast! You just pour some onto a cotton ball, rub it all over your face, and that’s it. You don’t even have to rinse. It’s tough enough to take off dirt, grease, and eye makeup.
So, what are these “micelles” that make the water so magical? Skelsey says, “Micelles are clusters of molecules whose center is attracted to oil while the outside attracts water. When you put micellar water on a cotton pad, the water-loving side of the micelles are drawn to the cotton. The oil and dirt on the skin is lifted off by the other end of the micelle.”
Basically, it’s water that can selectively remove dirt. Regular water can’t make that happen.
Now, soap does remove dirt in a way similar to micelles, but it also leaves a drying residue that can be terrible for your skin. Micellar water leaves no residue. In fact, you can let it sit and absorb into your skin for an extra moisturizing effect.
Best Face Wash For Acne
For recurring acne, Klein suggests using a wash with benzoyl peroxide. She prefers Replenix Acne Solutions Wash since it contains a hefty 10 percent dose of benzoyl peroxide. The Replenix reviews on Amazon are incredible with over 1,200 satisfied face-washers singing its praises.
It works because benzoyl peroxide kills the bacteria that causes acne. Now, you may need to use this wash for a few weeks to see results, but once the acne is gone, it stays away! Some solutions with peroxide are drying, but the Replenix wash is specially formulated to keep your skin hydrated.
Best Natural Face Wash For Acne
Now, benzoyl peroxide does sound pretty harsh, so we get it if you’d rather take a more natural approach to your acne issues. You might want to try this new approach to face wash—Mother Dirt. This cleanser is completely natural and full of plant-based ingredients all put together to keep your skin clean. But what makes it different is its approach to bacteria.
Though some bacteria can cause acne, your face is also home to good bacteria that keep your skin healthy and protected. Most washes kill off all the bacteria, leaving you without the good stuff. Mother Dirt is designed to get off all the dirt and oil, but leave your skin’s good bacteria unharmed.
The wash is hypoallergenic, gentle, and works well on sensitive skin. If you have acne and are tired of using potentially drying acids, Mother Dirt might be the face wash of your dreams.
Best Face Wash For Sensitive Skin
When you have really sensitive skin, a good face wash is nearly impossible to find. Everything is either too harsh and irritating or doesn’t leave your skin feeling clean! Thankfully, Klein recommends La-Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser. It’s a mouthful, but it works wonders!
Though the solution is incredibly gentle, it’s tough enough to remove dirt, oil, and even waterproof makeup. The glycerin in the wash gives it extra hydrating power and the thermal spring water feels soothing on the skin.
Anything I’ve ever tried by La-Roche Posay has been amazing, so between that brand and a dermatologist recommendation, this wash is a definite winner.
Best Travel Face Wash
How many times have you gone on vacation and realized you didn’t bring a face wash? If you’re me, it’s every single time. Even if you do remember, it’s always a pain to pour your solution into those three-ounce travel bottles. Instead of going through that hassle, you can use Honest Beauty’s individually wrapped powder cleanser.
Klein identifies this powder cleanser as an “essential.” Made from aspen bark, this cleanser is great for cleaning away excess oil without drying the skin. Just open your packet of cleanser, pour it in your hand, and add a little water. Rub your hands together until you get a foamy lather, then wash your face like normal.
This face wash is not only great for a deep clean while you’re traveling, but it also feels a little like a magic trick. Just add water and ta da! The tiny packet turns into an amazing face wash.
Best Face Wash For Irritated Skin
Whether your skin is generally on the sensitive side or gets irritated during certain seasons, Sonam Yadav, MBBS, who runs New Dehli’s Juverne dermatology clinic, recommends A-Derma Oat Milk Soothing Foam Gel. “It has soothing oat extracts and also works fabulously for patients on isotretinoin and other drying acne medication[s].”
It contains Rhealba Oat Milk, which is used for its soothing and protective qualities. If you’re suffering from irritation, this wash will help you heal without causing extra aggravation. Plus, it’s paraben free and leaves your skin feeling soothed and soft.
Best Facial Cleansing Brush
Though Haley has her preferred face washes, she says “I always recommend using an ultrasonic, gentle cleansing brush with a cleanser for two full minutes to enhance exfoliation and improve penetration of active ingredients.” Haley insists that the brush is the real key to the best skin tone possible.
The Philips PureRadiance Cleansing System uses a brush that rotates and vibrates to get to your skin at every angle. The company claims that it’s ten times more effective than cleaning by hand, yet gentle enough that it doesn’t damage the skin. It even comes with a one minute timer (be sure to run it twice if you’re committed to following Haley’s advice) so you don’t shortchange your face wash.
If you have extremely sensitive skin, this may not be the best option, but for all other skin types, a cleansing brush is the best way to get some deep exfoliation without harming your skin. Pair it with one of the face washes above and your face will be cleaner and smoother than ever.
Of course, if you have your own favorite face wash, there’s no need to switch it up. But if you’re in the market for something new that actually works, follow the advice of the experts. These dermatologists’ entire lives are devoted to skincare, so if they recommend a product, you know it’s legit.