The Best Face Washes To Deep Clean Without Stripping Your Skin (2022)

Whether your routine consists of the basic wash-and-moisturize method or a 10-step ritual of Korean skincare products and derm-level devices, stocking your cabinet with the best face washes is crucial. Only after you’ve lathered away all makeup, dirt and excess oil can your skin fully absorb the toners, serums, moisturizers and under-eye creams you layer on afterward. But finding one that keeps your complexion balanced requires research and hands-on testing. Luckily for you, we’ve done both.

A good cleanser makes your skin feel refreshed, not tight or parched. Too harsh a formula can strip the natural oils, leaving it dry and irritated. On the other hand, one that’s too light can leave behind traces of sebum and product residue that can clog pores and cause breakouts. The right version for you—one that combines makeup-melting, dirt-dissolving power with skin-softening hydration—is made up of ingredients and textures that complement your needs.

After interviewing dermatologists about different formulations and what goes in them, and spending a lot of time at the sink, we determined the Shani Darden Cleansing Serum to be the best face wash overall for its lightweight gel consistency that also hydrates. Scroll down for 10 of the best face washes for every skin type, from oily to dry to sensitive.

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Best Face Wash Overall

A Cleanser That Also Hydrates

Shani Darden Skin Care Cleansing Serum

Esthetician to the stars Shani Darden has built her reputation on skincare products that deliver results as good as the treatments she performs on some of the world’s most famous faces—from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Shay Mitchell to January Jones. Not surprisingly, her cleansing serum is no exception. As the name suggests, this lightweight gel hydrates thanks to hyaluronic acid and olive extract. As it’s applied, it transforms into a soft lather that removes dirt, oil and makeup without stripping the skin.

Best Acne Face Wash

An Affordable Pick That Clears Breakouts And Heals Skin

CeraVe Acne Control Face Cleanser

If you’re struggling with breakouts, salicylic acid should be the star ingredient in your cleansing routine. It cuts through dead skin cells, removes excess oil and minimizes whiteheads and blackheads quickly. This classic cleanser boasts 2% salicylic acid, which is the most effective concentration that still remains safe for daily use. Coupled with oil-absorbing hectorite clay, the gel-to-foam formula absorbs oils to prevent future breakouts. And while some salicylic acid cleansers can be drying, this one is also packed with ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and restore the skin barrier.

Best Face Wash For Oily Skin

An Oil-Banishing Cleanser That Won’t Dry You Out

La Roche Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser

Finding a cleanser that melts away oils without zapping your skin can sound like an urban myth; this gentle option does just that. The ultra-foamy formula uses zinc to soak up excess oil, while added thermal spring water moisturizes and soothes irritation. And don’t worry about that tight feeling—this one’s completely soap-free, so dryness isn’t a problem.

Best Face Wash For Dry Skin

A Gel-To-Milk Formula That Leaves Skin Dewy

MOST POPULAR

Renée Rouleau Moisture Protecting Cleanser

Dry types should scan ingredient lists for sulfates, which are cleansing agents that can be drying and irritating to skin. This sulfate-free cleanser relies on glycerin, a gentle and hydrating alternative that gently removes makeup and impurities while leaving the skin’s moisture barrier perfectly intact. When you mix it with water, the face wash turns into a light froth that cleans comfortably. All you’re left with is a dewy glow—even before you apply your moisturizer—and a lightly lingering, natural cucumber melon scent.

Best Face Wash For Combination Skin

A Triple Threat In A Bottle

iS Clinical Cleansing Complex

Whether you’re experiencing clogged pores in your T-zone or breakouts on your cheeks along with dry patches and dull skin, this one-and-done face wash tackles it all. Sulfate- and phthalate-free, it cleanses without dehydrating and uses antioxidants to brighten and protect the skin from environmental stressors. Finally, a splash of willow bark (a form of salicylic acid) helps break up oils, exfoliate and banish breakouts while reducing inflammation. How’s that for a triple threat?

Best Drugstore Face Wash

An Affordable Cleanser With A Luxe Star Ingredient

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser

The Ordinary is all about delivering high-end formulas at affordable price points, including its $7 serum that made our best vitamin C serumslist. The brand has created yet another reliable, effective product that feels far more expensive than it is. Pulling double-duty as a daily cleanser and makeup-removing balm, the creamy formula obliterates all traces of impurities while maintaining skin’s natural moisture barrier. It’s packed with squalane, a lipid with a molecular makeup similar to skin’s cell membrane to absorbs easily, retains moisture and deeply hydrates—resulting in a glowy, balanced complexion.

Best Luxury Face Wash

A Creamy Option That Nourishes The Skin

Omorovicza Cashmere Cleanser

Nothing says luxury quite like a nourishing, creamy formula. This chic product uses gentle yet effective ingredients like anti-inflammatory calendula extract, moisturizing shea butter and vitamin-rich apricot kernel oil to deliver a soothing cleanse that’s especially great for sensitive skin. Delicately scented, the milky formula gives you that clean feeling (along with the clear pores to back it up) without parching your skin. Add it to your routine morning and night to feel all kinds of fancy.

Best Face Wash For Makeup Removal

A Cleansing Oil That Melts Away Makeup

For beauty junkies who love a glammed-up look complete with primer, foundation, concealer, contour...you name it, this silky oil cleanser is a must. Even the most waterproof products are no match for it. Formulated with grapeseed oil, two pumps cut through all traces of makeup while eliminating excess oil and sebum. Wipe away residue with a damp towel then rinse for the cleanest ever canvas.

Best Exfoliating Face Wash

A Water-Activated Exfoliating Powder

Tatcha The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder

By now you should know that anything too abrasive can be super damaging to your skin. Luckily, this powder-to-foam formula cleanses and gently exfoliates without causing a smidge of irritation. Made with Japanese rice bran (a nonabrasive physical exfoliant), lactic acid (a gentle type of alpha-hydroxy acid) and skin-conditioning silk proteins, Tatcha polishing powder transforms first into a paste and then into a foam—just add water.

Best Face Wash For Sensitive Skin

A Straightforward Solution To Gentle Cleansing

Vanicream Unscented Gentle Facial Cleanser

This no-fuss cleanser omits common irritants like dyes, soap, essential oils, fragrances, lanolin and parabens, which makes it ideal for people who have sensitive, dry or allergy- or eczema-prone skin. With purified water and glycerin at the top, the ingredient list is short and sweet and includes only what you need to gently remove dirt, oil and makeup.

What To Consider When Shopping For A Face Wash

While your skin type will be a major factor in selecting the right cleanser for you, consistencies and formulas are a close second. If you love a full face of makeup, you’ll want to consider an oil-based cleanser to cut through waterproof products. Then you’ll want to skim through the ingredients list to be sure it aligns with your skincare goals.

Skin Type

Your skin type is the first thing you should factor in when purchasing a face wash. We reached out to board certified dermatologist Dr. Purvisha Patel for her advice. “Those with oily skin should use exfoliating cleansers with alpha-hydroxy acids to help decrease oil production and shrink pores while cleansing the skin,” Patel says. Dry? Look for oil, cream and milk cleansers that are free of fragrance, sulfates and parabens. Sensitive types should use a mild, neutral pH cleanser to avoid irritation and redness. For combination skin, Patel recommends using a stronger cleanser but spending up to a minute rubbing the cleanser into oilier areas to create a better balance. You can also try double cleansing: “Start by cleansing with an oil-based cleanser, then [use] a stronger exfoliating cleanser to address the needs of both skin types.”

Formula

If you can imagine a formula, chances are it already exists in cleanser form. “Face washes come in bars, creamy washes, milk consistencies, oil washes and foams,” says Patel. Which one you choose comes down to preference, skin type (more on that below) and lifestyle choices. For instance, oil washes are best used on dry skin, which can make things difficult if you’re an in-shower face washer. If you tend to cleanse from head to toe in a single shot, foamy face washes work well here and don’t leave a mess of your bathroom counter.

Ingredients

People love a bubbly, frothy experience when it comes to cleansing. Because of this, Patel says, “you will likely see soap ingredients in face washes, including sodium laureth, sulfate sodium, sodium lauryl and more.” However, it’s important to note that such ingredients can be drying. If you fall on the drier or more sensitive side of the skin spectrum, stick to sulfate-free washes. You can easily check if your skincare products contain the culprit by looking at the label, where it may appear as sodium lauryl sulfate, sulphate or SLS.

Which Is The Best Face Wash?

The best face wash for you is one that includes ingredients that complement your skin in a formula that works with your lifestyle. For instance, cleansers that come in a jar don’t hold up well in wet environments, like your shower. Dipping wet hands into a jar of cleansing balm can become a breeding round for mold and bacteria. If that’s where you wash your face, consider a gel or milky cleanser that comes out of a pump.

How Often Should You Wash Your Face?

Just like you should brush your teeth twice per day, you should wash your face once in the morning and again at night before bed. “Washing your face removes dirt, sweat and makeup that can accumulate on your skin,” says Patel. Because of this, she recommends washing your nighttime skincare off first thing in the morning before applying SPF, and washing off the day before applying your evening products. “Leaving products, dead skin cells and residue on your face creates inflammation, and can result in acne, rashes and accelerated aging,” she says. She also adds that all skin types should be okay with two wash sessions per day. If you’re experiencing dryness or irritation, the culprit could be your skincare ingredients. In this case, consider swapping in a more gentle cleanser.

What Ingredients Are Best For Your Skin Type?

If you have oily skin, “go for exfoliating ingredients such as bakuchiol, salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids,” says Patel. Ceramides, rosehip oil and glycerin work well for sensitive skin. If you have combination skin, she recommends choosing a formula that has both acids and skin-barrier-loving ingredients, like niacinamide, which increases ceramide production to strengthen the skin structure and create better water retention.

Do You Need To Use A Cleansing Tool?

It can be helpful depending on your skin type. Patel says, “If you are not using an exfoliating cleanser and have oily skin, then a cleansing tool such as a brush or washcloth is helpful to give you a physical exfoliation.” However, she recommends avoiding tools if you have sensitive, dry or inflamed skin, as they can exacerbate inflammation and sensitivities.

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