Buyer's Guide: Choosing The Best Cleanser For Your Skin

A solid skincare routine begins with a clean face. Because of this, it’s important to find a cleanser that not only removes makeup, oil, dirt, and grime but should also leave the skin feeling refreshed and not tight or irritated. 

Furthermore, the right product doesn’t only leave your skin immaculate but it also preps it for the next steps in your routine. With a properly cleaned face, your skin will be able to absorb the active ingredients in your skincare routine better. 

But just like most skincare, there’s quite a lot of cleansers you can find on store shelves these days. Each one promising a different set of benefits on top of freeing your skin from pore-clogging impurities.

To make it easier for you to pick a facial cleanser that will work well with your skin’s needs, we’ve prepared this handy guide so you can have your best face yet. Let’s get started!


What are Facial Cleansers?

Facial cleansers are skincare products designed to remove surface dirt, debris, oil, and makeup from the skin. As you go about your day, your skin is continually exposed to bacteria and pollutants. Dirt and dead skin cells also accumulate on your skin which can clog the pores.

With the help of a facial cleanser, you can remove these impurities and give your skin a fresher and more radiant look. 


Types of Cleansers

Cleansers come in three major types based on how frequently the product be used.

daily cleanser is designed to be used every day—once in the morning and again in the evening—to remove dirt, dead skin, and impurities from the skin. They are the most common type of cleanser you can find on the market.

Daily cleansers can come in a variety of formulations that are designed for every skin type. There are foaming cleansers that work for most skin types. These are meant to be mixed with a small amount of water to form a foam. There are also gel cleansers which are water-based products designed to be a non-drying alternative for oily and acne-prone skin. Meanwhile, cream, balm, and oil cleansers are lipid-based products that are comfortable enough to be used by people with dry skin.

The second type of facial cleanser is the deep cleanser or pore cleanser. These are tougher than your average daily cleanser and are designed to melt away thick layers of makeup, dirt, and oil. They are typically lipid-based and come in the form of balms, oils, or micellar waters. 

Lastly, there are weekly exfoliants. Exfoliators are designed to be used once a week. They contain exfoliating ingredients that can be in the form of scrubs or chemicals like AHAs. It buffs and polishes the skin to reveal a smooth and radiantly healthy complexion.


How Do Cleansers Work?

Regardless of the type of cleanser you’re using, understanding how facial cleansers work can help you in choosing the right product for your skin. As with any other skin care product, facial cleansers can be simple or complex. By knowing how it works, you will be able to choose the perfect face wash to add to your routine.

Most cleansers contain surfactants which are a cleansing and foaming agent that serves as a base for almost every face wash available. It works by reducing the surface tension between the water and fat of the skin to remove dirt. It helps dissolve oil, makeup, and debris from your skin so they can easily be washed away with water.

Certain surfactants can be too harsh for the skin and strip it of its natural oils. For example, sulfates can strip the skin of its natural oils which leaves the skin feeling tight and dry. To prevent this, manufacturers use milder and gentler surfactants. They also add moisturizers to help the skin retain hydration.

On the other hand, cleansing oils are oil-based cleansers that break down even the toughest waterproof makeup like mascara and liquid lipstick. They also contain surfactants and are meant to help restore the skin’s natural moisture balance using natural and plant-based lipids like jojoba, argan, and coconut oil.


Do You Need to Use a Cleanser

Daily face washing is important to keep your skin clean and free from excess sebum, dirt, and traces of makeup. Sleeping without removing impurities from your skin can lead to a host of skin problems. That being said, a face wash is a must-have especially if you:

  • Wear sunscreen 
  • You use any type of makeup but especially long-wearing and waterproof ones
  • You have oily or acne-prone skin
  • You tend to get greasy as the day goes on
  • You have sensitive skin and you need to remove irritants at the end of the day.

We are, of course, not saying that people with other skin types and other habits shouldn’t use a face wash. Washing your face with a mild cleanser that is suited for your skin’s needs helps a lot in ensuring that your skin is free from unwanted dirt and grime than if you would use only water.

If you feel like your skin feels stripped and tight after face washing, you might need to switch to a gentler formula or you need to wash less often. Washing your face twice with the right cleanser is the most ideal.


Benefits of Using a Face Cleanser

There are many benefits to using cleansers for the face every day. For starters, it removes dirt, oil, and unwanted debris from the surface of your skin. Using a cleanser removes these impurities and leaves skin looking fresh and clean.

It also helps boost hydration. Cleansers formulated with moisturizing ingredients help the skin to maintain a proper level of hydration. Furthermore, it helps maintain the pH levels of the skin which enables the skin to retain water much more efficiently.

Of course with clean skin comes a clear complexion. Without excess sebum and dead skin cells clogging up your pores and with bacteria flushed away every day, your skin can perform its barrier function better. This means reduced inflammation and decreased chances of developing acne breakouts.

Finally, using a cleansing product can stimulate blood circulation. The gentle circular motions you use when working the lather of your favorite face wash on your skin boosts blood flow which helps your complexion become more radiant and glowing.


Choosing a Face Cleanser for Your Skin Type

Everyone’s skin is different. Some people have dryer skin while some people are prone to breakouts. This makes the process of finding the right face wash for the face a very personal one. If you’re unsure about what your skin type is, here are some notes for you:

  • People with normal skin rarely experience breakouts. You don’t need to blot away oil too often throughout the day and your skin doesn’t get extremely rough or dry. Your skin also doesn’t tend to react negatively to new products and even to weather changes. Furthermore, your skin can tolerate most ingredients.
  • You have oily skin if your nose and forehead get shiny throughout the day. This is because your skin produces more sebum than others. Your makeup also tends to slip and slide as the day wears on.
  • If you have frequent breakouts or if you have pimples that just never seem to go away, you have acne-prone skin. Your pores clog easily so you are more susceptible to blackheads and whiteheads. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have to produce excess sebum to be acne-prone. Dryer skin types can also have this problem.
  • Combination skin is characterized by an oily t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) while the rest of the face is dry or normal. 
  • Sensitive skin flushes easily and is prone to rashes and bumps. You might feel a little stinging after using products that don’t agree with your skin. You also have a negative reaction to fragrance. Note that this is caused by genetics, allergies, and even environmental factors. 
  • People with mature skin tend to have a drier and more papery skin texture. As you age, your skin tends to lose luminosity. Over time, your complexion will also lose tone and firmness. You’ll also notice lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation.

Keep in mind that one type of product might work well for your friend or family but not for you. It’s important to know what type of face cleanser best suits your needs. Here’s a handy guide for you:

  • Dry Skin

Skin that’s prone to scaling, flaking, and cracking respond best to cream cleansers. This formula is gentle and soothing with a thicker and denser formula than other cleansers. It is also noticeably less foamy than traditional surfactant-based cleansers. Cream cleansers often contain vegan lipids or botanical oils, beeswax, or even petroleum which is great for removing grime while keeping the skin moisturized. 

  • Oily Skin

When it comes to oily skin, managing excess sebum production is key. You might want to consider using clay cleansers. It is rich in earth minerals that not only offer deep cleansing but also purifying and sebum-regulating properties.

Clay-based cleansers that contain Moroccan red clay, white kaolin clay, and bentonite clay are perfect for preventing clogged pores, clearing blackheads and whiteheads, absorbing oil, and toning the skin.

Furthermore, clay cleansers are also an excellent choice if you want to brighten your skin while reducing shine and grease.

  • Acne-Prone Skin

When it comes to cleansing acne-prone skin, ensuring that the face cleanser you use is oil-free is crucial. Go for gel cleansers that have a thicker consistency, provide less foam, and offer a milder cleanse than a traditional face wash

A gel-based face wash is formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients that not only fight off bacteria but can also help exfoliate the skin. Choose a product that is infused with acne-fighting ingredients like tea tree, salicylic acid, aloe vera, and benzoyl peroxide. These are reliable ingredients that can help clear your skin

  • Sensitive Skin

People with sensitive skin need to be extra careful when choosing any skincare product. Avoid parabens, phthalates, and fragrances, since they can cause an imbalance in your skin’s pH and lead to rashes, over-drying, breakouts, and redness.

Look for a face wash that do not contain benzyl alcohol, sulfates, physical exfoliants, and high concentrations of glycolic acids.

Go for products that contain basic ingredients such as water and glycerin. You can also use a natural cleanser that contains soothing ingredients like allantoin, aloe, and aloe vera.

  • Normal

People with normal skin can be a little more adventurous when it comes to using a cleanser. However, the best option to keep this skin type clean is still foam cleansers. These traditional cleansers for face form a rich lather that removes excess oil, sunscreen, dirt, and makeup.

A key thing to remember when using foam cleansers is that some products can contain harsh surfactants that can strip the skin. Go for gentle formulations with oils or emollients that can nourish the skin further.

Of course you can use other face wash formulations including gel, oil, and cream cleansers as well. Just be sure not to overdo it. Washing once in the morning and again at night is enough to keep your skin clean.

  • Combination Skin

The key to picking a cleansing product for combination skin is balance. Since you’re dealing with both oily and either dry or normal areas on your face, you need a product that can work for both.

The best facial cleanser for combination skin can remove excess oil, purify the pores, and hydrate the skin. As with normal skin, you can pretty much use any formulation you want. Just make sure to check the label for ingredients that can benefit your skin the most. A mild, balancing cleanser that contains mild surfactants will help you the most without stripping your skin. Avoid a face wash containing salicylic acid, alcohol, and benzoyl peroxide since these can over-dry the other areas of your skin.

  • Mature Skin

Mature skin has unique needs so it’s important to pick a face wash that not only rids your skin of debris and other surface impurities but also contains nourishing ingredients. Look for vitamins, antioxidants, and retinoids in the ingredient list as these can address the common concerns of this skin type.

Avoid a harsh face wash that leaves skin feeling dry. Instead, go for cleansers which do not contain alcohol, abrasives, and oils that can clog your pores.


Other Kinds of Cleansers You Should Know About

  • Oil Cleansers

If you’re looking for a cleanser that can work for all skin types then we have just the thing for you. Oil cleansers can be considered a universal product that all skin types can handle.

Cleansing oils are a gentle and effective way of removing debris and makeup from the skin. Instead of containing soap, water, or foam, they are made from various plant oils that dissolve grime and attract excess oil so then when you’re done cleaning your skin, you’ve left with fresh-looking, soft, and supple skin.

The oil in the cleanser attracts the oils that are on your skin—be it excess sebum, makeup, or other impurities. Furthermore, cleansing oils will also help to moisturize and soften your skin.

Now you might be thinking, “isn’t it counter-intuitive to put more oil on oily skin?” But that’s not the case. Remember that like attracts like so cleansing oils are actually helpful if you want to get rid of excess sebum. Just be sure to use products that are non-comedogenic. Steer clear from cleansing oils containing plant lipids like coconut oil and cocoa butter. 

Furthermore, it is completely safe to use for sensitive skin as long as you use a fragrance-free product.

Cleansing oils are excellent for double-cleansing—a two-step process that involves a lipid-based cleanser (it could be oil, balm, or cold cream) that dissolves makeup and caked-on dirt followed by a face wash that removes deeper-seated impurities.

  • Cleansing Wipes

Cleansing wipes are pieces of fabric soaked in facial cleaner or in makeup remover. They are designed to wipe away makeup and dirt from the skin before proceeding with your favorite face wash. This ensures that all surface impurities are removed for a more thorough face cleansing experience. 

They don’t require a lather and rinse, they are travel-friendly, and are considered a more convenient way to keep your skin fresh and clean when you are traveling or when you don’t have access to a sink and clean water.

However, you shouldn’t rely on makeup and cleansing wipes alone to keep your skin clean. There are deep-seated dirt and oil that it simply cannot remove which can clog your pores and result in blackheads or acne. 

  • Micellar Water

Micellar water is an alcohol-free cleanser first developed in France in the 1900s. French women have long considered it a beauty staple and is used as an alternative to traditional face washing methods. This is because the water in that part of the world is loaded with dissolved minerals that can dry out the skin.

It is made using purified water and small molecules of moisturizers and surfactants that form micelles—a spherical chemical structure that pull dirt and oil from the skin. It’s another universal cleansing product that can benefit a wide array of skin types. It is gentle enough to be used by people with sensitive skin. Since it contains glycerin, it not only promotes proper hydration levels for dry skin but also soothes irritation and inflammation.

The best part about micellar water is that it is portable and convenient. You can easily carry a small bottle with you so even if you don’t have access to clean water, you can still keep your skin clean and healthy. You can take it with you when you travel. It’s also a great option if you simply don’t have enough space for separate makeup removers, cleansers, and toners.


Cleansing Do’s and Don’ts

Skin cleansing seems like a straightforward thing to do. You just splash some water on your face, squeeze some cleanser on your palms, lather, and rinse. But you could be doing certain things that are actually harming your skin.

Here are a few things you should and should not do when cleansing:

  • Don’t Cleanse with Dirty Hands

Touching your face with dirty hands and fingers is a big no-no. Before applying your favorite cleanser, wash your hands to get rid of any pathogens that could be transferred to your face.

  • Do Wet your Hands and Face First

If you’re going to use a rinse-off cleanser or an emulsifying cleansing oil, be sure to splash your face with water.

  • Don’t Be Rough

Use gentle circular motions while working the cleanser on the surface of your skin. Avoid tugging and rough motions that pull your skin in all directions. If you’re using an exfoliating cleanser with scrub beads, avoid using a heavy hand as this can cause micro-tears on the surface of your skin.

  • Do Treat It Like a Massage

Remember how we talked about cleansing can boost blood circulation? You can give yourself a bit of pampering by giving yourself a facial massage while cleaning your skin. Using light pressure and upward strokes, sweep your fingers across your face. You can also tap your fingers all over.

  • Don’t Overdo It

Too much of a good thing is bad. When it comes to using a cleanser for the face, don’t go overboard. Use it twice a day—once in the morning and once at night when your skin needs to be cleaned anyway.

This way, you can keep your skin fresh, oil-free, and grime-free without stripping it of its natural oils.

  • Do Use the Right Water Temperature

Scalding hot water will burn and damage your skin. Instead, use the cleanser with cool to lukewarm water when washing your face.

  • Don’t Dry Off With a Towel Just Yet

Don’t be in such a hurry after washing your face. Instead of reaching out for your towel right away, pat the leftover moisture on your skin after your final rinse. This will allows your skin to absorb moisture.


Follow Up With A Good Moisturizer

The best time to apply moisturizer is when your skin is still damp after using the best cleanser for face.

This is because moisturizers lock in the remaining moisture. This also helps your skin hold on to hydration longer giving your plump and more glowing skin.