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What Kind of Face Wash is Right For Me?

Just like you, your skin is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all skin care routine, which makes sense that there is not one facial cleanser that’s for everyone. Depending on your skin’s needs, you may need a gel cleanser, a foaming cleanser, or even a cleansing water—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So, how does one go about choosing a cleanser that’s right for him or her? There are, of course, a few things that you should take into consideration. For example, is your skin oily or dry? Do you have sensitive skin? Do you wear make-up daily? The answer to these questions will help you better determine exactly what type of cleanser will work best for you.

Below, we break down the different types of facial cleansers that are widely available. Learn about the different varieties and see which will suit your skin best.

Gel Cleansers

Gel cleansers have a—you guessed it—gel-like consistency. It’s a lightweight cleanser that is generally hydrating (ones with salicylic acid may be drying), and designed for deep cleansing. Gel cleansers help to unclog pores, remove excess oil and make-up, and kill acne-causing bacteria. If you have oily or combination skin, a gel cleanser may be a good option for you.

Cream/Lotion Cleansers

Cleansing doesn’t need to mean drying. If you need a moisturizing cleanser, water-rinsable cream and lotion cleansers are a great option that helps clean your face that doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils and will leave your skin soft, supple, and clean. We recommend that you use a make-up remover before using this type of cleanser as though it can clean your skin, you may need something stronger to remove heavier make-up. 

Water-rinsable cream and lotion cleansers are great for normal to dry skin, as well as sensitive skin. These cleansers usually help to repair the skin’s lipids, which are the skin’s natural fats.

Foaming Cleansers

Foaming cleansers are the gentle but thorough workhorses of the world of facial cleansers. Available in cream-to-foam and liquid-to-foam, foaming cleansers lather up beautifully and help to remove most types of makeup while also leaving your skin soft. Foaming cleansers are great for oily, combination, and breakout-prone skin. 

Clay Cleansers

Clay cleansers are lesser known, but they can help pack a punch. Clay helps to absorb excess oil and toxins from your pores, leaving it clean and also soft. This is another great option for those with oily and combination skin. 

Micellar Water/Cleansing Waters/Liquid Makeup Removers

Time is money, and for some, washing their face just takes a little too long for their liking… not to mention the pools of water that mysteriously reappear on your bathroom counter despite your diligence in wiping it down. For these people, we recommend micellar water or cleansing waters. Micelles are microscopic oil molecules that are suspended in soft water and help to attract oil, dirt, and makeup. All you need is a cotton pad! 

With that said, we still recommend a rinse (we know, and we’re sorry) after using micellar water and cleansing waters because leaving cleansing agents on your skin longer than necessary may cause irritation in those who have sensitive skin.

Dual-phase make-up removers are another kind of facial cleanser in this category. They help to remove stubborn make-up and don’t need to be rinsed. 

These cleansers work well on all skin types, especially dry and sensitive skin types. But again, keep in mind that you may want to consider using a traditional cleanser after. 

Cleansing Oils

This is the “one” in the “one-two punch” for those who want to double cleanse, which just means using a cleansing oil followed by a lotion, foaming, or gel cleanser. This will help remove heavy make-up as well as dirt that may clog your pores, while leaving your skin silky smooth.

Despite having the word “oil” in the name, cleansing oils are actually great for all skin types, including individuals with oily or problem skin. 

Cleansing Balms/Cold Creams

Those with dry skin might want to reach for a cleansing balm or a cold cream, as these ultra-moisturizing facial cleansers help to remove make-up while also leaving your skin smooth and refreshed. We recommend using a washcloth to remove everything off your face to avoid tugging at dry skin, which may cause damage. 

Cleansing balms and cold creams are great for most skin types, from the normal, to the very dry skin or those with eczema. If you have oily skin, this may not be your best bet. 

Bar Cleansers

There doesn’t seem to be a solid consensus surrounding bar cleansers just yet. They were banished at one time because they were deemed to be not all that great for your skin, disrupting the skin’s surface and leaving your skin dry and tight. Other bars may even leave your pores clogged.

But now, bar cleansers are making a comeback. These old-but-once-again-new kids on the block contain little soap and instead feature nutrient-rich and moisturizing ingredients. Some individuals are opting for this facial cleanser because of its usual packing materials that are more environmentally friendly

We’ve found that bar cleansers are a good option for those with oily or combination skin.

Powder Cleansers

It may not seem intuitive that a product that has a powdery consistency can help clean your skin, but this mighty facial cleanser helps to thoroughly cleanse your skin and provides gentle exfoliation when mixed with water. Compared to physical exfoliants, powder cleansers are much kinder on the environment. They’re great for those with oily and sensitive skin.

Now that you have a thorough list of the different types of facial cleansers available and you have information regarding which is likely best for your skin, another thing to consider is which fits your lifestyle best. For example, if you do not wear a lot of make-up, it may not be necessary to use a cleanser that’s more powerful. Need a bit more guidance? Cerave has some additional tips on figuring out which cleanser fits your needs best.