If having a blemish-free, smooth and glowing look is your dream then cleansing your face every single day should become a ritual.
Cleansing is the first step in any skincare routine that removes dirt and makeup to allow your skin breathe and rejuvenate itself while helping other skincare products penetrate deeper so they can work better.
But how do you pick the perfect cleanser for you?
The most important factor to consider when hunting for a face cleanser is to know your skin type – Whether you have oily, dry, acne-prone or sensitive skin would inform the right ingredient and type of cleanser to look out for which is key to healthy skin.
Continue reading to discover the complete breakdown by skin type, formulas and ingredients in face cleansers you should be looking for, and those you should be avoiding.
Once you understand your skin type, it’s a lot easier to select the proper facial cleanser—and in most cases all you have to do is read the bottle.
What is a Face Cleanser and What Does It Really Do?
A face cleanser basically gets rid of dirt, sweat, sebum, bacteria, dead cells and makeup from the skin's surface. Because each skin is unique with its own needs, Its vital to choose a face wash that is appropriate for your skin type that won’t clog pores, irritate or create an imbalance for your skin.
How Face Cleansers Are Made
Before we talk about the various types of cleansers, we’d let you in on a secret: all types of cleansers use the same two categories of ingredients to work their magic. These are:
These are ingredients that help water mix with oil and dirt so they can easily be rinsed away. The harshest (which should be avoided) is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
Some of the gentlest are Cocamidopropyl Betaine found in Neutriherbs Vitamin E Gentle Cleanser, Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate very mild surfactant derived from coconut and found in Neutriherbs Pro Retinol Cleanser.
Cocamide MEA In Neutriherbs Lighten Skin Face Cleanser. Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfare are just fine and found in both Neutriherbs Vitamin C Glow Face cleanser & Neutriherbs Salicylic Acid Cleanser.
There are others, of course, but we won’t bore you with the whole list.
Emollients & humectants
These are moisturizers that reduce the harshness of the surfactants (because, if they were too gentle, they wouldn’t cleanse skin at all) and keep skin soft during and after washing. They include Glycerin, Petrolatum, and natural oil.
So, why are we taking you through all these chemistry 101? The reason is the type of surfactants and emollients used in a cleanser and their ratio is what matters.
Let’s take a look at the various types of cleansers so you get to begin to understand how all of these works, shall we?
Types of Facial Cleansers
1. Gel Cleanser
Gel cleansers are typically water-based and contain gentle surfactants. This means you’ll get less fun foam/bubbles, but the formulas tend to be lighter, cooling, and refreshing.
It’s known to glide on the skin like a dream, a clear gel face wash works towards washing away excess sebum from your pores and unclogging every inch of your skin, gel cleansers tightens the epidermis instantly and takes all the oily droopiness away.
There is a wide array of gel cleansers, so it’s best to look at the specific actives in the product if you're trying to get something specific out of your cleanser
For example, if you want to fight dullness and achieve brighter glowing skin, you may look for a gel-based cleanser with Vitamin c.
Our Vitamin C Daily Glow Facial Cleanser is a mild gel formula Featuring Vitamin C to fight dullness.
Our Salicylic Acid Purifying Gel Cleanser features salicylic acid for gentle exfoliation—but it’s also a mild formula that doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oils.
Ideal For: Normal, Oily skin or Combination skin that is acne prone.
2. Cream cleansers
As the name suggests, cream cleansers typically have a thicker consistency and contain moisturizing goodies with a silky creamy texture that removes most types of makeup but if you use waterproof products you may need a separate makeup remover.
Cream cleansers are an unfailing choice for those with dry, sensitive, or mature skin because they tend to be very gentle, very moisturizing, and doesn’t produce foamy lather like that. They are formulated with humectants to hydrate and emollients to support the skin barrier and prevent over drying.
Cleansers don’t have to foam to work properly, but many prefer foamy textures for cleansing.
- If you prefer mild-foaming products that thoroughly cleanse your skin. A cream cleanser removes most types of makeup, cleanses the skin thoroughly and softens your skin. Then you should consider the Vitamin E Gentle Facial Cleanser.
- For Rich and exquisite foam lather, you should consider Pro Retinol Facial Cleanser.
- For Moderate foaming, then reach for Lighten Skin Facial Cleanser
Best For: Normal, Dry, Sensitive and matured skin.
Worst For: Teenage skin and oily skin types will find better success with other cleansers.
3. Foam cleansers
Foam cleansers create a foamy lather giving you that enjoyable lathering and deep cleansing experience. The foaming particles does a good job of lifting dirt and debris deep out of your pores, leaving your skin feeling revitalised.
Think of foam cleansers as the middle ground between gel and cream cleansers. They’re more likely to be water-based but may have variable amounts of humectants, emollients, and surfactants to give that foamy effect.
These formulas are high in surfactants and low in emollients so usually will start out as cream or gel and sud up into a foamy lather upon pumping that cleanses well without leaving any residue behind.
However, They can be a little bit harsh since they're made to slightly dry out the skin, though some are formulated with oils or emollients to provide a more moisturizing experience
Best for: oily, combination and acne-prone skin
4. Oil-based cleansers
We know it seems contradictory but using an oil-based cleanser for oily skin prevents it from producing excess oil…and it’s true.
If you prefer a thorough cleanser to effectively remove heavy makeup, dirt and other debris while gently nourishing and conditioning the skin or if you like to cleanse your skin twice then an oil based cleanser is great for you.
To double cleanse, first cleanse skin with an oil-based cleanser followed by a light foaming, gel or cream cleanser. An oil-based cleanser quickly removes makeup and leaves the skin supple and soft.
Best For: This is best for makeup wearers regardless of skin type, especially those who tend to wear primer, foundation, and the rest of them.
Worst For: This isn't the best choice for extremely oily skin types and please Make sure the oil you're using is non-comedogenic so it won't clog your pores and cause breakouts.
5. Micellar cleansers
This type of cleanser features molecules called micelles that act like magnets to trap dirt and oil without the need to rinse. Suitable for delicate skin around the eye area as well, a micellar water with barrier-restoring ceramides and soothing niacinamide is easy to use both at home and whenever conventional water-based cleansing isn’t an option.
What’s best? They get the job done without leaving the skin feeling stripped or disrupting the skin barrier.
Best For: Although all skin types can use micellar water, sensitive skin types who have a hard time with normal cleansers will especially benefit because it is so gentle. Follow with a traditional facial cleanser to ensure that no leftover makeup stays on your skin.
Worst For: We wouldn't recommend a micellar water to an oilier client or someone who wears very heavy makeup every day, as this won't meet their needs.
6. Clay cleanser
As a skincare ingredient, clay is best known for its purifying properties. Clay-based cleansers purify the skin by drawing out excess oil and toxins from the pores. And because of this, they are a great option for combination or oily skin — just be sure to use an oil-free moisturiser afterwards.
Depending on the formulation, clay can be too drying for already dry or sensitive skin. Since clay works by drinking all the oil from your face, be careful not to leave any clay-based product on for too long.
7. Cleansing Wipes
- Low in surfactants and emollients
- Cloths infused with a cleansing lotion
- Don’t cleanse and remove makeup well
- Their cleansing power is mostly due to the frictional force of rubbing the cloth into the skin
- May leave a residue behind
- Can be drying
Ideal For: Best for emergencies
8. Cleansing balm
As you can probably infer from the name, cleansing balms are made with extremely hydrating ingredients—i.e. balms, butters, and oils—that deeply moisturize and gently melt away makeup. Just one thing to note: These balms don't lather tend to leave behind an oily film that can still linger on skin after rinsing, This is not a bad thing (in fact, it helps!) for dry skin, but it may be better used as the first step in a double cleanse if you’re prone to breaking out.
Ideal for: Dry skin or step one of a double cleanse if you wear makeup
Choosing the Right Type of Facial Cleanser For Your Skin Type
First of all, you must know your skin type, or you’re bound to pick up the wrong one. If you don’t have a clue, check out our ultimate guide to identifying your skin type, and then come back here.
Already know your skin type? Go ahead, then:
1. Face Cleanser for Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, most cleansers are too harsh for your skin type and remove all the little amount of natural oil your face has left leaving it dry as paper.
Your face wash should be a gentle cleanser with moisturizing ingredients and fatty acids in the form of oil.
What To Look Out For In a Cleanser
Look for a cleanser that is unlikely to cause allergic reactions, free of fragrance, chemicals, or alcohol.
You may like the lather, but it’s not your friend. Opt for cleansers low in surfactants and high in emollients that replenish moisture while cleansing. Your skin will thank you.
It's also important to avoid antibacterial soaps and lean towards creamy cleansers without exfoliators such as salicylic or glycolic acid or retinol which can all dry out your skin.
Neutriherbs Editor's #1 Cleanser For Dry Skin
Say Yes To This gentle Daily Cream Cleanser - ideal for dry, sensitive skin types because it is packed with nourishing avocado oil and hydrating hyaluronic acid. Avocado oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as Vitamins C and E. This cleanser is also fragrance-free and 98% natural ingredients.
2. Face Cleanser for Oily Acne Prone Skin
Oily skin produce way more sebum such that you’re tempted to use the harshest cleanser you can find to get rid of it all. But, when you do, your skin has the annoying tendency of producing even more oil to compensate.
What To Look Out For In a Cleanser
You need a cleanser that strips away enough oil to remove grease, but not enough to dry out skin. Choose a lightweight one that’s moderately high in surfactants and low in emollients.
The ideal face wash for someone with oily skin is a gel type that include ingredients like Salicylic Acid and tea tree oil, which are both mild ingredients that balance oil production and support clarity of the skin.
Remember, it shouldn't leave your skin feeling dry and tight afterwards.
If you have acne prone skin, wash your face twice a day with a salicylic acid-based cleanser. Salicylic acid unclogs the pores and gets rid of excess oil.
Neutriherbs Editor’s #1 Pick For Oily Acne Prone Skin
If you struggle with clogged pores, this gel face wash is a great option for you because it’s formulated with BHA, which works to remove excess oils and dead skin cells.
Neutriherbs Editor’s #2 Pick For Oily Acne Prone Skin
While the advanced grade of retinol infused in this cleanser works to reduce signs of aging and acne breakouts, it’s also enriched with Hyaluronic & coconut acid leaving skin looking healthy & revitalized.
3. Face Cleanser For Combination Skin
You’re not gonna like this, but your best option is to use two cleansers: one creamy cleanser chockfull of emollients on your dry patches Like Vitamin E Gentle Cleanser, and one gel cleanser with moderate surfactants featuring ingredients like salicylic acid such as salicylic acid purifying gel cleanser on your oilier side of the face.
The Next Best Option:
If you must use just one cleanser, then Look for lighter options like a gel or creamy cleanser that are effective enough for oily areas without causing irritation to dry areas. We recommend Salicylic acid Cleanser if you’re on the oilier side as it is a gel that soothes with Plant based root extracts.
4. Face Cleanser For Normal Skin
You’ve been blessed with awesome skin that has no issues, and you’d like to keep it that way.
What To Look Out For In a Cleanser
There’s nothing to fix, so just use a cleanser that removes dirt and makeup without creating any problems. Just focus on your skin concerns and look for cleansers with ingredients that address that.
You can choose any type of cleanser, as long as the formula’s not harsh. If it leaves your skin tight and dry, ditch it.
5. Face Cleanser For Mature Skin
Someone with mature aging skin needs to look for a more rich cleanser containing Ingredients like AHA, vitamin A, retinoids, vitamin C & E. These ingredients all help to increase collagen production and cell turnover, leaving your with more even, glowing skin
Mature skin benefits from moisture retention. This skin type will also likely benefit from a mild cleanser that won’t strip the skin of needed moisture.
Neutriherbs Editor’s #1 Cleanser For Mature Skin
Cream face washes like the pro retinol cleanser are great for anyone who likes a soft, sensorial experience while cleansing. We love this one because it’s formulated without drying alcohols, has a thick, creamy texture, and lathers with ease for an ultra clean.
Neutriherbs Editor’s #2 Pick For Mature Skin
You'll adore how soothing this cleanser feels, the soft texture and subtle cooling effect it creates leaves skin feeling refreshed. It does an excellent job at thoroughly cleansing skin of excess makeup and oil without leaving you with a dry or stripped feeling.
6. Face Cleanser For Sensitive Skin
All cleansers irritate your skin, and leave it a red, flaky mess. You’re seriously starting to consider to wash your face with water alone, but suspect that will be too harsh too (plus, it won’t remove makeup).
What To Look Out For In a Cleanser
Be gentle. Choose the mildest formula you can find. Just make sure it’s fragrance-free.
Neutriherbs Editor's #1 Pick For Sensitive Skin
It's affordable and does a great job at doing exactly what it's designed to do - Effectively cleanse the skin. It’s not super fancy, and it doesn’t offer “extras” like exfoliation or antioxidant protection, but it’s fantastic at cleansing the skin without stripping it or creating that tight feeling that many cleansers do. It has a creamy texture, and it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid and ceramides for hydration and skin barrier support which is excellent for those with dry and sensitive skin.
7. Facial Cleanser For Uneven Skin
This type of skin has a history of excessive sun exposure or inflammation which may have lead to dark spots and discoloration. It requires brightening ingredients to even out skin tone as well as AHA exfoliants and vitamin c.
Neutriherbs Editor’s #1 Cleanser Pick
An advanced two way (soap base + amino acid) gentle yet effective cleaning formula that cleanses away dirt, oil, grime, and other impurities while helping to visibly lighten and illuminate the skin without drying or making your skin feel tight. It has a rich foam texture and relies on Symwhite 377, Niacinamide, and Yeast Extract to help exfoliate dull skin surfaces so as to reveal lighter and smoother complexion.
Neutriherbs Editor’s #2 Cleanser Pick
If you like lightweight, gel textured cleansers we highly recommend that you try this one. It foams moderately and While some foaming formulas can be pretty drying due to a high alcohol concentration or a lack of nourishing ingredients, this one is the opposite. In fact, it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, Centella asiatica extract and chamomile, a soothing plant extract, making it a great option for people with all skin types including dry or even sensitive skin.
In addition to loving how functional the recyclable packaging is because it easily dispenses the ideal amount of product, you'll love how fluffy the consistency is and how soft this face wash feels against skin.
Should I Wash My Face With Soap or Shower Gels
So, you noticed we didn’t mention bar soap anywhere? It is undeniable that soaps, cleansing bars and shower gels thoroughly cleanse your skin, but they cleanse so strongly that they disrupt the skin’s barrier causing all sorts of problems.
Soap is alkaline based while your skin is naturally acidic and should have a pH level between 4 and 6.5, even if your skin type is oily. The alkaline nature of the soap bar can cause your face to become dry and strip away the natural moisture. If you apply soap regularly on the face, it may turn flaky and itchy or become prone to breakouts.
Some bar soaps can be gentler on sensitive skin. However, before you pick up any bar soap or shower gel for your face, it’s important to make sure it’s been formulated for use on your face and that they are unscented, hypoallergenic, and include high levels of moisturizing ingredients, such as:ceramides glycerin hyaluronic acid niacinamide
The Best Way To Wash Your Face
When cleansing, spend a few minutes massaging the cleanser thoroughly using small circular motions to cover all the areas of the face, and then rinse off with either a clean cloth or water.
When it comes to an exfoliating cleanser, you should apply them onto the skin and then leave them on for around 2 minutes before rinsing off. That way you are allowing time for the active ingredients to really work their magic!
Do not use regular, everyday soap that would be used for your body or hands on facial skin, as it can be too harsh, drying and cause skin damage over time.