Many people use a daily face wash in their skin care regime for healthy, youthful-looking skin.
Finding the right face wash means finding the right combination of ingredients that will cleanse your face without leaving it too tight, dried out, and irritated.
A low quality product could even leave your face red, aggravated, and in worse condition than before washing. We’ve looked into the best face washes you can get your hands on and ranked the ten best on the market.
1. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
CeraVe is something of a darling in the eyes of skin care enthusiasts. Its hydrating skin cleanser does an excellent job of cleaning off makeup, oil, and sweat from your face without causing excessive dryness or breakouts.
It does this, in part, by inclusion of hydrating ceramides that keep skin aggravation and dehydration at bay. Users love how well it works on sensitive skin, and many of people who suffer from breakouts on more aggressive face washes swear by CeraVe.
At the same time, it’s widely praised for its ability to provide a deep clean, so you aren’t giving up cleansing power in order to have the face wash function well with sensitive skin. Across the board, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is a winner.
2. Skyn ICELAND Glacial Face Wash
Skyn ICELAND is a professional-caliber face wash that uses a highly specialized blend of natural and synthetic ingredients to achieve an unparallelled deep clean.
It’s not for cosmetic minimalists, nor will it appeal to the all-natural crowd, and the high number of ingredients may mean that is has a higher likelihood of causing rashes or breakouts, but it’s one of the highest-rated face washes out there, which speaks to its quality.
3. Clinique Take the Day Off
Clinique’s Take the Day Off is a cleansing cream, not a foam or a liquid. It’s a favorite of people with sensitive skin, because the thicker consistency allows for a deeper clean without aggravating the skin. It leaves your skin feeling silky and smooth, not dried out and tight.
A small minority of people with very oily skin may need a liquid or foam cleanser instead to wash away the large amount of oils on their face, but many people will manage quite well with Clinique Take the Day Off.
4. Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser
Neutrogena offers a great facial cleanser that’s based almost entirely on natural ingredients and includes salicylic acid as an exfoliating agent as well.
This makes it a double-edged sword: it will be great for people who need extra cleaning and exfoliating action in their face wash, but it might make it too aggressive for regular use for many people. Indeed, this is what many users find: many love it, but a small but notable minority find that it aggravates their skin too much.
5. Essa Vita Clarify Facial Cleanser
Essa Vita Clarify is a cleansing and nourishing face wash that helps scrub away sweat and oil while providing skin with nutrients to make it look and feel younger and healthier.
Two of the primary skin care ingredients in Essa Vita Clarify are alpha lipoic acid and retinol. These help exfoliate and re-start synthesis of skin collagen, but they do have downsides.
It’s not a good idea to use Essa Vita Clarify in the morning unless you moisturize with a sunscreen-containing moisturizer, because retinol has the tendency to make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and more likely to get sunburned. So, either use it only at night, or use a moisturizer with sunblock in it immediately afterwards.
6. Instanatural Vitamin C Cleanser
Instanatural makes a cleanser whose main selling point is its use of vitamin C to cleanse and fight oxidative damage to the skin. It includes a host of other antioxidants, like green tea extract and chamomile.
Some people find that its deep cleaning is too aggressive, leaving their skin dried out, though it does seem to be effective at unclogging pores and fighting blackheads.
7. Eucerin Dermatoclean 3-in-1 Micellar Cleansing Fluid
Eucerin has a reputation for being appreciated and recommended by dermatologists thanks to its precise, scientific formula.
It’s no all-natural solution; it’s more of a well-calibrated chemical concoction. Eucerin Dermatoclean is especially useful for people with sensitive skin and people who have a tendency to get clogged pores because of its gentle touch on the skin.
8. Purity Made Simple Facial Cleanser
Purity Made Simple espouses a minimalist design philosophy and includes a lot of natural ingredients, but it’s best considered as a hybrid facial cleanser, not a true all-natural face wash.
Purists won’t like the artificial coloring, but it is fragrance-free, so it may play well with sensitive skin. Though it’s a “one step” face wash, you’ll still need to moisturize after use, just like with any other face wash.
9. The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam
The Face Shop offers a face wash that includes a lot of detergent-like cleansing agents to scrub away oils and sweat from your face, but it might be too harsh for some users.
It doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of natural oils and plant extracts to soothe the skin on your face, so you might get tightness or redness after using this face wash.
10. Clean & Clear Day and Night Cleanser
Clean & Clear has a unique morning and evening take on face washes. The company designed the pair of products to be used in the morning and at night, and claims that they have energizing and mellowing properties that make them suited for use at their respective times.
A glance at the ingredients, however, reveals that the primary ingredients are largely the same for both the morning and the evening cleansers.
The ingredients are mostly synthetic, and the cleaning power isn’t as high as it could be. With a lack of soothing natural cleaners, and the presence of compounds like menthol in the evening face wash, you may find that Clean & Clear Day and Night Cleanser aggravates your skin without giving it the deep clean that you need.
Face wash benefits and side effects
Whether or not you wear makeup, your face is sure to be dirty at the end of the day. Sweat, oil, and dirt particles in the air all build up and accumulate on your face throughout the day, and if you don’t wash these off, they can clog up your pores, cause breakouts, or irritate your skin.
A quality face wash should be the first step in any skin care regimen, even for people with sensitive skin.
The primary benefit of a face wash or a facial cleanser is that it can provide a deeper and gentler clean than standard soap and water. In order to care for the skin on your face, you need to be able to clean out the oils and dead skin cells that accumulate, because these are what causes acne and breakouts.
A scientific study published in 2006 by dermatologist Z.D. Draelos in the journal Cutis demonstrated how the right balance between cleansing power and gentleness on skin can have a beneficial effects on skin conditions like acne (1).
In the study, the author examined how the skin and pores of a group of subjects with mild acne responded to a face wash. The study’s results showed that the face wash was effective at deep-cleaning the pores, while reducing the overcompensation in oil production that can occur in the skin when a facial cleanser is too strong.
According to the author, harsh face washes can cause the skin to boost oil production, which increases the chances of pores getting clogged and aggravated.
Another scientific review published in Skin Therapy Letter by a group of dermatologists in Ontario, Canada outlined some additional reasons why a quality face wash is superior to soap and water (2).
They cite research showing that a standard soap wash causes a harsh disruption to the pH level of the skin, which is a measure of its acidity.
This disruption in turn disturbs the membranes in skin cells that regulate water balance, which is why a face wash that is too harsh leaves skin dry, red, and irritated.
The dermatologists go on to recommend that patients seek out face washes that have a balance of detergents to clean away oils and dirt, along with pH balancing compounds and moisturizers to restore and maintain moisture levels in the skin cells closest to the surface of the skin. These are the kinds of qualities you will find in top-rated face washes.
A 2015 study published by researchers in Japan in the Journal of Dermatology highlights the role of a face wash in overall skin care (3).
The study examined a group of adult Japanese women with sensitive skin who were given a skincare routine that included a face wash alongside daily moisturizing with a face moisturizing lotion.
The study found that 97% of the dermatologists supervising the women in the study determined that the routine was effective at improving their skin condition.
This underscores the role of a face wash as part of a holistic strategy for skin care, even for people with sensitive skin. What this means for people who know they have sensitive skin is that they should be diligent in their search for a face wash that is gentle yet effective on their skin, since skipping a face wash is not likely to result in a successful skin care routine.
It can be difficult to find the right facial cleanser to use in washing your face if you have sensitive skin, but ultimately it is worth the effort.
The primary side effects of face washes have to do with how well the compounds interact with your skin. Many people, especially those with sensitive skin, find it difficult to get the right face wash, because their skin keeps breaking out in a rash, pimples, or irritation.
One thing to consider is that every non-trivial ingredient in a face wash represents a potential irritant to your skin, so more is not always better when it comes to ingredients.
Many of the most popular face washes among people with sensitive skin have a very reasonable number of ingredients and avoid the wide variety of plant and herbal extracts seen in many of their competitors.
This is likely because each of these plant compounds could contain dozens or hundreds of potentially irritating compounds. So, as a result, you don’t know which one (if any) is causing irritation on your skin, and it’s incredibly difficult to determine via process of elimination if there are a lot of ingredients in your face wash.
If you know you have sensitive skin, you should start off with a face wash that’s known to do well on sensitive skin, and only use it a few times per week at first. If that goes well, you can increase the frequency with which you wash your face until you get up to daily use (assuming that’s your target).
Washing your face is an integral part of skin care, and it’s something you should probably be doing on a daily basis. Finding the right facial cleanser to wash your face is critical if you want to start off your skin care routine on the right foot.
A good face wash will help remove makeup, sweat, oil, and dirt that accumulates on your face throughout the day. Choose a face wash that offers a deep clean, but also is not likely to dry your skin out too much.
People with sensitive skin should be especially attentive to the face wash they choose, and will likely do best with a simple, mild face wash without too many ingredients, plant extracts, and fragrances in it.
There’s a lot more to skin care than just washing your face, but you can’t get anywhere else if you don’t start with this first and most important step.