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.
Who should buy face wash?
A face wash is a fundamental piece of any skincare routine. Using a face wash product to wash your face should definitely be a part of your evening routine, and likely your morning routine as well.
A face wash pairs well with a face moisturizer, because the cleansing action of a face wash removes some of the moisturizing oils from your skin. Right after washing your face, you should moisturize with a face moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
Either as a part of your moisturizer or as a separate product, you should also apply sunscreen in the mornings to protect your skin from the damaging and aging effects of ultraviolet light.
At night, a face wash is equally important to remove sweat, dirt, grime, makeup, and any other materials that build up on your skin during the day (as is moisturizing after this washing session as well).
Whether you have dry skin, oily skin, or something in between, there is a face wash product out there that is suited for you.
People with dry skin should look for a milder face wash that has powerful moisturizers added to it, while those with oily skin should focus more on finding a face wash that does not clog your pores (i.e. is non-comedogenic). Plenty of solid and well-balanced products exist for people in the middle, too.
How we ranked
When formulating our rankings, our first and most important criteria was the cleansing power of the face wash. We only included products that could effectively take off dirt, grime, and makeup residue. However, we also made sure the cleansing agents were not too harsh, which can leave skin dry and irritated.
Since there are a wide variety of skin types, we made sure a range of cleansers were represented in our rankings, from gentle products suitable for dry and sensitive skin to more powerful cleansers that can clear up oily skin and unclog blackheads.
In addition to the cleansing agent, we also checked to see what moisturizers were present, which is an aspect of a face wash that is especially important for face washes that are intended for sensitive skin.
On the topic of avoiding skin irritation, we also paid close attention to the presence of any additional plant or herb-derived compounds.
While some of these ingredients can have beneficial effects in a face wash, more often, they can cause irritation because of skin reactions to the plant compounds. We had a very discerning eye, and rejected any products that had too many plant-derived compounds that didn’t directly serve the purpose of cleansing your face.
We set aside places in the rankings for the best-performing products in these specialty categories. While face washes in these categories aren’t applicable to everyone, they have important niche uses.
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.
Face wash does not disrupt your skin’s natural pH level. 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.
Face washes can help improve a variety of skin conditions. 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.
Sticking to a face care routine is the best way to ensure success. Despite what marketing material might like you to believe, even with the best skincare products, you won’t see immediate improvement.
Slowly clearing away clogged pores and dead skin cells takes time—often several weeks. As such, dermatologists report that one of the biggest barriers to their patients seeing good results is what they term “non-adherence”: not sticking to a skin care routine on a regular basis.
The typical pattern is this: a patient comes in wanting better-looking skin, starts a routine for a few days, then stops, possibly because the results are not immediate.
A 2019 review article by leading dermatologists published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology describes the current situation of professional skincare (4). Worldwide, between 43 and 58% of people who are given a skincare routine will not stick to it.
One of the best ways to increase adherence to a routine is to simplify it, reducing complexity by reducing the number of products or the number of steps you need to take to perform your skincare routine.
A good face wash can be a part of this simplification, especially if it is a specially-formulated face wash to help treat other conditions like acne or wrinkles.
Another piece of increasing adherence is what a dermatologist would call “patient education”—getting people to understand that it can take several weeks to start seeing results from a skincare routine, and that your odds of getting a good result are much better if you stick to a routine.
Most of the studies that test out different skincare products, such as those we reviewed earlier, use a timeframe of at least four weeks, and sometimes as long as eight or twelve weeks, before the participants are evaluated to see whether or not the skincare product worked.
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).
A face wash is pretty easy to incorporate a basic building block of a skincare routine for healthier skin. You should always wash your face at night to take off the grime, sweat, and dirt that builds up during the day (plus any cosmetics or sunscreen you may have put on during the day).
After washing, you’ll want to apply a face moisturizer so your skin doesn’t dry out too much. For best results, apply this face moisturizer when your skin is still a bit damp, not entirely dry.
This way, you’ll lock in moisture to your skin cells more effectively. Whether you should wash your face with a face wash in the morning depends on your skin type.
If you have oily skin or build up a lot of sweat on your face at night while you’re sleeping, you should use a face wash in the morning too.
On the other hand, if you have sensitive or dry skin, you might be better off washing your face with plain water in the morning, then applying a face moisturizer.
People with dry skin can irritate their skin if they wash it too often, so a once-daily face wash at night, followed immediately by a moisturizer, is the best plan for them.
While everyone should wash their face at night, the specifics of skin type affect whether or not you want to wash your face again in the morning too.
Q: What is the best anti-aging face wash?
A: If your goal is to use a face wash as part of a treatment for wrinking and aging, we recommend looking for products that include exfoliants and anti-aging compounds like retinol.
Our research team particularly liked Essa Vita Clarify in this regard because it includes both alpha-lipoic acid, an exfoliant, and retinol, which is a powerful anti-aging compound. Depending on the level of complexity that you desire in your skincare routine, you may or may not want to opt for a separate wrinkle cream or retinol cream to use at night.
That latter point is important—any anti-aging cosmetic is best applied at night, because the ingredients tend to make your skin a lot more sensitive to sunlight.
That also means that you should be wearing sunscreen on your face during the day (but of course if you are looking to prevent skin aging, you should be doing that already: sun damage is the number one cause of skin aging).
Q: What kind of face wash is good for dry skin?
A: If you have dry skin, you want a face wash that is not too harsh and incorporates some moisturizing agents as well. Our number one pick, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, is a winner in both regards.
It is an effective cleanser but isn’t so harsh that it will aggravate sensitive or dry skin, and on top of that, it includes powerful moisturizing agents that can help restore the integrity of your skin’s moisture barrier.
Even if you don’t go with our recommendation, make sure your face wash isn’t too harsh with its detergents and has some moisturizing agents. If you have dry skin, it is also especially important to make sure you moisturizer right after cleansing your face with a face wash.
Q: Is a face wash good for your skin?
A: A face wash is an important part of a daily skincare routine, as it cleans off the dirt, grime, and sweat that accumulates on your skin.
As long as it isn’t too harsh, a face wash is beneficial for your skin because this dirt and grime can clog your pores, leading to blackheads, breakouts, and acne.
A face wash that’s too harsh can strip moisture from your skin, though, so you’ll want to opt for something mild that comes with some moisturizing agents as well if you have dry or sensitive skin.
Q: What is a good face wash for acne?
A: If you have acne, there are a few ingredients in a face wash that can be pretty helpful. Something with salicylic acid, like Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser, can be helpful, as salicylic acid helps strip away dead skin cells and prevent clogging.
However, a face wash can’t do the job alone; to beat acne, you’ll need a dedicated acne treatment as well.
Q: How do you wash your face?
A: Using a face wash properly involves getting your face wet with warm (but not overly hot) water, and lathering your whole face well with your face wash of choice.
Then, rinse your face off, and pat your face with a clean towel until it is damp but not completely dry. That’s when you should apply a face moisturizer to lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated.
Q: How often should you wash your face?
A: Most skincare experts recommend washing your skin and moisturizing every night before you go to bed. Whether you should also wash your face in the morning depends on your skin type and your skin sensitivity.
If you have oily skin, washing your face in the morning is a good idea. If your skin is dry or sensitive, you may want to only use plain water, not a face wash, in the morning.
Washing your face too often if you have sensitive skin can strip away moisture and cause dryness, redness, and a “tight” feeling in your skin.
Q: Can you wash your face in the shower?
A: Many skincare experts recommend against washing your face in the shower, mostly because hot temperatures can increase the rate at which water is lost from your skin.
If you don’t shower with very hot water, washing your face in the shower is fine, but otherwise, use mildly warm water in the skin to wash your face—that will keep your skin from getting dry or irritated.
Q: What is a good face wash for oily skin?
A: For oily skin, you want a more powerful face wash that can unclog blocked pores and clean off sweat and oil from your face. Skyn ICELAND Glacial Face Wash and Clinique Take the Day Off are both powerful cleansing agents that can effectively clean deep your pores and lift off the oils that build up on your face during the day and overnight.
If you have oily skin, you’ll want to use a face wash twice a day, in the morning and at night, You will also want to ensure that your moisturizer and sunscreen are non-comedogenic, meaning they do not block your skin pores. Clogged pores can exacerbate the degree to which skin becomes oily.
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.
For BodyNutrition‘s #1 face wash recommendation, click here.