Cleanser is undoubtedly the most banal and unimpressive product in our skincare regimen—much less glamorous than our prized overnight mask or powerhouse serum, for example. And yet, it holds a special place in our hearts nonetheless, and we’re fiercely loyal to the ones that do as they promise (as in get all our makeup off without leaving our skin dry like a desert). As beauty editors, we test quite a lot of them, which is why we’re confident in voicing the ones we’ve dubbed “holy grail.” Curious to see if there was any overlap (there wasn’t) and just curious, period, we polled some of our fellow beauty-editor colleagues and had them share their favorites, too.
In the market for a new cleanser? You’ll find plenty of recs here. Loyal to the same one you’ve used since high school? Temptation awaits…
Keep scrolling to see the cleansers beauty editors swear by!
“I'm typically not big on gel cleansers, but Renee Rouleau insisted I try this one, and I’ve never looked back. It’s alcohol-, soap-, and sulfate-free, so it’s not drying (like some other gel cleansers). It just leaves my skin feeling super clean—but not squeaky clean—and the gentle, soothing ingredients make my sensitive skin happy, never red or irritated. Plus, that big bottle lasts a lifetime.”
— Deven Hopp, senior editor, Byrdie
“Tata Harper’s Refreshing Cleanser turned me into a cream-cleanser believer. I always loved aggressive, acid-packed, exfoliating cleansers until I tried this one. It’s gentle and silky, yet it magically removes all my makeup—even stubborn liner and mascara. And I swear it’s made my skin more balanced and naturally hydrated. I still test new cleansers all the time, but I always come back to this one.”
— Dawn Davis, beauty director, Total Beauty
“You'll ultimately have to pry my beloved Eve Lom Cleanser ($80) from my cold, dead hands, but I think this exfoliating cleanser from Belmondo deserves an equally cultish status. It’s the only exfoliant that has ever kept my sensitive skin from drying out, but also keeps my blackheads in check—which makes it the stuff of miracles. Oh, and it smells exactly like the beach—and not in a cloying Yankee Candle kind of way.”
— Victoria Hoff, associate editor, Byrdie
“Stick cleansers are the latest addition to the ‘things I didn't know I needed’ beauty products. The solid, twist-up sticks are rubbed on wet skin and then massaged in with your fingers to clear out pores and remove dirt and oil. This charcoal one from Boscia is my latest fave. For those of us with combination skin, it lets you easily target trouble areas (for me that’s my chin, nose, and forehead) and concentrate the cleanser in those spots, without drying out or irritating your drier bits. I’m a devout believer in the purifying powers of charcoal, and this one truly delivers.
Bonus points for its liquid-free, travel-friendly formula—that’s the last time a TSA agent will deprive me of my precious face wash.”
— Megan McIntyre, beauty director, Refinery29
“I fell in love with Fresh for the sugar scrub after receiving a sample, but after getting a Sephora gift card in college, I decided I needed to try more from the brand. That’s when the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser was bestowed upon me. First off, the smell is divine. It’s not too strong, but it smells great. And I love how gentle it is on my skin—it doesn’t feel dry afterwards, and it removes makeup in a pinch.”
— Kirbie Jonson, beauty reporter, POPSUGAR Beauty
“I tend to fall on the lazier end of the spectrum when it comes to skincare, but Tatcha’s Camellia Cleansing Oil has changed that. Like a significant other in a healthy, fulfilling relationship, it encourages me to be better. Made with camellia oil and rice bran oils, the light formula smells amazing and removes most of my makeup in one go. My skin always feels soft and clean afterward—never dry. It says it’s one-step, but I like to follow with another cleanser to get my oily skin super clean (usually Glamglow’s Powercleanse Daily Dual Cleanser, $39).”
— Faith Xue, managing editor, Byrdie
“I have dry, sensitive, super-reactionary skin (thanks, newfound allergies—you are so much fun!), so using gentle, non-irritating cleansers is very important to me. Shu Uemura’s Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil is ultra hydrating and removes mascara and eyeliner like magic. A more wallet-friendly fave is Yes To Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser ($9), which leaves my skin feeling incredibly soft—even in the dead of winter. Another bonus: Both these products come with pumps, so they’re time-savers at the sink.”
— Joanna Douglas, senior editor, Yahoo Beauty
“One of my all-time favorite cleansers is Murad’s Renewing Cleansing Cream. It feels like it has a lotion-based consistency, almost like a cold cream, so it doesn’t have that harsh drying effect on my skin. I first discovered it through my mom, who swears by the entire Murad line.”
— Lindsey Metrus, associate editor, Byrdie
“It’s a myth that if you’re a beauty editor you automatically have clear skin, because I definitely battle my fair share of breakouts. But I can honestly say that as soon as I started using Phace Bioactive’s Detoxifying Gel Cleanser, a soap-free, non-foaming, exfoliating formula, my skin cleared up. It also wasn’t until I met the founder of the line, Marisa Vara Arredondo, that I realized how important it is to have the right pH in your skincare, because the wrong levels of pH in any product can cause skin irritations, which can lead to more blemishes.
Vicious cycle, am I right? Anyway, I’m hooked on this cleanser, and if you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend it—I think you’ll be as obsessed as I am!”
— Carly Cardellino, senior online beauty editor, Cosmopolitan
What’s your favorite cleanser? Tell us below!