When your skin has just one problem, such as excess oil production or dry patches, it’s easy to figure out which products work best for you. When you have both oily and dry skin though (aka combination skin), that’s when things get challenging.
Not all cleansers will work for your combination skin because you need a sophisticated balance. Some might over-moisturize your oily parts ,and others might not be strong enough to hydrate and smooth your dry parts, which ends up causing more problems instead of solving them. Luckily, we found a handful of cleansers formulated with the needs of combination skin in mind.
Read on for the best cleansers for combination skin you can buy right now.
Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Paraben Free Facial Cleanser
Won't strip skin
Can leave a greasy residue
Philosophy created this cleanser to multitask for even the most complicated of skin. It gently cleanses, so it’s not too harsh for those with sensitive skin. At the same time, it also smoothes, removes makeup, and extracts dirt from your pores. The natural oil extracts also help condition and balance your skin for a clearer complexion.
This product has thousands upon thousands of five-star reviews on Sephora, and the brand positions it as the number one face wash in America.
Active Ingredients: Meadowfoam seed oil | Skin Type: Balanced to dry | Benefits: Cleanses, hydrates, tones | Size: 1 ounce, 8 ounces, 16 ounces, 22 ounces, 32 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Pond's Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser
Smaller than other options
If your skin is more dry than oily, this could be the best for you because it’s infused with so much moisture. What makes this cleanser unique is it’s actually made up of 50% moisturizer to infuse your skin with as much hydration as possible.
Like a typical cleanser, it removes dirt and excess makeup from your skin but saves you the added step of applying moisturizer afterwards. The cooling sensation feels great during application, and it doesn’t leave any residue on your skin.
Price at time of publish: $6
Active Ingredients: Mineral oil, beeswax | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, sensitive | Benefits: Cleanses, hydrates, removes makeup | Size: 3.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Cetaphil PRO Foaming Face Wash
Won't strip skin
Pump bottle can get stuck
Cetaphil’s daily facial wash is always a crowd favorite, but their newest foaming cleanser might just beat it. Because it foams up, it has a rich lather that rinses away easier than before. It’s a gentle cleanser, so it doesn’t irritate sensitive skin while still removing any dirt or oil on your face after a long day.
To make sure your skin doesn’t feel stripped dry or too tight, it’s infused with skin conditioners and a vitamin complex, two ingredients that provide your skin with moisture and overall balance.
Price at time of publish: $9
Active Ingredients: Vitamin B5, vitamin E | Skin Type: Dry, balanced, sensitive | Benefits: Cleanses, hydrates | Size: 8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Kora Organics Foaming Cleanser
Won't strip skin
Doesn't remove makeup well
Green tea is a botanical derived from the leaves and buds of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. The active components of green tea are polyphenols (also called catechins) that are believed to benefit the skin due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Supermodel Miranda Kerr started her beauty line Kora Organics to give people luxe organic beauty products that are effective and clean. Her foaming cleanser was designed specifically with combination skin in mind. It treats oiliness, enlarged pores, and an uneven skin tone without leaving the skin feeling stripped. It’s formulated with nourishing, all-natural ingredients, like noni fruit, green tea extract, sandalwood oil, and aloe vera.
Active Ingredients: Noni fruit, green tea extract, sandalwood oil, aloe vera | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Cleanse, balance oil production, removes makeup | Size: 3.38 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Acne
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash Daily Scrub
Effective against blackheads
May not be ideal for sensitive skin
When it comes to acne, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when shopping for a great cleanser. This face wash includes 2% salicylic acid, a known acne treatment most useful for blackheads. The oil-free formula should be used twice a day and followed up with your favorite moisturizer and SPF to protect your skin from the sun's harsh rays and any other environmental factors.
Price at time of publish: $8
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin Type: Acne-prone | Benefits: Cleanse, exfoliate | Size: 4.2 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Removing Makeup
IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Makeup Cleansing Balm
Paraben-, sulfate-, and phthalate-free
Reviewers note it smells bad
It Cosmetics created this makeup-removing balm to put all others to shame. Most makeup removers can dry or irritate the skin, especially skin that’s more sensitive, but this formula tackles stubborn makeup without any unwanted side effects.
This balm is infused with an anti-aging serum, so it can reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles while it cleanses the skin. To top it all off: It’s cruelty-free and made without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
Price at time of publish: $42
Active Ingredients: Collagen, hyaluronic acid, peptides, ceramides | Skin Type: Combination, sensitive Benefits: Cleanses, removes makeup, hydrates, softens | Size: 2.82 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Cleansing Water
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
No rinsing needed
Can be drying
There's water in the name, but this cleanser is more than just plain tap. It boasts tiny micelles, which cluster together to lift out dirt, oil, and makeup stuck in your pores without harsh rubbing, tugging, or—in some cases—rinsing. For this particular formula, no water or washcloth is needed, which means you can cleanse from virtually anywhere regardless of your proximity to a sink.
Price at time of publish: $11
Active Ingredients: Micelles | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Cleanses, removes makeup | Size: 13.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Korean Beauty
Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
Packed with antioxidant-rich blueberry extract, hyaluronic acid, and a blend of lactic and glycolic acids, this lightweight gel wash is the key to gently yet effectively removing surface dirt and makeup. The result is skin that looks clear and radiant and pores that are visibly minimized, thanks to a mild exfoliating action.
Price at time of publish: $34
Active Ingredients: Blueberry extract, hyaluronic acid, aha, hydrating suds | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Provides antioxidant protection, hydrates, cleanses, exfoliates | Size: 1 ounce, 5.41 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What to Look For in Cleansers for Combination Skin
Ability to Remove Makeup
Do you rely on your cleanser to remove your makeup? Consider if the cleanser can be applied safely to your eyelids and can break down your foundation if you don't want to use a separate makeup remover. Of course, if you don’t routinely wear makeup, this isn’t something to concern yourself with.
Cleansers for combination skin can be in gel, foam, or cream form or loaded with microbeads. When exploring which to buy, consider the cleanser’s texture on your skin. If you have sensitive skin, cleansers with particles designed for exfoliation could cause irritation. Or, if you want a cleanser that’s easier to wash off, you might want to go for a foam cleanser versus a thick cream.
If you’re specifically seeking a cruelty-free cleanser or cleanser without fragrance, make sure you look at the cleanser’s formula. This is something to pay close attention to if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to ingredients often used in cleansers for combination skin.
What are the benefits of cleansers for combination skin?
People with combination skin have patches of oily and dry skin. Typically, this translates to an oily “T-zone” (nose, forehead, chin) and dry cheeks. Oily skin is characterized by its shine and can feel greasy to the touch, while dry skin often appears red, irritated, or flakey. Opting for a cleanser designed for combination skin can help keep your skin evenly hydrated without exacerbating either oil or dryness.
How do you use cleansers for combination skin?
Like any other cleanser, begin by wetting your face with lukewarm water. Then with clean hands or fingertips, massage the cleanser into your skin. Check before if you can apply this cleanser to your eyelids or directly beneath your eyes, so you can avoid that region if necessary.
Otherwise, evenly apply the cleanser to your forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks. Rinse with lukewarm water, and then gently dry your face with a clean towel. Be sure to wash your towels regularly to prevent the buildup of bacteria, which can easily transfer onto your face and cause breakouts.
How often should you use cleansers for combination skin?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you should wash your face twice each day, once in the morning and once at night. If you’ve worked out or have been sweating heavily, it’s important to wash your face with a cleanser right after to prevent clogged pores and blemishes.
That being said, everyone’s skin is different. If you find that your skin is too dry from washing twice each day or is too oily from washing only once each day, make appropriate adjustments.
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Arif, T. Salicylic acid as a peeling agent: a comprehensive review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:455-461. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84765
Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):253-258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923
American Academy of Dermatology. Face washing 101.