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Washing your face should be totally easy, right? All you need to do is pick a cleanser and you’re all set. Well, not so much. Choosing the right cleanser for your face is much harder than you think. Although it only spends a few moments on the skin, it’s still important to find a formula that best suits your skin type. Harsh textures and formulas can be irritating and drying for your skin, causing bothersome issues like blemishes, redness, and tightness. Plus, you’ll want a formula that can break down makeup without leaving a trace. No one likes raccoon eyes after all that scrubbing!
Don’t forget: a cleanser is typically your first step in your skincare regimen, so the key is to find one that not only gets rid of dirt and oil, but also sets the stage for products post-cleansing. The right formula can help your moisturizer, serum, and face oils effectively penetrate the skin’s barrier and work their magic.
You have your pick of formula, from balms to gels to oils, and even deep exfoliators, or gentle creams. And the best part: these can all be found at your local drugstore at an affordable price. The choice is yours and we’re here to help you choose wisely. Here, the top drugstore cleansers for smooth and healthy skin.
Best Overall: Burt's Bees Brightening Daily Facial Cleanser
What makes this cleanser special is its inclusion of the ingredient daisy extract, a natural skin brightener that can help take dull skin to glowing in just four short weeks. Skin looks and feels more even as dark spots and blemishes are reduced thanks to a multi-fruit complex in the formula. It’s also as natural as a cleanser can get—about 98.6% natural in fact. Free of pesky ingredients like parabens and phthalates and dermatologist-tested, it’s safe to use multiple times a day. We recommend using this product in the morning and before you go to bed.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Daily Face Cleanser
Major moisture without the hefty price tag? At less than the cost of a latte, this ultra-gentle formula washes away dirt, oil, and makeup with little effort and leaves skin feeling clean, but plump. Its star ingredient: purified water. Yep, that’s right. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, purified water is extremely beneficial for the skin. Tap water has chlorine in it, mainly for removing harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, this isn’t so great for the skin. Chlorine is not only an irritant, but it’s incredibly drying, stripping your skin of its essential oils, which leads to premature aging. Purified water, however, is chlorine-free, so it’s safe to apply to the skin as a mist or in this case, a refreshing cleanser.
Best for Dry Skin: CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser Face Wash
Say hello to the holy grail for dry, cracked skin. Dermatologists created CeraVe almost fifteen years ago to repair and strengthen your most important organ: your skin. Developed with their ceramide trifecta, this gentle yet effective face wash replenishes moisture, restores the skin’s barrier, and uses a unique delivery technology that continuously supplies support to the skin throughout the day. Although the texture is smooth and creamy, almost like a lotion, it does lather well when mixed with water.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Foaming Face Wash
Have you heard of micellar water yet? If you haven’t, here’s the gist: micellar water is composed of micelles which are tiny balls of cleansing oil molecules. Basically, dirt, oil, and other other nasties are super-attracted to them, so they essentially draw all these no-nos away from your skin when applied. Wait, it gets even better. This particular formula is both fragrance and alcohol-free, making it ideal for sensitive and dry skin. Plus, no need for excessive rubbing to remove debris — the texture glides on smoothly. No stinging, unpleasant odors or over-drying in sight. All you have to do is gently smooth the product over a wet face and build a slight lather, and then rinse.
Best for Removing Waterproof Makeup: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Cleansing Oil
If you’re a waterproof makeup devotee, a cleansing oil is a must-have in your beauty lineup. It starts off as an oil, dissolving stubborn eyeliner, matte lipstick, and long-wearing foundation as you massage it into your skin. When it comes in contact with water, however, the texture emulsifies and washes away, taking all that makeup with it. Infused with cocoa butter and sesame seed oil, this deep cleansing oil not only breaks up makeup effortlessly, but it leaves no greasy residue behind.
Best for Aging Skin: Aveeno Absolutely Ageless Nourishing Daily Facial Cleanser
As our skin ages, it’s beneficial to start changing up our regimen and introducing anti-aging products to battle the signs of aging. Overtime, skin’s collagen begins to decrease as does it’s elasticity—in short, skin slowly sags and becomes dull. An effective anti-aging product will fight fine lines, help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and pores, and help to smooth skin’s texture. When it comes to restoring moisture, this antioxidant-rich face wash should be first on your list. Created with blackberry extract, the silky formula intensely hydrates for a softer and more supple canvas. Because it’s non-comedogenic, it also won’t clog your pores. When applying, work the product into a lather first and then massage into wet skin.
Best Innovation: St. Ives Hydration Cactus Water & Hibiscus Cleansing Stick
We have two words for you: Solid. Cleanser. Unlike other facial washes, this one comes in stick form—making it an idea travel buddy and amazing time-saver. Made of ultra-moisturizing cactus water and 100% natural coconut oil, this sweet-smelling cleanser is a total game-changer. Originally made popular in Korea, the solid curve of the stick gently massages skin while the product itself refreshes and softens your complexion. Some users recommend leaving on the product for a few minutes, as if it were a mask, and then rinsing.
Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular drugstore cleansers on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 7 different cleansers overall, screened options from 7 different brands and manufacturers, read over 4 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 6 of the cleansers themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.