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Some would argue that if you have to choose one budget skincare step, it should be the one that technically washes down the drain (i.e., cleanser). Don't get us wrong—cleansing is a vital part of every routine, and the right formula can make a major difference in the state of your complexion.
Luckily, there are tons of standout drugstore face washes out there, many of which are under $20 (and some even under $10). But which products shine above the rest, and more importantly, which one is right for you? We caught up with two board-certified dermatologists to get their expert opinions on the matter.
"I like gentle cleansers without sodium lauryl sulfate, alcohol, or fragrance to avoid irritation," says Dr. Martha H. Viera. Similarly, Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael of Radiant Skin Dermatology & Laser suggests using a mild cleanser to remove dead skin buildup and pollutants. With pointers from these pros in mind, we found standout formulas for every skin type and budget.
Scroll down for the best drugstore face washes.
Best Overall: Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
Accepted by National Eczema Association
Can be a bit stripping
Dr. Viera says Vanicream's Gentle Facial Cleanser is among the best in the drugstore category, and we couldn't agree more. Don't let the basic-looking bottle deter you—this no-nonsense face wash is a clutch when it comes to cleaning sensitive, acne-prone, and eczema-prone skin.
Boasting a stamp of approval from the National Eczema Association, it's free of fragrance, dyes, parabens, formaldehyde, and other potentially irritating ingredients. Even those who don't struggle with skin sensitivities can benefit from using Vanicream. The soap-free formula won't clog your pores. Oh, and did we mention it's one of the most affordable options on the market?
Benefits: Helps remove dirt, oil and makeup without drying the skin | Active Ingredients: Glycerin, coco glucoside | Skin Type: Acne-Prone, Sensitive, and Eczema-Prone | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Face Cleanser
Good for all skin types
Takes time in removing makeup
Dr. Viera is also a fan of Aveeno. Containing hydrating hyaluronic acid, the brand's wallet-friendly Positively Radiant face wash is a go-to for anyone looking to boost their complexion.
Benefits: Reveals brighter, more radiant skin | Active Ingredients: Soy, glycerin, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Pump: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Convenient pump dispenser
Good for all skin types
One of the best parts about drugstore face washes is that they often come in large pump bottles, offering easy dispensing and more bang for your buck. With that said, Dr. Viera recommends Cetaphil's 16-ounce Gentle Skin Cleanser, which is soothing, hydrating, and suitable for all skin types.
Benefits: Gently cleanses to create softer skin | Active Ingredients: Aloe, chamomile extract, green tea extract | Skin Type: All | Size: 16 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Oil-Free: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser
Could remove makeup better
Recommended by both Dr. Dele-Michael and Dr. Viera, La Roche-Posay Toleriane is among the best from the drugstore aisle. This ultra-gentle, oil-free, pleasantly milky cleanser promises to clean with glycerin, soothe with thermal spring water and niacinamide (vitamin B3), and replenish the skin barrier with essential ceramides.
Benefits: Removes impurities while reinforcing the skin barrier | Active Ingredients: Thermal spring water, niacinamide, glycerin, ceramides | Skin Type: Sensitive, Dry, and Oily | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Soap-Free: Avène Cleanance Cleansing Gel
If you prefer a soap-free formula, Dr. Viera suggests Avène Cleanance. This cleansing gel uses gentle ingredients like milk thistle and thermal spring water meant to remove dirt, oil, and makeup without irritating or drying out the skin.
Benefits: Helps reduce excess oil | Active Ingredients: Thermal spring water, zinc gluconate, milk thistle extract | Skin Type: Oily, Sensitive, and Acne-Prone | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best K-Beauty: COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Good for all skin types
If you're not on the Korean cosmetics bandwagon yet, order a tube of CosRx Good Morning Gel and hop on. This pH-balanced face wash contains all-star ingredients like tea tree oil and salicylic acid meant to remove impurities.
Benefits: Gently purifies pores | Active Ingredients: Tea tree oil, salicylic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 5.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best With BHA: CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser
Pump dispenser provides measured amount
CeraVe's widely celebrated SA Cleanser contains salicylic acid, arguably the most common and effective BHA. This superstar ingredient helps reduce redness, and gently exfoliates, while hyaluronic acid and ceramides provide restorative moisture.
Benefits: Cleanses, exfoliates, and removes impurities | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, ceramides | Skin Type: All | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Foaming: CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser
Removes makeup well
Nice foamy lather
Can be drying due to alcohol ingredient
Dr. Viera also likes CeraVe's Cream-to-Foam Cleanser, which comes in a generous 19-ounce pump bottle. This face wash contains moisturizing amino acids, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, plus lactic acid for oh-so-gentle exfoliation.
Benefits: Effectively removes oil and makeup while reinforcing the skin barrier | Active Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, amino acids, lactic acid | Skin Type: Dry, Sensitive, and Combination | Size: 19 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Gel: Good Light Cosmic Dew Water Cleanser
Improves skin barrier
Might be slightly stripping
We also love Good Light Cosmic Dew, a fragrance-free, gel-to-foam cleanser formulated to address inflammation and strengthen fragile skin. Standout ingredients include prebiotics, skin-soothing seaweed, and deeply hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Benefits: Helps with inflammation and strengthens sensitive skin | Active Ingredients: Glycerin, seaweed, prebiotic plant sugars, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Sensitive, Dry, and Combination | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Oil: Enuf Project Cleansing Oil
Pump dispenser conveniently provides needed amount
Despite what your instincts may tell you, oil-based face washes won't make oily skin more greasy. On the contrary, this cleanser claims to balance sebum and help minimize oil production, thanks to a blend of natural antimicrobial and complexion-replenishing plant-based oils.
Benefits: Quickly lifts makeup from the skin, leaving behind a radiant, non-greasy complexion | Active Ingredients: Safflower seed oil, olive oil, coconut oil | Skin Type: Dry, Combination, and Oily | Size: 5.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Cleansing Balm: Nyakio Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil Balm
If you're in the market for a cleansing balm, check out this brilliant formula from Nyakio. Flaunting a rich blend of earth-sourced ingredients like shea butter and sweet almond oil, the formula effortlessly breaks down makeup and dirt, leaving your skin soft, nourished, and glowing.
Benefits: Provides a nourished glow | Active Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, shea butter, coconut oil | Skin Type: Combination, Dry, and Mature | Size: 3.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Makeup Removal: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
When you're ready to take your makeup off at the end of the day, reach for DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. This popular Japanese face wash contains a concoction of olive oil, vitamin E, and antioxidants meant to dissolve stubborn, waterproof products.
Benefits: Nourishes and hydrates for younger-looking skin | Active Ingredients: Olive oil, capric triglyceride, vitamin E | Skin Type: Dry and Mature | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Rosen Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser
Smooths uneven texture
Could come in a larger size
For those battling breakouts, we recommend Rosen's Super Smoothie Cleanser. The notably thick, creamy formula promises to confront acne-causing bacteria, balance sebum, and help smooth uneven texture, leaving you with a brighter, even-toned complexion.
Benefits: Packed with active fruit powders to help brighten and tighten | Active Ingredients: Strawberry powder, lemon peel | Skin Type: Acne-Prone | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser
Provides a very balanced, clean feel
Not suited for removing makeup
Neutrogena's Ultra Gentle Cleanser is one of Dr. Viera's drugstore favorites, and we can see why. The non-comedogenic, soap-free, luxuriously creamy formula simultaneously cleans, moisturizes, and softens without stripping the skin.
Benefits: Provides skin-friendly cleansing | Active Ingredients: Thermal water, glycerin, cetearyl glucoside | Skin Type: Sensitive, Dry, and Eczema-Prone | Size: 12 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Teens: Sun Bum Daily Cleanser
Adds a glow to the face
No skin-irritating synthetics
Smell could be better
Sun Bum's playful new skincare line has some real gems, like this antioxidant-rich face wash. Containing coconut water, banana extract, and other beachy ingredients, the simple formula is an excellent intro-to-skincare pick for teens.
Benefits: Washes away dirt, makeup and daily buildup, leaving it feeling soft and hydrated | Active Ingredients: Ginseng, coconut water, banana extract | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser is undoubtedly the best drugstore face wash on the market. The extra-mild, non-comedogenic, soap-free formula is suitable for all skin types, even the most sensitive, plus it's one of the most affordable options out there. If you're open to spending a tad bit more, you might consider La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser, a dermatologist-approved formula with a pleasant milky consistency.
What to Look for in a Drugstore Face Wash
Your Skin Type
According to Idris, your best bet when choosing a drugstore face wash is to consider your skin type and choose a formula accordingly. “The choices of great drugstore cleansers are limitless,” says Idris. Narrowing them down by skin type will help the decision-making process.
The Texture of the Product
Once you've identified your skin type, it's easier to know what texture is best. If you have dry skin, creams, oils, or balms are the way to go. For those with oily or acne-prone skin, gel cleansers are best, she says.
How often should you use a drugstore face wash?
"Wash your face two times a day with a gentle cleanser," advises Dr. Dele-Michael. That said, folks with extra-dry skin might opt for once-daily cleansing, especially on makeup-free days. On the other hand, some people double-cleanse at night, first reaching for a cleansing balm or another oil-based formula to dissolve makeup, then a water-based face wash to remove any remaining residue.
Do drugstore face washes expire?
Most cleansers will expire 12 to 24 months after being opened, though some may only last roughly six months. It really depends on the container, the formulation, what preservatives are used, and where you store it. Look for the PAO (period-after-opening) symbol, which looks like a tiny jar with a lid. The number within the symbol will tell you how long the product lasts after being opened.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer specializing in lifestyle, self-care, and beauty. For this story, she interviewed two board-certified dermatologists and researched different ingredients, formulations, and packaging types for cleansers. She looked at dozens of drugstore face washes from a wide range of brands and pored over user reviews before making her final selections. As a skincare enthusiast with a routine nearing ten steps, Theresa has tried several cleansers on this list. She is particularly fond of Vanicream, La Roche-Posay, CosRx, CeraVe, and DHC. She has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020, where she covers skincare, makeup, and fitness apparel.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael, MD FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist, and the founder of Radiant Skin Dermatology & Laser in New York. She specializes in cosmetic dermatology and dermatologic surgery.
- Dr. Martha H. Viera, MD FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami, Florida. She is a fellow member of several dermatological organizations, including the American Academy of Dermatology, the Women's Dermatologic Society, and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.
- Dr. Shereene Idris, an NYC board-certified cosmetic dermatologist, and expert in faces, fillers, and lasers.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough drugstore face washes from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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