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Cleansing is a relatively straightforward step of your daily skincare routine—just lather it on, rinse it off, and move on. But as you may know, not all face washes are created equal. From oils and cleansing balms to gels and gentle exfoliators, there's something for everyone and every skin concern.
Byrdie Researched & Approved
The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser is hydrating and mild, but it still melts makeup and dissolves oil, making it our top choice. As for a budget-friendly alternative, Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser is a solid pick.
No matter your skin type, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael recommends reaching for a mild formula to remove skin buildup and pollutants—and Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Martha H. Viera agrees. "I like gentle cleansers without sodium lauryl sulfate, alcohol, or fragrance to avoid irritation," she tells Byrdie. With pointers from these experts in mind, we found the choicest products for every skin type and budget.
Below, the best face washes currently on the market.
Best Overall: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser
Who else recommends it? Allure, The Strategist, and Healthline all picked the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Facial Cleanser.
What do buyers say? 89% of 17,900+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Dr. Dele-Michael and Dr. Viera both stand behind La Roche-Posay Toleriane Cleanser, and we're here for it. With sensitive complexions in mind, the ultra-gentle, super-hydrating formula gently removes makeup, dissolves excess oil, and washes away impurities without stripping the skin.
This all-star face wash is formulated with mineral-rich thermal spring water, niacinamide (vitamin B3), moisturizing glycerin, and essential ceramides. The sizable pump bottle contains 13.5 ounces of product, so you won't have to worry about running out any time soon.
Active Ingredients: Glycerin, niacinamide, ceramide-3, thermal spring water | Skin Type: Dry/sensitive | Size: 13.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
On a budget? You can't go wrong with Vanicream. The brand's Gentle Facial Cleanser comes highly recommended by Dr. Viera, and we can see why. This no-nonsense face wash calls on standbys like glycerin and coco glucoside meant to gently rid the skin of dirt, oil, and makeup without irritating skin.
Active Ingredients: Glycerin, coco glucoside | Skin Type: Acne-prone/sensitive/eczema-prone | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Drugstore: CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser
CeraVe is a reigning champion in the world of drugstore face washes. Recommended by Dr. Viera, the brand's Cream-to-Foam Cleanser works overtime to remove excess oil and dirt, gently exfoliate, and hydrate the skin without stripping it.
Active Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, lactic acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 19 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Splurge: Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser
If you're open to splurging on a miraculous face wash, you should consider Tracie Martyn's Amla Cleanser. Thanks to papaya enzymes, salicylic acid, and vitamin C, the natural formula offers mild exfoliation and breakout prevention benefits while improving the appearance of fine lines.
Active Ingredients: Amino acids, papaya enzymes, salicylic acid, alma extract | Skin Type: Mature/acne-prone/sensitive/combination | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Pore-Minimizing: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel
When it comes to premium skincare, Dr. Dennis Gross is a household name. The renowned dermatologist's Pore Perfecting Gel contains both AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids), plus glycerin and buchu leaf extract. This formula claims to balance oil production, combat blackheads, and reduce the appearance of pores.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, mandelic acid, glycolic acid, glycerin, barosma betulina leaf extract | Skin Type: Acne-prone/oily/dry/combination | Size: 7.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best K-Beauty: COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Good for all skin types
Relatively small amount
If you've yet to hop on the Korean beauty bandwagon, CosRx is an excellent gateway. The brand's Good Morning Cleanser calls on all-star ingredients like salicylic acid and tea tree oil to remove impurities, strengthen the skin barrier, and deliver a firmer-looking complexion.
Active Ingredients: Tea tree oil, salicylic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 5.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Cleansing Balm: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
Dissolves waterproof makeup
From the K-beauty queen behind Soko Glam and the 10-step Korean skincare routine, Living Cleansing Balm is by far the best Step 1 cleanser. This oil-based balm smells vaguely like dirt, but not in a bad way—more of a "let Mother Nature handle this" way.
Active Ingredients: Sea buckthorn oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, persimmon extract, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Makeup Removal: It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser Skin-Transforming Hydrating Cleansing Serum
Dissolves waterproof makeup
Good for all skin types
It Cosmetics knows how to make makeup, and it knows how to take it off. Case in point: Confidence in a Cleanser. This serum-style face wash effortlessly dissolves makeup, removes excess oil, and leaves skin feeling oh-so-soft.
Active Ingredients: Collagen, hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, ceramides | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"The It Cosmetics Confidence In A Cleanser is honestly one of the creamiest, most nourishing face washes I’ve ever had the pleasure of using." — Emily Algar, Product Tester
Best Gentle: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
Not ideal for removing makeup
Glossier's soap-free Milky Jelly Cleanser is super gentle, non-irritating (even if you get it in your eyes), and suitable for all skin types. Say hello to soft skin—thanks to allantoin, pro-vitamin B5, and comfrey root extract.
Active Ingredients: Poloxamer, allantoin, pro-vitamin B5, comfrey root extract, aquaxyl | Skin Type: All | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Natural: Pholk Beauty Daily Detox Face Cleanser
If you're partial to natural skincare products, check out this cleanser from Pholk Beauty. It's formulated with earth-sourced oils and white frankincense. This face wash claims to eliminate excess sebum, soothe inflammation, and restore a balanced complexion.
Active Ingredients: Kalahari watermelon seed oil, Somali white frankincense, coconut oil | Skin Type: Oily/combination/acne-prone | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Softening: Tatcha The Rice Wash Soft Cream Cleanser
If you haven't tried a softening cleanser yet, allow us to introduce you to The Rice Wash. Tatcha's beloved pH-balanced formula leans on Japanese algae, rice powder, and hyaluronic acid promising to moisturize for an all-around better-looking complexion.
Active Ingredients: Japanese algae, hyaluronic acid, rice powder | Skin Type: Dry/combination/mature | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: Eau Thermale Avene Tolerance Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion
Calms skin sensitivities
Recommended by Dr. Viera, this exceedingly mild cleansing gel is ideal for those with sensitive complexions, eczema-prone skin, and rosacea. Eau Thermale Avene Tolerance boasts a soap-free, oil-free, fragrance-free formula with tried-and-true glycerin and soothing thermal water to leave your face calm, clean, and comfortable.
Active Ingredients: Thermal water, glycerin | Skin Type: Sensitive/dry | Size: 6.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Redness: Drunk Elephant Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser
Not ideal for dry skin
Drunk Elephant has a large fan following for a reason. The brand's Beste No. 9 gently cleanses with glycerin and mild surfactants. The formula also claims to minimize inflammation, soothe redness, and hydrate tired skin.
Active Ingredients: Coconut-based surfactants, glycerin, cantaloupe fruit extract | Skin Type: Oily/combination/sensitive | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Editors Say
"I have oily, sensitive skin, and Drunk Elephant's cleanser is my old faithful. Whether I'm breaking out, dry, or greasy, this cleanser does the job with no irritation. I love using it with my Meejee scrubber for a deep cleanse." — Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best for Oily Skin: Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser
Helps clear breakouts
Oily skin? Reach for Matrescence Skin Rose Glow. This purifying cleanser is formulated to keep greasiness at a minimum, reduce inflammation, and clear breakouts.
Active Ingredients: Burdock root extract, green tea extract, witch hazel | Skin Type: Oily/acne-prone/sensitive/dry | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Rosen Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser
Smooths uneven texture
You'll be glad to have Rosen's Super Smoothie Cleanser in your arsenal when battling breakouts. This thick, creamy face wash claims to fight acne-causing bacteria, balances sebum, smooths uneven texture, and boosts your complexion in one step.
Active Ingredients: Strawberry powder, lemon peel | Skin Type: Acne-prone | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Combination Skin: First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser
Somewhat strong smell
When your skin can't decide what kind of mood it's in, wash it clean with First Aid Beauty's pH-balanced Pure Skin Cleanser. This face wash promises to calm irritation with allantoin and aloe and restore dry complexions with glycerin and antioxidants.
Active Ingredients: Aloe, allantoin, glycerin, antioxidants | Skin Type: Combination/sensitive/dry/oily | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Dry Skin: Epara Cleansing Lotion
Epara Cleansing Lotion is just the thing for dry, parched skin. This award-winning face wash flaunts a silky-smooth formula that works overtime to remove makeup, minimize hyperpigmentation, and deliver much-needed moisture.
Active Ingredients: Plankton extract, marula oil, moringa oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 5.28 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for All Skin Types: Marla Rene Beauty & Co. Turmeric and Honey Cleanser
Main ingredient isn't water
Good for all skin types
Formulated for all skin types, this pretty tincture from Marla Rene moisturizes, reduces excess oil, addresses unevenness, and calms. Standout ingredients include turmeric, honey, licorice root, and camu camu.
Active Ingredients: Turmeric, honey, camu camu, licorice root | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Non-Foaming: Klur Gentle Matter Daily Moisture Cleanser
Main ingredient isn't water
Good for all skin types
If you're not big on foaming face washes, go with Klur Gentle Matter. Containing a soothing blend of organic botanicals, resurfacing ingredients, and antioxidants, this daily cleanser is suitable for all skin types.
Active Ingredients: Green tea extract, aloe juice, jojoba oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Oil-Free: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash with Salicylic Acid
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash is good for more than nostalgia. This classic cleanser uses BHA standby salicylic acid, going deep into pores to gently exfoliate, keep blackheads at bay, and prevent breakouts.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin Type: Acne-prone/oily | Size: 9.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Powder: AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder
Good for all skin types
If you're open to trying a powder, your best bet is AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel. Plant-derived enzymes offer mild exfoliation, while green tea extract soothes and hydrates. All you need is a nickel-sized amount and a tiny bit of water to get a good lather.
Active Ingredients: Papaya enzymes, green tea extract | Skin Type: All | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Size: 1.8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Editors Say
"I've always had dry skin, but this cleanser was a game-changer in my routine because it eliminates pesky dry spots. It is expensive, but the bottle lasts me the whole year, plus I can put it in my carry-on bag since it is a powder cleanser." — Dwyer Frame, VP
Best Bar: Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar Soap
Can be used for face/body
Even if you don't reach for it every day, you'll always be glad to have a Dove Beauty Bar on hand. Whether used on your face or body, this ultra-moisturizing skincare bar helps soothe skin sensitivities.
Active Ingredients: Sodium lauroyl isethionate | Skin Type: Sensitive | Size: 3.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Sliding into first place, the best face wash overall is La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser. The dermatologist-approved formula is extra-gentle and super-hydrating, effortlessly dissolving sebum and makeup while reinforcing the skin barrier. Having said that, Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser is an excellent option for those on a budget.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael, MD FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology and dermatologic surgery. She is the founder of Radiant Skin Dermatology & Laser in New York.
- 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.
What to Look for in a Face Wash
Those with dry skin should opt for thicker, creamier textures—think balms and "milks". Foaming formulas are best for those with oily skin, while those in between should consider gels or lotions.
No matter what kind of skin you have, it's imperative to impart some moisture back into it during the cleansing process. Again, if your complexion is drier, oils and butter are better. Oilier? Look for lighter hydration such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
What It Doesn’t Contain
This is especially important for those with dry and/or sensitive skin. In this case, it's worth looking for "sulfate-free" and "fragrance-free" distinctions.
How often should you use face wash?
Dr. Dele-Michael says, "Wash your face two times a day with a gentle cleanser to remove skin buildup of irritants and pollutants." However, some people with extra-dry skin may choose to wash their face only once daily. Additionally, some folks double-cleanse at night, first using an oil-based formula to dissolve makeup and sunscreen, then a water-based formula to remove all remaining residues.
Do face washes expire?
Most face washes will expire roughly a year or two after opening the container, though depending on the formula and packaging, some may only last about six months. Be sure to check the expiration or period-after-opening (PAO) symbol if you're unsure whether a cleanser is still effective and safe to use. Also, keeping your skincare products in a cool, dry place will help them last as long as possible.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Theresa Holland is a commerce writer specializing in beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. She has been contributing to Byrdie since 2019, where she covers skincare, makeup, and haircare. For this roundup, she interviewed two board-certified dermatologists and researched various formulations, ingredients, and packaging types for cleansers. She considered dozens of face washes from various brands and combed through user reviews before making her final selections. As a skincare aficionado with a daily routine nearing ten steps, Theresa has tried several products on this list. She is particularly fond of La Roche-Posay, Vanicream, Tracie Martyn, Dr. Dennis Gross, CosRx, Then I Met You, Tatcha, Glossier, and It Cosmetics.
The 29 Best Face Washes & Cleansers of 2022. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-facial-cleanser
The 9 Very Best Face Washes for Every Skin Type. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-face-washes.html
10 Best Face Washes for Dry Skin. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/face-wash-for-dry-skin#A-quick-look-at-the-best-face-washes-for-dry-skin
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