What you really need in a cleanser – and how to find the best one for your skin type (2023)

What you really need in a cleanser – and how to find the best one for your skin type (1)

Harper's Bazaar

Cleansers are often overlooked (especially in a world full of enticing retinol serums and brightening vitamin C treatments), but they’re actually one of the most vital steps in looking after your skin. After all, every successful routine begins with a proper, thorough cleanse, leaving the skin perfectly prepped to absorb anything you apply to it afterwards.

The best cleansers and face washes on the shelves should do two things: leave your skin free from make-up, excess oil and damaging free radicals (especially in an age of skyrocketing pollution levels), and keep it calm and balanced. The latter may sound like a given, but many alcohol and active-laden cleansers will upset the skin barrier, leading to redness, irritation or clogged pores – especially if you're using them in conjunction with potent serums and creams.

Which cleanser texture is best?

Options abound when it comes to texture, and there is no one dominant winner. For sensitive or acne-prone types, a milky lotion cleanser is the least likely to irritate your compromised skin barrier. An oil or balm will make light work of melting away make-up, (including waterproof mascara) while jelly textures are an all-round crowd-pleaser.

If you can't live without a touch of lather, the good news is that not all foaming face washes are banned from your bathroom cabinet. Look for coconut-derived cleansing agents such as sodium cocoyl isethionate, instead of sodium lauryl sulphate (which should largely be avoided in skin products). As such naturally derived surfactants are closer to your skin's natural pH, they won't leave you feeling stripped and tight.

So, which one to choose? Here, the Bazaar beauty team reveal the cleansers they call on day after day, so you can set your skincare routine off on the right track...

The 15 best cleansers, and the skin types they suit

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Best cleanser for all skin types

Dr Sam's drsambunting.com

Flawless Cleanser

Dr Sam Bunting



"Dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting has created a simple, effective edit of daily skincare essentials and her cleanser is superb. Colourless and fragrance-free, the refreshing gel formula glides on, swipes impurities and rinses clear without foaming.

Truly universal, it suits all skin types – even the problem-prone. I use one pump in the morning and two at night; it gently but reliably cuts through make-up and SPF leaving my skin looking clear and feeling soft."

Bridget March, digital beauty director

Best cleanser for irritated skin

Tata Harpercultbeauty.co.uk

Softening Cleanser

Cult Beauty



The recently launched Superkind line marks a real shift in direction for Tata Harper: a brand known for its maximalist plant-based formulas. The gentle line-up is designed for anyone who wants to indulge in the brand's undoubtedly luxe formulas, yet can't tolerate essential oils or other 'active' ingredients.

This creamy, low-foaming cleanser is heaven on very sensitive skin, broken skin barriers and rosacea flares. It's crafted with a base of calming calendula and boosted with lipids that help rebuild skin the more you use it.

Best jelly cleanser

Glossier £15glossier.com

Milky Jelly Cleanser



(Video) how to choose the right cleanser for your skin

This is the product that made Glossier a name to know in the skincare world. The unique texture sits somewhere in-between a jelly and a milk, and uses the same cleansing agent as contact-lens solution, so you know it's an irritant-free option. Vegan-friendly, pH balanced and packed with calming conditioners, it's simply a great all-rounder.

Best cleanser for a damaged skin barrier

The Nue Co.cultbeauty.co.uk

Barrier Culture Cleanser

Cult Beauty

"A damaged skin barrier can spark so many skin conditions, from dehydration to psoriasis, and the industry is currently catching on to the need for barrier-building products.

I came to this clever cleanser after the switch in seasons (plus a couple of potent new products) left my skin fragile and irritated. Formulated with prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics, it repopulates the skin's microbiome, reducing redness and irritation while building up resilience.

It's completely fragrance free and lathers (thanks to a very gentle apple-derived surfactant) into a dense, milky foam. Anyone experiencing dehydrated, tight skin or heightened sensitivities should try it."

Roberta Schroeder, senior ecommerce editor

Best cleanser for acne-prone skin

La Roche-Posayboots.com

Toleriane Dermo- Cleanser Sensitive Skin




Many skincare brands would have you believe that acne-prone skin needs foams, acids and scrubs – but in fact, the opposite is true.

Countless dermatologists recommend La Roche-Posay's gentle milk cleanser, which will remove impurities without tampering with your skin's natural pH: simple, yet effective.

Best cleanser for dry and sensitive skin


Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser




Cerave has fast become a go-to for functional, no-frills cleansers that stand up to scrutiny. The latest addition to the line is an unusual foaming oil formula, designed with universal intentions: it's suitable for face and body, and even for babies. The ceramide-rich oil won't upset an impaired moisture barrier, while the light foaming action ensures a thorough cleanse.

(Video) How to find the best cleanser and how to cleanse your skin | Beginners guide - SKINCARE 101

For something a little lighter, the brand's original Hydrating Cleanser is still a stellar choice, too.

Best cleanser for oily and congested skin


Deep Cleanse

Cult Beauty



Designed to be used in the evening (there's the lighter, creamy Light Cleanse for the morning), Decree's Deep Cleanse has an unusual milky-clay texture that works astonishingly well at decongesting overloaded skin.

Bentonite works in tandem with salicylic and lactic acids to remove every impurity, while non-comedogenic hydrators leave skin feeling supple.

Best foaming cleanser

christian diorboots.com

La Mousse OFF/ON Foaming Cleanser



£32.40 (10% off)


Dior's brand-new La Mousse cleanser delivers an ultra-luxurious foam that feels incredibly refreshing at the end of a lengthy day. It contains a gentle coconut surfactant and is fragranced, but doesn't irritate sensitive types. The bubbly texture means it's not ideal for around the eyes – but for a spa-style cleanse, it's perfect.

Best cleanser for sensitive skin


Middlemist Seven Camellia and Rose Gentle Cream Cleanser

Cult Beauty



A gentle blend of non-fragranced oils makes Pai's creamy cleanser a treat for dry, tight and misbehaving skin. It'll gently remove impurities without raising redness, and leaves skin feeling refreshed without a hint of tightness. There's a good reason sensitive souls love it.

Best cleanser for dry skin

Shani Dardencultbeauty.co.uk

Cleansing Serum

Cult Beauty

(Video) How To Find Your Skin Type | Skin Care 101



Despite the name, this one feels more like a silky gel, and builds into a rich, buttery foam once massaged into skin. It's ideal for all skin types, melting away every trace of make-up while hydrating and softening.

Best cleanser for melting make-up

Beauty Piebeautypie.com

Plantastic™ Apricot Butter Cleansing Balm

Beauty Pie


£16.26 (67% off)


If you’re wearing a full face of make-up (or indeed, SPF) you likely need to melt it away before really treating and cleansing the skin itself – and this is where double cleansing comes in.

A balm is the ideal texture for your first cleanse, as the fatty-acid rich oils will melt down product residue, which can then be swept away with a warm, damp flannel. (They also provide the perfect 'slip' for a soothing face massage.)

There's little point spending a hefty sum on your first cleanser, as its primary purpose is to break down your make-up. Beauty Pie's rosehip-based balm is the perfect compromise: it's well formulated (using non-comedogenic oils as the base) and free from potential irritants, yet comes in cheaper than most.

Best cleanser for mature skin

Augustinus Badernet-a-porter.com.uk

The Cream Cleansing Gel




A cornerstone of Augustinus Bader's growing collection is this creamy cleansing gel – a gentle yet effective formula that suits all skin types.

Working harder than most in the skin-improvement stakes, it contains the same Trigger Factor Complex® as the brand's groundbreaking creams, aiming to elevate the skin's ability to repair and regenerate itself.

Best cleansing oil


Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil





An oil cleanser ranks high in the soul-soothing stakes – especially one with a soporific scent. Kiehl's gentle blend contains lavender essential oil to calm a racing mind, and skin-compatible squalane to soften dry patches.

Best cleanser for oily skin


Gentle Cleanse™




Medik8 can always be trusted to create fuss-free skincare that works. This cleanser uses gentle coconut extracts alongside a pump dispenser to create a cloudy lather that won't strip the skin. It's formulated with humectant glycerin alongside antioxidant rosemary to cleanse while maintaining that crucial moisture balance.

Best exfoliating cleanser

Dr Barbara Sturmspacenk.com.uk

Enzyme Cleanser

Space NK



Exfoliating can be a real balancing act: dive in too deeply, and you'll end up with a sensitised complexion. Anyone that doesn't get on with exfoliating acids should try Dr. Sturm's excellent cleanser: it's formulated with gentle enzymes that decongest and renew without challenging a delicate complexion.

This one comes in powder format: simply mix it with a little water to activate the frothy texture, and massage it in for two minutes to get the best results.

Best micellar water


Sensibio Cleansing Micellar Water Sensitive Skin




A micellar water shouldn't strictly be considered a cleanser: the clean they deliver isn't deep enough to replace your regular face wash. However a micellar is brilliant for quick skin refreshing – think flights, long journeys, and slipping from the office on to dinner. This one is as light and gentle as possible, yet makes light work of removing old lipstick and mascara.

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(Video) How to choose the best cleanser for your skin type| Dermatologist Tips


How do I know which cleanser is right for me? ›

Look for a cleanser that is hypoallergenic, free of fragrance, chemicals, or alcohol and has a non-foaming formula. It's also important to avoid antibacterial soaps and cleansers with exfoliators such as salicylic or glycolic acid, which can all dry out your skin.

How do you know if a cleanser is good for your skin? ›

If a cleanser leaves your skin feeling tight, itchy, sensitive, or oily after use, then it is likely that you cleanser is not working for you. Tight, itchy, or sensitive skin indicates a cleanser that is too strong. Oily or dirty skin might indicate a cleanser that is too gentle.

How do I find out my skin type? ›

After 25-30 minutes, observe your skin—both how it looks and how it feels. If it feels tight, dry, and uncomfortable, you probably have dry skin, while those with excessive shine typically fall into the oily skin category. If your skin exhibits both oily and dry areas, you likely have combination skin.

Which cleanser is suitable for all skin types? ›

Oil-Based Cleanser

Suitable for: all skin types. An oil-based cleanser is ideal if you need to remove heavier makeup or if you double cleanse every evening. Use your oil-based cleanser first, then follow up with a gel, cream or lotion. This type of cleanser will also leave your skin feeling soft and smooth.

What is the #1 facial cleanser? ›

Best Overall: Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

It's gentle enough to use in a.m. and p.m. routines and has long championed now buzzy ingredients in its formulation, from glycerin (a popular humectant) to niacinamide (which can help regulate acne and minimize hyperpigmentation).

What are the 5 types of cleansers? ›

skin care concerns 5 Types of Facial Cleansers and How to Use Them
  • Facial Cleanser #1: Clay Cleanser. ...
  • Facial Cleanser #2: Micellar Water. ...
  • Facial Cleanser #3: Cream Cleanser. ...
  • Facial Cleanser #4: Gel Cleanser. ...
  • Facial Cleanser #5: Cleansing Towelettes.
29 Aug 2017

Do cleansers damage your skin? ›

Cleanser technology has come a long way from merely cleansing to providing mildness and moisturizing benefits as well. It is known that harsh surfactants in cleansers can cause damage to skin proteins and lipids, leading to after-wash tightness, dryness, barrier damage, irritation, and even itch.

What should a skin routine consist of? ›

Think of your skin-care routine as consisting of three main steps: Cleansing — Washing your face. Toning — Balancing the skin. Moisturizing — Hydrating and softening the skin.

What are the 7 types of skin? ›

Learn about the different types of skin
  • Normal Skin. This skin is neither too dry nor too oily. ...
  • Sensitive Skin. Sensitive skin is more prone to react to stimuli to which normal skin has no reaction. ...
  • Dry Skin. ...
  • Oily Skin. ...
  • Combination Skin. ...
  • Scaly Skin. ...
  • Red Spots. ...
  • Skin Moles.

What are the 4 main skin types? ›

There are four basic types of healthy skin: normal, dry, oily and combination skin. Your skin types depend on how much water is in your skin (as this affects elasticity and comfort), how oily it is and how sensitive it is. Each skin type has its own characteristics and required treatments.

What are the 6 types of skin? ›

Here is a chart I've created representing the 6 basic skin types; pale, fair, medium, olive, naturally brown, and very dark brown/black.

What is the best cleanser according to dermatologist? ›

10 Best Medicated Face Wash Recommended By Dermatologists
  • Cipla Saslic Foaming Face Wash.
  • AHA Glow Face Wash.
  • CeraVe Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser.
  • La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser. ...
  • Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.
  • Bioderma Sensibio Gel Moussant.
  • Cleanse Me Cleanser.
  • Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser.
23 Aug 2022

What is the healthiest skin cleanser? ›

  1. Superbloom Spotless Cleansing Gel - For Oily & Combination Skin. ...
  2. Tree To Tub Balancing Face Wash for Oily, Acne Prone Skin. ...
  3. Alaffia Everyday Coconut Face Cleanser - Purely Coconut. ...
  4. OSEA Ocean Cleansing Milk. ...
  5. Indie Lee Purifying Face Wash. ...
  6. Beauty by Earth Superfruits & Chlorophyll Facial Scrub. ...
  7. OSEA Ocean Cleanser.
6 days ago

What are 3 types of face wash? ›

TYPES OF FACE WASH Face washes essentially fall into three main categories: gel-, foam- and cream-based. Gel-based face washes Gel formulas usually work well for skin types that are combination or oily as they help clear excess sebum off the skin and leave it refreshed.

What are the four basic daily facial care? ›

  • Step 1: Cleanser. A low pH cleanser is a great first step in forming your skincare routine. ...
  • Step 2: Moisturizer. A lightweight moisturizer is your best friend for climates like ours. ...
  • Step 3: Sunscreen. Sunscreen is the ultimate anti-aging product. ...
  • Step 4: Exfoliant.
8 Aug 2017

What is the difference between a cleanser and a face wash? ›

A cleanser dissolves away excess oil, makeup and grime from your face. These are oil-soluble impurities. They can be removed by a face wash too, but that might be not be 100% effective. A face wash's job is to remove deeper seated debris and also cleanse pores, thanks to its foaming action.

Which is best cleanser or face wash? ›

Face Wash Vs Cleanser: Basic Function
Face washCleanser
Suited forOily and combination skin typesDry and sensitive skin types
FoamingUsually well foamingNon-foaming
GentlenessGentler than a soap barGentler than a face wash
MoisturizationLess hydrating and moisturizingMore hydrating and moisturizing
4 more rows
17 Nov 2021

What is a natural skin cleanser? ›

Try: From the YouBeauty blog: Mix one egg yolk, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice. Apply to your clean face for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse off. Find out more about the benefits of olive oil for health and beauty.

What should you avoid in a cleanser? ›

Four Ingredients You Need to Avoid In Your Cleanser
  • Sulfates. Sulfates are what make your cleanser foam and provide that “squeaky clean” feeling. ...
  • Fragrances. ...
  • Parabens. ...
  • Alcohol.
20 Nov 2016

Why does my skin look better when I don't wash it? ›

You may be using unnecessary products. "Some people may just not be genetically predisposed to breakouts or may produce less [oil],” says Batra. If that sounds like you, you may actually find your skin looks better when you ditch your cleanser.

What are the 7 steps of skincare? ›

Your Daytime Skin Care Routine: A Step-by-Step Guide
  1. STEP 1: CLEANSER. ...
  2. STEP 2: TONER. ...
  4. STEP 4: EYE CREAM. ...
  7. Step 7: SUNSCREEN.
28 Sept 2022

What are the 5 basic of skin care? ›

The Basic Skincare Rules Everyone Should Know
  • Cleanse Once and Then Cleanse Again. Double cleansing requires washing your face not once but twice. ...
  • Always Layer Products in the Right Order. ...
  • Know Your Skin Type. ...
  • Take the Time to Exfoliate. ...
  • Always Wear Sunscreen.
15 Jan 2020

What are 5 common skin problems? ›

The 10 Most Common Skin Conditions
  • Acne (Acne vulgaris) Acne, the most common skin disorder in the U.S., can be a source of anxiety for every teen. ...
  • Atopic dermatitis (Eczema) ...
  • Shingles (Herpes Zoster) ...
  • Hives (Urticaria) ...
  • Sunburn. ...
  • Contact Dermatitis. ...
  • Diaper Rash. ...
  • Rosacea.
20 Sept 2021

How do I choose a face product? ›

5 Tips for Choosing Skin Care Products
  1. Know Your Skin Type. Before you put anything on your skin, know and understand your skin type. ...
  2. Carefully Select Ingredients. Once you know your skin type, select skin care ingredients that won't worsen existing conditions. ...
  3. Look for Fewer Ingredients. ...
  4. Do a Patch Test. ...
  5. Ask an Expert.
2 Mar 2017

What causes dry skin? ›

Dry skin, also known as xerosis or xeroderma, has many causes, including cold or dry weather, sun damage, harsh soaps, and overbathing.

How can I check my skin type at home? ›

Dry Skin: If your skin feels parched or tight when you smile, it's most likely that you have dry skin. Normal Skin: If you notice a slight shine on your nose and forehead then you have normal skin. Oily Skin: And if there is a lot of shine on your nose, forehead and cheeks, then you might have oily skin.

What is Type 5 skin type? ›

People with skin type V have an olive or dark skin tone and include light-skinned African-Americans, Indians, and those of Middle Eastern descent. They tan easily and very rarely burn.

How can you tell if your skin is dehydrated? ›

If your skin is dehydrated, you may notice itchiness, dullness, under-eye circles, sunken eyes, and/or more noticeable fine lines. Severely dehydrated skin symptoms may include dizziness, dry mouth, lightheadedness and/or weakness.

What is Type 2 skin? ›

Skin Type 2

If you have Type 2 skin, you probably have blue, gray or green eyes and naturally blonde hair or brown hair. Your skin is fairly light but may build a tan with repeated exposure to the sun. It's more likely to burn and then peel away, and you may notice freckles if you spend too much time outdoors.

What is a skin type 3? ›

Type 3 – Slightly darker, golden skin tone. May have darker hair or eye color. Skin might burn, freckle, or tan, depending on the extent of sun exposure. Type 4 – Light brown or olive skin, darker hair and eye color. Skin may burn, doesn't typically freckle, and tans readily.

How do you know if your skin is healthy? ›

8 Signs of a Healthy Skin
  1. You feel normal. ...
  2. You don't Have a Dry Skin. ...
  3. Your Face is not Red. ...
  4. You have an Elastic Skin. ...
  5. Your Skin Doesn't have Dark Skin Patches. ...
  6. You Don't have Wrinkles. ...
  7. You're Free from Acne. ...
  8. You Have a Smooth Skin Texture.

What are the 3 most important skin care products? ›

Three Essential Elements in a Basic Skincare Routine
  1. Step 1: Cleanser. Choosing a cleanser that's specifically formulated for the face (rather than the body) is the first essential step in a basic skincare routine. ...
  2. Step 2: Moisturizer. ...
  3. Step 3: Sunscreen. ...
  4. 3 (or 5) simple steps to beautiful skin.

What is the number 1 dermatologist recommended brand? ›

Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe is the #1 dermatologist recommended skincare brand1.

What is the best facial cleanser for aging skin? ›

Keep reading below to find the list of the 26 best anti-aging face washes and cleansers that we know will keep your skin healthy and youthful.
  1. Blu Atlas Volcanic Ash Face Cleanser. ...
  2. Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser. ...
  3. Charlotte Tilbury Multi-Miracle Glow Cleansing Balm. ...
  4. ItCosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser Gentle Face Wash.
26 May 2022

Which is better CeraVe or Cetaphil? ›

If you have normal to oily skin and prefer a gel-based foaming cleanser, CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser will be the best choice. If you have dry acne-prone skin or sensitive acne-prone skin, Cetaphil Gentle Clear Clarifying Acne Cream Cleanser will most likely be the better choice.

What is trending in skincare 2022? ›

Moving away from harsh scented products, the top skincare trends of this year include SPF, glass skin and ceramides. Popular makeup trends like glitter lips and faux freckles are also popular this year, ranking among the top 20 hottest trends.

How do you test your face for cleansers? ›

How to test skin care products at home
  1. Apply the product to a test spot twice daily for seven to 10 days. ...
  2. Leave the product on your skin for as long as you would normally. ...
  3. If after seven to 10 days you don't have a skin reaction, such as red, itchy, or swollen skin, go ahead and use the product.
10 Aug 2021

Does it matter which cleanser you use? ›

The right cleanser for you might be different from what your best friend is using, says Zeichner. “If you have dry or sensitive skin, stick to hydrating, nonfoaming cleansers, because the lathering agents used in foaming cleansers tend to be more drying on the skin,” he explains.

What are the 3 steps to clean your face? ›

Cleansing should always be a part of your morning and evening routine, no matter your skin type or lifestyle.
  1. Step 1: Remove your make-up. Thoroughly wash your hands and ensure they're clean before touching your face. ...
  2. Step 2: Cleanse your face. ...
  3. Step 3: Exfoliate your skin.

How should I plan my skin care routine? ›

Here are the steps for a good skincare regimen:
  1. Wash your face. Morning and night, rinse your face water and rub a small amount of gentle cleanser between clean palms. ...
  2. Apply toner. ...
  3. Apply serum. ...
  4. Apply eye cream. ...
  5. Use spot treatment. ...
  6. Moisturize. ...
  7. Apply retinoid. ...
  8. Apply face oil.
7 Jun 2021

What should be applied on face before sleeping? ›

  • Milk. Milk is a great ingredient for your skin. ...
  • Coconut oil. Most people use coconut oil for hair but you can also apply coconut oil on your face to get glowing skin! ...
  • Almond oil. Almond oil is great for your skin. ...
  • Rose Water. Rosewater is undoubtedly a magic potion for beauty. ...
  • Honey. ...
  • Aloe vera gel. ...
  • Scrub.
10 Oct 2020


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