We rounded up the best face wash because skin care is never one-size-fits-all. For instance, what works on “normal” skin can be harsh, drying, and irritating on the more sensitive folks. The best face wash for sensitive skin is going to be gentler, with soothing ingredients that preserve the skin’s precious balance.
While it’s tempting to reach for a heavy-duty cleanser (perhaps you live for that “tight” feeling, the telltale sensation of your skin being pulled across your cheekbones as you scrub it down) those formulas will only hurt your skin in the long run. These picks, on the other hand, are as gentle as a lamb. They range from on-the-go wipes to milky washes, from pore-clearing powders to oil-eliminating wonders. Which means there’s bound to be an option here that’s right for your skin type, ridding your moneymaker of unwanted impurities. (And once you’ve locked down the face wash that’s right for your skin care routine, why not pick out a moisturizer and some UV-blocking sunscreen too?)
How Often Should You Really Wash Your Face?
In most cases, we’d recommend washing your face twice a day: once in the morning, to remove any built up dirt and oils you might have trapped while sleeping on the pillowcase you keep forgetting to wash, and again in the evening to take away the sweat and grime from the day (along with your trusty SPF). That said, if your skin is particularly sensitive or runs extremely dry especially in the cooler months, keeping your skin hydrated is going to be key in reducing irritation and inflammation so you can get away with a light cleanse in the morning (or forgo it altogether as long as you do a thorough clean at night).
As for the best place to wipe the slate clean? You can suds up in the shower—but you make sure your hair is rinsed of any shampoo and conditioner before you do so it doesn’t run all over your face and cause an annoying breakout. The sink is a better option—but when you’re in a rush, do what you gotta do.
Ingredients to Look Out For
The whole point of washing your face is to remove unwanted oils and dirt so that you can minimize breakouts and allow the following serums and moisturizers you layer on to really penetrate the epidermis. But too much of a good thing can actually have the opposite effect. To make sure you’re cleaning and not stripping your face of necessary moisture look out for cleansers that have hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, shea butter and non comedogenic oils (rosehip, almond, jojoba are good ones to have on your radar).
The Best Face Washes, at a Glance
The Best Face Wash, Period
Philosophy’s ridiculously popular cleanser (and a 2022 GQ Grooming Award winner) remains a hallmark of eco-conscious skin care for a reason. Its secret sauce? The brand’s meadowfoam seed oil, an antioxidant-rich formula suitable for all skin types and sourced from the imprint’s extensive roster of environmentally-minded suppliers.
The Best Gentle Face Wash
You get what you pay for, the old adage goes. In this case, that means a solid cleanser that won’t strip your skin—but will remove the layers of sunscreen and serums you’re already sweating through—for less than 10 bucks. The Ordinary’s original cleanser starts off as a balm before quickly transforming into a slick oil with the heat of your palms as you work it in. It’s an extremely gentle formula that’s packed with squalane, a natural oil that locks in moisture to keep your skin smooth and soft, while lipophilic esters break down dirt and grime.
The Best Face Wash for Dry Skin
If your skin depends on every last drop of moisture to stay soft and radiant, a cleansing balm could be the key to getting a deep clean without stripping you dry. Eadem’s Dew Dream starts off as a gel-like balm packed with soothing tiger grass and skin plumping fatty acids and antioxidants that, with the heat of your hands, transitions into an oil that’s equipped to trap all the dirt you’ve somehow managed to accumulate by staying indoors. Once you’ve sufficiently slicked up, add water to emulsify the oil then rinse away.
The Best Face Wash for Fighting Oil
Every day, we get closer to that sweat-inducing summer heat meaning those with oily, acne-prone skin would be wise to lock down a cleanser that gently removed excess sebum without the harsh stripping. Caudalie’s gentle purifying gel cleanser is formulated with exfoliating salicylic acid and antioxidant-rich grape water to tackle unwanted blemishes and inject skin-plumping hydration back into the skin. Essential oils like peppermint are also in the mix, making for a great morning pick-m- up if you struggle to get going in the AM.
The Best Drugstore Face Wash
Your favorite high school cleanser is now better than ever. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, Hydroboost actively adds in hydration while making sure your skin is clean of the excess sludge that led to those greasy yearbook photos, one of the many reasons it nabbed a GQ Grooming Award last year. Cleansing capabilities aside, Neutrogena is incredibly accessible, easily picked up online or in your local drugstore—so you won’t have to panic and debate whether to pay more for overnight shipping when you suddenly run out.
The Dermatologist’s Pick
If there’s one thing your derm and the French can agree on it’s La Roche-Posay. The brand has been churning out effective, science-backed formulas since 1975, and its purifying foam cleanser is one of its biggest hits. Packed with niacinamide to smooth fine lines and even out skin tone along with moisturizing ceramides and glycerin, this oil-free face wash won’t clog your pores—but it will give you a satisfying deep clean. Even better, one bottle cost way less than a trip to your doctor’s office, so if you’re into preventative skin care and saving money, look no further.