Cleansing should be the first step in everyone’s morning and evening skincare routines. That means skin cleansers play a vitally important role in keeping skin looking and feeling great, so it’s important to find the right skin cleanser. This can be easier said than done. There are so many different skin cleansers available from foams to cleansing bars to gels to all-in-one face, body, and hair products. Where do you even begin looking for the best skin cleanser? We began by talking to our trusted team of dermatologists at U.S. Dermatology Partners. They provided us with more information about what to look for in skin cleansers as well as their list of top skin cleansers for every skin type.

Skin Cleanser 101 – Everything You Need to Know

When establishing your morning and evening skincare regimen, finding the right cleanser will dramatically impact how effective the rest of your routine is, so it’s important to find the right products. In the morning, washing the face removes toxins and oils excreted by the skin during sleep. At night, your cleanser washes away pollutants and other environmental particles the skin was exposed to during the day. While cleansing is important, over-cleansing can strip the skin of necessary moisture and damage the skin’s protective barrier, exposing the skin to more damage. Sometimes called the microbiome, the skin’s barrier is composed of sebum (naturally produced oils), bacteria, and moisture working with skin cells to create a protective barrier. When any of these variables gets to be too much or too little, the skin can get out of balance. In most cases, these changes in the skin’s natural defenses are caused by washing too much, not enough, or using the wrong cleansers.

In addition to finding the right cleanser, facial cleansing also needs to be incorporated into your skincare routine correctly. In most cases, that means facial cleansing as the first step in the morning and evening skincare regimen. You should always wash your skin gently. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the skin. Instead, gently massage the cleanser over the skin. Then, rinse away with cool to lukewarm water. For the most part, you can use the same cleanser for your morning and evening skincare routine. However, if you use cosmetic products, it’s better to use a makeup remover first to remove the cosmetics without needing to scrub the skin. Then, apply a cleanser after the makeup has been washed away. If you have very sensitive skin, it may be beneficial to use a very gentle cleanser in the evening to avoid adding any unnecessary irritation to the skin as you try to soothe and heal from the day’s stress and damage. For those who have very oily or acne-prone skin, it may be necessary to wash more frequently, especially after exercising or sweating, to avoid the buildup of oils on the skin and clogged pores.

Which Skin Cleanser Is Best for You?

Below, we’ll walk through some of the specific cleansers that strike a balance between washing away impurities and excess oils while not stripping the skin of necessary oil, moisture, and other elements that naturally keep skin balanced. However, if you’re not sure what your skincare needs are or which cleanser will work for you, it’s always best, to begin with a gentle facial cleanser with fewer ingredients. The first step to choosing the right cleanser for your skincare routine is knowing your skin type. If you don’t have any areas of skin that are very dry, tight, or flaky, any places that seem very oily, or any adverse reactions to skincare products, you likely have balanced skin. This is the easiest skin type to care for, but it still requires adequate care to maintain its balance. Oily skin, as the name implies, is predominantly oily. You may notice your skin looks shiny or feels greasy. Dry skin is mostly dry. Your skin may feel tight. You may have patches of dry skin that look and feel different from other areas of skin, and you may even notice flakiness or scaling (areas where dry skin thickens). Combination skin has both dry and oily skin in different areas or at different times. In addition to these four main skin types, there are also special skin types like acne-prone, sensitive, and aging skin that also play a factor in which cleanser is right for you. Working with a dermatologist is the best way to fully understand your skin type and how choosing the right cleanser can impact the health of your skin, but some basics to keep in mind when choosing a facial cleanser for each of the main skin types include:

  • • Balanced skin – Find gentle products with minimal ingredients to keep skin clean without upsetting the natural balance.
  • • Dry skin – Look for creamy, oil-based, moisturizing facial cleansers. This will help avoid stripping necessary oils from the skin. Look for products with moisturizing ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acids.
  • • Oily skin – Consider using a foam or gel cleanser, which can help to strip away excess oils. You may also want to consider using an exfoliating cleanser to remove dead skin cells and avoid clogging pores. While most people only need to use an exfoliator a few times a week, those with oily skin may need to exfoliate more frequently. Look for gentle exfoliating cleansers with ingredients like salicylic, glycolic, or alpha hydroxy acids.
  • • Combination skin – This can be challenging to treat. It may make the most sense to use a gentle cleanser with minimal ingredients and use additional spot treatments or serums to address areas of dryness or oiliness.

ALASTIN Skincare Gentle Cleanser

Originally developed to care for skin after dermatologic procedures and enhance the results of these treatments ALASTIN Skincare is a go-to brand for anyone’s daily skincare routine. The ALASTIN Skincare Gentle Cleanser is a self-foaming facial cleansing product composed of a specialized blend of vitamins and moisturizing ingredients to soothe, hydrate, and balance skin. ALASTIN Skincare Gentle Cleanser is safe and effective for all skin types.

EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser

If you’re looking for an oil-free, pH-balanced facial cleanser that’s safe and effective for all skin types, EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser may be the ideal addition to your morning and evening skincare routine. The formula is safe and gentle for all skin types and can be used twice a day. The enzymes in the formula offer anti-inflammatory properties that calm and soothe skin.

Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser

If you use cosmetics regularly, and have oily, acne-prone, or rosacea-prone skin, it’s time to add Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser to your daily skincare routine. The unique lytic gel formula is ideal for gently removing cosmetics, dirt, oil, and grime from the skin without stripping necessary moisture or leaving skin irritated. It refreshes and calms the skin, and even those with very sensitive skin can safely use this gentle facial cleanser.

Revision Skincare Papaya Enzyme Cleanser

If you’re looking for a great exfoliant for regular use that is safe and gentle enough even for sensitive skin, the Revision Skincare Papaya Enzyme Cleanser offers an elegant skincare solution. The papaya extract contains papain, an enzyme that naturally exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells and other impurities, and softening and improving the appearance of the skin.

SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

If you have oily or acne-prone skin that requires more frequent exfoliation or you need an exfoliating wash to incorporate into your routine, we recommend SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser. Formulated with an effective combination of alpha and beta-hydroxy acids, this gentle facial exfoliator cleanses away dirt and oil, removes dead skin cells, and improves the appearance and texture of the skin.

Interested in Receiving a Personalized Skin Cleanser Recommendation?

Dermatologists, and physicians who are experts in skin health, should always be your first resource as you make changes to your skincare routine. If you have sensitive or aging skin, it can be especially important to work with a dermatologist to create an effective skincare routine that won’t cause unnecessary damage. If you want to work with a dermatologist to create a skincare routine that works for your unique needs, we hope you’ll reach out to the trusted dermatologists at U.S. Dermatology Partners. Not only did these skilled professionals curate the list of products in this blog, but they recommended every product available for sale on the DermSkincare site. When you want expert feedback on making the most of your daily skincare routine, it’s time to fill out the online scheduling request form to get started working with a trusted, local U.S. Dermatology Partners practice.