Types of Facial Cleansers
The best facial cleansers are strong enough to remove dirt, oil and makeup without scrubbing, but gentle enough not to strip away your skin's natural moisture. For most skin types, the best face wash is water-soluble, so it rinses off easily and won't clog your pores. While men and women can both use any type of face wash, some may have feminine scents that men prefer to avoid. We recommend a couple of options specifically for men as well.
Facial Cleansers for Sensitive Skin
For those with very sensitive skin, specially formulated face washes help avoid the redness, irritation and breakouts that can result from contact with irritants like artificial fragrances, dyes and harsh detergents. Look for gentle, soothing ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid. Natural face cleansers will be even more gentle on sensitive skin. One caveat: because many cleansers for sensitive skin are very light, they may not clean away makeup very well, you may need to add a makeup remover to your routine.
Face Wash for Acne
Teenagers are especially prone to acne breakouts, thanks to their rapidly changing hormones, but this condition affects adults too. The best face washes for treating acne balance the drying ingredients that eliminate blemishes, like salicylic acid, with soothing, non-comedogenic ingredients that won't cause your skin to break out again.
Facial Cleansing Brushes
If you're ready to boost your skincare to the next level, consider splurging on a facial cleansing brush. These beauty tools use vibrating or rotating bristled heads to deep-clean and stimulate your pores. They're not for people with severe skin conditions like eczema or rosacea, and for most people they require a bit of a "break-in" period, during which your skin might actually break out more instead of less. But most people who stick with facial cleansing brushes long enough to get through that period say the results are amazing, with softer, cleaner and younger-looking skin.
don't need to pay a high price for a great cleanser
many of the product lines we evaluate, it's true that you get what you pay for.
But in the case of high-end department store cleansers and doctor-endorsed face
washes, you're paying for fancy labeling and big names on what usually turn out
to be the same ingredients you'll find in drugstore brands. And believe it or
not, those drugstore brands -- with an average price of about $1 per ounce --
beat out their pricier competitors in just about every category of this report.
still be tempting to pay extra for a cleanser line that's created (or endorsed
for profit) by a doctor or dermatologist. But the American Medical Association
has issued guidelines advising physicians not to sell health-related products for profit because it creates a conflict of
in her highly acclaimed book, "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without
Me," skincare expert Paula Begoun points out that the phrases
"dermatologist-tested" and "dermatologist-approved" are
meaningless because there's no standard for what they mean. Often, they only
indicate that one or two dermatologists tried a skincare product at the
manufacturer's request and liked how it felt. How well a face wash actually
cleans, how it feels on your face, and how it leaves your skin feeling
afterward remain the ultimate arbiters of which product really is best.
Finding The Best Facial Cleansers
"Best Beauty Buys: Skin"
"17 Best Face Cleansers"
During our search for the
best face wash for all skin types and the best face wash for men, we evaluated
dozens of expert reviews, tests and roundups from sources like Paula's Choice
and BeautyPedia.com (both run by Begoun), GoodGuide.com, Good Housekeeping,
Vogue, Health.com, Allure and TotalBeauty.com. In addition, we consulted
thousands of passionate user reviews from sites like Ulta.com, Sephora.com and
of course Amazon.com. We also identify the best cleansing oil and moisturizing
cleanser, the best natural face cleanser, the best face wash for those with
acne, and the best facial cleansing brush if you want to add another boost to
your skincare routine.
Ready for more skincare
products to complement your new face wash? Click through to read our full
reports on the best facial moisturizers, wrinkle cream, eye cream and body lotion.
Believe it or
not, simple -- and inexpensive -- sometimes really is the best. That's the case
for our best-reviewed cleanser, (Est. $28 for 16 oz.), which
draws lots of user praise for being gentle and effective for all skin types,
removing even the most stubborn eye makeup. This cleanser has a near cult-like
following, and for good reason: user reviews say it leaves your skin feeling
soft and completely clean.
Once consumers discover
this cleanser, they tend to stick with it faithfully for a decade or more, and
some even say it's helped with their acne breakouts. At about $2 per ounce, a
bottle of Philosophy Purity Made Simple costs a little more than your typical
drug store cleanser; but users say a little bit goes a long way. If you use it
twice daily, the cost works out to about $5 per month.
Most characterize the
Philosophy Purity Made Simple face wash as milky or creamy like a nice, rich
lotion, and say it has a "woodsy" or "plant-like" smell
that is either pleasant or at least inoffensive, depending on your personal taste.
That scent comes from natural fragrance oils, which may explain the one caveat
that comes with this cleanser: While it's generally great for oily, normal or
combination skin, if your skin is already prone to severe dryness or
sensitivity, it may leave you feeling drier or cause irritation. You can either
add a moisturizer or use a more moisturizing, fragrance-free cleanser; we cover facial cleansers for sensitive skin elsewhere in this report.
Philosophy Purity Made
Simple's makeup-removing acumen doesn't have to rule it out for men; we see
comments from a few male users who say it leaves their face feeling fresh and
clean, too. But if you prefer something that's designed specifically for the
male complexion and skin tone, our best-reviewed pick is the (Est. $19 for 6 oz.) daily facial cleanser,
which is free of parabens, sulfates and phthalates, and even has a few organic
Reviewers at AskMen.com
say ingredients like witch hazel, chamomile and aloe help the Jack Black
cleanser double as a pre- or post-shave toner, readying your skin for shaving
and soothing irritation afterward. Editors at GQ choose this as the best face
cleanser for men with dry or flaky skin; they say it cleanses effectively and
moisturizes without stripping the natural oils out of your skin.
Again, whichever gender a
product is labeled for doesn't have to limit its use: Some of the user reviews
for this product are from women who say they've snagged some of this from the
man in their life and liked it so much that they started using it themselves.
Others say they've noticed that their guy's skin seems more smooth and youthful
looking. Both genders report that Jack Black Pure Clean is useful for all skin
types, and few even say it helps control acne breakouts.
The Jack Black Pure Clean
face wash foams nicely and has a mild and pleasant herbal scent. The biggest
user criticism we found was that the texture is a little thin, so purchasing
the largest size, which comes in a pump bottle, makes it easier to control the
amount you dispense. Also, some customers say that if your skin is prone to
severe dryness, you might need a more moisturizing face wash -- interesting, in
light of its pick as the best cleanser for dry skin at GQ. Jack Black Pure
Clean averages a little more than $3 per ounce.
If you'd like an
alternative to these two tried-and-true facial cleansers, cleansing oils have
become a trendy staple for all-around skin cleansers. (Est. $28 for 6.7 oz.), a strong runner-up in this category, is a stellar example that
costs a little more than $4 per ounce. Allure.com chose this product as one of
their best face washes for dry winter skin; their consulting dermatologist,
Jeanette Graf, says its olive oil base is appropriate for all skin types.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
also receives a "best of" award and is ranked as the number 10 best
facial cleanser in all categories at TotalBeauty.com, where user reviewers rave
about its ability to clean pores and remove even the most stubborn eye makeup.
Users love the way it both cleanses and removes makeup in a single step,
leaving your skin feeling hydrated and radiant after a quick water rinse.
If you're new to using
oil-based cleansers, it may take a little while to get used to the habit of
applying the oil cleanser to your dry skin and massaging it for a few seconds
before rinsing. However, users say it's more than worth that minimal effort;
the oil is thin enough to glide on easily and rinse cleanly away and, unless
your skin is extraordinarily dry, oily or sensitive, you probably won't need
any extra toner or moisturizer afterward.