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Facial Cleanser Reviews

By: Angela Stringfellow on May 01, 2018

Editor's note:
Creamy, luxurious First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser is recommended by experts and users with all skin types. For those with extra-sensitive skin, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is gentle and soothing. If you prefer a more natural approach, Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser is 98 percent natural, reducing redness and irritation while gently moisturizing.

Best Face Wash
Best Reviewed

Best face wash

Suitable for all skin types, but best for those with normal to combination skin, First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser removes all traces of even the most stubborn makeup. With a creamy texture that turns into a luscious lather, it leaves skin feeling clean and hydrated, but not oily, without an over-drying effect. Experts say it rinses clean without a hint of residue. It's gentle and non-irritating; in fact, even reviewers who have eczema- or acne-prone skin rave about this face wash.

Buy for $20.00
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Review
Best Reviewed

Best face wash for sensitive skin

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is soothing, gentle and lightly moisturizing -- the perfect face wash for truly sensitive skin. It's devoid of common irritants and contains skin-boosting ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid and ceramides. No wonder this product receives so many expert accolades and has attracted such a loyal user following, including those with severe skin conditions such as acne, allergies, rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis. However, you may need to add a step to your routine to remove stubborn makeup.

Buy for $12.59
Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser
Also Consider

Natural face cleanser

We couldn't find a true 100 percent natural face cleanser that performed as well as traditional products, but 98 percent natural Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser comes very close. It's free of potentially harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates and sodium laureth sulfate, and skincare experts at Beautypedia describe it as an outstanding option for people with normal to dry skin. Users with sensitive skin say they love this product too, although it's not meant to double as a makeup remover.

Buy for $21.99

Types of Facial Cleansers

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. Some facial cleansers are moisturizing, while others can have a drying effect -- for this reason, certain formulations are better-suited for people with a particular skin type, such as oily or dry.

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, so 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.

You don't need to pay a high price for a great cleanser

With 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, some of those drugstore brands -- with an average price of about $1 per ounce -- often perform on-par with or even better their pricier competitors.

It may 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 interest.

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.

What's more, face wash alone doesn't constitute a good skin care routine -- you may also need facial moisturizers, wrinkle cream, eye cream and body lotion, all of which we cover in separate reports. The cost of all these products can add up, so many consumers find effective drugstore brands a more practical and economical choice for their overall skincare needs.

Finding The Best Facial Cleansers
Our Sources
"Skin Care: Cleansers"
"The Best Face Wash"
"The 2017 Good Housekeeping Beauty Breakthrough Awards"

We found the best reviews of face wash at Beautypedia, where beauty experts provide thorough reviews of hundreds of facial cleansers based on an analysis of ingredients, ease of use and effectiveness, and Reviews.com, where editors evaluate dozens of facial cleansers and compare 17 brands in head-to-head testing. Good Housekeeping also reports on facial cleansers that stand out from the pack in tests conducted at the Good Housekeeping Beauty Lab. We also read reviews from several sources that rely on expert opinions from dermatologists and other skincare experts, including Health, which focuses on drugstore face washes, and Allure, Today and Byrdie, which recommend drugstore facial cleansers along with some higher-end options.

In addition, we found helpful reviews at Elle and TotalBeauty, which feature roundups based on recommendations from readers, contributors and editors. To get a feel for how well different face washes work in the real world, we also consulted thousands of reviews from consumers posting feedback to retail sites -- Ulta, Sephora and Amazon -- where users report on a facial cleanser's effectiveness, how well a product works for certain skin types, consistency and ease of use, scent and other considerations.

Recently Updated
Facial Cleansers buying guide

What every best Facial Cleansers has:

  • Gentle detergents in low quantities.
  • No irritants or drying ingredients.
  • Basic, proven ingredients.

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