15 top-rated cleansers for every skin type
From Cerave to Glossier to Clinique
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The first step of any skincare routine is washing your face. A great cleanser should rid your skin of excess oil, dirt, and any makeup residue that your makeup remover may have missed without irritating or drying out your skin. You want your face wash to leave your skin feeling clean and ready for the next steps of your routine, like a serum, eye cream, or moisturizer.
Your pick for a cleanser will depend on your skin type (normal, oily, dry, or combination) and your concerns (think: acne or fine lines). We’ve rounded up 15 of the most popular cleansers for a fresh, clear complexion.
1. For normal or combination skin: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Odds are you’ve probably seen this cleanser from Cetaphil in a friend’s medicine cabinet or in the travel-size section at drugstores—it’s a skincare staple. You can use it regardless of your skin type or concern, as it’s gentle enough for even sensitive skin with a formula that’s hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores). The no-frills face wash claims to remove impurities, like dirt or oil, without irritating the skin.
One Amazon reviewer writes: “Cetaphil has really helped clear up my skin and keep it healthy. I have combo skin so it’s been hard to find products that don’t dry me out but don’t make me more oily. I was settling for a cleanser that dried out my skin and rehydrating it with moisturizer, but then I tried this! After I wash my face now, it doesn’t feel pulled and tight, just soft and already moderately hydrated before moisturizer.”
2. For dry skin: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
Like the Cetaphil cleanser, this wash from Cerave is simple, effective, and a pillar in the skincare world. The lotion-like cleanser washes away dirt, excess oil, and makeup residue and hydrates the skin with hyaluronic acid while strengthening the skin barrier with ceramides (lipids found in the outer layer of the skin). Anyone can reap the benefits of this non-comedogenic, fragrance-free cleanser, but people with drier skin will appreciate its creamy texture and hydrating formula.
“I have dry, extremely sensitive skin. I bought this cleanser on a whim, and it’s the best one I’ve ever used,” one Amazon reviewer raves. “Not every beauty product works for everyone. But I had to leave a positive review for this product I love so much! I look forward to washing my face now, and it’s helped me to stick to my skin care routine.”
Get the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser on Amazon for $14.64
3. For oily skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser
If your skin is oily, this cleanser from La Roche-Posay is an ideal pick because of its gel texture that turns to a foam when lathered to leave a squeaky clean, non-slick feel. It hydrates and soothes the skin with ceramides, glycerin (a moisturizing ingredient), and niacinamide (a vitamin) while removing makeup and impurities.
One Amazon reviewer swears by it: “If you have a combination of oily and sensitive skin, this is the cleanser for you! The day that I started to use this, my face began clearing up! It was as if my face was balancing itself out! It cleans your skin without stripping it dry!”
4. For a makeup remover-cleanser hybrid: Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Facial Cleanser
Most facial cleansers can remove light remnants of makeup, but this Neutrogena face wash can dissolve away even waterproof eye makeup. It promises to cleanse the skin of makeup, dirt, and oil without irritating the eye area, as it’s free of irritating soap and oils.
“I have used this since I was 14 years old and I am now 32. This is my tried-and-true makeup removing wash that is just magical,” one Amazon reviewer writes. “Never dries me out and is the only one I come back to time and time again.”
Get the Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Facial Cleanser on Amazon for $5.97
5. For softer skin: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
Reviewers rave about this Glossier cleanser because of its gel texture that’s non-irritating for all skin types. It uses an ingredient called poloxamer that’s found in contact solution to cleanse the skin without stinging the eyes while you’re removing makeup. It also contains allantoin and panthenol, both moisturizing ingredients that’ll leave the skin feeling soft.
One Glossier reviewer raves: “I haven't been without this face wash for five years. It completely changed my skin, changing it from irritated, red, blotchy, acne prone to soft and clear.”
6. For extra-sensitive skin: Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser
If you’ve had trouble finding a face wash that doesn’t irritate your skin, it’s time to try this one from Vanicream. The cleanser is designed with sensitive, acne-prone skin in mind with a non-comedogenic, oil- and soap-free formula. It’s also free of controversial ingredients, including dyes, fragrance, lanolin, parabens, and formaldehyde.
One Amazon reviewer writes: “I swear, I have the most sensitive skin on the planet. I've had combination skin my whole life, am acne-prone due to my sensitivities, and easily dry out with most cleansers or when the weather is harsh. I also have dealt with bouts of perioral dermatitis. This is the only cleanser that has worked for me to combat everything I have just mentioned.”
7. For a moisturizing makeup remover and cleanser: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
This product from Clinique acts as a two-in-one makeup remover and cleanser. If you’re not a fan of makeup wipes or micellar waters, use the Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm to remove makeup and sunscreen without stripping the skin. It starts as a balm and turns into a creamy oil as you massage it into dry skin. Once you’ve removed all of the day’s makeup, you can rinse it off and pat your skin dry without reaching for another cleanser.
“I was skeptical to use an oil-based balm to remove my makeup because I've always had oily skin,” one Sephora reviewer writes. “But this is the best for melting away mascara and other stubborn makeup, and rinses off cleanly.”
8. For a moisturizing wash: Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser
This popular Philosophy cleanser uses meadowfoam seed oil to moisturize the skin for a “non-stripped feel.” It claims to melt away makeup, dirt, and oil while also toning and balancing the skin for a “comfortable” skin finish that’s neither too oily nor dry.
One Sephora reviewer writes: “This is the best cleanser ever! You feel like your skin is super clean after washing yet it is gentle on your face. I will always buy this cleanser when I run out for sure.”
9. For acne-prone skin: Murad Acne Control Clarifying Cleanser
To keep breakouts at bay, this cleanser from Murad contains salicylic acid that exfoliates the skin and rids the pores of bacteria. Once applied to the skin, salicylic acid goes into the pores and prevents bacteria from infiltrating them and causing future blackheads and whiteheads, meaning this cleanser works even after you wash it away. It also contains antioxidants from green tea extract that soothe the skin and protect against environmental aggressors.
A Sephora reviewer rejoices: “This is the only cleanser I've ever used that actually made a difference. My nose always has a million blackheads but after just a couple weeks of use my skin is so much clearer! At the same time it isn't too harsh and isn't drying out the rest of my face.”
10. For soothing skin: First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Facial Cleanser
To keep your skin feeling moisturized and looking calm, turn to this cleanser from First Aid Beauty. Aloe, allantoin, and glycerin all help hydrate and soothe dry, red, or irritated skin. Its lightweight, creamy formula is suitable for all skin types, but reviewers with sensitive skin give it extra props.
One Sephora reviewer raves: “I bought the mini to try this out. I have dry, sensitive skin and have developed redness on my brow line and my cheeks. This cleanser is the best I have found—including expensive dermatologist prescription stuff. Love, love, love this.”
11. For exfoliating and melting away makeup: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
Similar to the Clinique cleansing balm, you can apply this one from Farmacy to dry skin to remove makeup, dirt, and excess oil. The balm contains sunflower and ginger root oils to melt makeup and moisturize the skin, turmeric and moringa extracts to remove impurities and protect the skin against pollution, and papaya enzymes to exfoliate the skin. You can either follow up with another cleanser if your skin feels slick from the oil-based balm or rinse the skin with warm water or a damp towel before drying it and applying moisturizer.
One Sephora reviewer writes: “Absolutely love this makeup remover. It completely removes everything with very little effort. Feels great and washes off well, leaving no residue. My face feels clean and not dry at all after using.”
12. For the first step in double cleansing: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
“Double cleansing,” or using an oil-based cleanser and then following up with a water-based one, has risen in popularity for how squeaky-clean it leaves the skin. This cleansing oil from DHC contains olive oil, rosemary leaf oil, and vitamin E to moisturize, protect, and soothe the skin as it rinses away makeup, sebum, and other impurities. Massage it into the skin and follow up with a water-based cleanser, like Cetaphil or any of the above that list water as the first ingredient. Or skip the second step and just rinse it away with warm water, which will leave a light oil finish that you may prefer if you have very dry skin.
One Amazon reviewer gushes: “I have searched far and wide for a cleanser that will remove all makeup (I wear a full face most days), and leave my skin feeling clean but hydrated. This is the holy grail! “
13. For banishing acne: Carbon Theory Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Break-Out Control Facial Cleansing Bar
To nix breakouts, reviewers swear by this cleansing bar from Carbon Theory. It uses charcoal to draw bacteria and excess oil out of the skin, tea tree oil to reduce inflammation, and shea butter to moisturize. The brand recommends “activating” the bar with warm water, applying the lather to a damp face, and rinsing it thoroughly after 30 seconds. You can use the cleanser daily to prevent and treat acne. Bonus: Because it comes in bar form, it has very little waste—and no empty plastic bottle to recycle.
One Ulta reviewer raves: “I've had acne for 10+ years and have tried everything. I've recently started developing cystic acne on my chin from wearing a mask and decided to try this brand. This facial bar is amazing! My acne cleared up within a few weeks and my skin tone looks more even, too.”
14. For brightening and protecting the skin: InstaNatural Vitamin C Cleanser
Vitamin C is known for its skin-brightening effects and its ability to protect the skin from environmental harm. You can slip this key ingredient into your cleansing routine with this face wash from InstaNatural. It claims to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration with vitamin C and hydrate the skin with aloe vera. One of our writers attributes her balanced, glowy complexion to this product.
An Amazon reviewer agrees: “This cleanser is gentle yet powerful! The vitamins and aloe make skin feel hydrated after washing. It deeply cleanses my pores without drying out or stripping my face of natural oils. The price point is amazing for the quality and amount of product!”
15. For round-the-clock cleansing: Clean & Clear Day and Night Face Cleanser
To “wake up” your skin in the morning, this two-pack includes the Morning Burst Facial Cleanser that contains vitamin C to brighten and protect the skin and “bursting beads” that help to remove dirt and oil from overnight. In the evening, wind down with the Night Relaxing Deep Cleaning Face Wash that removes buildup in the pores and cleanses the skin with ingredients like deep sea minerals and sea kelp extract.
One Amazon reviewer can’t get enough of this combination: “I have been using [the cleansers] twice a day, morning wash in the day, night wash at night. My skin is so much better. So soft, so bright. I hope this stuff never gets discontinued. I need it for the rest of my life.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.