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When it comes to washing your face, it can be tempting to reach for a regular bar of soap. After all, soap’s soap, right? Not quite.
While regular soap is fine for your body, it can be drying when used on your face. That’s because the skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive than the rest of your skin.
Cleansers designed specifically for your face can have a bunch of different benefits depending on which one you choose. But they all have one thing in common: cleaner, clearer skin.
Read on to learn about our top picks for different skin types, plus simple tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your face wash.
We picked these products based on:
- Ingredients. We looked for face washes that contain beneficial ingredients that actually live up to the hype.
- Online reviews. We scoured retail sites and looked at ratings and reviews.
- Affordability and availability. Many of the products on our list are under $10 and can easily be found at your local drugstore or online.
- $ = under $10
- $$ = $10–$20
- $$$ = over $20
This oil-free, gluten-free face wash contains aloe. While aloe is typically known as a soothing, calming ingredient, it
One drawback to this product is that it contains sodium laureth sulfate. It’s not harmful in small amounts, but it can cause irritation in some people.
With salicylic acid to alleviate inflammation and reduce bacteria, this face wash is a good choice for those dealing with acne. Charcoal powder also helps draw out impurities.
Some consumers report it has a strong scent.
This is one of the pricier options on our list, but users say a little goes a long way. Plus, it’s full of acne-fighting ingredients like geranium oil and aloe. It’s also got gotu kola extract, which can help boost collagen production and fade scars.
Cruelty-free and made with organic ingredients, this face wash is also free of phthalates, a potentially harmful ingredient that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says can cause hormone changes and decreased sperm count.
This fragrance-free Paula’s Choice face wash is made with coco glucoside, which is derived from coconut. It helps wash away dirt and oil without drying out your skin, while the aloe soothes to reduce any redness.
This face wash is made with two humectants: glycerin and provitamin B5. Humectants work by attracting water, bringing moisture back into skin. According to a 2013 study, glycerin can help treat dry skin.
The ingredients list on this face wash includes menthol, which provides a cooling effect. While some people like this sensation, those with sensitive skin may find it irritating.
This face wash includes antibacterial lauric acid, a lipid naturally found in coconut oil. It combats acne and alleviates inflammation, while cetearyl alcohol helps heals dry skin.
It also contains stearic acid, which is a surfactant. Surfactants lower the surface tension of water, allowing it to blend with and wash away dirt and oils.
Many reviewers report this product has a mild, fresh scent.
Fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and oil-free, this cleanser uses glycerin to help moisturize dry skin. It also contains sage leaf extract.
Great for all skin types, this face wash has a slightly gritty texture to remove dead skin cells. Glycerin moisturizes while peppermint oil provides a fresh but not overpowering scent.
This is a pricier product that comes in a pretty small tube, almost travel- sized. However, users say a little goes a long way.
This cleanser is made with hempseed oil and hemp stem cells to provide vitamins and antioxidants. It’s rated well by the EWG, which rates products based on the safety of their ingredients.
This face wash works double time as a cleanser for both your beard and your skin. Pineapple enzymes wash away dirt, while a blend of almond and jojoba oil tame and soften facial hair.
Lush practices ethical sourcing for their ingredients, uses recycled packaging, and doesn’t test on animals, so you can feel good about your purchase, too.
Another all-in-one product, this wash from Every Man Jack cleanses and hydrates. Subtly scented, its beneficial ingredients include aloe and glycerin.
It’s ethically made in the United States and uses mostly natural or plant-based ingredients.
There are lots of different types of cleansers designed specifically to be used on your face. Most often, you’ll find:
- Creams. Great for normal, dry, or sensitive skin, cream cleansers are thick and moisturizing.
- Gels. With a jelly-like consistency, gel cleansers are best used on normal or oily skin.
- Foams. Foam cleansers usually come in a pump bottle. They lather easily and work well on combination or oily skin.
Some brands also make scrubs, which have a gritty or beaded texture to help slough off dead skin cells. They’re not usually meant for daily use, since they can irritate skin when used too frequently.
You can also find bar soap made specifically for facial skin.
When looking for a face wash, start by thinking about your skin type. Many products will be marketed specifically toward certain types of skin.
If you’re not sure what type of skin you have, think about how your skin generally feels a couple hours after a shower.
People with oily skin will start to notice their skin looks shiny and feels oily, while those with dry skin will notice rough patches or flakiness. Combination skin falls somewhere in between, while normal skin looks neither oily nor dry.
You may also want to consider your current skin care routine and the price of the product. Lots of face washes are available for around or under $10. If you come across one that’s more than that, check the ingredients to be sure it’s worth the extra cash.
It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you, but many people find success washing their face twice a day.
If you exercise or live in a hot climate, you may need to wash your face more frequently. Sweating can irritate your skin and cause breakouts.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using lukewarm water to wash your face. It also suggests washing with your fingertips since scrubbing with a washcloth or washing vigorously can irritate skin. Pat-dry rather than rubbing.
It’s always best to do a patch test when trying a new product, just in case you have a negative reaction.
To do this, put a little bit of product on your wrist and wait 24 hours. If there’s any sign of redness, itching, or burning, don’t use the product. If your skin looks and feels normal, you should be good to go.
Using a face wash designed specifically for facial skin can yield great results, keeping your skin clean and healthy.
Look for a product made for your skin type, and watch for beneficial ingredients to help control oil or moisturize dry skin. Always do a patch test before trying any new product.