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The Best Face Washes for Whatever Skin Issues You’re Dealing With

Shopping for face wash used to be so easy. You went to the drugstore, picked up a big ol' tub of Noxzema or a bright orange bar of Neutrogena, and called it a day. Now there are balms and wipes, foams and gels, micellar waters and cleansing oils. Products with exotic ingredients claiming to detox! exfoliate! purify! Even the process has gotten complicated (it’s not enough to wash my face twice a day? Now I need two cleansers?!). 

Deep breath. Finding the best face wash is easier than you think. Ultimately, all you need is a gentle cleanser that does a good job of removing the bad stuff (dirt, sweat, makeup) without stripping the good stuff (natural oils). But we know there’s a lot of noise out there. That’s why we’ve rounded up the face washes most worth trying, so you can find the one that’s best for you. 

What to Look for in a Face Wash

Though all skin types are different and have certain needs, the two most important things to look for in a face wash are mild surfactants and a low pH. Assuming you zoned out during science class like we did, let’s break these down. Surfactants are nifty little chemicals that allow oil to be whisked away by water (you’ll find them in pretty much every soap—dishwashing liquid, shampoo, laundry detergent). They’re a necessary evil. You need them to get all the grime off, but they can also work a little too well, taking the fats and oils your body naturally produces (lipids, sebum) with them, causing your skin to become tight, dry, and irritated. To keep that from happening, you want to avoid harsh surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and aim for a mix of milder ones, which will cleanse without stripping. 

Now for pH. Skin is naturally acidic, with a pH of around 5.5, and it needs to stay in that range to work properly. When it gets too acidic, it becomes fussy and oily; when it becomes too alkaline, it gets dull and flaky. Using a cleanser with a skin-like pH (less than 6) will keep you in that sweet spot—especially important if your skin is sensitive or already irritated (normal types may be fine with something a little higher). Not every brand lists its products’ pH level (though, thankfully, more and more are starting to), so if an internet deep dive doesn’t pull it up, you can test yourself with cheap pH strips. TLDR: Look for a gentle cleanser (no harsh surfactants) with a low pH.

The Best Face Washes

1

The Best Face Wash for Acne

Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment.

Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment

Unfortunately, there’s no one-fits-all face wash for acne. Many pros recommend using one with active, zit-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide; however, dry, sensitive types—or people using acne treatments—may need something more hydrating (like #3 on this list). If your skin can handle the former, give this face-wash version of Kate Somerville’s best-selling acne treatment a shot. Reviewers call it “life changing” and a “miracle worker,” and many say it’s the only cleanser that works for them. The secret is sulfur, which tends to be gentler than salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide but unclogs pores and absorbs excess oil in much the same way. Oat extract also helps minimize shine, while honey and rice bran extracts calm any leftover redness.

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2

The Best Face Wash for Oily Skin

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser.

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

The key to keeping greasy skin in check is to control the oil, not eliminate it altogether. Sebum—that oily substance created by your body—is necessary for healthy, moisturized skin, and if you take too much away, your body will overcompensate by creating even more of it. Break the cycle with this wallet-friendly foam, which penetrates pores to gently wash away dirt and excess oil without drying out your skin. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid to attract hydration, niacinamide to soothe irritation, and three essential ceramides to help reinforce your protective skin barrier.

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3

The Best Face Wash for Dry Skin

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Daily Facial Cleanser.

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Daily Facial Cleanser

Dry types may want to steer clear of foaming cleansers like the one above and opt for something that feels more like a cream or lotion (makes sense, right?). This no-nonsense face wash from old-school skincare brand Neutrogena fits the bill. Free of soaps, fragrance, and SLS, this creamy cleanser is so gentle, even the National Eczema Association approves (important given that dry skin and irritation often go hand in hand). Whether you struggle with eczema, rosacea, or just the occasional flaky patch, using this formula will leave your skin feeling soft and clean.

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4

The Best Drugstore Face Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Face Wash.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Another CeraVe cleanser, you say? Yep. There’s a reason CeraVe is constantly prescribed by derms and praised by Redditors and beauty editors alike: Its products are effective, affordable, non-irritating, and good for most skin types. Much like its cult-favorite cousin (CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion), this two-time Allure Best of Beauty award winner lives up to the brand’s reputation. The fragrance-free formula cleanses without messing with your skin barrier, packs in skin-saving ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, and rings in at just $14 for a giant bottle. Can’t ask for more than that. 

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5

The Best Face Wash for Sensitive Skin

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser with Pump Dispenser.

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

Sure, it looks like something you’d find in your great aunt’s medicine cabinet, but this dermatologist-recommended cleanser is a must for finicky skin. Rosacea, acne, dermatitis, and eczema are no match for the simple formula, which is free of irritants, soaps, oil, and sulfates. Nearly 2,000 Amazon reviewers have given it a five-star thumbs-up, with many claiming it outperforms all other products and is the only thing that’s saved their super-sensitive, breakout- and irritation-prone skin.

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6

Best Face Wash for Glowing Skin

Vitamin C Facial Cleanser.

InstaNatural Vitamin C Facial Cleanser

This Amazon top-seller is so popular (2,300 five-star reviews and counting!), the brand claims to sell one every five minutes. Vitamin C is a powerful skincare ingredient that boosts collagen, protects against free radicals, fades fine lines, and evens skin tone. You’re usually better off getting your vitamin C fix from a serum versus a cleanser, so the antioxidant has time to work its magic, but there’s no denying this face wash is something special. Whether it’s the vitamin C, the calming chamomile, or the hydrating coconut water that does it for them, fans of all different skin types rave about the cleanser’s ability to make skin brighter, softer, and more radiant. 

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7

Best Natural Facial Cleanser

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash.

Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash

Name a better smelling face wash than this vegan, cruelty-free one from Ursa Major. We’ll wait. Seriously, though, the fresh, woodsy scent is divine. But that’s not the only reason this cleanser lives up to its moniker. It uses coconut-derived surfactants to cleanse, lemon to exfoliate, and aloe to calm and hydrate, leaving skin soft and glowing. One caveat, though: While they don’t sit on your face for very long, the essential oils and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) from the lemon may be too much for really particular skin.

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8

Best Face Wash for Normal Skin

FIRST AID BEAUTY Pure Skin Face Cleanser.

First Aid Pure Skin Beauty Face Cleanser

A Sephora favorite (over 2,600 five-star reviews and 80,000 “Loves”!), this silky, creamy, pH-balanced cleanser does everything a face wash should—it removes makeup, gently cleanses, and rinses away easily. Those things alone make it an excellent pick, but it also contains soothing aloe and allantoin, plus protective antioxidants like licorice root and white tea. While some say it helps with acne and redness, others say it makes them break out, which is why we recommend it most for normal or combination skin.

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9

Best Face Wash for Double Cleansing

Then I Met You The Cleansing Duo.

Then I Met You Cleansing Duo

If you’re unfamiliar with double cleansing, it’s actually pretty simple—it just means washing your face twice, first with an oil-based cleanser, then with a water-based one. The theory is that the oil-based cleanser breaks down makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum, while the water-based one removes any remaining sweat and dirt, leaving your face super clean, but not stripped. The easiest way to try it is with this #shelfie-worthy duo. Developed by Soko Glam founder Charlotte Cho, the set features a rich cleansing balm and a soothing, hydrating gel, which work together to brighten and hydrate skin.

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10

Best K-Beauty Face Wash

Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original.

Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm

This insanely popular (like, a-tub-is-sold-every-three-seconds popular) cleansing balm doesn’t just look cute next to your sink, it’s also incredibly effective—and a pleasure to use. The silky, lightly floral-scented cleanser starts out solid, then literally melts onto your skin to lift away oil, makeup, and impurities. The original does wonders for most skin types, but the brand also makes three other variations with different benefits—Revitalizing protects, Purifying soothes, and Nourishing moisturizes. Follow it up with a water-based cleanser for the ultimate K-beauty experience.

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11

Best Face Wash for Men

Jack Black Facial Wash.

Jack Black Pure Clean Daily Facial Cleanser

Put down the bar soap and pick up this aloe-infused cleanser-slash-toner instead. Not only does it clean the skin (thanks to natural surfactants derived from oat and coconut), but it also has some toning benefits from the witch hazel, making it perfect for minimalist dudes who don’t want to deal with a bunch of different products. Rosemary keeps oil in check and fights off zit-causing bacteria, while soothing chamomile keeps the whole thing from being too harsh. Sensitive types may do better with something a little less astringent, but most say it’s gentle and refreshing. 

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12

Best Cleansing Oil

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

This chic-looking Japanese cleansing oil has racked up thousands of five-star reviews across the internet (Amazon, Ulta, Dermstore). Its main ingredient is organic olive oil, which effectively breaks down waterproof makeup, sunscreen, dirt, and oil so that they rinse off easily with water. (Since olive oil is chock-full of antioxidants, it may also help protect the skin from future damage, but TBD on how much, given that it doesn’t stay on your skin for very long.) Especially great for people who wear a lot of makeup, it’s the perfect first step in a double-cleansing routine.

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13

Best Facial Bar Soap

Dove Beauty Bar.

Dove Beauty Bar 

Typically, bar soaps have a high pH and are packed with harsh surfactants, making them less than ideal for the face. But Dove’s Beauty Bar has remained a classic for a reason—it has a pH of 7, which means the soaps it does contain likely convert back into moisturizing fatty acids. Combine that with other oily ingredients (stearic acid, lauric acid) and mild surfactants, and you have a gentle, effective lather that doesn’t leave skin feeling tight or scratchy. Though in general we recommend going with a cleanser over a bar soap, this is a solid (no pun intended), well-tested option.

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