6 Types of Facial Cleansers and How to Choose the Right One for You

6 Types of Facial Cleansers and How to Choose the Right One for You

Cleaning your face after a long, hectic day can be an incredibly refreshing and relaxing experience. Not only does it help remove dirt, sweat, and makeup, but it also prepares your skin for your nighttime routine. While cleansing may seem like a small part of your skin care routine, it's actually an important step in removing pollutants and dirt that your skin has come into contact with throughout the day. This helps create a clean base for your other skin care products to work more effectively. However, with so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right facial cleanser. We’re here to help you understand the different types of facial cleansers so you can choose the right product for your skin. 

Gel cleansers

Gel cleansers, as the name suggests, have a thicker, clear consistency. They are excellent for providing a deep cleanse, unclogging pores, removing oil, and gently exfoliating the skin to achieve a clearer complexion. If you have oily skin or are battling acne, gel cleansers may be the perfect choice for you, as many of them contain ingredients like salicylic acid for exfoliating purposes. However, those with very sensitive skin may find these cleansers to be overly drying, so it's recommended to use them 1-2 times a week if you want to benefit from the deep cleanse but avoid dryness from daily use.

Foam cleansers 

Foam cleansers begin as a cream or clear formula, but when mixed with water and applied to the skin, they create a rich lather that effectively removes oil and dirt without causing excessive dryness. These cleansers are suitable for most skin types, although some may be sensitive to the sulfates commonly used to create the foaming effect. If you're looking for a gentle, effective way to remove excess oil and dirt, foam cleansers may be a good option to consider.

Cream cleansers

Cream cleansers are thicker and creamier than other types of cleansers, making them a great option for those with dry or sensitive skin. They are formulated to be gentler on the skin, and many of them contain hyaluronic acid to provide extra moisture while effectively removing dirt and makeup. If you're looking for a hydrating and gentle way to cleanse your skin, cream cleansers may be the perfect choice for you

Oil cleansers

While oil is often thought of as something to be removed, oil-based cleansers actually use oil to gently bind to and remove excess oil and makeup on the face without disrupting the skin barrier. They are especially effective at dissolving and removing waterproof makeup, such as mascara. However, it's important to note that oil-based cleansers may occasionally cause mild pore clogging, so if you have acne-prone skin and notice this happening, you may want to consider a different formulation.

Balm Cleansers

Cleansing balms are a combination of cleansing and moisturizing products that gently remove oil, dirt, and makeup while also adding a layer of hydration to the skin. They may be especially beneficial for those with dry or sensitive skin, just be sure to choose a fragrance-free formulation. Like oil cleansers, cleansing balms may occasionally cause pore clogging, so if you know you are prone to this, you may want to consider a different type of cleanser. 

Micellar Water

Micellar water is a gentle cleansing option that contains small oil molecules mixed with water to effectively remove dirt and makeup. It is considered one of the most gentle cleansers on the market, but it may require multiple applications or use in conjunction with another cleanser to remove heavier products like makeup or sunscreen. Keep in mind that while micellar water is gentle, it may not be as effective at removing all types of makeup and impurities as other types of cleansers. 

What’s the difference between facial cleanser and soap? 

While it may be tempting to use body bar soap on your face to save time, it's important to remember that the skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive than the rest of your body. Soaps that are designed to remove heavy sweat and dirt may strip the oils from your face and cause excessive dryness. On the other hand, facial cleansers are typically formulated with additional hydrating ingredients to nourish and protect your skin. We recommend taking the extra step to use a dedicated facial cleanser to pamper and care for the delicate skin on your face.

What about double cleansing, and is it necessary? 

Double cleansing, a popular trend that originated from K-beauty practices, involves using an oil-based cleanser to remove oil-based impurities such as sunscreen, pollutants, and oil, followed by a water-based cleanser (such as a gel or cream cleanser) to remove additional dirt and sweat. This method can leave your skin feeling exceptionally clean and clear and may be particularly helpful for those with oilier skin or who wear heavier products like zinc-based sunscreens or foundation. However, it does require extra time and money and isn't necessary if you want to keep your skin care routine simple. In our opinion, choosing a good, gentle cleanser that's suitable for your skin type should be sufficient.

What about wipes? 

Facial wipes are convenient and popular, and they can be useful for removing sweat and dirt when you're on the go or don't have access to a sink. However, there are a few drawbacks to consider. The cloth or textile material used in some wipes may be slightly irritating, and moist wipes often contain preservatives to prevent bacterial growth in the container, which some people may be sensitive to. In general, we recommend using facial wipes on an as-needed basis rather than making them a daily part of your routine. If you do enjoy using facial wipes, you might consider choosing a product that uses biodegradable fibers to help protect the environment while you cleanse your face.


Disclaimer: As with all our posts, this blog is meant to be for informational and educational purposes, and is not medical advice. When in doubt, please ask your physician.  

Teresa Fu, M.D.

Dr. Teresa Fu is a board certified dermatologist and mother of two. She graduated from Stanford Medical School and practices in the San Francisco Bay Area.