October 3, 2022

The 22 Best Face Washes, Tested by Byrdie

Cleansing is an essential first step of your daily skincare routine and can help improve a variety of skin concerns from acne and rosacea to all types of sensitive skin conditions. Formulas can vary from oils to cleansing balms or gels and gentle exfoliators, each designed to effectively cleanse, depending on your skin type.

The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser is made with mineral-rich thermal spring water and contains niacinamide and ceramides to moisturize while melting away makeup and oil. For a more affordable pick, consider Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser, a soothing, glycerin based soap-free formula that can work on the most sensitive skin types.

Board-certified dermatologist Adebola Dele-Michaelm, MD recommends reaching for a mild formula to remove skin buildup and pollutants, no matter what your skin type. Board-certified dermatologistMartha H. Viera, MD agrees. “I like gentle cleansers without sodium lauryl sulfate, alcohol, or fragrance to avoid irritation”. And because cleansing will automatically deplete skin of some moisture, a non-drying formula is ideal to restore skin balance.

We went to work, conducting research on the best face washes for every skin type and concern, evaluating each formula on active ingredients, texture, and value. Our product testers tried out some of the top-rated products, using them for weeks at a time and taking note of results. Our team then combined these results with our own research and dermatologist-recommended products to compile this list.

Ahead, the best face washes for every skin type.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

Who else recommends it? Allure, The Strategist, and Healthline all picked the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Facial Cleanser.

What do buyers say? 89% of 17,900+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

Board-certified dermatologists Dele-Michael and Viera both stand behind La Roche-Posay Toleriane Cleanser, and we’re here for it. With sensitive complexions in mind, the ultra-gentle, super-hydrating formula gently removes makeup, dissolves excess oil, and washes away impurities without stripping the skin.

This all-star face wash is formulated with mineral-rich thermal spring water, niacinamide (vitamin B3), moisturizing glycerin, and essential ceramides. These moisturizing ingredients are essential for skin barrier health, locking in moisture. The sizable pump bottle contains 13.5 ounces of product, so you won’t have to worry about running out any time soon.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, niacinamide, ceramide-3, thermal spring water | Skin Type: Dry/sensitive | Size: 13.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $15

 Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

The brand’s Gentle Facial Cleanser comes highly recommended Viera because it’s formulated with glycerin and coco glucoside meant to gently rid the skin of dirt, oil, and makeup without irritating skin. We love how soothing this formula is, which is ideal for sensitive types, because of what it doesn’t include. It’s soap-free, botanical extract-free, plus free of sulfates, dyes, fragrance, and parabens.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, coco glucoside | Skin Type: Acne-prone/sensitive/eczema-prone | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $9

CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser

CeraVe is a reigning champion in the world of drugstore face washes. Recommended by Viera, the brand’s Cream-to-Foam Cleanser works overtime to remove excess oil and dirt, gently exfoliate, and hydrate the skin without stripping it.

Active Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, lactic acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 19 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No |  Clean: No

Price at time of publish: $18

Tracie Martyn Amla Purifying Cleanser

If you’re open to splurging on a miraculous face wash, you should consider Tracie Martyn’s Amla Cleanser. Thanks to papaya enzymes, salicylic acid, and vitamin C, the natural formula offers mild exfoliation and breakout prevention benefits while improving the appearance of fine lines, which makes the expensive price point worth it to us.5

Active Ingredients: Amino acids, papaya enzymes, salicylic acid, alma extract | Skin Type: Mature/acne-prone/sensitive/combination | Size: 1.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $65

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel

When it comes to premium skincare, Dr. Dennis Gross is a household name. The renowned dermatologist’s Pore Perfecting Gel contains both AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids), plus glycerin and buchu leaf extract. This formula claims to balance oil production, combat blackheads, and reduce the appearance of pores.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, mandelic acid, glycolic acid, glycerin, barosma betulina leaf extract | Skin Type: Acne-prone/oily/dry/combination | Size: 7.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $38

COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser

Courtesy of Ulta

If you’ve yet to hop on the Korean beauty bandwagon, CosRx is an excellent gateway. The brand’s Good Morning Cleanser calls on all-star ingredients like salicylic acid and tea tree oil to remove impurities, strengthen the skin barrier, and deliver a firmer-looking complexion.6

Active Ingredients: Tea tree oil, salicylic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 5.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes |  Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $14

Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm

Courtesy of Soko Glam

From the K-beauty queen behind Soko Glam and the 10-step Korean skincare routine, Living Cleansing Balm is by far the best Step 1 cleanser. This oil-based balm smells vaguely like dirt, but not in a bad way—more of a “let Mother Nature handle this” way.

Active Ingredients: Sea buckthorn oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, persimmon extract, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: No

Price at time of publish: $38Then I Met You Living Cleansing BalmDAVID KUKIN

What Our Testers Say

“Another thing I love about this cleansing balm: I’ve tried so many similar products, and almost all of them leave a thin film of oil behind—but not this one.” — Faith Xue, Product Tester

It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser

It Cosmetics knows how to make makeup, and it knows how to take it off. Case in point: Confidence in a Cleanser. This serum-style face wash effortlessly dissolves makeup, removes excess oil, and leaves skin feeling oh-so-soft.

Active Ingredients: Collagen, hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, ceramides | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: No

Price at time of publish: $29

It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cleanser Texture
EMILY ALGAR

What Our Testers Say

“The It Cosmetics Confidence In A Cleanser is honestly one of the creamiest, most nourishing face washes I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.” — Emily Algar, Product Tester

Milky Jelly Cleanser

Courtesy of Glossier

Glossier’s soap-free Milky Jelly Cleanser is super gentle, non-irritating (even if you get it in your eyes), and suitable for all skin types. Say hello to soft skin—thanks to allantoin,7 pro-vitamin B5, and comfrey root extract.

Active Ingredients: Poloxamer, allantoin, pro-vitamin B5, comfrey root extract, aquaxyl | Skin Type: All | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: No

Price at time of publish: $19

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser BIANCA LAMBERT

What Our Testers Say

“A cleanser can’t change your skin overnight, but the calming ingredients in the Milky Jelly were essential to getting my skin back on track while cleansing and removing my makeup at the same time.” — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Pholk Beauty Daily Detox Face Cleanser

If you’re partial to natural skincare products, check out this cleanser from Pholk Beauty. It’s formulated with earth-sourced oils and white frankincense. This face wash claims to eliminate excess sebum, soothe inflammation, and restore a balanced complexion.

Active Ingredients: Kalahari watermelon seed oil, Somali white frankincense, coconut oil | Skin Type: Oily/combination/acne-prone | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $20

 

If you haven’t tried a softening cleanser yet, allow us to introduce you to The Rice Wash. Tatcha’s beloved pH-balanced formula leans on Japanese algae, rice powder, and hyaluronic acid promising to moisturize for an all-around better-looking complexion. We think this ingredient blend makes the expensive price point worth it, especially if you’re prone to sensitivity.

Active Ingredients: Japanese algae, hyaluronic acid, rice powder | Skin Type: Dry/combination/mature | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $36

Eau Thermale Avene Tolerance Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion

Recommended by Viera, this exceedingly mild cleansing gel is ideal for those with sensitive complexions, eczema-prone skin, and rosacea. Eau Thermale Avene Tolerance boasts a soap-free, oil-free, fragrance-free formula with tried-and-true glycerin and soothing thermal water to leave your face calm, clean, and comfortable.8

Active Ingredients: Thermal water, glycerin | Skin Type: Sensitive/dry | Size: 6.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $24

Drunk Elephant has a large fan following for a reason. The brand’s Beste No. 9 gently cleanses with glycerin and mild surfactants. The formula also claims to minimize inflammation, soothe redness, and hydrate tired skin.

Active Ingredients: Coconut-based surfactants, glycerin, cantaloupe fruit extract | Skin Type: Oily/combination/sensitive | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $16

What Our Editors Say

“I have oily, sensitive skin, and Drunk Elephant’s cleanser is my old faithful. Whether I’m breaking out, dry, or greasy, this cleanser does the job with no irritation. I love using it with my Meejee scrubber for a deep cleanse.” — Kathryn Vandervalk, VP  of Content Strategy, People and Entertainment Weekly

Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser

Oily skin? Reach for Matrescence Skin Rose Glow. This purifying cleanser is formulated with burdock root extract, green tea extract, and witch hazel to keep greasiness at a minimum, reduce inflammation, and clear breakouts.

Active Ingredients: Burdock root extract, green tea extract, witch hazel | Skin Type: Oily/acne-prone/sensitive/dry | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes |  Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $82

Rosen Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser

You’ll be glad to have Rosen’s Super Smoothie Cleanser in your arsenal when battling breakouts. This thick, creamy face wash claims to fight acne-causing bacteria, balances sebum, smooths uneven texture, and boosts your complexion in one step.

Active Ingredients: Strawberry powder, lemon peel | Skin Type: Acne-prone | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $18

First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser

When your skin can’t decide what kind of mood it’s in, wash it clean with First Aid Beauty’s pH-balanced Pure Skin Cleanser. This face wash promises to calm irritation with allantoin and aloe and restore dry complexions with glycerin and antioxidants.

Active Ingredients: Aloe, allantoin, glycerin, antioxidants | Skin Type: Combination/sensitive/dry/oily | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $24

Epara Cleansing Lotion

Epara Cleansing Lotion is just the thing for dry, parched skin. This award-winning face wash flaunts a silky-smooth formula that works overtime to remove makeup, minimize hyperpigmentation, and deliver much-needed moisture.

Active Ingredients: Plankton extract, marula oil, moringa oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 5.28 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $56

Marla Rene Beauty & Co. Turmeric and Honey Cleanser

Formulated for all skin types, this pretty tincture from Marla Rene moisturizes, reduces excess oil, addresses unevenness, and calms. Standout ingredients include turmeric, honey, licorice root, and camu camu.

Active Ingredients: Turmeric, honey, camu camu, licorice root | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes |  Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $48

klur

If you’re not big on foaming face washes, go with Klur Gentle Matter. Containing a soothing blend of organic botanicals, resurfacing ingredients, and antioxidants, this daily cleanser is suitable for all skin types.

Active Ingredients: Green tea extract, aloe juice, jojoba oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $40

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash with Salicylic Acid

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash is good for more than nostalgia. This classic cleanser uses BHA standby salicylic acid, going deep into pores to gently exfoliate, keep blackheads at bay, and prevent breakouts.9

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin Type: Acne-prone/oily | Size: 9.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Clean: No

Price at time of publish: $9

AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder

If you’re open to trying a powder, your best bet is AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel. Plant-derived enzymes offer mild exfoliation, while green tea extract soothes and hydrates.10 All you need is a nickel-sized amount and a tiny bit of water to get a good lather.

Active Ingredients: Papaya enzymes, green tea extract | Skin Type: All | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Size: 1.8 ounces | Clean: Yes

Price at time of publish: $68

What Our Editors Say

“I’ve always had dry skin, but this cleanser was a game-changer in my routine because it eliminates pesky dry spots. It is expensive, but the bottle lasts me the whole year, plus I can put it in my carry-on bag since it is a powder cleanser.” — Dwyer Frame, VP of Commerce, Dotdash Meredith

dove beauty bar

Courtesy of Amazon

Even if you don’t reach for it every day, you’ll always be glad to have a Dove Beauty Bar on hand. Whether used on your face or body, this ultra-moisturizing skincare bar helps soothe skin sensitivities.

Active Ingredients: Sodium lauroyl isethionate | Skin Type: Sensitive | Size: 3.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Clean: No

Price at time of publish: $25

Final Verdict

The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser is made with mineral-rich thermal spring water and contains niacinamide and ceramides to moisturize while melting away makeup and oil. For a more affordable pick, consider Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser, a soothing, glycerin based soap-free formula that can work on the most sensitive skin types.

MEET THE EXPERT

  • Adebola Dele-Michael, MD FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology and dermatologic surgery. She is the founder of Radiant Skin Dermatology & Laser in New York.
  • Martha H. Viera, MD FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami, Florida. She is a fellow member of several dermatological organizations, including the American Academy of Dermatology, the Women’s Dermatologic Society, and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.

What to Look For

Formula

Those with dry skin should opt for thicker, creamier textures—think balms and “milks.” Foaming formulas are best for those with oily skin, while those in between should consider gels or lotions.

Hydrating Ingredients

No matter what kind of skin you have, it’s imperative to impart some moisture back into it during the cleansing process. Again, if your complexion is drier, oils and butter are better. Oilier? Look for lighter hydration such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid.11

What It Doesn’t Contain

This is especially important for those with dry and/or sensitive skin. In this case, it’s worth looking for “sulfate-free” and “fragrance-free” distinctions.

FAQ
  • How often should you use face wash?

    Dele-Michael says, “Wash your face two times a day with a gentle cleanser to remove skin buildup of irritants and pollutants.” However, some people with extra-dry skin may choose to wash their face only once daily. Additionally, some folks double-cleanse at night, first using an oil-based formula to dissolve makeup and sunscreen, then a water-based formula to remove all remaining residues.

  • Do face washes expire?

    Most face washes will expire roughly a year or two after opening the container, though depending on the formula and packaging, some may only last about six months. Be sure to check the expiration or period-after-opening (PAO) symbol if you’re unsure whether a cleanser is still effective and safe to use. Also, keeping your skincare products in a cool, dry place will help them last as long as possible.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.