Facial cleansers are among the hardest working skincare products around yet often get short shrift in our daily regimen. In fact, some of us even skip cleansers completely. Not to throw shade, but if that sounds familiar, it’s time to rethink your skincare routine. The best facial cleansers are not merely a means to an end, they actually boost wellness, keeping your skin barrier strong and healthy.
According to skin guru Tata Harper, founder of the eponymous natural skincare line, the power of cleansers is “underestimated.”
“People don’t pay much attention to it, but the right cleanser is the beginning of a good skin routine,” she says.
Forget the harsh soaps your mother used. Today’s formulas contain active ingredients that help purify, exfoliate, moisturize and nourish skin. To get the biggest bang for your buck, pick the best facial cleanser for your skin type and then let them work their wonders.
Harper’s top tip? “Massage the cleanser into dry skin and let it soak in for a bit before rinsing with water.” This ensures that the active ingredients are being absorbed. Ready to find your perfect fit?
Best cleanser for oily skin
If you’re battling oily skin on the reg, look to a clay cleanser. This new formula from Rodan + Fields is a multitasker, offering both exfoliation and cleansing. You can use it as straight-up cleanser or as a mask for those weekend mornings when you have a little more self-care time.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Clay has mega absorbing powers, so it’s a great product to go deep where dirt and oil is lurking. Redefine Daily Clay Cleanser, $53
Best cleanser for normal skin
French brand Caudalie has a new line of eco-friendly cleansers called Vinoclean. For normal skin, we recommend the foaming cleanser formula. It’s made up of 97% natural ingredients and, once the lotion hits your skin, it magically converts to a light foam that cleanses without compromise or harshness.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The scent is amazing! With notes of rose, white wood, violet and pink peppercorn, it transports you to a place far removed from your bathroom sink. Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser, $35
Best cleanser for sensitive skin
Part of a new line, Superkind, these products are for people with sensitive skin who still want powerful anti-aging actives. The cleanser is a micro-foaming cream that includes calendula flower, shea butter glycerides and squalane. Tata Harper Softening Cleanser for Sensitized Skin, $115
Best cleanser for acne-prone skin
This versatile gel offering from trusted skincare brand Vichy has active ingredients like salicylic acid that target acne, while also reinforcing your skin’s barrier function to optimize its health.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s oil- and soap-free, so it won’t cause any undue irritation to already sensitive skin. Normaderm Anti-Acne Purifying Gel Cleanser, $20
Best cleanser for stressed skin
Delicate skin requires a little TLC and LaSpa has developed a staple product for those in need of a little TLC. Containing certified organic elements, this foam is both hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, so you know it’s going to clean with kindness.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It purifies and defends skin, while boosting moisture thanks to aloe vera. LaSpa Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser, $20
Best cleanser for dry skin
This new cream-to-foam cleanser was developed in partnership with dermatologists and is recognized by the Canadian Dermatology Association. Not only does it remove makeup, its blend of amino acid and hyaluronic acid helps attract and hold water on the skin.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It has a patented technology called MVE (multivesicular emulsion), which is a fancy way of saying it releases ingredients over time, so you get all-day hydration. CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser, $20
Best lux cleanser
For sure it’s hard to justify dropping three figures on a cleanser. But once your face meets the heavenly experience of Okoko, you may find yourself pinching pennies elsewhere just so you can splurge on this beauty. Not only does it remove makeup, cleanse and exfoliate, it also acts as a mask for an extra hit of hydration.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Its exotic ingredient list includes pumpkin and bamboo powder and papaya to gently exfoliate, and enriched squalane to replenish skin lipids. Okoko Beauté Majestique Gel-To-Milk Cleanser, $140
Best I’m-too-tired-to-wash-my-face cleanser
Too wiped to swipe? We’ve all been there. But hear us out: It’s key to remove the day’s guck and grime, otherwise you’re not going to reap all the benefits of your beauty sleep. We suggest keeping a stack of Neutrogena pre-moistened wipes on your night table for a fast and convenient drive-by clean.
WHY WE LOVE IT: These cloths are alcohol-free, so they won’t dry out your skin. But they’re powerful enough to remove all your makeup, even waterproof-based eye cosmetics. Neutrogena All-in-One Make-Up Removing Cleansing Wipes, $14
Welcome to Pretty Healthy, FLEETSTREET’s in-depth series. Beauty starts with healthy skin and hair, and this column delivers the goods on making that a reality.