Literally Every Different Type of Facial Cleanser There Is—Explained!


Hands up if you enjoy the ritual of removing makeup compared to applying it. Same here.

And with the myriad of hard-working face washes on the market, who can blame us?

Unlike serums and moisturizers, cleansers rid your face of bad bacteria, pollution particulates, and dead skin cells that cling to makeup and accumulate on your skin all day.

They prevent free radical damage, acne breakouts, and even premature aging.

However, to prevent that gory sh*t from happening, you need to get a wash that’s perfectly suited to your skin’s needs.

Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of all the different types of facial cleansers on the market.

Keep reading to pick your new skincare BFF.

How to Choose the Best Facial Cleanser for Your Skin

Every facial cleanser explained for skin

Selecting the right face wash for your skincare needs isn’t too challenging for the most part, but it can feel very eeny meeny miny moe at first due to the different types of facial cleansers on the market.

Plus, cleansers have become more advanced, too. Lots of face wash today not only get rid of oil, debris, and pollution particles, but they exfoliate and moisturize.

Ultimately, apart from skin type, it’s up to taste and preference.

Some washes have ingredients that are also a big deal today.

With most beauty brands cutting corners, you need to be on the outlook for toxic ingredients like phthalates, sulfates, and parabens.

These ingredients can trigger acne breakouts, hyperpigmentation, and skin infections, so be vigilant.

Those with sensitive skin should look for products labeled hypoallergenic (they’ll be less likely to cause allergic reactions). In contrast, those with acne-prone, oily skin should go for the non-comedogenic options.

With that in mind, it’s time to shove makeup wipes to the side and upgrade the first essential step in your skincare routine.

Here are all the different types of grime grizzlers, makeup slayers, and pore blasters in the skincare zeitgeist.

Gel Cleansers

Ideal For: Acne-Prone, Oily, & Normal Skin

As their name suggests, gel cleansers are clear and have a gel-like consistency. They’re mostly formulated with anionic or amphoteric surfactants to help you achieve a proper deep cleanse.

Sometimes gel face wash also contains AHAs or BHAs to help decongest clogged pores, destroy acne-causing bacteria, and eliminate excess oil.

Cream Cleansers

Ideal For: Dry, Mature, & Sensitive Skin

These are exactly as they sound- creamy, lush, and silky in texture.

Cream cleansers are mostly formulated with fatty alcohols, glycerin, or other emollients and humectants, making them gentler and more moisturizing than other face washes.

They gently cleanse your skin without robbing it of natural oils and also make for the perfect second-step cleansing system if you’re the double cleansing kind of girl.

Foam Cleansers

Ideal For: Combination, Oily & Normal Skin

Every esthetician says foam face washes are the most effective type since they clean everything off.

After a long day, if you need to get rid of the cakes of makeup completely, a foam cleanser is your knight in shining armor.

Foam cleansing washes are formulated with soap-based ingredients and can effortlessly emulsify oils for a thorough clean.

However, be sure to watch out for sodium lauryl sulfate, the ingredient that causes foaming.

It can trigger skin reactions to sensitive skin types.

Clay Cleansers

Ideal For: Acne-Prone & Oily Skin

If clay masks are your jam, you’ll love clay cleansers.

Famous for their absorbing power, clay cleansers purify the skin by ridding it of excess oils and toxins.

So, if you have oily skin and aren’t comfortable with AHAs or BHAs, this is the perfect alternative.

Just watch out for products with French green clay or bentonite clay – they can be overly drying and even irritate people with sensitive skin.

Oil Cleansers

Ideal For: All Skin Types (but mostly dry skin)

We know what you’re thinking. More oil on the skin? Does that make sense?

Well, believe it or not, oil cleansers are the perfect option if you’re looking to get rid of dirt and debris without interfering with your skin barrier.

Your skin’s natural oils work harmoniously with these cleansers to achieve a much-needed balance.

They’re also ideal for getting rid of waterproof makeup without drying the skin.
And, it might seem backward, but they’re also excellent on oily skin types.

Micellar Water

Ideal For: All Skin Types

Originating from France, micellar water contains ‘micelles,’ tiny oil molecules suspended in water, which remove dirt, makeup, and oil.

These cleansers are gentle and alcohol-free, making them ideal for all skin types, especially sensitive skin.

However, you shouldn’t use micellar water alone.

You can use it alongside another facial cleanser, like, say, an oil cleanser. Micellar water comes in handy when you have to clean your face on the go but can’t get access to water or a bathroom, like when on a plane.

Cleansing Balms

Ideal For: Dry & Sensitive Skin

Cleansing balms are ideal for those looking to make their skincare routine simple since most don’t require water to get rid of makeup, oil, and dirt.

These facial cleansers, like cream cleansers, are extremely moisturizing and offer ultra-hydrating benefits thanks to ingredients like grapeseed, coconut, and olive oil.

They also don’t have super-harsh or skin-stripping ingredients, making them perfect for individuals with dry or sensitive skin.

Exfoliating Cleansers

Ideal For: Acne-Prone, Oily & Normal Skin (individuals with dry skin should apply a hydrating moisturizer immediately after use)

These come in two forms – chemical and physical.

Chemical-based face washes contain mild acids like AHA, BHA, and PHA. They come in gel, foam, or cream cleanser form.

With sensitive complexions in mind, these washes are typically ultra-gentle, super-hydrating formulas that offer mild exfoliation and breakout prevention benefits while also minimizing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Physical-based ones feature small abrasive particles that help slough off dead skin cells. They’re usually not highly recommended for the face, however, since they don’t offer long-term skin health benefits.

In fact, when used for an extended period, physical exfoliating cleansers can cause uneven skin tones, inflammation, and redness.


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