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The Best Face Wash for Your Skin Type, According to Dermatologists

Dermatologists discuss the importance of using face wash, plus, their favorite picks for every skin type, from oily to mature skin.

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What is the best face wash?

When it comes to face wash, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Choosing the type of face wash that’s best for you depends on your skin type. For example, if you have oily skin and opt for a dry skin product like a thick moisturizer, you could end up with blackheads and breakouts.

So, how do you find the best face wash for your skin? We spoke with two dermatologists who discuss the importance of using a  facial cleanser, plus, their favorite picks for every skin type. (This is how to wash your face, according to your skin type.)

skincarevia neutrogena.com

Oily skin

$9.49, 6 fl oz

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You might be tempted to strip every last bit of oil from your skin, but using an overly drying cleanser can actually make your skin even slicker (along with these 11 surprising reasons your skin is greasy). “If a cleanser is too harsh or pulls too many oils from the skin, this can lead to rebound oil production and can disrupt the natural balance that we need,” says board-certified dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD, FAAD, in Melville, New York. She recommends Neutrogena Rapid Clear Oil-Eliminating Foaming Cleanser, which reduces shine but doesn’t contain harsh ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which are notorious for drying out acne-prone skin. (Don’t miss these other 11 beauty secrets women with oily skin should know.)

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Dry skin

$14.64, 16 fl oz

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When your skin is parched, avoid using a face wash that has salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid, which can all leave your skin drier than ever, says Ivy Lee, MD, a dermatologist based in Pasadena, California. Instead, find a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin down, suggests Dr. Papantoniou. “Stick with a cleanser specialized to wash off grime without removing oils,” she says. She recommends using Cetaphil Daily Gentle Cleanser or CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. (Find out what the best facial moisturizer for your skin type is.)

Skincarevia neutrogena.com

Combination skin

$8.22, 12 fl oz

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Tackling dryness and oil at once can be tricky, so look for something gentle that won’t make either problem worse. Dr. Lee recommends Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser. “They take off all the makeup and are great in terms of removing dirt, but it doesn’t overly dry out the natural moisture of the skin,” she says. She also likes the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle line because you can choose if you can pick between the foaming formula, which feels better if oil is your big concern, or the creamy version, which leaves dry skin feeling better hydrated. (Check out these 9 foundations that can actually improve your skin.)

Skincarevia cleanandclear.com

Acne-prone skin

$1.50, 8 oz

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Anyone who struggles with acne is probably well-versed in salicylic acid, which helps unclog pores, and benzoyl peroxide, which targets bacteria. But which one is right for you? If you’re new to pimple-fighting products or only have mild acne, Dr. Lee suggests starting with a 2 percent salicylic acid cleanser like Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser or Clean & Clear Acne Triple Clear Cleanser. “When you compare salicylic acid to benzoyl peroxide, benzoyl peroxide is a little stronger but also much more irritating,” she says. (Don’t miss these other 8 tricks for getting rid of acne for good.) If you do want something that will fight a bit deeper, though, start with a product that contains a lower ratio. Try PanOxyl 4% Acne Creamy Wash and only upgrade to PanOxyl 10% Acne Foaming Wash if your skin can handle it, says Dr. Lee. (Also, check out the best acne treatment kit for your skin type.)

Skincarevia psico.com

Sensitive skin

$8.99, 8 fl oz

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A gentle face wash is less likely to cause flare-ups on sensitive skin. Acids such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid, plus exfoliating beads and fragrances can all be irritating, says Dr. Lee. (Here’s more of the worst skin-care advice dermatologists hear.) Stick with Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser, which is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, suggests Dr. Papantoniou. “This has been formulated for the most sensitive skin types,” she says. (Check out these best face masks for every skin type.)

skincarevia dhccare.com

Mature skin

$27.69

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If your skin is getting dull with age, a face wash with glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid will gently exfoliate to reveal fresh, glowing skin, says Dr. Lee. Plus, keep an eye out for hyaluronic acid, which will give your skin an extra kiss of hydration. “As we age, we lose that ability to hold that moisture in the skin,” says Dr. Lee. “It helps pull back some of that moisture.” She recommends Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, which acts as a cleanser. (Check out these other 9 wrinkle-fighting secrets dermatologists want you to know.) For a more budget-friendly option, Dr. Papantoniou recommends oil cleansers, which keeps skin smooth and hydrated without removing the skin’s natural oils. Try Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil or DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. (Here’s how to pick the best face oil for your skin type.)

skincarevia neutrogena.com

Normal skin

$8.22, 12 fl oz

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If you’re lucky enough to have problem-free skin, the last thing you want is for your face wash to create new issues. Stick with a gentle cleanser like Neutrogena Ultra Gentle to get the day’s grime off without irritating or stripping your skin, suggests Dr. Lee. You can still give your skin a little extra oomph too. “You may actually want to use a cleanser that has active ingredients such as alpha hydroxyl acids to help exfoliate and brighten your complexion,” says Dr. Papantoniou. Don’t go crazy with it though; unless you have oily skin, you can probably skip your morning wash and just cleanse your face at night, says Dr. Lee. (Check out these other dermatologist-approved products for every skin concern.)

Sources
  • Kally Papantoniou, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, Melville, New York
  • Ivy Lee, MD, a dermatologist based in Pasadena, California
Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on July 02, 2020