The 12 Best Face Washes of 2023

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser is a gentle & effective option for all skin types

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Best Face Washes


No matter who you are or what type of skin you have, one thing is certain: you have to wash your face. The best face washes will remove dirt and debris without stripping your skin of moisture or leaving it dry. But choosing the right one isn’t as easy as taking a walk through the skin care aisle of your local drugstore.

“Selecting a face wash depends on your skin type and needs, which can vary depending on your age, where you live, and your lifestyle,” says Melanie Palm, MD, of Art of Skin MD. “Your skin type may also change over time; for example, you may experience dryness or more sensitivity as you get older.” 

That said, there are some universal guidelines to follow, no matter what type of skin you have. Dr. Palm says to always opt for gentle, non-irritating cleansers (especially if you’re washing twice a day) and consider the climate or season in your area. And don’t forget to do a patch test when trying a new product—this can identify allergies or sensitivities before you apply the product all over your face. Lastly, it’s worth knowing what ingredients to look for, like humectants and ceramides, and which ones to avoid, like sulfates, dyes, and harsh exfoliators. After speaking with dermatologists, we reviewed nearly three dozen face washes for ingredients, skincare concerns they treat, price, texture, and more. 

Best Overall

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser


Why We Like It: All skin types can benefit from the dual cleansing-hydrating power of this gentle face wash—plus, it’s reasonably priced. 

It’s Worth Noting: It doesn’t contain any acne-fighting ingredients, so if you’re acne-prone, it might not be a VIP product for you.

If you’re not sure exactly what type of skin you have or where to start, you can’t go wrong with this cream cleanser from La Roche-Posay; not only was it recommended by our experts, it’s an affordable and gentle way to cleanse nearly every type of skin, from normal to dry and sensitive to combination.

This cleanser doesn’t contain any harsh soaps or sulfates to wash your face, but it does contain skin barrier-improving ceramide-3, so it won’t disrupt your skin’s pH. It soothes and softens while removing dirt, makeup, and impurities, it can be used at both your morning and night skincare routine, and it’s priced affordably, meaning you don’t even have to splurge to reap its (many) benefits. Plus, it’s been allergy-tested and shown to be non-irritating for most users, is non-comedogenic, and free of fragrances, parabens, and oils.

Price at time of publish: $15

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: ceramide-3, glycerin, niacinamide
  • Skin Type: normal, combination, dry
  • Size: 400 mL
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best Drugstore

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser


Why We Like It: Hydrating glycerin keeps your skin moist, while gentle surfactants cleanse impurities. 

It’s Worth Noting: If you have oily skin, this cleanser may not get your face clean enough to prevent clogged pores.

The Neutrogena brand is a drugstore staple, but don’t let its ubiquity fool you: just because this Ultra Gentle Hydrating Daily Cleanser is everywhere doesn’t mean it isn’t a high-quality face wash (at a wallet-friendly drugstore cost). Formulated to be gentle enough for sensitive skin but with enough cream-cleansing power to wash away whatever you’ve faced—pun intended—that day, we love how totally foolproof using this hypoallergenic wash is.

Containing dermatologist-recommended glycerin to draw water to the surface of your skin and zero sulfates, this cleanser removes dirt and makeup but leaves behind soft, hydrated skin instead of that dry, stripped-away feeling. Use it in the morning and then again at night, if you want—it’s non-irritating enough to refresh your face in the a.m. and get you beauty-sleep ready at night.

Price at time of publish: $8 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: glycerin
  • Skin Type: sensitive
  • Size: 12 oz
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best For Acne

CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser

 CeraVe Face Wash Acne Treatment


Why We Like It: It’s a gel cleanser with acne-fighting salicylic acid that’s perfect for oily skin prone to breakouts. 

It’s Worth Noting: Salicylic acid works better on blackheads and clogged pores than pustules or cystic acne, so make sure you have the right type of acne before you use this wash.

 If blackheads are your biggest concern, the CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser includes 2% salicylic acid—along with nourishing ceramides—to fight breakouts, prevent new ones from forming, and make your skin look healthier overall. Plus, the cleanser contains hectorite clay to reduce shine caused by excess oil, making it a solid choice for acne-prone skin.

 This face wash is also a foaming gel, which isn’t suitable for everyone (sensitive or dry skin users should be careful) but tends to work well for people with oily skin since moisture is usually not a top concern. 

 Price at time of publish: $13

 Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: 2% salicylic acid, hectorite clay, ceramides
  • Skin Type: acne-prone
  • Size: 8 oz.
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best For Oily Skin

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash

Why We Like It: It’s designed to absorb excess oil in the morning and at night without leaving your skin stripped of its natural oils. 

It’s Worth Noting: It’s a foaming formulation, which means it could be too drying or irritating for sensitive skin users.

Our experts shared with us that foaming washes tend to be drying, which is a problem for people with already-dry skin but not for people with oily skin; if you’re looking to absorb excess oil, this purifying foaming cleanser by La Roche-Posay thoroughly cleanses oily skin without stripping it down too much. The foaming texture allows this cleanser to remove dirt, makeup, and impurities with ease, but the addition of ceramides and niacinamide means your skin is also appropriately hydrated, leaving you with fresh and clean skin that’s oil-free but never too dry.

Since people with oily skin rarely get a break from all their excess oil production, we also like that this cleanser is safe enough to use in the morning and at night without interfering with your skin’s barrier or pH levels. Lastly, it’s free of sulfates, parabens, fragrances, and oils, making it a hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic choice that won’t irritate most skin types.

Price at time of publish: $15

 Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: ceramide-3, niacinamide, glycerin
  • Skin Type: oily, sensitive
  • Size: 400 mL
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best Exfoliating

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator


Why We Like It: Unlike many other physical exfoliators, this one is safe and gentle enough to use daily on oily, normal, or combination skin. 

It’s Worth Noting: Although this is called a daily exfoliator, many dermatologists discourage daily use of exfoliating products and recommend you stick to a few times per week, max.

Exfoliating face washes are great for sloughing away dead skin to reveal a brighter, smoother appearance, but they can also be too harsh—which is why we like this gentler alternative, by Dermalogica. It’s made with microfoliants and both natural and chemical exfoliators, for a thorough cleansing that doesn’t irritate skin with use.

For every exfoliating ingredient in this face wash (like salicylic acid, phytic acid, and papain enzymes), there’s a nourishing ingredient to counteract any potential damage. Colloidal oatmeal softens and soothes, allantoin reduces redness and irritation, and licorice root extract combats inflammation and evens skin tone. Sensitive skin users should still be careful about overusing this product, but most people with normal to oily skin will see clarifying benefits when it’s worked into their skincare routine.

 Price at time of publish: $64

 Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: salicylic acid, colloidal oatmeal, licorice root extract
  • Skin Type: oily, normal, combination
  • Size: 2.6 oz
  • Dosage: ½ tsp, once per day

Best For Dry Skin

Paula’s Choice Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser


Paula's Choice

Why We Like It: It’s an all-around reliable cleanser for every skin type that removes impurities but leaves behind soft, smooth skin. 

It’s Worth Noting: It doesn’t contain any acne-fighting ingredients and could be too hydrating for people with already-oily skin.

 If you have dry skin, it’s important to make sure your face wash works to rehydrate your skin after cleansing the way this creamy, lotion-like cleanser by Paula’s Choice does. 

 “If your skin is actually relatively dry but [you’re] not dealing with breakouts, then it’s worth seeking out a hydrating cleanser…designed to leave behind moisture,” says Erum N. Ilyas, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology. 

With a handful of natural, moisturizing ingredients like green tea and chamomile and no harsh sulfates, we love that the Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser removes the dirt and debris from your face while leaving behind soft, moisturized skin. It’s lightweight and non-greasy, suitable for all skin types, and is fragrance-free. 

 Price at time of publish: $20

 Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: green tea, glycerin, chamomile
  • Skin Type: all
  • Size: 6.4 oz
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best For Sensitive Skin

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser


Why We Like It: This cleanser is free from most irritants, making it one of the safest choices for people with sensitive skin. 

It’s Worth Noting: Because of its simple formulation, it’s a gentle cleanser but may not be tough enough to use as a makeup remover.

 Our experts recommended Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser for people with sensitive skin, since it’s essentially free of everything except the good stuff. You won’t find any parabens, fragrances, dyes, essential oils, or formaldehydes in this formula, making it an excellent choice for people prone to skincare-induced allergic reactions. What you will find is glycerin and purified water, a solid combination when it comes to drawing moisture to your skin.

This Vanicream cleanser would work perfectly for someone with sensitive or dry skin, or someone looking for less irritation in the winter months. It’s even approved for use in people with eczema, because literally all it does is cleanse—without drying, irritating, or leaving any residue (or regret) behind.

Price at time of publish: $9

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: glycerin
  • Skin Type: sensitive
  • Size: 8 oz
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best For Combination Skin

CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser


Why We Like It: This milky-then-foamy formulation will leave every part of your face, whether oily or dry, perfectly balanced.

It’s Worth Noting: There are a lot of ingredients here, so people with sensitive skin might find one or more of them to be irritating.

Cleansing combination skin can be tricky, because you need to remove excess oil and thoroughly moisturize; we love that you get the best of both worlds with the CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser, which does exactly what the title suggests—it starts out as a hydrating, nourishing cream and then turns to a foam, allowing it to both hydrate and eliminate acne-causing oil.

Like all CeraVe products, this cleanser is made without sulfates or fragrances, but does include plenty of other skin boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. In addition to glycerin, this wash also has amino acids to draw water to the skin, so you won’t be left with that “just stripped” feeling of dryness after cleansing. 

Price at time of publish: $16 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: amino acids, hyaluronic acid, ceramides
  • Skin Type: normal to dry
  • Size: 19 oz
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best For Hormonal Acne

Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Foaming Cleanser

Kate Somerville EradiKate Daily Cleanser Acne Treatment

Why We Like It: Cleansers with sulfur can be powerful fighters against all types of inflammatory acne and rosacea.

It’s Worth Noting: The manufacturers of this cleanser note it can be drying, so you’ll need to start off slow and gradually build up to more regular use.

 If you suffer from hormonal acne, you might need a face wash containing sulfur to treat your monthly breakouts, like the EradiKate Daily Cleanser from Kate Somerville. 

 “Hormonal acne is caused by the overproduction of oil in the sebaceous glands and is linked to genetics, which can influence the activity of these glands,” says Dr. Palm. “The overproduction of sebum clogs pores, which leads to the formation of pimples.”

Dr. Palm adds that when fighting back against hormonal acne, you might need to look beyond the usual salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide formulations to a face wash containing sulfur—which has been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The EradiKate cleanser is made with a concentration of three percent sulfur, along with soothing honey, oat, and rice bran extracts, to not only clear existing breakouts but soothe skin and improve its overall appearance. 

Price at time of publish: $44 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: sulfur
  • Skin Type: oily, combination, normal
  • Size: 4 oz
  • Dosage: small amount, once or twice per day

Best For Rosacea

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer


Why We Like It: Two naturally soothing ingredients come together in this lightweight, hydrating gel cleanser to reduce redness and inflammation. 

It’s Worth Noting: For some users with rosacea, the gel formulation here could still be too drying (even though it’s intended to provide a creamy, soothing effect).

We chose the Aveeno Calm and Restore Nourishing Oat Cleanser as our best for rosacea pick because it’s a milky gel cleanser with two powerful, natural anti-inflammatory ingredients: feverfew and prebiotic oat. 

According to Cybele Fishman, MD, of Advanced Dermatology PC, people with skin conditions like rosacea and eczema should opt for non-foaming cleansers, because these won’t disrupt the skin barrier (which is compromised in both these conditions). The lightweight, gel-like formulation of this Aveeno wash gently cleanses without leaving any residue behind, never feeling overly harsh or drying. 

As for beneficial ingredients, prebiotic oat is a naturally soothing addition, calming redness and inflammation, and feverfew has also been shown to have antioxidant and protective effects on the skin when used in skincare.

Price at time of publish: $8

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: prebiotic oat, feverfew
  • Skin Type: dry, sensitive, irritated
  • Size: 7.8 oz
  • Dosage: 1-2 pumps, once or twice per day

Best With Benzoyl Peroxide

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash


Why We Like It: It’s the highest concentration of benzoyl peroxide you can get in a face wash for the ultimate acne-fighting formulation. 

It’s Worth Noting: It’s strong stuff: you’ll need to go slow to make sure you don’t dry out or irritate your skin, and it may be too potent for some.

If you have whiteheads, pustular acne, or even mild cystic acne, salicylic acid may not work as well for you as a product with benzoyl peroxide, like this foaming wash from PanOxyl. Benzoyl peroxide is best known as an antiseptic acne-fighting ingredient, getting rid of the bacteria on your skin that causes pimples and breakouts.

The PanOxyl wash contains a high amount of benzoyl peroxide, making it a good choice for anyone with moderate to severe acne that hasn’t had good luck with other acne face washes. It’s strong stuff, but it also contains moisturizers like glycerin to avoid excess drying of the skin and is free of parabens, phthalates, and fragrances—so it shouldn’t cause additional irritation. 

Price at time of publish: $9 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: 10% benzoyl peroxide
  • Skin Type: acne-prone
  • Size: 5.5 oz
  • Dosage: small amount, once or twice per day

Best For Removing Makeup

Drunk Elephant Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser

Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser


Why We Like It: The jelly-like formula is designed to dissolve and lift away oily, heavy makeup and sunscreen products. 

It’s Worth Noting: It contains a common allergen, cocamidopropyl betaine, so don’t skip the patch test with this product.

Many everyday cleansers claim to remove makeup just as well as dirt, but not all of them are as effective at dissolving oil-based makeup as the Drunk Elephant Beste™ No. 9 Jelly Cleanser. Although Dr. Fishman warns that cocamidopropyl betaine, a coconut oil-based product that’s a primary ingredient in this cleanser, can be a source of irritation for some people, we still have to give this jelly cleanser props for how well it works to break down oily makeup, lotions, and sunscreens, leaving you with a fresh face at the end of the day.

In addition to how well it works to remove makeup, the Beste™ No. 9 Jelly Cleanser also uses aloe and cantaloupe extract to soothe and glycerin to hydrate, leaving you with super soft skin after cleansing. Like all Drunk Elephant products, the cleanser is made with clean ingredients, meaning it is free of alcohols, sulfates, fragrances, essential oils, and silicones. It may not be the right choice for everyone, but if removing every ounce of your makeup before you go to bed is your top concern, we think this pick from Drunk Elephant can’t be beat.

Price at time of publish: $16 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: aloe, glycerin
  • Skin Type: all
  • Size: 2 oz
  • Dosage: small amount, once per day at night

How We Selected the Face Washes

To find the best face washes for every skin type, we spoke with three dermatologists about ingredients, textures, and formulas to look for and avoid when choosing a product that will work for you. They emphasized the importance of choosing gentle, non-irritating ingredients, considering the climate you live in, and figuring out which formulation of cleanser (cream or gel, foaming or bar) is most compatible with your skin type.  

We searched for face washes designed to suit a variety of different skin types, whether it’s fighting acne, moisturizing and hydrating, or treating common skin conditions like rosacea. We chose budget-friendly and luxury cleansers, aiming to give you plenty of spending options so you could splurge or save.

What to Know About Face Washes

Before you choose a face wash, there are a few main points to consider: the type or formulation of the wash (cream versus gel, for example), the climate you live in, and the ingredients of the product.

Type of Face Wash 

Basically all face washes perform the same task, says Dr. Ilyas: cleaning your skin through the use of surfactants and detergents, pulling away oil or grease and dirt from your skin while leaving behind hydration. 

“Almost all products, whether they are cream, foaming, gel, or bar soaps, work in this manner,” she explains, adding that the differences between formulations really comes down to user experience and the cleanser’s ability to treat certain skin problems, like dryness or acne. Here are the most common types of cleansers and the type of skin they’re often best for.

  • Foaming face wash: best for normal, oily, or acne-prone skin
  • Cream face wash: best for dry, sensitive, condition-prone (eczema or rosacea), or combination skin
  • Gel face wash: best for oily or acne-prone skin
  • Bar face wash: best for oily or acne prone skin

Your climate

If you’re putting in a lot of time thinking about your skin type before committing to a face wash, that’s a good start but if you’re forgetting to think about the type of environment your skin is normally subjected to, you’re missing a key consideration. Depending on where you live, this might mean choosing a single cleanser that works year-round for your climate, or switching cleansers based on the changing seasons.

“It’s not uncommon to switch out skincare products throughout the year, depending on the season,” says Dr. Palm. “Most people are oilier and more prone to breakouts during the summer months, so it might make sense to use a face wash that has acne-fighting properties, [but] in the drier winter months, it makes sense to swap out this cleanser for a more hydrating formula.” 

Ingredients to Look For

In general, you want to stick with non-irritating ingredients that gently cleanse the skin, but since pretty much every face wash will have some kind of potentially-damaging surfactant in order to do its job, it’s more important to look at the other ingredients—the ones that provide a certain benefit like hydrating, fighting acne, and protecting the skin barrier. 

  • Glycerin: Dr. Fishman says glycerin is a common humectant ingredient included in my face washes that’s worth keeping an eye out for; it works by drawing water to the skin, which helps your skin stay hydrated even after cleansing. 
  • Emollients: She also recommends looking for face washes with emollients, such as ceramides. Emollients soften the skin, and ceramides are one of the most popular emollients included in skincare products today; our skin already contains these fatty molecules, but products with ceramides can boost the quality of your skin barrier in super beneficial ways, allowing it to retain moisture while protecting you from environmental damage.
  • Salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide: If you have acne-prone skin, you should also be looking for a face wash containing either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients unclog pores and get rid of acne-causing bacteria. 

Ingredients to Avoid 

While the list of things to look for in a face wash is relatively short, there are quite a few ingredients you might want to avoid. We’ve grouped them together so you can easily see what to skip (and why). 

  • Comedogenic ingredients: According to Dr. Palm, rich formulations can clog pores and worsen breakouts, so stick with face washes labeled non-comedogenic. Some common comedogenic ingredients include cocoa butter, coconut oil, and lanolin.
  • Sulfates: Dr. Fishman suggests steering clear of surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS): “These are alkaline and our skin is acidic, [so] they disrupt the skin barrier.”
  • Harsh exfoliators: If you’re looking for a facial scrub, be sure to choose one with gentle exfoliators like rice powder or jojoba beads. “I recommend steering clear of crushed walnut or fruit pit particles, included in many face washes or scrubs as exfoliants,” says Dr. Palm. These ingredients can irritate and even damage skin. 
  • Formaldehyde releasers: Dr. Fishman also flags a long list of these chemical compounds, which are associated with allergic reactions in some users. Try to avoid: Bronopol, Diazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, MDM Hydantoin, and Quaternium 15.
  • Common allergens: Lastly, Dr. Fishman recommends avoiding dyes and fragrances, as well as cocamidopropyl betaine, an ingredient derived from coconut oil. “People think it’s okay [because it’s] ‘natural,’ but there is a fair amount of allergy to it,” she says.

Your Questions, Answered

What is the best way to wash your face? 

The good news is that you don’t have to overthink it (you can spend all that brainpower on choosing a product instead!).

“Your hands are enough [for washing your face],” Dr. Fishman says. “I don't like washcloths, as they can [be irritating, and] same with loofahs. If you like using something to put the cleanser on, use a cotton pad without abrasives.”

When is the best time to wash your face?

If you had to choose only one good time to wash your face to get the most benefits, it would be at night before you go to bed. Your face is exposed to a lot of elements throughout the day, from dirt and air pollutants to makeup and sunscreen, and it’s important to get rid of all that junk before lying down to sleep

If you feel like you need to wash your face once in the morning, as well—like if you have oily skin—that’s okay, but Dr. Fishman recommends only using water, not a cleanser: “In general, I think people over-wash their faces, stripping away the natural oils and sebum.”

These oils and sebum, she adds, not only contain antimicrobial peptides which help prevent infection, they’re also natural moisturizers that help maintain the skin barrier. In other words, don’t wash them away by cleansing your skin too often. 

How much does a good face wash cost?

No matter what kind of budget you have, you can find a good face wash—you can find a great one at your local drugstore for less than $10 or splurge on a luxury brand and spend over $50. Our best overall pick, La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser, is on the more affordable end of the spectrum. It was $15 at time of publish.

Who We Are

Sarah Bradley has been a freelance writer since 2017, tackling health commerce articles, product reviews, and shopping guides on everything from dry skin moisturizers and wart removers to menstrual cups and toothbrushes for braces. She has personally tested electric toothbrushes and water flossers, so knows what makes a good product stand out from a great one (and really, really wants to tell you about it).

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Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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