- Cleansers contain mild ingredients to lift away dirt from your skin, while providing hydration.
- Face washes are harsher on your skin but can clear away more stubborn impurities.
- Cleansers are best suited to dry skin and sensitive skin types, as well as those with eczema.
- Face washes are ideal for clearing away excess oils from acne-prone and oily skin types.
Cleansers and face washes are both designed to clear away impurities from your skin. However, despite the term often being used interchangeably, the effects and benefits of these products will vary greatly depending on your skin type and concerns.
Cleansers vs. Face Washes
Cleansers are mild, non-foaming products that dissolve away oils and impurities from your skin, while also adding a boost of moisture. The moisturizing benefits of cleansers make them best suited to dry and sensitive skin types. Cleansers are often found in cream, oil and powder formulations.
Face washes are also designed to clear away dirt, although they have a harsher cleaning effect on your skin than cleansers. Much like soaps and shower gels, face washes foam up the product when applied – this helps to remove stubborn dirt from your skin. Gel and foam formulations are the most common types of face wash.
In order to choose a product that works in harmony with your skin type, it’s important to recognize the main differences between cleansers and face washes.
|Contain mild, hydrating ingredients to nourish your skin||Contain strong ingredients to provide a deep clean|
|Best suited to dry and sensitive skin||Best suited to oily and acne-prone skin|
|Formulations include cream, lotion, oil and powder||Formulations include gel and foam|
How to Use a Cleanser
Use a cleanser twice a day to remove oils and impurities that have built up on your skin during the day and overnight. This prevents your pores from becoming clogged with debris, which would otherwise lead to blackheads and pimples.
Cleansing twice a day will also hydrate and moisturize your skin, helping to soften and smooth any dry patches.
Some cleansers are designed to be applied with a cotton pad and left on your skin to provide moisturization throughout the day. Others require rinsing off with warm water, so it’s best to check the product guidelines when using your cleanser.
How to Use Face Wash
If you have particularly oily skin, face washes can be used up to twice a day. They are designed to be massaged into damp skin, which allows the product to foam up and lift away stubborn dirt. It is essential to thoroughly rinse away face washes using warm water, otherwise, they may have a drying effect on your skin.
Can you use both?
Depending on your skin type, cleansers and face washes can be used in the same routine. If you have oily, yet sensitive skin, pairing a face wash and a cleanser in your regime may help to prevent irritation. Use a face wash in the morning to clear away excess oil, and a soothing cleanser in the evening to allow for added moisturization while you sleep.
This method may also be beneficial for those with combination skin. Those with dry and sensitive skin types should stick to using cleansers twice a day.
Should You Use a Face Wash or a Cleanser?
Due to their stronger cleaning effects, face washes are best suited to oily and acne-prone skin types. The foaming action of face washes helps to remove deep-seated oils, reducing the risk of breakouts and clogged pores. Look out for products containing:
- Salicylic acid – An effective anti-acne ingredient that works by exfoliating your pores, dissolving buildup.
- Green tea extract – A natural ingredient that has been found to control oil production when applied onto skin.
Face washes can be too harsh on dry or sensitive skin and should be avoided – cleansers are milder and a more suitable option. They can also be beneficial for those with conditions such as eczema and rosacea, which require gentle skin care products. Effective cleanser ingredients include:
- Glycerin – Hydrates and supports your skin’s natural barrier, preventing moisture loss.
- Ceramides – Increases hydration and improves the appearance of dry, flaking skin.
Those with combination skin types may benefit from incorporating a face wash and cleanser to balance out the dry and oily areas of their face.
Both cleansers and face washes work to clear away excess oil and other impurities from your skin, although the added benefits they provide depend entirely on your skin type.
Face washes deeply cleanse and lift away stubborn dirt from your skin, making them the optimal choice for those with oily and acne-prone skin types. For dry and sensitive skin types, cleansers are a milder option that also moisturize and hydrate your skin.
- Decker, A., & Graber, E. M. (2012). Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 5(5), 32–40. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
- Endly, D. C., & Miller, R. A. (2017). Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(8), 49–55. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605215/
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- Vender RB, Andriessen A, Barankin B, Freiman A, Kyritsis D, Mistos LM, Salsberg J, Amar L. Cohort Using a Ceramides Containing Cleanser and Cream With Salicylic Acid for Dry, Flaking, and Scaling Skin Conditions. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):80-85. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30681802