The 5 Best Cream Cleansers
As far as skin care products go, cream cleansers are a true classic. A standby, a fail-safe, the dermatological equivalent of wrapping yourself in a cashmere blanket... you get the idea. I like cream cleansers; Maybe it’s because one of my earliest sense memories is dipping my fingers into my grandmother’s pot of Pond’s Cold Cream. And still today, every time I use one of the best cream cleansers, my skin and I feel calm, comforted, and generally at peace.
You’ll notice that many cream cleansers include the word “soothing” in their titles, because that’s what they do best. They’re essentially lotions, but spiked with gentle cleaning agents. Typically, they’re free of sulfates, a detergent that gives cleansers of other consistencies (like gels and foams) their lather, but which can be irritating and drying for sensitive skin. Almost always, they’re suffused with hydrating ingredients that leave your skin moisturized and soft. They are, in short, the most nourishing way to clean your face, which makes them especially ideal for people with sensitive, dry, and reaction-prone skin. But since they help keep your skin’s natural oil levels in check, cream cleansers can work perfectly well for people with acne-prone skin, too.
That said, even the best cream cleansers aren’t necessarily the most powerful. A cream cleanser alone almost certainly won't be enough to take off your makeup. So if you’re using a cream-based cleanser at night (or very early in the morning, no judgment), it’s best to first use an oil-based cleanser or micellar water to get rid of surface-level grime. Then the cream can dive in and finish off the process while soothing and moisturizing your skin.
Here are five of the best cream cleansers you can find on Amazon (minus Pond’s classic cold cream, which is a given). They’re all perfect if soothed, supple skin is your goal, but some address more specific concerns, like hyper-sensitivity and redness, too.
1. The Best Drugstore Cream Cleanser
If you’re looking for a simple and affordable cream cleanser to get started with, CeraVe's Hydrating Facial Cleanser is it. This fan-favorite cleanser contains ceramides to bolster your skin’s natural moisture barrier for long-term hydration, plus hyaluronic acid, a powerful, naturally occurring substance that holds about 1000 times its weight in water. All that moisturizing goodness is delivered via the brand’s patented MVE Technology, which ensures that your skin stays hydrated for 24 hours. You’ll only need to shell out about $15 for a 19-ounce pump bottle of this cleanser, which should last you a while.
2. The Best Cream Cleanser For Dry Skin
La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane line is a great place for people with dry skin to start their search for skin care products of any kind. All of the products in the brand’s Toleriane collection — including La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, their daily cream cleanser — feature prebiotics as a main ingredient. Quick science lesson: Just like your gut, your skin’s top layer is home to a community of microorganisms (aka a microbiome). An imbalanced microbiome can disrupt the barrier that seals in moisture for plump, hydrated skin and protects your skin from environmental aggressors. In short? You need to keep your microbiome in check to keep your skin hydrated, and nutrient-rich prebiotics are the answer.
Along with these microbiome-enhancing prebiotics, this cleanser is packed with moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, and Vitamin E. Plus, its milky consistency works up into a gentle lather when you apply it to your wet face, so it might feel a little more “cleansing” than a richer cream will. It's also another affordable pick, though you do get less product than with the CeraVe bottle (5.5 ounces less, to be precise).
3. The Best Cream Cleanser For Combination Skin
It may seem counterintuitive, but creamy cleansers can work beautifully for people with combination, oily, and acne-prone skin. Harsher, foamier cleansers may strip your skin of its natural oils; to compensate for that dryness, your skin produces excess oil. But cream cleansers, like the Paula’s Choice Calm Nourishing Cleanser, only clean off top-layer sebum, which keeps your skin balanced, properly hydrated, and clear of impurities that can cause breakouts. As its name suggests, the Paula’s Choice Calm Nourishing Cleanser is also ideal for people who experience redness, inflammation, and rosacea, thanks to calming ingredients like aloe and marigold.
4. The Best Organic Cream Cleanser
Potentially the most luxurious cream cleanser on this list, Naturopathica's Chamomile Cleansing Milk is also the most eco-friendly across the board: The brand is vegan, cruelty-free, and both Leaping Bunny- and Ecocert-certified. Beyond feeling morally sound, this cleanser’s calming chamomile, soothing lavender, and anti-inflammatory rose and aloe extracts will make your skin feel happy and nourished, too. I particularly love its lightly herbaceous scent, which transports me straight to the Provencal spa of my dreams.
5. The Best Cream Cleanser For Extra-Sensitive Skin
If you experience extreme sensitivities and allergies, Avene's Tolerance Extreme Cleansing Lotion is your safest choice — the French brand has been designing skin care products for people with hypersensitive skin for over 270 years, so they know what they're doing. Along with just a handful of ingredients, it contains the brand’s signature thermal spring water, which is rich in natural nutrients that soften and soothe your skin. This cleanser is also manufactured in a sterile environment to ensure that no potentially irritating impurities seep into the formula. Of course, it’s also free of parabens, fragrance, preservatives, and other additives that can aggravate fragile skin.
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