Cleansers are the foundation of any skin care routine — but with all the options out there these days, shopping for one can feel overwhelming. To help narrow things down, I spoke with several medical experts to create this guide to the best dermatologist-recommended face washes on the market right now. Though some are better for certain skin types than others, what they all have in common is that they're not overly harsh and have many benefits way beyond cleansing.
“Daily facial cleansing is important because it removes dirt, oil, bacteria, viruses, pollutants, dead skin, and other impurities,” explains Dr. Emmanuel Loucas, M.D., but many people over-wash, which leads to a higher likelihood of rashes and irritated skin. If you’re experiencing dryness or irritation, trying washing your face once a day in the evening, and just rinsing with lukewarm water in the morning.
For people with oily or acne-prone skin, avoid products with sulfates, advises Dr. Martha Viera, M.D. “There are soaps that contains sulfates that are aggressive surfactants that can wash away your healthy fats and lipids and dry out the skin. For acne-prone skin, you don’t want to over-dry your skin; in fact, that causes the skin to produce more oil, and make the condition worse," she explains.
After you’ve washed your face, use a skin-repairing overnight treatment, suggests Karen Whitney, PA-C. “Like the rest of your body, the skin heals while you sleep, making this the ideal time to apply a retinol, moisturizer, or other [skin boosting] product.” (You can find a list of the best-rated night creams, here.)
To keep your skin balanced and clean, try one of the five dermatologist-recommended face washes featured below.
1. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
“This Japanese oil-based cleanser will dissolve dirt, oil, and makeup but won't leave you feeling greasy. The formula includes olive oil, rosemary leaf oil, and vitamin E antioxidants to protect from free radicals and maintain your skin's moisture barrier.”
— Dr. Jessie Cheung, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in Chicago, IL
2. Avène Cleanance Gel
“This soap-free gel cleanser will help to maintain your skin's microbiome while fighting acne. Avène's thermal spring water contains postbiotics and trace elements to soothe, soften, and calm skin.”
— Dr. Jessie Cheung
3. PCA SKIN Facial Wash Oily/Problem Exfoliating Daily Cleanser
“Those with acne and sensitive skin may do better with the PCA Facial Wash with the addition of lactic acid for moisture and aloe vera for soothing, and benzoyl peroxide to provide antibacterial and exfoliating benefits.”
— Karen Whitney, PA-C based in Cincinnati, OH
4. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser
“This is ideal as a daily facial cleanser for normal to dry skin. It's a gentle product that removes face and eye makeup, dirt, and impurities. I love that it is a creamy product that helps restore the barrier and retains essential moisture. Toleriane and the La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water are used to treat conditions such as rosacea, dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis. This cleanser is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog your pore, and also helps to heal the skin without irritation. It contains amazing ingredients such as glycerin, ceramide-3, and niacinamide, which I consider an amazing combination as [a] moisturizer and anti-inflammatory.”
— Dr. Martha Viera, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in South Miami, FL
5. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
“When looking at cleansers for "normal" skin, I highly recommend the Cerave Hydrating Cleanser. The proper way to wash your face is to wet your face with lukewarm water then apply the cleanser to your fingertips and gently massage [it] in and rinse off completely. Try to avoid using sponges, mesh, or washcloths as this can remove essential oils from your skin. For people who have oily skin, I would suggest the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser.”
— Dr. Emmanuel Loucas, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in New York, NY
Dr. Martha Viera, M.D., board-certified dermatologist.
Karen Whitney, PA-C.
Dr. Jessie Cheung, M.D., board-certified dermatologist.