Finding a cleanser that gets rid of the grime on your face while being gentle enough to not strip it of its natural, essential oils can be difficult. It’s especially so when “gentle” doesn’t seem the right adjective for the cleansers of today.
And really, in the fight against persistent acne, clogged pores and stubborn makeup residue, who wants a gentle cleanser? No, when faced with a single zit, we all reach for the most potent formula available. Of course—there is such a thing as a face cleanser that’s too strong for our skin.
A face wash that’s too rough can cause our skin to turn red, lead to more breakouts, or even over-dried skin patches. For those of us with sensitive skin, face washes with harsh chemicals can wreck even more havoc on our delicate face. The solution lies in finding the right kind of gentle, face cleansers that remove makeup, unclog pores, and leave our skin feeling soft and replenished.
Finding these cleansers isn’t easy, so we reached out to some of our favorite beauty influencers and editors. Here are the gentle face washes they reach for every night.
The one that’s great at removing makeup
“My skin is pretty emo—that is, it’s sensitive and moody and tends to erupt when my feelings go haywire. After years of using medicated, ‘active’ cleansers, I finally realized that I needed to treat my skin with a little more TLC. This Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser does just that for me.
It’s effective at lifting off makeup, it doesn’t leave my skin feeling stripped or too dry, and now my skin is way more Carly Rae Jepsen than Rites of Spring.”
—Annie Tomlin, editorial director, Rose Inc.
The one that’s a natural acne-fighter
“My cleanser of the moment is from this natural brand called Botnia. Their products are all handmade in Sausalito, California and they grow most of the ingredients they use themselves. Their Daily Face Wash, is divine—it’s foamy and nourishing and smells like you just walked into a boutique on Abbot Kinney, very herbal and aromatherapeutic.
I wish I could say we had a meet-cute (out of all the cleansers in the beauty store, it was the one that caught my eye), but honestly I was introduced to it when I met with the founder of the brand. I took it home, tried it, and was hooked. It contains willowbark extract, a natural source of salicylic acid, which is great for my skin because I’m prone to clogged pores. Other standout ingredients include anti-inflammatory arnica and goldenseal extract. Plus, the packaging appeals to me on an aesthetic level—clean and chic.”
—Allie Flinn, freelance beauty and wellness writer
The one that’s gentle to the touch
“My favorite cleanser that I regularly reach for? The FRESH Soy Facejelly-texture makes it unique while the actual power of the cleanser is super gentle but effective. It always leaves my skin perfectly balanced and calm!I tried a travel-sized version of the cleanser when checking out at Sephora and have been hooked ever since.
I went from believing that the oilier my skin, the more intense my cleanser needed to be. Lies! After trying so many different skincare products, the soy cleanser didn’t just give me squeaky clean skin but it also leaves my face super soft.”
—Jade Kendle, beauty influencer
The one that doesn’t require water to work
“Every night, I use Bioderma Sensibio H2 micellar water to remove my makeup. I first found it at a French pharmacy when I was living in Paris years ago and have been using it ever since. It has a cultish following, so you’ve probably read about it at some point, but it really lives up to the hype.
What I love about it most is that it’s great for when I’m on the run because it doesn’t require rinsing with water after you use it—which is the reason you’ll spot models using it backstage during fashion month.”
—Kristen Nichols, editor at Who What Wear
The one that softly melts your makeup away
“Eve Lom Gel Balm Cleanser is one of the few products I keep right at my sink, next to my toothbrush and toothpaste a.k.a prime skin care real estate! The silky, thick formula gently melts away my makeup without ever leaving my skin feeling tight or stripped. In fact, it usually feels more moisturized afterwards, thanks to the soothing blend of essential oils and shea butter.
It has a very distinct, clove-y scent though, so make sure you’re cool with that before buying! The pump dispenser is also a game-changer for me, versus other balm cleansers that come in a jar. I find it much more convenient and less messy.
—Jen Mulrow, fashion and beauty writer, branded content, Refinery29
The ones that are ripe for the perfect facial
“The price may seem steep for a cleanser, but Shiseido’s Future Solution LX Extra Rich Cleansing Foam is worth every penny. You only need a pea-sized drop of this formula to create mountains of luxurious foam that washes away the day without stripping skin. If you think about this face wash in terms of price per use, it’s actually a bargain—my tube lasted at least six months. That said, if you’re looking to spend less, I highly recommend Shiseido Senka Perfect Whip. This cleanser also hails from Japan and produces plenty of ultra-lush bubbles for under $10.
For a deeper clean, I give myself a ‘flash facial’ using three pumps of Sunday Riley’s Ceramic Slip Cleanser and two pumps of Good Genes. I leave the blend on my face for five to ten minutes and the combination of French green clay and lactic acid pulls out impurities and leaves skin glowing. I discovered this two-step secret backstage at Stella McCartney’s Resort show years ago and haven’t looked back since.”
—Amber Kallor, beauty director, Fashion Unfiltered