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10 different types of face cleansers you need to know

The most important step in any skincare routine is cleansing the skin. Even if you don’t use makeup, your skin is in contact with environmental pollution, dirt and your own sweat and sebum. All of that, together with residual skincare products and makeup, can clog the pores and produce severe skin problems. That is why it is so important to cleanse your skin properly. There are a huge variety of face cleansers available and it is not easy to choose the right one. In this post, I go through about different types of face cleansers available to help you choose the right one for your skin type and conditions.

What is a face cleanser?

That is something very simple. A face cleanser (also called face wash) is a product used to cleanse your face. Don’t confuse a face cleanser with a makeup remover, though. The makeup remover eliminates the makeup, obviously, but will not eliminate the sweat, sebum and other dirt.

The makeup remover will not clean inside your pores leaving them dirty and prone to clog. You can use a makeup remover, of course, but always followed by a face cleanser.

The type of face cleansers available is huge and it can feel overwhelming to choose the right one for your skin type and conditions. I hope this guide will help you with that.

Different types of face cleansers

1. Gel Cleansers types of face cleansers

This is the most common face cleanser. They are water-based cleansers with a clear gel-like texture. This type of cleanser is ideal for deep cleansing the skin.

They normally contain mild ingredients and, therefore, any skin type can use them. Gel cleansers won’t irritate the skin and won’t leave a dry or tight feeling after use.

They help to unclog the pores, which makes them ideal for acne-prone and oily skin. Also, they help to regulate sebum production.

They are widely available and affordable, but my favourite is Neutrogena Hydro Boost.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Cleanser

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2. Cream cleansers

Cream cleansers are also called cleansing milk or lotions. They have a thick and creamy texture. Most of the time, this type of cleanser contains ingredients which help to retain water in the skin (like moisturisers and humectants) or to avoid transepidermal water loss (emollients).

They are very gentle with the skin and don’t damage the natural skin barrier. Cream cleansers are indicated for any skin type, but people with dry or sensitive skin will find them very useful.

Florence by Mills Clean Magic Face Wash

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3. Foam cleansers types of face cleansers

When talking about these cleansers, we can mention two types of foam cleansers. One of them is liquid products which become foam when you pump them off the bottle. An example of this type of foam cleanser is the cleanser recently launched by Technic, the Glycolic Acid Foaming Cleanser.

The other type of foam cleanser is the Holika Holika Tea Tree Foaming Cleanser. This is a soap which looks like a thick cream. This cream transforms into a lather or foam when you add water to it. They normally contain natural ingredients and give you a spa-pampering feeling.

Foam cleansers leave the skin feeling fresh and clean, and clean the pores really well. They are light and weightless, ideal for people with sensitive skin.

Holika Holika Green Tea Foaming Cleanser

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4 and 5. Oil and Balm Cleansers

This type of cleanser is very popular nowadays as they are the first step of the double cleanse. They are literally an oil or a balm that you apply on the skin to cleanse it.

It may seem weird to cleanse the skin using oil or balm but, based on the principle of “like dissolves like”, they are ideal to eliminate non-water soluble dirt, like waterproof makeup or skin sebum. The oil or balm will remove excess sebum, the rest of the makeup, and pollutants and they will clean the pores.

They help to balance the skin and lock hydration, as well as they help to protect the natural skin barrier.

Their way of using this type of cleanser is, as mentioned, the first step in the double cleansing. Apply them over dry skin and massage them on the skin. Remove with a wet cloth and continue with the water-based cleanser.

Any skin type should use oil or balm cleansers, even oily and combo skin.


Clinique Take the Day Off

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DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

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6. Clay cleansers types of face cleansers

Clay is an absorbent ingredient. The main use of these cleansers is to purify the skin and remove dirt from the pores. Clay absorbs very effectively the excess of sebum and toxins.

There are different clays available, each one with different properties. Which clay you will choose in your cleanser will depend on your skin type.

If you can’t buy a clay cleanser you can make one at home by mixing some cosmetic clay with your habitual cleanser.

Creightons Salicylic Acid Clay Cleanser

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7. Solid cleansers

They are the traditional soap bar our grannies used and have been considered old-fashion for a long time. Nowadays, they are becoming very popular as they are an eco-friendly option.

Depending on the ingredients, they can produce different effects on your skin. Something to keep in mind is that you should never use a soap bar for the body on your face, as body soap bars contain harsh ingredients.

On top of the benefits solid soaps have for the skin, they have other types of benefits, including:

  • Allow saving money as they are normally cheap
  • Last longer than other types of cleansers
  • Eco-friendly
  • Biodegradable and zero-waste
  • Travel friendly

Upcircle Cleansing Bar with Fennel and Cardamom

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8. Powder Cleansers types of face cleansers

Powder cleansers are the least known type of cleanser, I think. They come in powder form. To use them, dispense some powder on your hands and add some water. Mix well and lather in your hands. Finally, massage the skin and rinse it off.

They are travel-friendly and a long time after opening, they have a long PAO. They will not fall apart or grow mould or bacteria as other cleansers do.

There are different options available depending on the ingredients for different skin types. They can contain charcoal, vitamin C or any other ingredient. At the same time as they cleanse the skin, they make a mild exfoliation that helps to reduce hyperpigmentation.

As they don’t contain preservatives, they are really indicated for sensitive skin.

Finally, you can control the consistency of the final soap by adding more water or more powder when you prepare it.

Revolution Skincare Charcoal Cleansing Powder

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9. Roll-on Cleansers or Stick Cleansers

Roll-on cleansers are also a travel-friendly option. They are solid cleansers in screw packaging similar to deodorants. You should swipe them all over the face and massage them.

They are indicated for any skin type, depending on the ingredients in the formula. For example, St Ives launched three varieties of roll-on cleansers for different skin types which I think are discontinued. They were the Cactus Water & Hibiscus for dry skin, Matcha Green Tea and Ginger to detox the skin and Apricot & Manuka Honey for glowy skin.

Median Green Mask Stick

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10. Micellar Water types of face cleansers

Micellar water is very popular as it removes oil, dirt and makeup. It is water with a tiny amount of oil molecules suspended on it. These oil molecules form micelles, with a hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts. This double character makes micellar water capable of removing oil-based and water-based dirt.

There is a full post about micellar water on this site, so I am not going to say anything more about it and I will invite you to read it if you want to know more about it.

Garnier Micellar Water

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Cleansing Tools

Although not a type of cleanser, I want to include the cleansing tools here as they help to keep the skin clean and increase the effectiveness of any type of cleanser. Some people apply the cleansers with their hands and there is nothing wrong with doing that. However, you can get extra benefits from any cleanser when using the cleansing tools.

The most common cleansing tool is cotton pads, as they are widely available and very cheap. You can use the cotton pad to massage the cleanser on the skin or when you are rinsing it off. I don’t recommend the use of cotton pads because they are not eco-friendly.

I recommend reusable pads instead. They do the same job but you can use, wash and reuse them. You can buy or make them with for example an old towel.
For deeper cleansing, I recommend the use of a cleansing brush and cleansing pad. The cleansing brush is exactly that, a brush with bristles on one side and a rough surface on the other. Cleansing pads are normally made of silicone and consist of a rough surface.

The idea behind these two tools is the same, exfoliate the skin at the same time as you cleanse it. Both can be manual or electronic. Use these tools only a couple of times per week, not daily or you can over-exfoliate your skin.

What about cleansing wipes?

I didn’t mention the cleansing wipes and that is because I don’t recommend them at all. They are good for an emergency situation but not to use daily basis. The wipes don’t clean the face in an effective manner. If you clean your face using a wipe and swipe a cotton ball after cleansing, you will see that the cotton ball comes out with the rest of the dirt.

I only use cleansing wipes when I go to the gym. Obviously, I don’t want to work out on makeup, so I remove it with a cleansing wipe and deeply cleanse my face with balm and cream cleanser when I reach home.

I hope this guide helps you to choose a face cleanser right for your skin type. Although it is a good idea to choose the right cleanser, the most important thing is having a clean face, independent of the cleanser you use. If you are using the one right for your skin type you will get an extra benefit. Remember that beauty starts with clean skin.

Which type of cleanser do you use more? Let me know in the comments.

Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

I love beauty and skincare, try new products, and share my opinion with you. All my knowledge comes from years of experience and reading articles. I have dry skin, Fitzpatrick type IV, warm undertone, and my main concern is hyperpigmentation. Keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you. We are all different and products can have different results on your skin. Want to talk? Email me at contact@irenebeautyandmore.com

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