Everybody has their own opinion on the most important step of the skincare routine. But if you don’t wash your face properly with the best cleanser for your skin’s needs, then the rest is redundant, because the products that follow just won’t work properly. (For what it’s worth, cleanser and SPF are up there.)
Washing away the day’s grime and make-up is essential. Not only does it help maintain healthy skin, but by removing build-up from the skin’s surface the rest of the products can properly penetrate the top layers and get to work. Clean face = effective skincare regime.
Mimi Luzon, skin wellbeing expert, aesthetician and facialist to Bella and Gigi Hadid, couldn’t agree more. ‘Cleansing is an integral step in your skincare routines, even more so if you wear make-up,’ she says. ‘Cleansing dissolves away excess dirt, makeup and bacteria on your skin; not cleansing if likely to leave your pores clogged and your skin more at risk of breaking out.’
The really tricky thing is that there are thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands on the market – and so finding the perfect one for you can be a bit of a minefield. Luckily, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the different types below along with team Marie Claire’s favourites.
Different types of cleanser
1. Micellar water
What is micellar water? It’s tiny droplets of cleansing oil suspended in water. It’s a great option for skin that’s sensitive, as it’s extremely gentle and doesn’t make your skin feel tight or dry after application. It’s also perfect for when you can’t be bothered to give your face a full-on deep cleanse. However, don’t become reliant on this as your only cleanser as you won’t be cleaning your skin completely. Simply pour some onto a cotton pad and wipe over the face to clean and cleanse.
2. Oil cleansers
Oil cleansers are really great at removing make-up, particularly breaking down stubborn mascara. ‘Cleansing oils are a favourite among many, however, I don’t like to use oils or oil cleansers on acne-prone skin,’ warns Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. ‘They can be highly comedogenic, so I’d avoid it if you’re prone to breakouts and blackheads.’
3. Cleansing cloths
Elevate your standard flanneled washcloth with one of these cotton options. A sustainable alternative to your go-to cotton pads, look for double-sided options that are gentle on and cleanse the skin.
4. Cleansing balms
Balms are particularly thick and luxurious-feeling cleansers that remove makeup brilliantly and are particularly great for dry skin that needs that extra hit of nourishment. Some can leave a slightly oily residue, and therefore need to be rinsed thoroughly, so it’s best to take to them with a flannel or cloth. ‘Cleansing balms, such as Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, are great for dry skin types,’ advises Dr Mahto. ‘Once massaged into the skin, they work to dislodge any make-up, pollution or sunscreen that is left on the skin.’
5. Foaming cleansers
A foaming cleanser is kind of the entry-level cleanser that you get given in your early teens. They get a bad rep because a number contains SLS, a foaming agent that can dry skin out. That said, it doesn’t negatively affect everyone, and those with an oilier skin type and prone to blemishes often get on well with the formulas. They really lather up to help cleanse every nook and cranny.
6. Gel cleansers
If you have combination skin then a gel is a perfect middle ground of nourishing for drier skin, while being lightweight and refreshing enough for those oilier parts. They can be used at any time of day, but make great morning cleansers. Use on damp skin and work in before rinsing.
7. Cream and milk cleansers
Cream and milk cleansers don’t foam, and so tackle dirt and grime best when applied directly onto dry skin. They work well if you have dry or dehydrated skin, because they’re super nourishing but don’t strip your complexion of all life. Very simple and gentle cream cleansers are a particularly great match for sensitive skin.
How to cleanse skin properly
‘I personally like to start my day by cleansing my face with foam or any other delicate product with a suitable PH level,’ says Luzon. ‘I also recommended starting your morning routine at least twice a week with an enzymatic exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and encourage skin glow.’
‘If you are looking for a deep clean then a double-cleanse could be the answer,’ explains Dr Mahto. ‘It involves using a cleansing oil, balm or micellar water to break down make-up, SPF and sebum on the surface of your skin first, then following it with a deeper water-based cleanse. This removes sweat, bacteria and old skin cells. The second round of cleansing will clean much deeper into the pores to remove any impurities.’
The number one rule is to think about your skin concerns and to choose your skin ingredients accordingly. Salicylic acid is a great deep exfoliant for oily skin, while thicker, richer cleansers marry well with dry skin. ‘I believe less is more; there is definitely such a thing as too many active ingredients,’ says Dr Mahto. ‘Applying a large number of active ingredients onto the skin can trigger allergy, sensitivity or irritation.’
If you have sensitive skin invest in a couple of different cleansers. ‘You can use different cleansers on different parts of your face,’ adds Luzon. ‘For drier areas use a nourishing cleansing cream, and for oilier areas stick with foams.’
So, whether you prefer a cream cleanser, a thick balm, a lightweight gel or a nourishing cleansing oil, there’s definitely a cleanser out there to suit your skin’s needs (and your bank balance’s). Remember to strengthen your treatment plan by arming yourself with the best toner, which follows your cleanser.
Best cleanser 2022
The Marie Claire Beauty Team take cleansing very seriously. They have tirelessly tried and tested hundreds, if not thousands, of cleansers in their time and have decided that the below are the very best. Whilst trialling, they took the following into account – texture, ingredients, price and efficacy. These are their findings…