How to Find the Right Face Wash for Your Skin
The one common denominator we all have in a skincare routine is face wash…or at least I’d hope everyone is washing their face everyday. Cleanser is probably the number one staple item to own, even if you don’t really have a routine at all. But even for the most basic of skincare items, cleansers can be difficult to differentiate. So, if you’ve struggled with how to find a face wash that works for your skin or just one that you enjoy, use this as a guide for the next time you take a trip to the store.
- There are 5 main skin types: dry, oily, combo, sensitive and moderate.
- Typically, you can tell on your own what category you fall into, but if you’re unsure it’s always best to see your dermatologist
- There are certain facewash guidelines for dry, oily, and sensitive skin, while people with combination and moderate skin need to do more tailoring for individual skin needs.
The 5 skin types
To begin, let’s break down skin types before discussing which cleansers work best for which skin type. There are several different skin types, and it’s very possible that you can have two skin types at once. Dermatologists typically divide it into five categories: dry, oily, combination, sensitive and moderate. You may have heard the term “normal” skin, but moderate is a better definition because there is no such thing as normal!
How to find products for dry skin
Dry skin is pretty self-explanatory, but it can be slightly confusing for some to differentiate between dry and dehydrated skin. Dry skin is a skin type, where the skin lacks sebum or oil. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition where the skin lacks water or has issues holding onto water or moisture. Dehydrated skin is a temporary condition that can be repaired, whereas dry skin is your skin type that you were simply born with. It can be confusing to decide which one you’re struggling with because they have the same symptoms such as: redness, itching, flaking, and a feeling of tightness right after cleansing.
Dry skin typically doesn’t need as much cleansing or as harsh of cleaning ingredients as other skin types. At its core, a cleanser or face wash is a soap, and many soaps’ main ingredient is sulfate, this is the stuff that makes your face washes, body washes, and shampoos foam up and lather. This type of lathering psychologically makes people feel cleaner and as if they are doing a better job of removing dirt from the surface.
But for people with dry skin, an excessive amount of soap can make their dryness worse. Soaps and cleansers work by stripping the skin of any oils, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria, but in doing so, the skin is then left with less sebum or oil than it began with. Because dry skin already lacks sebum, excessively washing your face or using products containing too much sulfate is just going to make your skin drier.
Those with dry skin should opt for more milky, creamy-like face washes and stay away from the cleansers that foam up. It may seem like those types of face washers are doing a better job at cleaning, but it really is just a psychological effect. Non-foaming cleansers do just as great of a job at washing without leaving the skin feeling tight. If you’re extremely dry, it can also be beneficial to stick to cleansing once a day at night, and using just lukewarm water to rinse your face in the mornings.
Ceramides and glycerin are two key ingredients to look for when shopping for a new face wash. These will help cleanse the skin of any dirt and bacteria, while simultaneously hydrating and soothing dry skin.
Best face washes for those with dry skin:
- CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser ($14)
- LaRoche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser ($16)
- Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser ($9) *My personal favorite
- Tatcha The Rice Wash Soft Cream Cleanser ($35)
How to find products for oily skin
Oily skin is almost the opposite when looking for a cleanser. If you have oily skin, your skin produces an excess amount of sebum, causing you to be shiny throughout the day. There are actually several benefits to having oilier skin, and one of them includes natural lubrication meaning those with oily skin tend to age slower or develop less wrinkles.
So although having to carry a touch-up powder with you nowadays can be annoying, you will be thankful in the long run. For people with oily skin, it’s recommended to cleanse twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Although your body produces more oil than necessary, it’s also important to not overwash and overstrip your skin of its natural oils. Doing this actually causes your skin to overcompensate by producing even more oils.
Those with oily skin tend to do better with a gel cleanser. It lathers and foams more than milky cleansers, but if you stick to cleansing a maximum of twice a day, it shouldn’t overstrip your skin. It’s also best to look for cleansers that contain gentle acids: salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide. Because those with oily skin tend to be more prone to breakouts, these ingredients will act as a gentle exfoliant to break up those clogged pores that can cause pimples.
Best face washes for those with oily skin:
- CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser ($13)
- LaRoche Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser ($15)
- Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser ($38)
- Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant ($59)
How to find products for combination skin
Combination skin can be tricky as well. Usually if you have combination skin, you struggle with dryness and flaking on your cheeks or the outer parts of your face, but your nose, chin, and forehead get rather oily throughout the day. But, the beauty of having combination skin is you can experiment and see which ingredients you like the best, because several of them will be suited for you. Some recommended ingredients include vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and peptides.
Best face washes for those with combination skin:
- Avène Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion ($24)
- Youth to the People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser ($36)
- SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser ($42)
How to find products for sensitive skin
Sensitive skin is skin that is easily irritated by introducing new products, harsh ingredients, makeup, or even physical surfaces. Because of this, it’s best to opt for very simple cleansers with preferably less than 10 ingredients. It’s also important to get to know your own skin and experiment with which specific ingredients cause your skin to react poorly and which ingredients your skin can tolerate.
Ingredients such as lactic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide are all very gentle and hydrating ingredients that tend to work well for those with skin on the sensitive side. Oat is also an extremely soothing and calming ingredient which helps for those struggling with redness.
It’s very possible to have dry, oily or combination skin while simultaneously having sensitive skin, which is why I mentioned the possibility of having more than one skin type. This is why it’s so crucial to get to know your own skin and do patch tests when trying out new products to see how your skin reacts before applying it to your entire face.
Best face washes for those with sensitive skin:
- Aveeno Calm and Restore Nourishing Oat Cleanser ($9)
- Vanicream Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser ($8)
- Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Cleanser ($18)
*Side note- all of these cleaners can be used on the body as well because they are so gentle
How to find products for moderate skin
Last but not least, we have moderate skin. This is also commonly referred to as “normal” but nobody knows what normal is, so we’ve upgraded to the term moderate. Those with moderate skin are almost right down the middle in every category: not too dry, not too oily, and not overly sensitive. Because of this, people with moderate skin types have endless choices for which ingredients and what brands to use for their cleansers.
So, it’s really about picking which cleanser you like the best and works best for you and your lifestyle. If you are someone who prefers a creamier cleanser, opt for one that is water and glycerin based. If you are someone who prefers a gel-like foaming cleanser, go for a face wash that contains sulfates and ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid.
Because those with moderate skin don’t necessarily have specific ingredients they should lean towards, you could choose a cleanser from any of the ones listed above. But an extremely popular choice for those with moderate skin is the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser ($38).
Whatever your skin type is, it’s important to get to know your skin and which ingredients or brands work best for you, your lifestyle and your budget. And remember, contrary to popular belief, skin types can change over time. Oftentimes people struggle with oily or combination skin in their teens and early 20’s and then their skin tends to fizzle out and become drier or more moderate in their 30’s or 40’s. So, listen to your dermatologist and your body and make sure to always cleanse your skin before bed!
Written by Jordan Hammaren