But first, one word of wisdom from Malik, who says not to invest too much of your “skincare goals” into a cleanser. “Due to their very brief exposure while washing the skin, the benefits of a cleanser are likely very limited,” he explains. Think of their benefits as most surface level, or for a quick pore expunging. “For [greater nourishing and fortifying needs], try leave-on serums, or moisturizers work much better,” he says. These will be a more assuring way to target things like hydration and skin tone (like with Vitamin C, for example).
As for the ideal products and ingredients for key skin needs, read on.
“If you have dry skin, look for cleansers with hydrating ingredients like glycerin or ceramides,” says Sanghvi. Cream, balm, or oil based cleansers are ideal because they won’t strip the skin of its natural oils. It’s best to wash once a day, and in the winter opt for more moisturizing formulations to get ahead of any dryness.
Oily Skin Type
“For oily skin, you want an oil-free, non-clogging (non-comedogenic) formulation, ideally a gel or foaming cleanser that would be effective in removing excess oil,” says Malik. “Look for ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids, or deep-cleansing beta hydroxy acids (AHAs/BHAs) which are exfoliating, and prevent clogged pores.”
Acne-Prone Skin Type
Worry not, pimple prone pals: “If you are dealing with acne, pick a cleanser based on whether your skin is dry (cream or oil based) or oily (gel or foam based),” says Sanghvi. “Look for salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide in the ingredients. To get the most out of the acne-fighting capabilities, wash twice a day, regardless of season.” After all, breakouts are perennial.
Malik says to look for hypoallergenic, sensitive-skin specific, fragrance-free formulas, since these will be without harsh cleansing surfactants. “I would recommend alcohol-free and sulfate-free formulas, and products with a minimal ingredient profile,” he adds. “It helps to patch test particular cleansers if there is concern for an allergic response.”
Aging/Mature Skin Type
Because skin produces less oil over the years, resulting in rougher and drier texture, it is wise to change up your products with the times. “Look for anti-aging ingredients like peptides and antioxidants, ideally in cream- or oil-based cleansers,” says Sanghvi. “They won’t strip the skin of its natural oils.”
Normal Skin Type
How lucky, to have unfussy “normal” skin. These balanced individuals should still prioritize “gentle cleansing agents in the ingredient profile” says Malik. “For this, look for ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine or sodium cocoyl isethionate. You also want the cleanser suitable enough for daily use, with a simple ingredient profile.”
Combination Skin Type
Combination skin is part oily (usually across the brow, plus down the nose and chin), as well as part dry or normal (typically the cheeks). “You want a balanced cleanser that will help both the oily areas and the dry areas, so gentle foaming formulations work best,” says Sanghvi. “Look for glycolic acid in the ingredients. Depending on the season and the sensitivity of your skin, you may have to adjust the frequency, more often if you tend on the oily side and/or its humid out, and less often if you tend on the drier side and/or its winter.”
How We Tested the Best Facial Cleansers for Men
You don’t go a decade as a grooming writer and editor without testing a million and a half facial cleansers along the way. I must get four or five sent to my home every week, and so this list is curated from the best of the best. My partner and I have different skin types and needs too, so anything ill suited for me is perfect for him.