Get cleaner, brighter skin in no time.

By Emily Goldman
Updated August 03, 2020
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Deciding on the right cleanser for your face can feel like a guessing game. The right face wash can ensure makeup goes on more evenly, brighten your complexion, and even prevent breakouts. But it all depends on what type you choose. "Listen to your skin," says Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, Park View Laser Dermatology board-certified dermatologist. "Sometimes skincare is a trial and error to find products that are right for you." While figuring out your skin type is a helpful step in the process of choosing the right face wash, Dr. Gmyrek says that skin type categories are broad—you can have oily and sensitive skin at the same time, and the skin type you have now might not be the same type you had when you were a teenager. "Your skin type may change over time," she says. "You may become less oily as you get older and [drier] as hormonal changes occur. You may become more sensitive or less sensitive as well." Ahead, dermatologists share how to choose the best face wash for the five main skin types.

Credit: Getty / JGI / Jamie Grill

Dry

We all know what dry skin feels like. Often experiencing it on our hands during the wintertime, it can be even more uncomfortable on the face—and in extreme conditions, unsightly. "Dry skin does not retain moisture easily so it can often appear bumpy or flaky," explains Dr. Dianne Davis, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. Moisturize while you cleanse with the right face wash. She recommends Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($13.49, ulta.com) or Neutrogena Hydroboost Face Wash ($7.74, amazon.com).

Normal

"Normal skin refers to skin that is neither too dry nor too oily and is considered well-balanced," explains Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD board-certified dermatologist at New York Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center. "Those with normal skin are generally not prone to sensitivity or irritation, particularly when it comes to applying other products on the skin. Normal skin tends to be well-hydrated without being overly greasy or shiny." She suggests using a cleanser like Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, ($8.99, ulta.com). It's gentle yet effective making it a great option for those with normal skin as it'll help remove any excess oil without drying out skin, Dr. Garshick explains. It is gentle enough that it can be used twice daily without being too harsh or irritating on the skin. "While it can be used for those with normal skin, I also like it for those who are also using other active ingredients in their regimen, such as retinoids or exfoliating acids, to help prevent the skin from drying out."

Oily

Oily skin makes excessive sebum or oil, resulting in this skin type's almost wet-like appearance. "Oily skin types need a more intense cleanser either of a gel or foam in consistency that may contain exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid or lactic acid to help remove excess oil from the pores," explains Davis. She suggests Epionce Lytic Gel Cleanser ($38, dermstore.com) for its use of salicylic acid. Meanwhile, Dr. Garshick likes Vichy's Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleansing Gel ($18, dermstore.com) "as it contains a combination of salicylic acid, zinc, and copper minerals and Vichy volcanic water to help remove dirt, excess oil, and reduce breakouts, clogged pores, and blemishes."

Sensitive

This skin type is prone to redness, inflammation, and sensations on the skin like stinging and burning, according to Dr. Gmyrek. For this reason, choosing the right face wash is essential, as not to cause an allergic reaction. This skin type is often found in people with rosacea, eczema, and skin allergies. "While 'hypoallergenic' and 'sensitive skin formulation' are not recognized as official terms by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), most companies do want to provide the consumer with a product that matches these claims," she says, recommending a creamy—not foamy—cleanser for sensitive skin. Dr. Garshick suggests people with this skin type use a mild cleanser, like Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser ($10.97, target.com). "[It] is a great option for those with sensitive skin as it is a mild cleanser, formulated for daily use and is oil-free and soap-free, so it won't clog the pores and won't be too harsh or drying on the skin," she says.

Combination

This skin type is a bit broader than the others, as it can be any combination of the above, therefore the face wash you choose should address multiple concerns. Dr. Garshick recommends something like Revision Papaya Enzyme Cleanser ($31.50, amazon.com) as it gently exfoliates, addressing dullness and helps to brighten and even out the skin tone. "This is a great option for combination skin types as it gently removes dirt, excess oil, and polishes away dead skin cells, without being too harsh or abrasive on the skin." Another option for those with combination skin is a face wash like EltaMD Skincare Foaming Facial Cleanser ($27.50, [tempo-ecommerce src="https://www.amazon.com/EltaMD-Foaming-Facial-Cleanser-7-0/dp/B004HLSZYQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll1&tag=mslbeubestfacewashskintypeegoldmanjul20-20&linkId=45fcf820eb936d05d048d2d9cd433fca&language=en_US" rel="sponsored" target="_blank">), according to Dr. Davis. "People with combination skin need a cleanser that provides a balance between being gentle on dry patches but powerful on shiny oily spots in the T-zone area like a non-foaming gel cleanser," she says.

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