New This Month

How to Choose the Best Face Wash For Your Skin

"The right one won't cause AWT."

face wash bottle
Photography by: Yasu + Junko

If you haven't tried a new cleanser since the last royal wedding, it’s time to find a better, more modern match. The latest generation is packed with get-the-job-done ingredients and milder foaming agents, and there are formulations to please any preference, with milks for oily skin and gels for dry, so you’re no longer locked into a single consistency.


How to choose? The right one “won’t cause AWT, or after-wash tightness,” says Houston dermatologist Sherry Ingraham. In other words, the skin’s lipid barrier—a protective layer of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol—will remain intact, leaving skin feeling hydrated, not taut, post-rinse. For a supple complexion year-round, you might need to switch products with the seasons.


Good habits are also key. Washing in the morning is optional, but nightly cleansing is non-negotiable; it eradicates daytime grime so treatments can do their work, says Manhattan dermatologist Whitney Bowe. Read on to find your new steady.


[BEAUTY SCHOOL: Read About Martha's Skincare Routine]
face wash bubbles
Photography by: Yasu + Junko

If you precleanse with makeup remover, spend time on the nooks and crannies around your nose and your hair- and jawlines to prevent pore-clogging buildup.

garnier face wash
Photography by: Peter Ardito

For Normal Skin

This even-keeled type may produce some oil in the T-zone, but it rarely feels slick by day’s end. Micellar waters, which contain tiny, dirt-grabbing oil molecules, are a smart daily option. Cycle in a gentle face scrub once or twice a week, but no more than that. “Even hearty skin can feel tested if it’s over-exfoliated,” says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch.


TRY: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Foaming Cleanser is mild, fragrancefree, and meant to be rinsed off. $9,​


[LEARN: How to Help Dark Circles, Under-Eye Puffiness, And Lines]
skinceuticals purifying cleanser
Photography by: Peter Ardito

For Dry Skin

“Flaking, tightness, and redness are the most common complaints,” says Hirsch. Cleansing milks with replenishing humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin; and occlusive emollients, like coconut oil, quench skin. Rotate a mild exfoliating formula that contains glycolic or lactic acid into your routine every couple of days to remove dead skin cells.


TRY: SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser Gel has softening glycerin and glycolic acid to remove flakes. $34,

dove face wash
Photography by: Peter Ardito

For Sensitive Skin

To prevent flare-ups, embrace the basic. Fragrances, detergents, sulfates, parabens, and even exfoliating grains can trigger irritation. Seek out buffered formulations with barrier-strengthening ceramides, panthenol, or glycerin to help maintain your skin’s natural moisture balance, advises Ingraham.


TRY: Dove DermaSeries Dry Skin Relief Face Wash is gentle on eczema- and psoriasisprone skin. $7,

neutrogena face wash
Photography by: Peter Ardito

For Oily Skin

If you notice a sheen soon after cleansing, or have enlarged pores, blackheads, or frequent breakouts, look for salicylic acid. It’s the proven go-to for blemishes because of its ability to penetrate the skin’s upper layer and soak up sebum. Clay also draws out dirt and oil without dehydrating skin.


TRY: Neutrogena Deep Clean Purifying Clay Cleanser/Mask works as a daily wash and a twice-weekly treatment. $9,

Our Experts

Whitney Bowe, a Manhattan dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin (Little, Brown). Dana Goldberg, a contributor and Jupiter, Florida, cosmetic surgeon. Ranella Hirsch, a Boston dermatologist. Sherry Ingraham, a Houston dermatologist.