How to Choose the Best Face Wash For Your Skin
"The right one won't cause AWT."
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
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.
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, garnierusa.com.LEARN: How to Help Dark Circles, Under-Eye Puffiness, And Lines
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, skinceuticals.com.
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, dove.com.
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, neutrogena.com.
Whitney Bowe, a Manhattan dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin (Little, Brown). Dana Goldberg, a RealSelf.com contributor and Jupiter, Florida, cosmetic surgeon. Ranella Hirsch, a Boston dermatologist. Sherry Ingraham, a Houston dermatologist.