Right this way for the cleanest skin of your life
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that using the best cleanser for your complexion is the most important skincare step. (Alright, it’s in a tie with the best sun cream.)
Either way, washing away the day’s grime and removing make-up are both essential for maintaining healthy skin. In order to be effective, any products that follow in your skincare routine must be applied to a clean face.
That said, with the thousands to choose from on the market right now, you’re probably wondering where on earth to start – but that’s where we come in. Keep reading for everything you need to know to choose the best cleanser.
How do I choose a cleanser?
‘If you are looking for a deep clean then a double-cleanse could be the answer,’ explains Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. ‘It involves using a cleansing oil, balm or micellar water to break down make-up, SPF and sebum on the surface of your skin first, then following it with a deeper water-based cleanse. This removes sweat, bacteria and old skin cells. A second round of cleansing will clean much deeper into the pores to remove any impurities.’
The number one rule is to think about your skin concerns and to choose your skin ingredients accordingly. Salicylic acid is a great deep exfoliant for oily skin, while thicker, rich cleansers are suited to dry skins. ‘I believe less is more; there is definitely such a thing as too many active ingredients,’ says Dr Anjali. ‘Applying a large number of active ingredients onto the skin can trigger allergy, sensitivity or irritation.
‘It is much better to identify one or two skincare concerns and then use ingredients that are multi-purpose to address these. Just because there are 50 different ingredients on the market, it doesn’t mean we need to use all 50 of them. I think it’s about picking ingredients wisely that have multipurpose functions.’
So, whether you prefer a cream cleanser, thick balm, lightweight gel or nourishing cleansing oil, there’s one out there to suit your skin’s needs (and those of your bank balance, too). Armed with a hot flannel and these bad boys and we defy you not to look forward to washing your face…
Best cleanser for acne prone skin
This particular cleanser is very gentle and soothing on the skin, with clever anti-friction technology so as not to further irritate skin that’s already a bit unhappy, which makes it a good starting place for blemish or acne-prone skin. Dr Justine Kluk often recommends this cleanser to acne patients in her clinic, so you know it’s a good’un.
Best oil cleanser
‘Cleansing oils are a favourite among many however, I don’t like to use oils or oil cleansers on acne-prone skin,’ warns Dr Anjali. ‘They can be highly comedogenic, so I’d avoid it if you’re prone to breakouts and blackheads.’
This oil is seriously lightweight and dissolves make-up SO easily, rinsing away as a milk upon contact with warm water. But perhaps even better is that it doesn’t leave you with blurry eyes after you’ve used it, something that’s common with an oil cleanser.
Best cleanser for oily skin
The brain child of beauty genius The Skin Nerd, aka Jennifer Rock, Skingredients is all about feeding, protecting and respecting your skin with a focus on ingredients. It’s just launched on UK soil and we couldn’t be more excited. Sally Cleanse, featuring pore-declogging ingredient salicylic acid, can be used every three days to tackle excess oil, blackheads and blemishes. It can also be used as a ‘micro mask’ to zap pesky spots, and on your body to help with keratosis pilaris.
Best cleanser for dry skin
‘Cleansing balms, such as Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, are great for dry skin types,’ advises Anjali. ‘Once massaged into the skin, they work to dislodge any make-up, pollution or sunscreen that is left on the skin.’
This deliciously thick balm does exactly what it says on the tub, taking the day’s make-up, SPF and oil off in a few easy sweeps, turning into an oil upon massaging that then rinses off easily with warm water. It’s a reliable cult favourite cleanser for good reason, and won’t strip your already dry skin of all its moisture. We love it.
Best micellar water
Of all of the micellar waters out there (and boy, are there a lot of ’em), Garnier’s is both exceptional and insanely good value. It’s free of alcohol and perfume, making it a great choice for even sensitive skin, and makes light work of lifting away your best mascara and long-wearing eyeliner. Piece of cake. Micellar water is wonderful stuff but please, please, please don’t use it as your only cleanser; It’s an excellent make-up remover, but should be followed with another proper cleanse to remove things like excess make-up, dirt, pollution and SPF.
Best cleanser for combination skin
ExfoliKate is particularly effective here as it tackles both characteristics of combination skin – the AHAs, lactic and glycolic acid, break down dead and dry skin cells while also removing excess oil for a softer, more radiant complexion. The brand now stocks in Space NK as well as online retailers, so be sure to pop down and check out the products IRL.
Keep scrolling for more of our hero cleanser buys.
One of the US's best-loved affordable skincare brands, Cerave's hydrating cleanser, this formula is packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid and ceramides to support skin's moisture levels and minimise dryness. The pump dispenser is super handy too.
A mask and cleanser in one, Lixirskin's clever cream cleanser removes the day's grime and pollution from your face; the negatively charged formula draws positively charged toxins from the skin, minimising their damaging effects. Massage for a minute, leave on for a minute and your skin will look better after one use.
This powerful balm deeply cleanses your skin to dissolve make-up and get rid of daily pollutants, without drying it out. So you end up with noticeably clearer skin that's also seriously moisturised. This one feels like a real treat to use.
Mario Badescu is loved by many a spot-prone skin sufferer, and this cleanser is suited to anyone with oily skin that’s easily congested. It contains wonder exfoliating ingredient salicylic acid that breaks down those pesky plugs of dead skin and oil, helping to reduce their appearance over time.
Without a doubt one of the best cleansers on the beauty market, Oskia's hero formula offers a thorough cleanse without stripping your skin dry. It really does do it all: Buffing away dead skin cells, removing make-up and environmental aggressors, improves skin's firmness and elasticity and supports the lipid barrier for your best skin ever. Just divine.