Right this way for the cleanest skin of your life
Everyone has their own opinion on what the most important step of your skincare routine is. But if you don’t wash your face properly with the best cleanser for your skin’s type and needs, then the rest is redundant, because the other products just won’t work properly.
Washing away the day’s grime and removing make-up is essential. Not only does it help maintain healthy skin, but by removing detritus from the skin’s surface the rest of the products will be able to penetrate the top layers and get to work. They need a clean face in order to be effective.
Mimi Luzon, skin wellbeing expert, aesthetician and facialist to Bella & Gigi Hadid, couldn’t agree more. ‘Cleansing is an integral step in your skincare routines, even more so if you wear make-up,’ she explains. ‘Cleansing dissolves away excess dirt, makeup and bacteria on your skin; not cleansing if likely to leave your pores clogged and your skin more at risk of breaking out.’
The really tricky thing is that there are thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands on the market, so finding the exact one right for you is a minefield. Luckily, we can help.
Different types of cleanser
There are so many type of cleansers – cleansing balms, micellar waters, foaming face washes – and they don’t all do the same thing. So first we should identify the different types and what they’re capable of.
What is micellar water? It’s tiny droplets of cleansing oil suspended in a water. It’s a great option for skin that’s sensitive, as it’s extremely gentle and doesn’t make your skin feel tight or dry after application. It’s also perfect for when you can’t be bothered to give your face a full-on deep cleanse. However, don’t become reliant on this as your only cleanser as you won’t be cleaning your skin completely. Simply pour some on to a cotton pad and wipe over the face to clean and cleanse.
Oil cleansers are really great at removing make-up, particularly stubborn mascara.
‘Cleansing oils are a favourite among many, however I don’t like to use oils or oil cleansers on acne-prone skin,’ warns Consultant Dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. ‘They can be highly comedogenic, so I’d avoid it if you’re prone to breakouts and blackheads.’
Elevate your standard flanneled wash cloth with one of these cotton options. A sustainable alternative to your go-to cotton pads, look for double sided options that sooth and cleanse skin.
Designed to work with any cleanser Beauty Pie’s cleansing cloths are double-sided with one side which gently scrubs, and the other with a smooth skin grip for polishing and finishing.
These are particularly thick and luxurious cleansers that are great for dry skin in need of deep moisturising. Some can leave a slightly oily residue, so need to be rinsed thoroughly, ideally with a flannel or cloth.
‘Cleansing balms, such as Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, are great for dry skin types,’ advises Dr Mahto. ‘Once massaged into the skin, they work to dislodge any make-up, pollution or sunscreen that is left on the skin.’
A foaming cleanser is kind of the entry level cleanser that you get given in your early teens. They get a bad rep, because a fair few of them contain SLS (the foaming agent), which can dry skin out. However, it doesn’t affect everyone and those with an oilier skin type and prone to blemishes should get on well with the formulas. They lather up, getting into every nook and cranny.
If you have combination skin, then a gel is a perfect middle ground of nourishing for drier skin and slight foaming for those oilier parts. Use on damp skin and work in before rinsing.
Cream and milk cleansers don’t foam, then tackle dirt and grime best when applied directly onto dry skin. They work well if you have dry or dehydrated skin, because they’re super nourishing but don’t strip.
Best way to cleanse skin
‘I personally like to start my day by cleansing my face with foam or any other delicate product with a suitable PH level,’ says Luzon. ‘I also recommended starting your morning routine at least twice a week with an enzymatic exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and encourage skin glow.’
‘If you are looking for a deep clean then a double-cleanse could be the answer,’ explains Dr 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 Mahto. ‘Applying a large number of active ingredients onto the skin can trigger allergy, sensitivity or irritation.
If you have sensitive, skin invest in a couple of different cleansers. ‘You can use different cleansers on different part of your face,’ explains Luzon. ‘For dryer areas use a nourishing cleansing cream and oiler areas stick with foams.’
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).
Remember to increase your treatment plan by arming yourself with the best toner, which you would use after your cleanser.
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.
The famous Elemis cleansing balm has had a very exciting update. It now comes fragrance-free. Just like the original, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For when skin feels particularly congested and in need of a deep clean. What doesn't this formula contain? Clays to unclog pores, salicylic acid to tend to those blemishes, zinc and sulphur to calm inflammation AND lactic acid to gently exfoliate.
You'll be amazed by how rich and luxurious the foam created by this cleanser is. It feels really nourishing. Plus, it's soap-free so non-drying. Ideal as an everyday face cleanser.
Coming in at under £10, we love this everyday gel cleanser. Packed full of hyaluronic acid it floods the skin with moisture. Perfect for ageing, dry or dehydrated skin.
If your skin is in need to a loving hug, then this is a cuddle in a bottle. No harsh chemicals, just nourishment. Simple work a small amount into damp skin it'll eliminate dirt and impurities with the softest of touch.