Regardless of how simple your skincare routine is, it probably involves a facial cleanser. While you don't wash your face as many times per day as you do your hands, doing so is imperative for a healthy and clean complexion. The best part about cleansers is that there is one for every skin concern, whether you're acne-prone, oily, or anything in between. However, because it's only on your face for up to two minutes, there's no reason to spend a ton of money on a cleanser. We've found that the best drugstore face washes work just as well as what you'd buy in a department store.
"In general, cleansers shouldn't be expensive," Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, says. "It's better to invest in leave-on products with key ingredients like growth factors, retinoids, and vitamin C than pricey cleansers that minimally contact the skin."
Meet the Expert
Dr. Jennifer Herrmann is a board-certified, fellowship-trained dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, and lecturer with more than 20 peer-reviewed published studies and book chapters.
We asked Dr. Herrmann for her recommendations on finding the most effective drugstore face washes that a few bucks can buy. She also shared some general drugstore shopping tips.
Choose Products for Your Skin Type
Dr. Herrmann advises making the most of your purchases by browsing the aisles according to your skin type. "Those with oily or acne-prone skin should look for products with salicylic acid that can help lightly exfoliate and encourage skin turnover," she explains, "while those with rosacea or eczema-prone skin should use gentle, moisturizing, and fragrance-free cleansers."
Avoid Irritating Ingredients
Steer clear of exfoliating microbeads or granules that could lead to unwanted conditions, like hyperpigmentation. Dr. Herrmann also notes that it's a good idea to skip any alcohol-based items because they can cause dryness. Another item on the list of cleansers to avoid is anything containing fragrances that may spur irritation. Last on the list are cleansing towels. "I don't think most do a good job of removing makeup and pollution, and many will leave a residue on the skin," she says. "Stick to a cleanser with cool to lukewarm water."
Pick Cleansers Based on Your Age
Your skin's needs change as you age, so scan labels for the best ingredients. Dr. Herrmann suggests, "For younger, acne-prone people, anything with salicylic acid is a good choice. For those in their 50s and 60s, I'd recommend hydrating cleansers or ones with hyaluronic acid because they cleanse without stripping natural oils."
Ready to Go Shopping?
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed with options, Dr. Herrmann recommended 10 drugstore face washes for every skin type. Explore the best of the best and choose wisely.
"Lightweight yet super hydrating with hyaluronic acid, this is a gentle choice for those in dry climates or those looking for added hydration without pore-clogging oils," Dr. Herrmann says. "It gives skin a dewy glow after cleansing."
For acne-prone skin, Dr. Herrmann would recommend this Neutrogena cleanser with grapefruit because "it contains exfoliating salicylic acid. Another key ingredient is vitamin C, which can help lighten post-inflammatory acne discolorations."
"This is an excellent choice for those with rosacea, are eczema-prone, or have sensitive skin," Dr. Herrmann offers. "It doesn't contain soapy detergent, but effectively cleanses without removing oils, leaving a residue, or leaving the skin feeling dry and tight."
Dr. Herrmann prefers this classic cleanser because it's technically soap-free. "It cleanses without eliminating oils. It's also gentle enough to use multiple times daily, if needed, after exercising or multiple makeup changes," she adds.
"This is my all-time favorite," Dr. Herrmann admits. "Enzymes do the work for you! Simply lather and a gentle foam will remove makeup without stripping oils. It's a lightweight formula and leaves skin feeling refreshed." This one may be on the more expensive end, but it's worth it.
"This newer product leaves skin glowing in just 60 seconds," Dr. Herrmann promises. "Its moisture-rich, non-irritating soy and lemon peel extract work with shower steam to lightly and effectively exfoliate dead skin, extract excess oil, and remove makeup. It's a simple way to brighten without the mess of a traditional mask."
Dr. Herrmann recommends this traditional bar soap because "it is a gentle option that can be used on all skin types without over-drying."
As an alternative to bar soap, Dr. Herrmann recommends this gentle liquid cleanser. "This is another great option for those with sensitive skin," she says.
"The clay helps draw out skin impurities and clogged pores," Dr. Herrmann explains. "Unlike many crude charcoal products, this one is light and foaming, making it less harsh."
"The SA [salicylic acid] in this cleanser helps brighten skin, but its ceramides prevent irritation. It's great for brightening complexions," notes Dr. Herrmann. Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin's barrier, and they retain moisture.
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