If you’ve been interested in skincare for longer than five minutes, then you probably know that everyone has a different skin type and that the products you put on your face should be catered to your skin type. This is especially true for facial cleansers, which are the crucial first step in any skincare (and one of the most potentially irritating, if you choose the wrong cleanser for your face).
If you’re overwhelmed by all your face wash options, don’t give up yet! In this guide, we explain how to find your skin type and what type of face wash each skin type needs. Then, we offer more tips for choosing the perfect face wash for you.
A Quick Primer on Skin Type
The first step to choosing a face wash for your skin type is to know your skin type. But there’s a lot of information (and misinformation) out there that can make determining your skin type feel completely impossible. To make matters even more complicated, your skin type can also change over time, so professional skincare tools that worked for you five years ago might no longer be cutting it.
Here’s how to determine your skin type in a simple two-step test that takes less than an hour. First, wash your face clear of all products using a gentle foaming cleansing that is free of irritants, and then blot it dry — but don’t put any other product on your face. Then, wait about 30 minutes and come back and observe how your face looks and feels.
If your entire face is dry and tight, then you have dry skin. If your entire face looks shiny, then you have oily skin. If some parts of your face are dry and other parts are shiny, then you have combination skin. If any part of your face is red and/or irritated, then you probably have sensitive skin. And, finally, if none of the above describes you, then you probably are one of the lucky few who has normal skin.
Note that sensitive skin can pair with other skin types, so it’s possible to have skin that is dry and sensitive or oily and sensitive, so bear that in mind when shopping for the perfect facial cleanser for your skin type — whether you are looking for dry or oily skin products.
Choosing a Face Wash for Your Skin Type
Now that you know how to figure out your skin type, it’s time to talk about how to choose a face wash for your skin type. Here are our expert recommendations for each of the most common skin types:
Dry skin: Look for cleansers with ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and oils for soothing hydration and moisturization. Avoid stripping ingredients like acids and alcohol, which only make your skin drier. Most people with dry skin prefer cream formulation cleansers, which clean the face without drying it out.
Oily skin: On the other hand, oily skin types benefit from cleansers that contain AHA and BHA acids, which can help to remove excess sebum from the face. Avoid cleansers that contain oils, which can make you look shinier and contribute to clogged pores. Many people who have oily skin enjoy a gel cleanser or foaming cleanser for a gentle yet effective cleanse.
Combination skin: If some parts of your skin are dry and some are oily, then you can probably use either a gel or a cream cleanser. It comes down to your preference. Look for a versatile ingredient list that will provide the multiple benefits needed by your combination skin.
Sensitive skin: Cleansing can be very irritating, which is why it’s key to choose a gentle cleanser if you have very sensitive, reactive skin. Look for a hypoallergenic cleanser that is free from fragrance, alcohol, oil, soap, and other potentially irritating ingredients. Prioritize creamy cleansers, as the chemicals that make gel cleansers foam can be irritating to sensitive skin.
Normal skin: The Goldilocks of skin types, normal skin can pretty much choose whatever cleanser they want since they are neither dry, oily nor sensitive. Don’t be afraid to experiment around to see what kind of cleanser works best for your skin.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Facial Cleanser
Your skin type isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing a facial cleanser, and you also need to have realistic expectations when it comes to your cleanser. For instance, most facial cleansers aren’t designed to remove heavy makeup, waterproof mascara, or thick sunscreen. It’s much better to start with a makeup remover such as a cleansing balm or oil cleanser and then follow it up with your facial cleanser to remove the last of your makeup.
If you wash your face in both the morning and evening, you might want two different cleansers: a more gentle one for the morning and a stronger one for the evening to help remove all traces of dirt, sweat, bacteria, and makeup. However, if you have dry or sensitive skin, then you might not even need a morning to cleanse. You can simply rinse your face and pat it dry.
Your skin type may also vary throughout the seasons as the weather changes, so your facial cleansers might change, too. For instance, many people prefer a thinner gel cleanser during the hot summer months (when their skin tends to be more oily) and a thicker, creamy cleanser in the cold winter months (when their skin tends to be drier). If it feels like your beloved cleanser is no longer working for you, check in with your skin to see if your skin type is changing with the weather.
What are your favorite cleansers for different skin types? Does your skin type change with the weather, or is it the same year-round? Drop your recommendations in the comments below!