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Facial Cleansers - A Review of Facial Cleanser Types and Their Ideal Use

Updated on May 30, 2016

Deciding on what facial cleanser to use is very overwhelming, especially when faced with so many decisions. Things like skin type, cost, ingredients, scent, and brand can all have a major influence on ones ultimate decision. The decision is further complicated by the consequences of selecting the wrong type of facial cleanser. An incorrect decision may leave your skin dry and cracked, overly oily, or result in a breakout. There are so many products out there, and the purpose of this article is to help at least clarify some of the facial cleanser categories and also point out that the most expensive product is not always the superior product.

How to Determine Your Skin Type

  1. Gently wash your face
  2. Wait about an hour
  3. Dab your face with a tissue
  4. Determine skin type:
  • Oily = greasy looking tissue
  • Dry = not much change to tissue
  • Normal = light greasy appearance
  • Combination = greasy looking tissue from T zone and normal elsewhere.

*Combination skin is most common.

What is Your Skin Type?

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Skin Types

Before selecting a facial cleanser, it is important to understand the basics of skin types.

  • Normal Skin - Just as the name implies, your skin is, well, normal. Not overly oily, not overly dry. Skin elasticity feels good and you are likely not to have too many issues.
  • Oily Skin - Oily skin tends to have a greasy appearance and you are more prone to breakouts. Less prone to wrinkling, but proper care is important.
  • Dry Skin - A common characteristic of dry skin is a tight feeling. Sometimes you may notice a flaky or dry appearance. Dry skin can be sensitive and is prone to irritation and care must be taken to maintain its health.
  • Combination Skin - You have both oily and dry areas. The oily areas tend to be along your nose and forehead. Dryer areas are most often around the eyes and cheeks.

Facial Cleanser Types

There are numerous types of facial cleansers, all likely having a unique claim and self identifying as superior. A good place to start is in determining skin type. This will help narrow your selection slightly. Then determine what other things are important to you: ingredients, sensitivity, cost, brand, environmental impact, etc. Below are several types of cleansers. This list is by no means exhaustive and many products may be a combination of some of these types. After reading below, you should have a few ideas of products to try. I hope people realize that they don't have to purchase the highest end and most expensive product to be effective at maintaining facial skin health.

Facial Cleanser For Dry Skin

Dry skin is often sensitive skin and will not respond well to a product loaded with chemicals. A product that has a high pH such as bar soap, or produces a lot of lather or suds like some foaming cleansers, can irritate the skin and contribute to further dryness. The best bet for dry skin is to select a product that is gentle. Look on the packaging for fewer ingredients, generally choose an unscented version, and select something that is non-foaming. Many of these things are advertised on the packaging. Cetaphil is a great product for normal to dry skin and dermatologist recommended.

Facial Cleanser For Oily Skin

Oily skin can generally tolerate a harsher cleanser. A good product should dissolve oil and dirt and leave your skin feeling refreshed, but not dry or tight. Overly gentle products may not be sufficient in removing oil and dirt so select a product intended for oily skin. It is important to know not to over wash your face or wash too frequently as this may stimulate further oil production.

Facial Cleanser For Combination Skin

As combination skin can be prone to drying out and also developing clogged pores, a good facial cleanser should cleanse the skin but not leave it feeling overly dry or scaly. This product is gentle on your skin and improves skin appearance. This is definitely a god all around product and a good place to start if you can't decide on your skin type.

Foaming Facial Cleanser

Foaming facial cleanser produces a rich lather that is generally harsher on the skin as the product does an excellent job at removing oil and debris. However, there are gentle versions that can be cleansing and not leave the skin feeling overly dry or cracked. A god product should prevent breakouts and leave your skin smooth, but not tight.

Nonfoaming Facial Cleanser

Non-foaming cleansers are often the most gentle and do not produce any foam. Due to the low foaming component, no harsh scrubbing is involved in removal. Often a damp towel to wipe the soap away is more than sufficient. This is a good option for someone with very dry or sensitive skin. These products often contain some type of lotion or cream.

Organic & Natural Facial Cleanser

Organic products come in many varieties and use organic ingredients. The thought is to avoid exposing your skin to any harsh chemicals. Many of these products also contain all natural ingredients, eliminating synthetic ingredients. There are several ingredients used such as oil, rice products, sugars, seaweed, and many plants such as sage, lavender, and lemongrass.

Other Choices

There are other types of facial cleansers, such as glycolic cleansers, that utilize glycolic acid. There are even recipes for homemade cleansers. The best place to start is to determine your skin type and try a product. Whatever you use, your skin should feel refreshed and clean and not remain oily or overly dry and tight. Blemishes should be under control and decrease over time if an issue. All the products listed above are common with great reviews. Start with one of these products and go from there. If uncertain, professional advice can be sought out from a dermatologist.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • twilanelson profile image

      Twila Nelson 

      7 years ago from Carmichael, California

      Nicely written and informative Hub. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Mary Space 

      7 years ago

      I have combination skin- oily T zone and subject to the monthly breakout. My skin has been remarkably improved since using Citrus Clear Acne wash. I love it so much that I think I am in about my 4th year! I have tried most every drugstore and department store brand, but I am never leaving Citrus Clear again.

    • greatstuff profile image


      8 years ago from Malaysia

      Congratulations on being selected as Hub of the Day. Very well presented article and very informative.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very good aricle, great info and I love the product suggestions. I had my daughter read it, she's been plagued with acne since turning 15. I think she finally realized there's more to choosing a product than just a pretty bottle. Thanks again.

    • divacratus profile image

      Kalpana Iyer 

      8 years ago from India

      Thanks for the help! I have a combination skin and end up getting confused when I go through products. Will try the product you recommended. Thanks again..

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Congrats on Hub of the Day! Good info here. I use plain ole soap and water; works for me. Goodnight.

    • Keeley Shea profile image

      Keeley Shea 

      8 years ago from Norwich, CT

      GREAT tips! GREAT hub! Skincare has always been a problem for me but this hub is very educational! Thanks for writing and congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I am a licensed skincare professional, and what a great education! Also, I want to add that if you are a woman and wears makeup, you must precleanse. Remove makeup first and proceed with cleansing.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      I have so many problems with allergies that I have resorted to using only water and a washcloth, and my skin seems to be doing so much better. The only make-up I wear is lipstick and my skin is better for having made that decision. I have been through so many products and it is so hard.

      Congrats on hub of the day.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      8 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on hub of the day! It took me a while to find a facial cleanser too.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great topic for a hub! I have combination skin, and it took me a long time to find a mix of cleansers that worked well for my face. Providing a guide is a huge help for a lot of us. Congrats on getting Hub of the Day!

    • Melissa McClain profile image

      Melissa McClain 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Great tips for choosing a facial cleanser and I love the easy method for determining skin type. Voted up!

    • learner365 profile image

      Saadia A 

      8 years ago

      A very well researched and well presented Hub. Congratulations on the Hub of the day as well. Some good information i learned here. Good work!!!

    • Diana Mendes profile image

      Diana Mendes 

      8 years ago

      Great hub. Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed reading it.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      8 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Great Hub! Thanks for the information. Congratulation for the hub of the day.

    • jerrysaliu profile image


      8 years ago from Warri, Nigeria

      Nice breakdown.

    • labnol profile image


      8 years ago

      Great HUB.

      really enjoyed reading it.

    • danatheteacher profile image

      Dana Rock 

      8 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Great simple explanation! Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Matt -

      That is probably the best explanation of facial cleansers I have seen in a long time! Thank you for sharing this with your readers and check out our organic skin care products at

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very Good hub.Well pointed out tips.I liked it very much.Different variety of products mentioned above.Thanks a lot for sharing this :)


    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Great tips, Matt. A friend of mine, a breast cancer survivor, and I were just discussing skin products and the fact that they aren't regulated by our government. The EWG, Environmental Working Group, does a great job reviewing products in their cosmetic database called Skin Deep. It might be worthwhile taking a look. Some of the most popular products have a lot of toxins. Avon being one of them; which is ironic since they sponsor a lot of breast cancer walks and events. Thanks for the incredibly useful Hub!


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