face washes
photo: Instagram; Ole Henriksen/Dove

Earlier this week, social media erupted in flames as Twitter decided that Kylie Jenner has no clue how to properly cleanse her face, or at least that's how it appears. And while it's quite the luxury to be able to have an around-the-clock team to care for our skin, that's not the reality for most of us, and we're tasked with being our own skin-care specialists

And even the most basic of skin experts know this one important thing: A cleanser is a must for skin. It's arguably the most integral aspect of our day-to-day routines, and is the only truly effective way to wash away the impurities of the day. 

But when the beauty world is a literal sea of skin-care options, and the argument of foam cleansers over oil cleansers continues to grow, how can one decide what type is best for them? Revelist asked New York dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian about all of the intricacies of cleansers, and which ones pair with each type of skin issue. 

Contrary to popular belief, finding the right cleanser isn't as simple as just grabbing something off the shelf. In fact, there's a lot we don't know about the complex world of cleansers.

Woman washing her face with foam cleanser
photo: iStock

Though many of us expect our cleansers to leave us with that squeaky-clean feeling, Nazarian said that that can cause more harm than good. "You need to use a strong cleanser to be effective," she said. "Foaming is caused by surfactant and is typically used to strip oils and dirt from the face; it’s not necessary, and it’s not even good to have that super-tight, clean feel. Cleansing your skin can be effective even if [your cleanser is] gentle and doesn’t disrupt the natural skin hydrators."

A solution to the harsh cleansers you're used to may be an oil-based cleanser, which might be a surprising suggestions to those with oily skin. However, the oils create a less harsh and less inflammatory cleansing method than foam and are especially great for those with sensitive skin. 

And while there's no perfect way to cleanse your skin, there are certain steps you should be following to reach your most optimal skin health. The first is a consistent cleansing schedule.

Cleanse twice a day, Nazarian instructed. "Once in the morning immediately after waking up, which removes all bacteria and oil that may have moved to our face from our mouths and hair while we slept. The next time is right before going to bed, which removes the micropollutants and buildup of oil and bacteria that has accumulated during the day." 

But washing your face consistently doesn't matter if you don't follow it up with a solid routine. Nazarian said that no matter how great your cleanser is, you still need to moisturize immediately following. She suggests applying a gentle moisturizer or emollient to truly reap the optimal benefits of your cleanser. 

But with so many varying skin types come an overload of options when it comes to finding your perfect cleanser. For that reason, Nazarian has broken down exactly what you should be looking for if you have oily, dry, combination, or acne-prone skin. 

If you have dry skin:

Woman with cracked skin
photo: iStock

If you have dry skin, look for something that's unscented. "It’s important for the cleanser to maintain the natural oils of the skin to avoid drying and irritation with each wash," Nazarian said. 

Read your labels, folks! Sometimes cosmetic fragrances don't smell like anything because they're simply there to mask the smell of other ingredients. And fragrances are the most common source of skin irritation.

Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil ($30, Sephora)

This antioxidant-rich cleansing oil effortlessly dissolves impurities and makeup and leaves skin with a beautiful, healthy look and feel. This lightweight oil gently lifts away makeup and impurities, then rinses completely clean with water. It’s formulated with nourishing antioxidants to help boost radiance and sugarcane-derived, sustainable squalane oil to help skin feel refreshed, cushion-soft, and moisturized.

>> Get it here

Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar ($3, Target)

photo: Dove

This bar pampers sensitive skin with Dove moisturizing cream and a truly mild formula that's hypoallergenic and unscented. Dove is the no. 1 cleansing bar recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians. 

>> Get it here

If you have oily skin:

Best cleanser for oily skin
photo: iStock

"Cleansers that contain glycolic acid remove excess oil and decrease oil production with use," she said. Many gel cleansers can also be oil-free. 

Glycolic acid is what's known as a "chemical exfoliant," which means it prevents you from having sebum and excess skin buildup without you having to physically slough it away with harsh sugar- or salt-based scrubs.

OleHenriksen Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser ($26, Sephora)

This formula reduces excess oil and deeply cleanses pores. Formulated with green fusion complex and neem seed oil, its deep cleansing action helps unclog and purify pores without stripping skin. Meanwhile, the invigorating eucalyptus scent awakens the senses. Powerful AHAs — glycolic and lactic acids — help loosen and lift dead skin cells that can cause pore-clogging buildup.

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Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser ($33, Dermstore)

This gentle cleanser features AHAs to help exfoliate your complexion and remove impurities. Boosted by glycolic acid, this gentle face wash works to diminish dead skin cells, resurface your complexion, and promote cellular regeneration. As a result, your skin is left with balanced pH levels and a brilliant glow. 

>> Get it here

If you have combination skin:

Best cleanser for combination skin
photo: iStock

Finding a cleanser that removes impurities while simultaneously moisturizing can be difficult, but these few picks strike the perfect balance. 

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($3, Ulta)

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser has a low-foaming formulation that is gentle enough to use on your face every day. Use it in the morning and at night to remove surface oils, dirt, and makeup — all without stripping skin, which can leave it feeling tight and dry. 

>> Get it here

Lancôme Miel-En-Mousse Cleansing Makeup Remover with Acacia Honey ($40, Sephora)

This cleansing makeup remover is formulated with acacia honey and has a transformative texture for sensorial facial cleanser and makeup removal. Upon application, the honey-like texture captures makeup and impurities. Once emulsified with water, it transforms into a velvety mousse, leaving skin feeling cleansed and soft. 

>> Get it here

If you have acne-prone skin:

Best cleanser for acne-prone skin
photo: iStock

"Cleansers with ingredients that treat inflammatory acne production are ideal," Nazarian emphasized. Salicylic acid is a key ingredient to look out for. 

Ren Skincare Clarimatte T-Zone Control Cleansing Gel ($30, Sephora)

This luxurious gel works to balance the complexion, remove dirt, and dissolve excess sebum. The bio active extract of mayblossom provides skin with flavinoid nutrients as it works to decongest the skin. This is a facial cleansing gel for complexions prone to oiliness and breakouts, particularly in the T-zone. 

>> Get it here

Proactiv Deep Cleansing Wash ($35, Sephora)

This is a gentle cleanser that works all over the body with smooth exfoliating beads that lift away dead skin cells. The salicylic acid helps unclog pores and reduce oiliness to clear acne and help prevent future breakouts wherever they may occur. 

>> Get it here