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I love washing my face. No, seriously. Most days, I look forward to it from the time I apply my makeup until the time I get home at night. I enjoy it as much as I enjoy my other daily pleasures: reading books, applying eyeshadow, having nihilistic existential crises.
But I have sensitive skin (and eyes, and feelings…) so I need to be picky, lest I end up looking like a sun-dappled tomato after each cleanse. In the morning, I stick to micellar water on a cotton pad just to wipe any dirt and residue from the previous night's skincare.
At night, I use an oil or balm to remove makeup before reaching for a sensitive skin-friendly regular cleanser to get the rest of the grime off. The two-pronged cleansing approach ensures my face is as clean as possible before I move on to the rest of my skincare, which is key to keeping my complexion happy and healthy.
In general, when eyeing potential face washes to add to my collection, I look out for soothing ingredients like rosewater or cucumber extract and gentle formulas with minimal foaming or scrubbing effects, which can be too harsh for my rosacea-prone cheeks.
The picks in our guide are the best cleansers I've ever tried for sensitive skin, formulas that won't sting, irritate, or cause breakouts. Some remove makeup, others simply whisk away dirt, oil, and impurities, all of them are a delight to use.
Updated on 3/9/2020 by Remi Rosmarin: Updated links and prices, and replaced our pick for the best oil face wash for sensitive skin with DHC Deep Cleansing Oil because of its cult-favorite status and ability to remove waterproof makeup.
As a teenager, my skincare routine consisted of two steps: SPF moisturizer during the day and Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser whenever I remembered at night. I still use this stuff regularly. It's always stocked at my parents' house and is a no-brainer pick in case of an emergency face wash deficit while traveling.
Cetaphil's fan-favorite cleanser is an old standby because of the gentle and hydrating formula. The creamy cleanser is non-irritating — I can actually feel it calming any inflamed patches on my cheeks when I use it — and is easy to rinse off when I finish mushing it around my face.
Don't just take my word for it: Gentle Skin Cleanser is Cetaphil's bestselling product and is the subject of thousands of online reviews. It has more than 9,700 reviews on the Walgreens website, 10,000+ on the review platform Influenster, and has won the Allure Best of Beauty seven times.
If your skin is highly reactive or eczema-prone, this should be gentle enough for you, especially since it's fragrance-free and doesn't contain glycerin. One Walgreens reviewer even applies it as moisturizer. You also get a ton of product for the price. A 16-ounce container with a pump costs around $12 at Walgreens.
Pros: Super gentle, very affordable, works for rosacea- and eczema-prone skin, no glycerin or added fragrance
Cons: Doesn't remove full face of makeup as well as others$12.49 from Walgreens
It's late at night. You've painstakingly removed your makeup with the oil, balm, or wipe of your choosing. Then you go in with cleanser, carefully avoiding your eyes so you don't burn them off in the process. After rinsing, you dry your face on a white towel and pull back … only to find two black semi-circles of mascara residue blinking up at you.
Sound familiar? Well, that doesn't happen with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, which is gentle enough to squirt directly in your eye thanks to the inclusion of poloxamer, which is often found in contact lens solution.
Milky Jelly can be used dry to remove a full face of makeup or on wet skin to cleanse. In addition to poloxamer, it contains soothing ingredients like rosewater for treating redness and pro-vitamin B5 for moisturization, making it a solid option for those with sensitive, reactive skin. All that for only $18 — plus the free Glossier stickers and TSA-friendly pink pouch you receive with your order.
At night, I like to use an oil or balm to first melt away the top layer of my makeup, then follow up with Milky Jelly to remove the dregs of my mascara. It dissolves any leftover makeup residue and general face gunk without stinging my eyes or aggravating my rosacea. After rinsing, my face feels plump and hydrated.
Not only is Milky Jelly my personal favorite out of the dozens of cleansers I've tried, it's also an Allure Best of Beauty 2017 winner and Cosmopolitan 2016 Beauty Awards winner. This stuff also smells divine, but it's not fragrance-free so keep that in mind if your face hates added scents.
Pros: Non-irritating (even on eyes) and gentle, removes makeup, and leaves skin moisturized
Cons: Won't remove waterproof makeup, not entirely fragrance-free$13.50 from Glossier
So many people swear by the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser that I knew I needed to test it out for this article. Let me tell you — the formula doesn't disappoint! This is a really nice gentle cleanser suitable for most skin types, provided you aren't too sensitive to fragrance.
A lightweight gel cleanser, it contains soy protein, rosewater, cucumber extract, and borage seed oil to hydrate, nourish, and soothe skin after a full day of wearing makeup. I found it a bit too harsh on my eyes to use as a makeup remover, but it makes a nice morning or second cleanse for me.
Soy Face Cleanser foams up a little bit when wet, so it's a nice middle ground for people who just don't feel totally clean unless their face wash kicks up some lather. That said, it's not going to dry you out. There's a strong cucumber scent to this, which reminds me of going to the spa, but it may be a turn-off for some.
Pros: Gentle, non-drying, contains soothing cucumber and rosewater
Cons: Heavily scented, may be too harsh for makeup removal, expensive$38.00 from Sephora
The idea of washing your face with oil may sound like a recipe for a breakout at first, but it's actually a popular way to cleanse. Unlike other cleansers, an oil-based option won't strip your skin of its natural moisture.
People love DHC's Deep Cleansing Oil for that reason. It's a lightweight oil that deep cleans skin, dissolves even the most stubborn waterproof mascaras, and doesn't leave behind any greasy residue. One Teen Vogue reporter noted that she was able to get her waterproof mascara off in just one wash and that the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil left her dry, acne-prone skin particularly radiant.
The main ingredient is olive oil, which explains why the oil helps to keep skin hydrated. It also deposits antioxidants onto the skin which helps fight damage caused by free radicals. The ingredient list is very short. Vitamin E and Rosemary oil are some of the other inclusions. The formula is free of added fragrance, colorants, or parabens, so it's gentle for sensitive types.
To use the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil pump a few drops into your hand, or onto a cotton pad, and massage into dry skin before rinsing. It won't work as well on skin that's already wet. A 4.8-star rating and almost 700 reviews on Ulta speak to this product's popularity. — Remi Rosmarin
Pros: Short ingredient list, no artificial colors or fragrance, very gentle, removes makeup
Cons: Oil isn't for everyone, needs to be applied properly to be effective.$19.59 from Amazon
Leave it to Neutrogena to create a foaming cleanser gentle enough for even the most reactive skin types to use. If your skin is sensitive but you also just don't feel clean unless your cleanser foams up into a fine froth on your face, try the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Foaming Cleanser.
I found it gentle enough as not to irritate the rosacea on my cheeks, while still foaming much more than any of the other cleansers on this list. This cleanser is oil-free, hypoallergenic, and dermatologist-approved. It's much less drying than other foaming cleansers I've tried, but still gives your face a good scrubbing. For that reason, it's perfect for those who think gel or oil cleansers aren't quite powerful enough but don't want to aggravate their delicate complexions.
Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Foaming Cleanser is highly rated by shoppers, with a 4.0-star rating based on more than 400 Walgreens reviews. It's also been featured by InStyle and has won several prestigious awards including Allure Reader's Choice Awards in 2013. This cleanser is also accepted by the National Eczema Association.
Pros: Gentle foaming formula, removes makeup
Cons: Might be too harsh if sensitive to foaming formulas$10.79 from Walgreens
Using a serum as part of your skincare routine is essential to keep your skin looking youthful and to keep those darn wrinkles at bay. Considered the superheroes of skincare, serums are packed with powerful ingredients that penetrate deep into the skin.
Anti-aging serums deal primarily with fine lines, wrinkles, and dehydration, but also tone, texture, and dark spots. Some of the best anti-aging ingredients to look out for are vitamin C, for brightening the skin, hyaluronic acid for plumping it up, and retinol, a vitamin A derivative that treats a multitude of skin concerns from wrinkles to acne.
It's good for your skin to remove makeup every night, but it can be a pain without the right makeup remover.
We've done our research and tested the best makeup removers on the market to come up with our top recommendations. Whether you're a devout double cleanser or prefer removing makeup on the fly, there's something on this list for everyone.
Whether you're new to the exfoliation game or a seasoned skincare pro, Glossier's Solution is the exfoliator you should be reaching for. Its powerful mix of acids dissolves dead skin cells and improves your complexion, giving your face a gorgeous glow.
Everyone wants healthy, smooth, and soft skin. Dry skin not only looks dull and flaky, but it also feels tight and itchy. The solution? A good moisturizer. Our favorite moisturizer for both face and body is the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.
Daily use of a good sunscreen will fend off sunburns today, and help prevent the skin damage that leads to aged, wrinkled, blotchy skin later on in life. Check out our top picks for the best sunscreen you can buy.
Eye creams and serums are likely the product you know you should be using but have no idea how to actually shop for. If you're unsure of where to start, reach for the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Eye Serum. Buyers and experts agree that this is the cream of the crop when it comes to treating under eye circles.
Clay masks are an easy and cost-effective way to give your skin a boost without hitting the spa. Our top pick is the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask because it is a super affordable all-natural mask that deep cleans your pores.
If smooth, supple skin is what you're looking for, then the Fresh Sugar Ultra-Nourishing Body Oil is the bottle you want to reach for.
If you're one of those people whose face feels flaky whether it's December or August, finding the right face cream can be difficult. If full-on hydration and protection are what you're after, Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream is your best bet.
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