Taking into account your skin type—sensitive, oily, dry, or combination—and factors including your age and climate will help you choose a cleanser that will bring out the best in your skin.
Also bear in mind that the facial cleanser that works for you today may not work so well months or a year from now. As your skin changes with the seasons, your age, diet, other skin products, and any number of factors, you may need to adjust your cleansing routine. Irritation and redness, breakouts, and other unwelcome changes could be linked to your cleanser.
Once you find the facial cleanser that works for your skin at the moment, wash in the mornings and evenings—though some people with dry skin find that washing only at bedtime and simply splashing the face with lukewarm water in morning does the trick. Follow up with an appropriate moisturizer.
Dry Skin: If your skin is generally dry (either due to its natural composition or climate), you’ll want to find a cleanser that’s gentle but that will still clean effectively. Soap-free creamy or milk cleansers that don’t contain irritants—such as perfumes, alcohol, and harsh detergents—are your best choice. Even with gentle cleansers, however, you’ll want to watch for irritation and try a different product if necessary.
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Sensitive Skin: The same types of cleansers that work for dry skin—gentle products free of harsh irritants—also tend to work well for sensitive skin. As a general guide, look for unscented products that are labeled “hypoallergenic, ” “gentle,” or “calming.”
Oily Skin: Oily skin is often the result of hormones and genes and, when not cleansed properly, can be prone to breakouts and blemishes. Foaming and gel cleansers that are oil free and won’t clog pores (non-comedogenic) tend to provide the deepest clean—removing oil, dirt, and bacteria. But because these types of cleansers are effective, they can also be irritating, especially if the oily quality of your skin begins to change toward normal or combination. So watch for irritation and look for a milder alternative if needed.
Combination Skin: Combination skin (oily and dry) can be tricky because you need a cleanser that effectively removes dirt and oil but doesn’t further dry or irritate other areas. You may also find that using different products on oily versus normal or dry parts of your skin is helpful. For example, in combination skin the “T-zone” (nose, forehead, and chin) tends to be more prone to oil than other areas, so you may be able to carefully use an oily-skin cleanser here. Some people find that they have oilier skin when they’re younger (teens and twenties), but that it changes toward combination as they reach their thirties and fourties. If you find that your tried-and-true oily skin cleanser starts to irritate you in places, it may be time for a combination-skin approach.