You already know that not washing your face before bed can irritate your skin, clog your pores, and bring on acne breakouts. Another habit that won’t do you any favors: using the wrong facial wash. Whether your face is on the oily side or unbearably dry, it’s important to realize that just picking up any old product at the drugstore isn’t going to help. That said, we know the endless number of face washes out there doesn’t make things easy. That’s why we consulted expert dermatologists to help round up the best new formulas tailored to your specific skin woes. Trust us, one of these seven cleansers is bound to be the best facial wash for you, keeping your skin looking clean, fresh, and beautiful for days to come.
Best facial wash: Cleansing powder
How it works: Made with pulverized grains and minerals, it transforms into a foam or paste when mixed with water. “Since the particles are smaller than the microbeads in standard scrubs, they exfoliate and combat dullness with less risk of irritation,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Add less water for a more intense scrub, and vice versa.
One to try: Boscia Tsubaki Oil-Infused Exfoliating Powder ($36; amazon.com) uses finely ground rice bran, coated in tsubaki oil, to boost hydration while buffing.
Best facial wash: Cleansing water
How it works: Long popular in Asia, this suds-free wash is making a splash stateside. “Most are infused with anti-inflammatory minerals, like selenium, to tone down redness from rosacea,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. Meanwhile, the micellar technology—micelles are tiny groups of molecules that surround the cleansing agent and deliver it evenly across skin—prevents too much product from landing on one spot and causing irritation. Use this as you would a toner; apply with a cotton pad, no need to rinse.
One to try: Perricone MD Blue Plasma Cleansing Treatment ($39; sephora.com) nixes dirt and grime, not skin’s natural oils.
Best facial wash: Cleansing balm
How it works: With the highest concentration of emollients, this cleanser is more akin to a moisturizer than a wash, right down to the rich consistency. You can even use it in a similar way: Rub onto dry skin, then gently wipe off with a damp cloth to lock in the most moisture.
One to try: Eve Lom Cleanser ($50; sephora.com) contains chamomile and eucalyptus oils to soften and soothe skin.
If your skin is sensitive
Best facial wash: Cleansing milk
How it works: Think of your skin as a layer of bricks and mortar; in people with sensitive skin, the mortar is broken, allowing irritants to get in and moisture to get out. Milky cleansers have less water and more nourishing ingredients, like fatty acids and ceramides, to fill cracks, Dr. Gohara says. Result: decreased dryness, irritation, and stinging.
One to try: L’Occitane Shea Butter Cleansing Milk ($24; usa.loccitane.com) has licorice extract to quell flushing.
If you have combo skin
Best facial wash: Cleansing gel
How it works: Although gel formulas used to be high in alcohol and very drying, the newbies are water-based. That means they remove oil but still deliver a light form of hydration that won’t clog pores, Dr. Zeichner notes. If your skin has a Goldilocks complex, it gets the best of both worlds.
One to try: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Boosters Facial Cleanser ($8; target.com) is rich in antioxidants, like vitamin E and white tea, so skin feels clean but not tight and dry.
If you have oily skin
Best facial wash: Cleansing mud
How it works: Consider this a juice cleanse for your complexion. Loaded with charcoal and clay, it helps degunk pores and soak up excess oil, leaving you with clearer skin, Dr. Zeichner says. If you’re prone to breakouts during your cycle, start using one 10 days before your period, he adds; it will help counteract the extra sebum caused by hormone fluctuations. This formula is also ideal for city dwellers: “It absorbs the microfine toxins and particles from smog that get trapped in your pores,” Dr. Gohara explains.
One to try: GlamGlow SuperCleanse ($39; sephora.com) morphs from mud to foam to deslick your face, fast.
If you wear a lot of makeup
Best facial wash: Cleansing oil
How it works: “Oil dissolves oil, so this formula breaks down the lipids in foundations, powders, and even stubborn eye makeup,” Dr. Gohara explains. (Fun fact: It also breaks down excess oils on your skin.) Thanks to the lubricated texture, there’s no scrubbing required, making cleansing oils both gentle and effective at removing makeup.
One to try: Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil ($28; sephora.com) gets rid of makeup and shine, leaving no residue.