Skincare 101: Cleansers

When examining your skincare routine, nothing is more basic than a cleanser. After all, without a proper cleanser all the other skincare products in your routine can’t really do their job -- applying products to dirty skin is like swishing mouthwash on unbrushed teeth. There are hundreds of cleansers on the market and they are not all created equal (we should know, we’ve tried 45,678 of them.)  So today we’re going to tackle cleansers--- we'll share a few of or current favorites and the type of skin for which we would recommend each them.

The key to finding the right cleanser is to Know Your Skin. There are five basic skin types:

  • Normal: This skin type has a proper balance of moisture and oil.
  • Sensitive: People with sensitive skin often experience tingling, itching and might get blotches when they come in contact with some common ingredients found in facial care products.
  • Oily: If your face looks shiny, greasy or slick an hour or two after you wash your face, chances are you have oily skin.
  • Dry: If your face feels tight or stiff after you wash, chances are you have dry skin.  Dry skin is also more prone to early wrinkling and creasing.
  • Combination: As the name of this category suggests, combo skin is a mix of oil in some parts and dry in others.

Eve Lom Cleanser

This is the cleansing balm that started it all.  When used properly it deeply and thoroughly cleanses the skin without drying it out.  This cleanser removes even the most stubborn waterproof makeup.  The signature massaging motion and the muslin cloth that is recommended when using the cleanser helps to exfoliate, tone and improve circulation.  Works on all skin types.  (Sephora.com $80)

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant is a rice-based powdered cleanser that activates with water to release Papain, Salicylic Acid and Rice Enzymes to gently cleanse and exfoliate the skin. This cleanser does not remove makeup so be sure to remove your makeup first.   It is the perfect cleanser for travel because it's in powder form. Unless TSA mistakes the powder for contraband.  Works on all skin types. (Ulta.com $54)

Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel

Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel is a non foaming cleanser that  deep cleans the skin without leaving it feeling stripped. It uses Papaya and Grapefruit Extracts to lightly exfoliate the skin preventing build up that can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.  Works on all skin types. (Nordstrom.com, $14)

Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil

Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil is an oil-based cleanser that you use with dry hands on dry skin to melt makeup including stubborn waterproof mascara and liquid lipsticks.  After massaging into your skin, rinse with water and move onto a gel or water-based cleanser aka double cleansing. And yes, you can use a cleansing oil on your skin even if you have oily skin. This one contains botanical amino acids to gently remove sebum and impurities which cause blemishes and blackheads.  Works on all skin types including sensitive skin. (Sephora.com, $30)

Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser uses the exfoliating power of glycolic acid to deep clean and break down build-up from the skin’s surface and reduce minor discoloration to reveal more radiant and smooth skin. This is best used 1-3 times a week depending on your skin type (1-2 for normal/dry skin, 2-3 for oily/combination skin). It’s a good idea to deep clean the skin occasionally especially if you wear makeup regularly.  (Nordstrom.com, $16) 

Perricone MD Nutritive Cleanser

Perricone MD Nutritive Cleanser cleanses well to remove impurities from the skin without stripping it of its natural beneficial oils and also provides anti-aging benefits. It contains Alpha Lipoic Acid to help minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores as well as helps to improve skin's resilience, tone, and texture. Ideal for normal to dry skin. (Sephora.com, $45)

Murad Time Release Acne Cleanser

Murad Time Release Acne Cleanser is part of a Murad system designed to fight adult acne. It contains a lower dosage of salicylic acid (0.5%) so when used with the system it helps to fight acne without overdrying maturing skin. It also contains amino acids and hyaluronic acid to optimize hydration and antioxidants to fight the signs of aging. Works on all skin types. (Sephora.com, $32)

Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser

Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser is perfect for someone who’s new to skin care and doesn't want to spend a fortune on a face wash. The soap-free cleanser is effective at removing makeup, dirt and oil without making skin feel tight or dry. It can be rinsed off with water or tissued off with a cloth (if skin needs a little extra moisture).This cleanser is non-irritating and a great balance to the routine if you use serums and creams that have active ingredients. Works on all skin types but it's great for sensitive skin. (Drugstore.com, $6.99)

TaTa Harper Regenerating Cleanser

Packed with skin-clarifying enzymes, TaTa Harper Regenerating Cleanser gives skin an immediate boost of bright. For an extra dose of ‘glow’, the cleanser can be left on for a few minutes (like a mask) and rinsed off. This one is pricey, but it’s organic and the formulation really goes the distance to deliver immediate benefits.  Works on oily, dry, normal and combination skin. Works on all skin types. (Sephora.com, $40.00)

Orlane Cleansing Cream for Face and Eyes


When skin feels super dehydrated Orlane Cleansing Cream for Face and Eyes is a great choice. The cream takes on an oily consistency once massaged into skin and melts away makeup like a dream. Fresh Royal Jelly and 24-Karat Gold (the reason this cleansing cream is a decadent over $100 treat) leaves skin smooth, soft and incredibly calm. Even the most irritated skin can benefit from this soothing cleansing cream. Works on oily, dry, normal and combination skin. (Bergdorfgoodman.com, $150.00)

Olay Regenerist Luminous Brightening Cream Cleanse

Olay Regenerist Luminous Brightening Cream Cleanser is an oil rich formula that works great on dry skin (though formulated for all skin types.) The creamy granular texture loosens dirt and grime while providing gently exfoliation to reveal clean skin immediately and more even toned skin over time, especially when paired with other products in the Regenerist Luminous Line. (Ulta.com, $9.99)

Avalon Organics Wrinkle Therapy Cleansing Oil

Formulated with rosehip oil and CoQ10 (a vitamin like substance proven to reduce sun damage and help reduce the appearance of wrinkles) this oil loosens dirt and grime and when water is added it emulsifies and rinses clean.  Hyaluronic acid helps the skin to retain moisture and elasticity, so, skin looks and feels great after cleansing.  Works on all skin types. (Avalonorganics.com, $11.00)

Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Skin Illuminating Cleanser

When brightening is a concern, reach for Clarisonic Sonic Radiance Brightening Solution Skin Illuminating Cleanser.  Partnered with the Clarisonic Sonic Radiance brush, this brightening face wash gives the most radiant skin imaginable. The foaming milk removes impurities without stripping all moisture. Licorice extract and ginkgo biloba work to even the skin tone, while peppermint leaf extract keeps everything calm. Brighter days ahead! Works on all skin types. (Sephora.com, $25)

What's your favorite cleanser?