The Complete Glossary of Skincare Cleansers And Facial Cleanser Types

It lasts only a minute or two, but it makes a huge difference
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Jan, 2022
facial cleanser types

Have YOU ever used a cleanser that worked on making your skin feel so squeaky-clean it felt dry afterward? Or, in another way of the spectrum, perhaps you’ve used a cleanser so moisturizing that it made you feel like you were adding more grime to your skin. The thing is, those cleansers might’ve not worked for you, but they’re probably perfect for someone else. What a doozy, huh? With so many existing facial cleanser types out there, how do you find your ideal cleanser?

There are different options for facial cleanser types, and the right cleanser can make all the difference for your skin. Cleansing your skin should feel good, and skin shouldn’t feel dry, burning, or feeling tingly afterward.

Here, we’ve rounded up all the types of facial cleansers and which ones are best for your particular skin type. Don’t panic—YOU’RE about to be on your way to better, brighter skin!

First, Let’s Talk About Double-Cleansing Of Skin Cells

Have you heard of double-cleansing? This popular skincare practice consists of using two different cleansers—an oil cleanser followed by a water-based one. But why would you double-cleanse in the first place (hello, isn’t washing our face once enough?!).

Here’s the deal. Double-cleansing allows YOU to get a truly deeper clean without stripping the skin of its natural oils. This action can even dry out the skin texture and lead to premature aging. With skin this clean, any serums, eye creams, toners, or moisturizers you apply afterward can really do their magic.

We recommend double-cleansing at night after your skin has had a long day sweating, wearing sunblock or makeup, and collecting environmental toxins. While dry or sensitive skin types don’t always need to double-cleanse, people with oily skin or who are prone to breakouts can BENEFIT from this practice!

But is a cleanser with oil really ok for people with oily skin? The answer may surprise you. We’ll get more into that as we discuss oil cleansers—so hold on as we dive deeper into the different types of facial cleansers!

The Glossary Of Facial Cleanser Types

There are a lot of different facial cleansers. But the good news is that by the time you’re finished reading this A-Z guide, you’ll have a much better idea about which cleansers are best for your skin type!

Balm Cleansers

You’ll know a balm cleanser when you see one. It looks just like a skincare balm, but it’s designed to clean your face! With these cleansers, a little goes a long way. They can remove makeup and either be rinsed or wiped off. Balm cleansers are known for moisturizing skin while removing impurities.

Suitable for: Balm Cleansers are good for normal skin, dry skin, and sensitive skin, but not for oily or acne-prone skin.

Double-cleanse? Yes! Balm cleansers can be used as the first step in the double-cleanse process.

Bar Cleansers

Bar cleansers are a far cry from a standard bar of soap—they’re designed for facial use! However, be sure to double-check the ingredients, as you ideally want to avoid harsh ones such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Not only is SLS the enemy of dry and sensitive skin due to its harshness, but it can “significantly” increase transepidermal water loss, which helps support your skin’s natural protective barrier. In other words, SLS dries out your skin, which can lead to premature aging!

Suitable for: Bar Cleansers are good for normal, combination, and oily skin types (dry and sensitive skin types can choose more nourishing bar cleansers).

Double-cleanse? No.

Clay Cleansers

These cleansers use similar clays as clay masks and can help detox the skin by removing impurities and extra oil. Clay cleansers can help give your clogged pores a deep cleansing, but they aren’t the best choice for removing makeup.

Suitable for: Oily and combination skin, but not for dry skin.

Double-cleanse? Yes! Clay cleansers should be the second step of your double-cleanse routine.

Cleansing Wipes

You likely know these as the popular makeup remover wipes. But there are cleansing wipes that aren’t explicitly designed to remove makeup. While convenient for removing makeup or cleansing on the go, these wipes shouldn’t replace your regular facial cleanser.

Suitable for: All skin types, but check the ingredients to avoid fragrances for sensitive skin.

Double-cleanse? No.

Foaming Cleanser

We all feel like we get a good clean when something is really foamy, right? While a good lather can be tempting—and great for removing dirt, makeup, and oil—foaming cleansers tend to really dry out the skin. If you want to stick to a foaming cleanser, avoid SLS if possible!

Suitable for: Normal, combination, and oily skin types.

Double-cleanse? Yes! You can use foaming cleansers in the second step of your double-cleanse process, as they are gentle enough!

Gel Cleansers

Gel cleansers give you the deep clean of a foamy cleanser without drying out the skin. But as always, checking the ingredients is helpful to avoid ingredients your skin may not agree with. Some gel cleansers can also have exfoliating agents, which excludes them from your daily skincare cleansing routine.

Suitable for: All skin, but check ingredients!

Double-cleanse? Yes! Use as the second step.

Lotion Cleanser

These moisturizing cleansers can help skin feel nourished after washing, making them an excellent pick for thirsty skin. Lotion cleansers can help dry or mature skin feel more supple. Thus, your skin is essentially moisturized afterward. Meaning other products such as a serum or eye cream won’t be able to fully reach the skin for the most significant impact.

Suitable for: Normal, dry, and sensitive skin types. Combination skin types can use it in the drier or colder seasons.

Double-cleanse? Yes, second step!

Micellar Cleanser

Ah, the luxury that is micellar water. This lush cleanser gets its name from micelles, which are small cleansing molecules. Oil molecules help remove dirt, makeup, and excess oil on the skin. One of the best pros of micellar cleanser is that it helps support the skin’s natural barrier to prevent transepidermal water loss while still cleaning your face.

Suitable for: All skin types.

Double-cleanse? Yes, use a micellar cleanser as the first step!

Milk Cleansers

So here’s the deal with milk cleansers: not all of them contain actual milk. The product may contain coconut milk, oat milk, or goat milk, so checking the label is essential, especially if you’re looking to avoid animal products!

Milk cleansers are soothing and gentle without being heavy, making them ideal for more reactive skin. However, they don’t leave skin feeling moisturized the same way that lotion cleansers do.

Suitable for: Milk Cleansers are good for normal, dry, combination, and sensitive skin types.

Double-cleanse? Yes! Use as the second step.

Oil Cleansers

It can seem counterintuitive to cleanse your skin with something that has the word oil in it. However, oil can help remove impurities from the skin—yes, including cleansing oil—without stripping the skin of its natural skin barrier. Oil cleansers can be very gentle yet effective, giving you that clean feeling without that “I just killed my skin” feel. In fact, some research even shows that oil-based products can help acne.

Suitable for: All skin types.

Double-cleanse? Yes, use it as the first step before your regular cleanser!

Powder Cleansers

Powder Cleansers

Powder cleansers can be confusing at first because they’re just powder. But add water, and you have a fabulous cleanser on your hands! Powder cleansers tend to give you a deeper clean because they’re so concentrated. So, always follow the instructions on the label and not use too much. While powder cleansers are great for cleansing skin, they can have a drying effect.

Suitable for: Combination and oily skin types.

Double-cleanse? No.

What Type of Cleanser Do You Use?

Which of these facial cleanser types have you heard of, and which one (or ones!) do YOU use? And do you double-cleanse in your skincare routine? Let us know in the comments below!

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