It’s easy to grab a random face wash off the shelf because after all, it will only be on your skin for a few seconds, right? Well, I’m here to tell you that you need to be as picky with your choice of cleansers as you are with your exfoliants. When we cleanse our skin, regardless of the nature of the cleanser (soap or soap-free), we strip down moisture. Yes, that’s what surfactants are supposed to do; while removing excess oil and impurities, cleansers also strip down components of the skin’s natural moisturizing factors (NMF).
In this post, we looked at the different criteria to guide you in selecting the right gentle cleanser for your skin; identifying the surfactants, pH, moisturizing agents, and other active ingredients present (for treatment cleansers).
Now, I’ll be sharing with you my top gentle cleansers that checked all those boxes without drying out/causing further damage to the skin. For reference, my skin type is a combination (a bit oily in the T-zone & normal to dry in the perimeters).
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Cleanser
This is a water-based gel cleanser that uses mild surfactants such as Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate to give the skin a good, refreshing wash. Other key ingredients include Tea Tree Leaf Oil (anti-inflammatory) and Betaine Salicylate (mildly exfoliating)- both great for soothing acne. From my experience, the Cosrx Good Morning Low pH cleanser is best suited for combination to oily skin. My skin doesn’t feel stripped or squeaky clean after using this cleanser.
Pros: It’s gentle enough for daily use, the pH is on the acidic side 5.0 – 6.0 (similar to that of the skin), it is affordable ($14/150ml) and easily accessible. The only downside is that it contains essential oils which might be irritating to sensitized skin. My skin tolerates it well though.
Where to shop? Eve Beautique (Nigeria), YesStyle (Global).
Wishtrend 2% Acid-Duo Mild Gel Cleanser
Forget the acid in the product title; this cleanser is nowhere near harsh on the skin. Of all the cleansers I’ve tried, this one from Wishtrend is my favorite! It strikes the perfect balance of deep cleansing, exfoliating, keeping blemishes at bay while being gentle and skin pH-friendly. The key ingredients in this cleanser include Gluconolactone 1% (PHA) and Lipo Hydroxy acid 1% (LHA)- gentle exfoliating acids.
It contains mild surfactants such as Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and a bunch of plant extracts (rich in antioxidants). Butylene glycol, Panthenol, and Beta-Glucan are also present for minimizing dehydration. As much as I want to say that this is a safe option for all skin types, I can’t because I don’t have extremely dry skin. However, even in the colder months where my skin was at its driest, it tolerated this cleanser well.
I shared a more detailed review here.
Pros: Free of fragrance and essential oils, deep cleanses the pores, helps to prevent breakouts.
Cons: Unpleasant scent, a bit pricier than the average cleanser ($19/150ml).
Where to shop? Eve Beautique (Nigeria), YesStyle (Global).
CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser
Yay! Something for my dry-skinned beauties! This is a hybrid cleanser; it goes on like cleansing milk but the creamy texture turns into a foamy situation as soon as it comes in contact with water. Although, CeraVe markets this product towards normal (balanced) and dry skin, as someone with a combination of oily and dry skin, I can boldly say that all skin types can benefit from this cleanser. It is quite gentle on the skin.
Like all CeraVe products, it contains their signature trio of essential ceramides, amino acids, and hyaluronic acid so you know your skin’s protective barrier is safe with this one. CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam cleanser uses mild surfactants like Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, and Coco-betaine to cleanse the skin and it does so without throwing off the acid mantle of the skin (skin pH-friendly). A bonus point is that it can cut down the double cleansing step. This only works for sunscreen and light makeup removal though. Remember to apply the cleanser to dry skin.
Pros: Multitasking (we love a lazy girl hack!), gentle on the skin (free of essential oils), easily accessible, and affordable ($14.99/355ml).
Cons: Unpleasant scent.
Where to shop? Eve Beautique (Nigeria), Amazon (Global).
Bioderma Sebium Purifying Cleansing Foaming Gel
Old but gold! French pharmacy here; this is another gel cleanser I can count on to DEEP CLEANSE oily skin of any excess sebum and impurities without irritating the skin. The Bioderma Sebium Purifying Gel is a simple formula but it gets the job done! It uses sugar molecules such as Mannitol, Xylitol, and Rhamnose to prevent the dehydration that occurs with cleansing and it is exclusively soap-free! Remember how we mentioned here that a cleanser could have a combination of soap and synthetic (non-soap) surfactants? This formula uses only synthetic surfactants to cleanse the skin so be rest assured your skin’s pH will not be thrown into a basic (alkaline) state.
Pros: It’s a great maintenance cleanser for combination, oily & acne-prone skin. It’s affordable ($20/500ml) and lasts a long time. The only downside is that it’s not readily accessible in Nigeria. You may find it in the pharmacy or at aesthetic spas/clinics. It’s available at Prima Derma Center, Abuja.
Now that we have the gentle, daily cleansers out of the way, let’s have a look at treatment and exfoliating cleansers. The following should not be used on a daily basis as they might be too stripping for the skin to tolerate daily.
Replenix Gly-Sal 5-2 Deep Pore Cleanser
This is an exfoliating gel cleanser formulated with Glycolic Acid 5% and Salicylic Acid 2% to penetrate deep into the pores and unclog them. Both ingredients are great for eliminating black- and whiteheads, preventing acne breakouts, and smoothing the skin texture.
I use this 2 – 3X a week in the evening routine to keep breakouts at bay, and it gives my skin a deep but gentle cleanse. I was surprised at how gentle the Replenix Gly-Sal cleanser was on my skin until I looked at the ingredient list again. It contains a high amount of Green Tea polyphenols which is well-known for its soothing and antioxidant properties. It also contains Zinc PCA which is good at controlling excess sebum production. Highly recommend it for anyone dealing with acne and hyperpigmentation.
Pros: A little goes a long way! It’s effective at eliminating black- and whiteheads. All skin types can use this including sensitive skin. It’s good for short contact therapy– leaving active ingredients on the skin for a short period of time before rinsing. It has a pleasant scent; makes me look forward to my routine.
Cons: It’s pricier than the average cleanser ($22.5 – $30/200ml) but well worth it if you can afford it. A little goes a long way and with weekly usage, a tube could last for about 6 months.
Where to shop? Hilary Says (Nigeria), Amazon (Global).
Replenix Benzoyl Peroxide 5% Acne Wash
Another treatment cleanser from Replenix; this one is exclusively for treating acne. Benzoyl Peroxide (BP) is a well-researched, effective ingredient for killing Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) –the bacteria involved in the pathogenesis of acne. However, it comes at a price; irritation, dryness, and burning sensation are some common experiences you may encounter when using BP especially at high concentrations. For this reason, experts advise keeping the concentration low (2.5 – 5%).
A 10% BP product will not yield more effective results on acne than one with 5%, it’ll only result in increased irritation and sensitivity. Short contact therapy is also advised to minimize irritation, it is for this reason that I absolutely ADORE the Replenix Acne Wash. Low-strength BP in a rinse-off formula.
Check out this video for the application demo plus how it helped to clear my breakouts.
Pros: Effective on inflammatory acne (inflamed pustules and papules; the ones that look swollen with pus, not black- or whiteheads).
Cons: Doesn’t cleanse the skin properly; from experience, when using it at the end of the day, it’s best to wash your face first or at least, oil cleanse before following up with the Acne Wash as a mask. A bit pricier than the average cleanser ($22 – $26/200ml), though as a treatment, I believe it’s worth the investment.
Where to shop? BuyBetter (Nigeria), Amazon (Global)
Have you tried any of these cleansers? What was your experience like? Do share your favorite gentle, face cleansers with us in the discussion box below.