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How to Choose the Right Cleanser for Your Skin Type


Every day without fail, we attract grimy stuff to our skin, including environmental pollutants, irritants, bacteria and dirt. At the same time, our skin is naturally sloughing off dead skin cells (which have a habit of hanging on tight) and producing a constant stream of sebum. What we’re trying to say is that, well, our skin gets pretty dirty in a 12-hour period, even if we don’t actively notice it.

“If [all that grime] isn’t washed away properly, it could potentially contribute to skin problems, such as breakouts, dull skin and clogged pores,” says Blass Laner, who manages global education here at bareMinerals. “We also tend to wear makeup with SPF in it. This needs to be cleansed away to allow your serums and moisturizers to work more effectively, so they don’t have a physical barrier to work through.” While cleansing is a super important part of creating healthy, beautiful skin, we tend to take it for granted. So use this cheat sheet to do an audit of your cleansing practices.

pure plush gentle deep cleansing foam

How to Wash Your Face

The actual process of cleansing is pretty straightforward. Every evening before hopping into bed, rinse your face, then apply a nickel-sized amount of cleanser to your fingertips. Massage the cleanser into your skin with gentle, circular movements, making sure to cover every inch of your face. That includes your chin, around your hair line and around your nose. After about 1-2 minutes, rinse the product away and gently pat dry.

The above process works for most cleansers; the primary exceptions would be cleansing cloths and micellar cleansers, which involve a wiping process (more on those in a second). Another exception is the double-cleanse, which involves using a cleansing oil followed by a water-based cleanser.

Why double cleanse? “Cleansing oils help to break down and dissolve makeup, sunscreens and excess oil on the surface of the skin — AKA the ‘grime’ that builds up on your skin over the course of the day,” says Blass. “The second phase, using a water-based cleanser, does a thorough cleanse now that the makeup and other impurities have been removed.”

Oil cleansing is a great first step. Other double-cleansing options include swiping a cleansing wipe or micellar-soaked cotton pad over your skin, then following up with your choice cleanser. Whatever process or cleanser you choose, it’s important to create a nice, clean surface to better allow your serums, retinols, moisturizers and creams to work their magic.

Choosing the Right Facial Cleanser

Finding a facial cleanser that’s best for you is deeply personal, and the primary factor you want to consider is your skin type.

The Best Cleanser for Oily Skin or Combination Skin

For skin that’s oily, it’s not about removing every single trace of oil and beating up your skin. Rather, the goal is to help rebalance your skin so that it’s moisturized without feeling greasy. For example, CLAY CHAMELEON Transforming Purifying Cleanser is a non-lathering cleanser that refines, brightens and revitalizes your complexion with detoxifying Red Clay, mineral-rich Sea Salts and Papaya Extract. PURE PLUSH Gentle Deep Cleansing Foam is another excellent option for oily skin, though it works beautifully on combination skin types as well.

The Best Cleanser for Dry Skin

An oil cleanser, such as OIL OBSESSED Total Cleansing Oil, is a nourishing, lightweight option to keep skin hydrated while dissolving impurities and makeup. You could also reach for a richer, cream-based formula. “Stay away from cleansers with a high alcohol content as that will dry out the skin further,” Blass adds.

The Best Cleanser for Normal Skin

All skin types can benefit from Mineral Cleansing Water or Mineral Cleansing Wipes, which gently remove makeup, dirt and grime with the scientific magic of micelles. You can use either of these as a pre-cleansing option — or on days when you just want a quick and easy cleanse.

mineral cleansing wipes

Types of Cleansers

To help you determine which type of cleanser is best for you, we’ve outlined all the different types below.

Creamy Cleanser

  • A thick and hydrating cleanser with a creamy consistency
  • Removes makeup without irritation and without stripping vital oils
  • Good for sensitive, dry and mature skin types
  • Not ideal for oily or combination skin types

Foaming Cleanser

  • Water-based cleanser that creates a foamy, airy lather
  • Effectively removes makeup, grime, product and excess oil
  • Best for those with oily or combination skin
  • Not recommended for dry or mature skin

Cleansing Milk

  • An emulsion of oil and water that has a thin, milky consistency
  • Gently cleanses to help maintain balance and hydration
  • Ideal for those with normal or combo skin
  • Because it’s so mild, those with acne prone or oily skin may prefer a stronger formulation

Cleansing Oil

  • Can be one oil, or a mixture of oils
  • Step one of a double-cleanse that helps dissolve makeup, grime, dirt and product
  • Should be followed up with a secondary cleanser (foam or gel are ideal)
  • Excellent for anyone who wears a lot of makeup on a daily basis

Cleansing Balm

  • An oil and butter-based solid balm
  • Dissolves makeup, grime and product while imparting hydration
  • Can be used in place of an oil during the double-cleanse, or on its own
  • Ideal for dry, mature or combination skin types seeking extra hydration

Micellar Water

  • A no-rinse water cleanser filled with micelle molecules
  • The micelles attract dirt and oil while leaving important oils alone
  • Best as a pre- or post-cleanser for all skin types or as an eye makeup remover
  • Not ideal as a stand-alone product for those who wear a lot of makeup

Cleansing Wipe

  • A no-rinse cleansing sheet that’s pre-soaked in a cleansing solution
  • Has the added benefit of gentle exfoliation from the wipe itself
  • Works well as a pre- or post-cleanser, as a makeup remover, or on lazy days when you just can’t be bothered to rinse
  • Not ideal as a stand-alone product for those who wear a lot of makeup


  • Aggressive cleanser that often contains a high pH (9-10)
  • It effectively cleans the more durable skin on our body for a very clean feeling
  • Because of its high pH, it’s too strong for sensitive facial skin (which has a pH of 5.5)
  • Recommended for cleaning your body only, even if your facial skin is oily

Facial Scrub

  • A cleanser with physical exfoliants, such as shell powder or fruit seeds
  • Helps buff away dead skin cells for a more vibrant complexion
  • A complement to your existing cleanser (not a replacement) that can be used two to three times a week
  • If you have very sensitive skin, opt for a very gentle scrub

Acne Cleanser

  • A cleanser formulated with ingredients that target acne and oil, such as Salicylic Acid
  • Helps with excess oil production, and helps reduce or prevent pimples
  • Improves skin clarity and works well in conjunction with other acne treatments
  • Can be drying for those with normal, dry or mature skin.

Konjac Sponge

  • A natural “sponge” made from the porous Konjac Root
  • Meant to be used as a tool, in conjunction with cleanser, to gently exfoliate
  • Has naturally detoxifying and nourishing benefits via vitamins and minerals
  • Konjac sponges are often infused with ingredients for specific skin types. For example, charcoal for acne-prone skin, or clay for oily skin.

Cleansing Powder or Grain

  • A dry powder that must be mixed with water before cleansing
  • Has the added benefit of being spill-proof, TSA-friendly, and mildly exfoliating
  • Ideal for combination and oily skin types who want a little extra exfoliation
  • Might be too abrasive for sensitive skin types, but you can cut it with more water to help

Clay Cleanser

  • A cleanser formulated with one or more types of clay
  • Works to manage oil, rebalance, nourish and detoxify
  • Ideal for oily, acne-prone or combination types that seek balance
  • Not recommended for dry or mature skin types

Facial Cleansing Tab or Bead

  • A dry, condensed powder in pill, tab or bead form
  • Must be combined with water before using, making them spill-proof for easy travel
  • Ideal for combination or oily skin
  • Potentially too abrasive for sensitive skin types, though you can cut with extra water

Cleansing Cloth, Mitt or Sponge

  • Tools that helps further buff away dead cells via exfoliation
  • These vary in exfoliation depending on what they’re made from
  • Reveals a brighter, clearer complexion since dead cells are buffed away
  • Can be irritating if you have very sensitive skin. Particularly abrasive materials, such as those on a cleansing mitt, should be reserved for body use only

Sonic Facial Brush

  • A device with a pulsating/vibrating brush head
  • Deeply cleans and exfoliates the skin for a brighter complexion
  • Ideal for those with oily, acne-prone or combination skin
  • Can potentially be too abrasive for sensitive skin types, and must be thoroughly cleansed itself to prevent bacteria growth

Cleansing Stick

  • A cleanser that comes in stick form
  • Travel-friendly, spill-proof and an effective alternative to liquids
  • These come in many different forms for all skin types, so choose accordingly

Deep Cleansing Mask

  • A thick mask, often made with clay, that is applied to the skin and left to set before rinsing
  • While setting, the product sucks up excess sebum and nourishes the skin
  • Helps brighten, clarify and reduce pore congestion
  • Best for oily, acne-prone, and combination skin

Water Peel

  • A thin mask that’s applied to clean skin and left to set before being peeled off
  • The peeling process is mildly exfoliating by itself, but sometimes products also contain enzymes or other ingredients to further exfoliate
  • Ideal for most types as a gentle exfoliator
  • If you have sensitive skin, a follow-up rinse to remove residue is helpful

Dry Oil Cleansing

  • Requires an oil-based cleanser
  • More of a method than a type of cleanser; the oil cleanser is applied to your face, massaged, then removed with a dry cloth instead of water/damp cloth
  • Because no water is used throughout the process, it’s extremely hydrating for mature or dry skin types
  • Not ideal for oily or acne-prone skin types

Ready to up your cleansing game? Take our 3-step Skincare Quiz to find your new favorite, or shop all our clean, vegan face cleansers in one place.