The 7 Best Natural & Organic Face Washes (Cleansers) 2020
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The 7 Best Natural & Organic Face Washes (Cleansers)

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best natural face wash

In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST FOR DRY AND SENSITIVE SKIN ZELEN Life Cleanser

 

Now, it is time to review the 7 best natural faces cleansers and natural face washes. Arguably the most important aspect of skincare, cleansers, and face wash removes oil, dirt, and other impurities from your face’s skin. 

However, these two distinct products have slightly different modes of action and can do a few different jobs when it comes to keeping your skin clean and healthy. 

There is a lot to unpack when it comes to assessing the best natural face wash and natural face cleanser. As always, we will give you the goods on what to look for when selecting an organic face wash and cleanser. 

We will follow that up with a review of our top 7 picks and how to use them effectively. We are also going to review the difference between a face wash and a face cleanser and look at how to use your skin condition to choose the right type of wash or cleanser. Finally, we will let you know how we chose our top 7 and answer some common questions consumers have about washes and cleansers.

We have formulated our ZELEN Life Cleanser to provide a deep yet gentle clean that comes from naturally sourced ingredients that help to dissolve away excess oil removing dirt and other pollutants from your skin while hydrating and revitalizing it to keep you looking your best all day long. We used all of our research on skincare to create the best organic cleanser on the market that is gentle enough for all skin types.

Of course, we know that everyone’s skin is different, and no one product will work for absolutely everyone. That is why we will give you our top-7 list for the best organic cleansers and washes for your face. Before we get into the product reviews, let’s start with the 5 most important considerations when you are on the hunt for a natural and organic way to cleanse your face.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Cleanser
  • Deep-cleansing and healing, promoting firmer skin
  • Superior hydrating properties, non-drying
  • Hypoallergenic formula restores skin's pH balance
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bb2-table__imageELEMIS Superfood Facial Wash
  • Nettle extract gives astringent benefits
  • Packed with amino acids and antioxidants
  • Maintains moisture
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bb2-table__imageboscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser
  • Charcoal extracts impurities from deep in the pores
  • Removes excess oil without stripping skin
  • Tightens pore size
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion
  • Powerful astringent reduces oil build up
  • Shrinks pores
  • Fights bacteria preventing breakouts
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bb2-table__imageErno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse
  • Activated charcoal gives powerful cleanse
  • Removes dead skin cells to clear pores
  • Revitilizes skin by removing dullness
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bb2-table__imageNEOGEN Dermalogy Real Fresh Foam Cleanser (Green Tea)
  • Green tea packed with anti-aging antioxidants
  • Use fermention to boost moisture
  • Nutrient-dense fruits help rejuvenate skin
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bb2-table__imageJuice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser
  • Cleanses and tones all-in-one product
  • Removes dirt from surface and deep in the pores
  • Contains anti-aging vitamin E
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Before you buy: 5 Things to consider when purchasing a natural face cleanser

1. Don’t go for a cheap face wash or cleanser

While the budget needs to be considered, don’t just buy any old cheap face wash or cleanser. Many of us invest in eye serums, toners, and other lotions to help our skin. But, it all starts with clean, healthy skin; to get that right, you need a solution that cleans your skin but doesn’t dry it out and leave it feeling irritated.

It’s easy to think that a face wash or cleanser will only be on your face for a short period, so you don’t need to give it much consideration, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Those few seconds can do a lot of harm or a lot of good, and it all hinges on the ingredients of the product and the reaction they cause in your skin. Invest in a quality cleanser or face wash, and you won’t be disappointed.

It doesn’t have to break the bank, and if you are on a tight budget, we’ve got you covered with our list. We have made sure to include products of varying price points that are packed with rejuvenating compounds while avoiding the harmful chemicals.

Spoiler:

Mario Badescu has our top pick for a budget-friendly cleanser.

2. Know your skin type

Skin type is a critical factor when picking any product. Those with oily skin will generally need more robust products than those with normal, dry, or sensitive skin. Combination skin can be tricky to manage as different areas of your skin behave differently. You might need to experiment with different products and ingredients to find what works for your skin type—more on the different kinds of face wash and cleansers below. 

Not sure what skin type you have, check this out:

  • “Normal” skin: Ahhh, the dream, “normal” here means no underlying conditions, no excess oil, no greasy look, no dryness, and no flakes.
  • Oily skin: If your skin looks or feels greasy shortly after washing, you have oily skin.
  • Dry skin: if your skin often feels tight, has flakey or ashy patches, then you have dry skin.
  • Sensitive skin: if your skin often feels irritated, itchy, and has redness, especially after applying products, then you have sensitive skin.
  • Combination skin: if you have some oily parts and some normal or dry parts, then you have combination skin. The forehead and nose are often oily (called the T-zone), while the chin and cheeks are usually dry.

Keep in mind:

Products are often formulated to target different skin conditions; thus, you need to give this some thought before starting your search as it will help you narrow things down.

3. Consider your daily habits

You want to think about what your average daily routine looks like and how that affects what ends up on your face. If you work outside in dirty environments or spend a lot of time in polluted city air, you are accumulating a lot of surface dirt and grime on your face, and you will likely need a cleanser to remove it.

Likewise, if you spend a lot of time working out and sweating, you need a good face wash that can remove the sweat and clean out your pores without leaving your skin feeling dry and tight.

Go for balance:

You want to find an equilibrium between removing excess sebum, your skin’s natural oil, without completely stripping it. As much as those of us with oily skin may want to hate on sebum, too little is just as bad as too much. You can easily take your skin from greasy to dry and flakey if you strip away too much sebum.

4. Read the label 

Reading the label will help you figure out what your skin reacts to and what treats it right. There are some typical ingredients you want to avoid, as they are known to be bad for our health and the health of the planet once you wash them down the drain and out into the world. You want to make sure you have a non toxic face wash or cleanser.

You can’t get a genuinely chemical free face wash or cleanser as everything around us is made of chemicals. However, you can get one that is free of known harmful chemicals like parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, and phthalates. If you’ve got more sensitive skin or are just generally seeing a reaction from the product you are using, switch things up and look for products with fewer ingredients.

You especially want to avoid added dyes and fragrances, alcohol can also be irritating, especially if you have dry skin. Lipoic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid can all be helpful for some skin but can also irritate others.

Check out these two consumer tools:

Checking the ingredients can be one of the most daunting tasks when it comes to picking products that promote good health. If you find yourself standing in an aisle or scrolling through an online retailer’s catalog, don’t hesitate to seek help in a store that could mean asking a salesclerk. Online can be a little slower to get a response, but we’ve got two great resources for you regarding ingredients. We recommend using CosDNA or EWG’s Skin Deep database of ingredients. You can search by product/brand or by raw ingredient to check for known irritants and other harmful compounds. CosDNA even has picture-to-text capabilities so that you can snap a picture of the ingredients list from the label. These are both great options, whether you are in a brick-and-mortar shop or browsing online.

5. Test different products (& maybe keep a journal)

Start with smaller tubes that you can use over a week or two to see how your skin reacts.

If you’ve tried a few products and are still having trouble, it can be helpful to start a journal of products as they can all start to blur together. Then you will have something to reference, and you will know what doesn’t work and thus what to avoid in the future. Just make sure that you test each product for the same amount of time so that you are making an apples-to-apples comparison.

The 7 best natural and organic face washes and cleansers in 2020

1. ZELEN Life Cleanser

cleanser zelen life

Best features:

  • Provides a deep yet gentle clean that won’t dry out the skin
  • Helps to rehydrate skin after cleansing
  • Restores the skins natural pH balance
  • Promotes fibroblast health which encourages collagen and elastin formation 

Best face wash/cleanser for:

The best natural face wash for all skin types, especially dry and sensitive skin. It’s gentle, naturally hydrating compounds help restore the skin’s pH balance and promote healing on any skin type to restore and maintain healthy skin. This also makes it a great natural facial cleanser for dry skin.

Overview:

Sunflower oil helps to restore the integrity and function of the stratum corneum, the skin’s natural barrier. The therapeutic effect is due to the fatty acids present in sunflower oil, which are essential to the proper function of the skin’s barrier. This stalwart oil can soothe irritation and reduce redness by preventing allergen and irritants from penetrating the skin. Sunflower oil also helps to hydrate by limiting the loss of moisture.[1]

Jojoba oil is very similar to our skin’s natural oil (sebum). Jojoba is a powerful moisturizer that helps to provide a protective barrier to keep your skin healthy throughout the day. Its similarity to sebum also makes this moisturizer great for oily skin as it can reduce the amount of natural oil you produce. Jojoba oil is also non-comedogenic, which means it does not clog your pores.[2] 

Jojoba oil can also help regulate skin hormones and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can speed up skin healing, helping to repair any damage your skin may have endured.

Finally, aloe vera, which has been used for thousands of years and can be traced back to Greek and Egyptian roots, also helps to promote skin healing and works at the deepest layers of skin to heal fibroblasts, the structures in our skin that create collagen and elastin. Healthier fibroblasts promote healthy collagen and elastin formation, which give tighter, more elastic skin, restoring a youthful appearance.

Aloe vera also contains vitamins A, C, and E, which are all impressive antioxidants that help to eliminate damage-causing free radicals.  

Several other compounds in aloe vera reduce irritation and inflammation while promoting cell regeneration and wound healing. Several of them also act as antibacterial and antiviral agents. These include but are not limited to beneficial sugars, fatty acids, and enzymes.[3]

The good:

  • Hydrates skin, doesn’t dry it out
  • Heals deep structures for tighter, firmer-looking skin
  • Restores pH balance
  • Hypoallergenic and non-sensitizing

Things to think about:

  • Cost

Bottom line:

This cleanser is full of nutrients that help heal skin and retain moisture, but the high density of hypoallergenic, health-promoting compounds means a slightly higher price point. If it’s within your budget, this one is unquestionably worth trying. 

2. ELEMIS Superfood Facial Wash

ELEMIS Superfood Facial Wash

Best features:

  • Light astringent properties help to cleanse pores
  • Helps maintain skin’s protective barrier
  • Reduces inflammation

Best face wash/cleanser for:

The best organic face wash for oily skin due to the astringent properties that help control natural oils.

Overview:

Elemis have created a face wash that helps to remove excess oil while promoting the health of the skin’s natural lipid barrier.

They have included broccoli seed, avocado, and pumpkin seed oils which help to maintain a healthy skin flora and have antimicrobial, anti‐inflammatory, and antioxidative effects that promote cell proliferation, increase collagen synthesis, stimulate dermal reconstruction, and repair the skin’s natural barrier function.[4]

Furthermore, pumpkin seed oil shows promise as an extremely effective treatment for both acute and chronic skin inflammation that is on par with prescription treatments but has none of the detrimental side effects.[5]

Black seed oil, another proven thousand-year-old treatment, provides further soothing action for inflammation and has potent antioxidant compounds that can help heal the skin’s lipid barrier.[6]

Nettle extract has astringent properties that remove excess oil and contaminants from the skin, which can prevent pore blockages. It also has anti-aging properties provided by antioxidant compounds as well as enzyme inhibitors that help reduce the breakdown of collagen and elastin, which give the skin structure and elasticity.[7]

The good:

  • Helps fight oily skin using the astringent properties of nettle extract
  • Rich in amino acids and antioxidants to prevent and heal damage from free radicals
  • Helps to maintain the skin’s natural lipid barrier, which can prevent moisture loss and impurity penetration

Things to think about:

  • Several users found that this face wash too drying
  • Several users did not care for the odor, a common complaint with superfood products
  • May cause irritation in some users

Bottom line:

This is an excellent product for those with oily or acne-prone skin, but it may be too harsh for those with dry or sensitive skin. Combination skin types may find this product helpful but should watch the drier areas of their face for a reaction.

3. boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser

boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser

Best features:

  • Removes excess oil without stripping the skin of its natural barrier
  • Great at clearing out clogged pores
  • Reduces the visibility of pores

Best face wash/cleanser for:

The best natural face wash for combination skin due to the gentle cleanse that works to clear out clogged pores without damaging the skin’s protective lipid barrier.

Overview:

Activated charcoal is the main active ingredient in this gel-based cleanser. Charcoal is known for its ability to absorb impurities and has been used in filters for decades to clean air. New evidence is suggesting that it can do the same thing for our skin, which is fantastic for all of us, but especially for those in urban settings where air pollution settles on our skin and can cause a host of reactions from clogged pores to inflammation and irritation.[8]

Vitamin C and jojoba oil have been included to help reduce inflammation and add some hydration back to the skin.[9]

The combined effect of a deep pore clean and the reduction in inflammation can reduce the visibility of pores.

The good:

  • Can help to remove excess oil without completely stripping the skin of its natural barrier
  • Charcoal absorbs oil and impurities deep in the skin’s pores
  • Clearing out pores can help reduce their visibility

Things to think about:

  • Water-based product means that those with excessively oily skin might not see enough oil removal
  • Does not remove oil-based/waterproof makeups effectively, needs to be paired with a makeup remover

Bottom line:

This water-based cleanser works great for clearing out pores and removing some excess oil without completely stripping the skin. However, for those with oily skin, you will likely need a more potent oil remover than this provides. Those who wear waterproof makeup will have to use a makeup remover before using this face cleanser.

4. Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion

Mario Badescu Cucumber Cleansing Lotion

Best features:

  • Works well as a spot treatment to remove excess oil and impurities
  • Shrinks pores with powerful astringency

Best face wash/cleanser for:

Those with combination or oily skin who are prone to breakouts will benefit the most from using this product after a face wash. It functions more like a toner and can be applied to just the oily areas of combination skin.

Those on a budget will also appreciate the low number on the price tag.

Overview:

Mario Badescu has harnessed the power of cucumber’s astringent properties and high concentrations of antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins to produce a potent product.

Cucumbers are packed with several antioxidants that work via various methods and help prevent skin aging and improve damaged areas. Cucumber extract is also antimicrobial helping to avoid the buildup of harmful bacteria in the oils of your skin and your pores.[10]

One of these antioxidant compounds, vitamin C, can also lock moisture in your skin and promote healthy collagen formation to keep your skin looking firmer, healthier, and more youthful.[11]

The good:

  • Powerful astringent properties help to remove excess oil for those with oily or acne-prone skin
  • Shrinks pores using those same astringent agents
  • Helps prevent breakouts by killing bacteria and removing oils that trap impurities in your pores

Things to think about:

  • Too powerful an astringent for anyone with dry or sensitive skin
  • Not recommended for use on normal skin either

Bottom line:

This is a powerful oil remover that contains alcohol and should only be used by those with oily or combination skin. If you have combination skin, only apply the product to those oily areas. As per Mario Badescu’s use instructions, this product should be utilized in small amounts on a cotton ball or pad. Doing so will make sure you don’t overdo it and dry out your skin. It will also help you save money as you aren’t wasting the product by using an excessive amount. 

5. Erno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse

Erno Laszlo Pore Refining Detox Double Cleanse

Best features:

  • Draws impurities out of pores with charcoal 
  • Superfruit enzymes exfoliate and remove dead cells
  • kale protein blend revitalizes and heals skin

Best face wash/cleanser for:

This is the best natural face wash for acne. With a deep pore cleanse from foaming action and activated charcoal as well as a gentle exfoliation to remove dead skin cells and prevent further blockages, those who are prone to breakouts will benefit the most from using this face wash.

Overview:

Erno Laszlo’s skincare experts have combined activated charcoal and fruit enzyme exfoliation to slough away dead skin and draw out impurities that become trapped within your pores. 

As we reviewed with the previous charcoal cleanser, activated charcoal is frequently used to capture impurities both in air filtration and now, with rising frequency, in the skincare industry. This cleanser uses that same technique, but they have encapsulated the activated charcoal to keep it separated from the cleansing gel so that it remains at peak performance until you are ready to rub it on.

Also included in the formula are fruit enzymes used to exfoliate the skin gently. The main ingredient here is the enzyme bromelain, which is found in pineapple and is a safe and effective chemical exfoliator. Several experts note that using fruit extracts for exfoliation bring along other benefits as fruits contain vitamins and nutrients that help nourish the skin, keeping it healthy.[12] 

If used solely as a face wash, this product does not act entirely like an exfoliator; thus, it will not remove large amounts of built-up dead skin. This is because fruit enzymes require a few minutes to penetrate the layers of dead skin fully. However, it can aid in the natural exfoliation process. Using it as a mask and allowing it to sit on your face can increase the exfoliation power, but it should only be done 2 to 3 times per week, not daily.

A kale protein blend has also been added to this face wash. Kale has one of the most complete protein profiles of any leafy green, hence its status as a superfood. These amino acids help to provide the nutrients your skin needs to repair itself, contributing to the healthy production of collagen and elastin.[13]

The good:

  • Powerful pore cleansing through the use of encapsulated activated charcoal
  • Removes dead skin cells to help keep skin and pores clear
  • Improves skin dullness

Things to think about:

  • Maybe too harsh for most people to use daily
  • Some users saw redness and irritation, likely from the fruit enzyme exfoliators

Bottom line:

This effective, dual-action facewash works well for those with oily and acne-prone skin. The activated charcoal and fruit-based exfoliators keep skin clean and clear, while the kale protein blend provides essential nutrients to nourish skin and keep it looking firmer. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may want to give this one a try as an exfoliator but not as a daily face wash.

6. NEOGEN Dermalogy Real Fresh Foam Cleanser (Green Tea)

NEOGEN Dermalogy Real Fresh Foam Cleanser (Green Tea)

Best features:

  • Uses fermentation to enhance the efficacy of ingredients
  • Powerful antioxidants and anti-wrinkle effects
  • Potent moisturizing compounds

Best face wash/cleanser for:

Combination skin prone to breakouts will benefit the most from this foaming cleanser.

Overview:

The power of this formula comes from the fermentation. The benefits of fermented food have been known for some time. Still, an increasing body of research is showing that this natural method for processing organic ingredients is helpful in topical (on the skin) applications as well. There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests fermented green tea and grains can aid in the reduction of dark spots evening out skin tone. 

How it works:

Fermentation breaks down the materials already present in plants and increases the concentration of the beneficial compounds, especially with antioxidants, procollagen activity, and moisturizing effects. In some cases, it decreases the molecular size of the active ingredients to improve penetration. In other cases, it creates beneficial molecules that were not present in the original unfermented plant. In both instances, you see an increase in the plant’s effectiveness on your skin.[14][15]

One of the most researched fermented ingredients is green tea, which is the core ingredient in NEOGEN’s foam cleanser. The fermentation process has been shown to increase the antioxidant and moisturizing effects of green tea.[16]

In combination with a foaming cleanser that reaches deep down into pores to clean, this face wash can do wonders for combination skin that is classically hard to treat because of its dual nature. The soothing, fermented ingredients can calm dry, irritated areas helping them to retain moisture. The foaming action gently removes deep-seated grime within your pores while leaving the skin’s natural barrier intact.

There are 99 naturally sourced plant ingredients in NEOGEN’s face wash formula, which means a lot of nourishment for your skin. However, if you have sensitive skin, it also means a lot of potential for reactions. While the products all come from sources that are known to be safe, everyone’s biology is different and can potentially react to even the mildest of ingredients. Thus, you absolutely need to do a spot test with this product before applying it to your entire face.

The good:

  • Use fermentation to increase the efficacy of grains to hydrate and revitalize skin
  • Fermented green tea increases the antioxidant and anti-wrinkle effects
  • Packed with nutrient-dense fruits to rejuvenate

Things to think about:

  • Long ingredient list (natural fruits and grains) can make it hard to assess an individuals potential for reactiveness

Bottom line:

This product is packed with nutrient-dense ingredients that have improved potency through fermentation. While these ingredients are natural, the long list can make it hard for those with sensitive skin to assess how they will react to the product; as such, you need to do a patch test first to see how it treats your skin.

7. Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular 2-in-1 Cleanser

Best features:

  • Packed with soothing ingredients that hydrate
  • Formulated to clean impurities and makeup from the surface as well as deep into pores

Best face wash/cleanser for:

Those looking to reduce the visibility of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging skin. Also, an excellent option for anyone who wants a product that cleanses and tones.

Overview:

As with all of the products in the Juice Beauty Stem Cellular line, plant stem cell extracts are included to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Plant stem cells are a new skincare ingredient, and they are 100% certified organic and not at all irritating or harmful to the skin. However, research on their efficacy is still underway. Juice Beauty has used extracts which are not as effective as living cells. This is because living cells would not survive long in the jar. But, the extracts do help reduce the signs of aging by eliminating free radicals and promoting healthy fibroblasts—the cells that produce collagen.[17]

Organic grape juice provides a dose of vitamins and resveratrol to reduce the progression of aging skin, calm irritation, and reduce redness.[18]

The inclusion of vitamin E (also labeled as tocopherol) is an antioxidant that can reduce wrinkles, protect against UVA and UVB damage, and help prevent tumor formation. Vitamin E can also revive and protect the stratum corneum, which is your body’s main barrier from the outside world. Research suggests that the more UV exposure your skin sees, the more depleted its reserves of vitamin E. Topical application can help restore its concentrations, which in turn boosts skin health and enables it to protect you from the environment properly.[19]

Algae is used in this formula to help heal skin from UV and pollutant damage. Extensive research has shown that algae has strong antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties, which can calm irritation and inflammation. Algae has also been shown to promote healthy cell turn-over which leads to the formation of new skin cells leading to healthier, younger-looking skin.[20]

Vegetable glycerin helps to hydrate skin, meaning even those with dry skin often find this low-foam cleanser gentle enough to use daily.

Finally, to add skin-toning action, grapefruit juice, which has some natural astringency due to its acidic qualities, can help tone skin and shrink the appearance of pores. Grapefruit is also rich in vitamin E and A both of which are used to keep your skin’s natural barrier healthy.[21]

The good:

  • Can clean and tone skin with one product
  • Removes surface dirt and makeup as well as clearing pores
  • Vitamin E, fruit stem cell extracts, and algae all help to soothe skin and reduce the signs of aging

Things to think about:

  • The natural astringency provided by the grapefruit may irritate those who have dry or sensitive skin
  • Some user reported the need to use a makeup remover for tougher-to-remove eye makeup

Bottom line:

A great cleanser that can help hydrate skin while calming irritation and reducing the signs of aging. Even if you have not yet begun to see the signs of skin damage from UV rays and air pollution, if you spend time outdoors in the sun or in urban settings, this cleanser can help remove the impurities from your skin while reversing and preventing damage.


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We’ve carefully curated this list so that there is a natural cleanser or face wash for any skin type. Once you’ve found the best organic face wash and cleanser for you, you will want to make sure you are using them to clean your skin without drying it out or damaging your skin’s natural barrier.

Keep reading to see how to cleanse your face while keeping it looking young and healthy.

How to cleanse your face properly

How to cleanse your face properly

Keeping your skin clean helps to maintain a healthy balance of oil while removing harmful contaminants that prematurely age your skin and lead to irritation, inflammation, pore blockages, and breakouts. You want to wash your face one to two times per day, depending on your skin’s oiliness and sensitivity, once at night and once in the morning. Some people may need to wash a third time after a sweaty workout or activity or if they have excessively oily skin. Depending on the oil balance of your skin, its sensitivity, and how much dirt and pollutants your skin is exposed to throughout the day, you can use a face wash or cleanser, or you might opt to use both—read the next section to find out how washes and cleansers differ. 

Here, we will cover how to use each product independently and then give you the rundown on the best order to use them in if you are using both types of products in your skincare routine. 

How to use facial cleanser properly

Cleansers are formulated to dissolve away excess oil, helping to remove the oil-soluble dirt and impurities that get trapped on your skin’s surface. 

Step 1: Pin back loose hair and wash your hands

Loose hair will get in the way and can transfer oil and pollutants to your face. Make sure you get it secured and out of the way if it is long enough.

Dirty hands will impede your efforts to clean your face. Thus, you want to make sure that your hands are clean before you start.

Step 2: Splash your face with room temperature or lukewarm water

Using hot water is too harsh and can cause a host of reactions on your skin. Keep the water on the cooler side, use room temp or at the most lukewarm water whenever you are putting it on your face. This is good advice for the rest of your skin, but you can likely go a bit warmer for the thicker, tougher skin on the rest of your body.

Step 3: Use the recommended amount of cleanser & apply upwards and outwards

Read the label for your product and see how much the manufacturer recommends using. Cleansers are powerful; a small amount will usually go a long way. Most cleansers only require a dime-size amount to cover your face and neck.

Using your fingers, apply the cleanser in an upward and outward motion, never tug or drag your skin down as this can lead to saggy skin that looks prematurely aged. Start with the oiliest parts of the skin, usually the cheeks and T-zone, and work your way towards the less oily areas, usually the forehead, chin, jawline, and neck.

Some cleansers require that you leave them on for a few minutes to let them dissolve away oil. This is especially true for those products formulated for oily or acne-prone skin. Check the directions carefully.

Step 4: Remove using lukewarm water or a damp cotton round/ball/cloth

Again, you want to keep the water on the cooler side. You can either remove the cleanser with gentle splashing and massaging or using a soft cotton round, ball, or cloth to remove the cleanser and pollutants. 

As per the American Academy of Dermatology recommendations, if you are using cotton to help remove the product, be sure that you are using a moderate blotting pressure. You don’t ever want to scrub your face vigorously. The skin on your face is far thinner and more sensitive than the skin on the rest of your body. Scrubbing too hard will damage the skin, causing microtears that breakdown the skin’s natural barrier.[22]

Likewise, when you are drying your face, you want to use a gentle patting or blotting action for the same reason.

If you are in a hurry, at the office, on the road, or otherwise just can’t do a full cleansing routine, there are two quick cleansing procedures you can follow.

The quick cleanses:

For both of these quick cleanses, you want to keep all the advice above in mind regarding gentle upward and outward motion as well as patting, not rubbing, action.

1. The medium-length cleanse, useful for when you are in a hurry and have access to running water.

  • Step 1. Take the recommended amount of cleanser and apply it all over your face and neck
  • Step 2. Rinse by splashing your face with water and massaging away
  • Step 3. Gently pat dry

 2. The super-short cleanse, useful for when you are on the go but don’t have running water

  • Step 1. Take the recommended amount of cleanser on a cotton pad or ball
  • Step 2. Wipe your entire face and neck using the cleanser-soaked cotton

Once you have completed cleansing your face, you can continue with the rest of your skincare routine, which should definitely include a moisturizer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you always want to moisturize after you wash.[23] 

The procedure for a face wash is similar, but there are a few key differences. So, let’s review the process for using a face wash in a way that won’t damage your skin.

How to use a facial wash properly

Again, all the same factors of upwards and outwards, gentle pressure, tepid water, and blotting dry all apply.

Step 1: Pinback loose hair and wash your hands

As above, hair and dirty hands can impede the cleansing process. Wash your hands and get the hair out of your face if it is long enough to get in the way.

Step 2: Splash your face with room temperature or lukewarm water

Hot water leads to damage and sends your skin into survival mode, keep the temperatures on the lower side when washing your face.

Step 3: Use the recommended amount of face wash & apply upwards and outwards

Read the label for your product and see how much is recommended; usually, it is a quarter-sized amount of face wash.

Use your fingers to apply the face wash in an upward and outward motion, and avoid that downward tugging. Start with the oiliest parts of the skin, usually the cheeks and T-zone, and work your way towards the less oily areas, usually the forehead, chin, jawline, and neck.

If you are using a cloth, keep the rubbing action very light. Generally, you should only use a cloth if you need a bit of exfoliation. If you have dry or sensitive skin, skip the cloth for your everyday washing.

If your face wash has an exfoliating agent, make sure it is exceptionally gentle, no walnut shells or other harsh particles. Stick to jojoba oil or cellulose beads. Polyethylene beads are also soft, but they wreak havoc on the environment when you wash them down the drain, avoid any products that contain them. Again, most of us do not need to exfoliate daily, unless you have an underlying condition you are treating, you don’t require an exfoliator in your daily face wash.

Step 4: Remove using lukewarm water or a damp cloth & then dry

You still want to use water that is on the cooler side. You can either remove the face wash with gentle splashing and massaging or use a clean cotton cloth to rinse it off gently. 

Finally, use a clean towel to pat your face dry. Don’t use a dirty towel that has already been used to dry your hands or body, as this will transfer contaminants back to your skin.

That’s it; once you’ve cleaned your face, you can continue with the rest of your skincare routine, which should, at a minimum, consist of a moisturizer.

Can I use a cleanser and a face wash?

Yes, because these products operate differently and perform different functions—more on that below—you can use them in combination.

If you have dry or sensitive skin, using both might mean one in the morning and one night or using the cleanser both times but the wash only once per day.

You might opt to use both products if you have normal, oily, or acne-prone skin.

Any time that you are using both products together, you want to start with the cleanser as it will remove the oil and impurities on the surface. Then proceed to the face wash, which will get deeper into the pores to clear them out. Following this order will help your face wash be more effective as that surface layer of oil and grime has now been removed.

Are face washes and cleansers different?

Ultimately, these two products are not the same and can serve slightly different purposes, although the lines are blurring because of a pull towards gentler sounding names like “cleanser” over “wash” and given the multitude of formulations out there that can straddle the line between a cleanser and wash. In general, cleansers dissolve excess oil to strip away the grime on the surface while face washes use foam to remove impurities from your pores. 

Cleansers clean surface dirt & grime

These products are usually labeled as cleansing lotion, cleansing milk, or merely cleanser. Although some labeling now uses the word “cleanser” for foaming face wash products. So, if you want an actual cleanser, check that the product does not work by creating a lather of foam. The Neogen Dermalogy Real Fresh Foam Cleanser is a good example; the foaming action places this product in the face wash category despite the cleanser wording in the title. 

Cleansers are better than a face wash for removing excess oil as well as dirt and grime from the surface of your skin.

It is more common for cleansers to have skin fortifying, hydrating, and healing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and antioxidants. 

Most cleansers will not be able to provide the same deep pore cleaning action that a face wash can. Depending on your skin type, more on that later, a cleanser might be enough daily cleaning for your face while you might only use a face wash a few times per week.

A face wash foams to give a deeper clean for your pores

These products use a surfactant to create a lather of foam that helps to reach deep into your pores and clear out blockages, which benefits those of us who have trouble with breakouts or oily complexions. They will usually leave your face with a more matte appearance as they strip away deeper pockets of oil to clear out impurities in your pores.

Scrubs are a type of face wash that contains an exfoliating agent. As we mentioned above, for a daily face wash, skip the harsh exfoliators like walnut shells. These can be great for a once or twice a week wash, but they are far too severe for daily use. Instead, look for softer exfoliating particles like jojoba beads.

No matter which type of product you are using to clean your face, always follow with a moisturizer to soothe and hydrate your skin after washing. You’ve stripped away oils to remove the contaminants that become trapped inside them; thus, you need to replace that moisture and help protect your skin’s natural barrier to prevent the future loss of hydration.

Types of cleansers and washes you can use on your face

Types of cleansers and washes you can use on your face

In this section, we will break down different types of cleansers and face wash based on the skin type to which they are suited. As with all skincare products, this is going to come down to the active ingredients and the combination of conditions they are suited to treating. We have organized this section by skin type to give you the best idea of what to look for in a cleansing product that will do the most to clean, hydrate, and heal your skin.

Products are usually labeled for different skin types and conditions, but just because you’ve got oily skin and a product is labeled for such conditions doesn’t mean it will work for you. No two people have the same biology and the same reactions. As such, you may need to experiment. So, let’s review the essential features to look for in a cleanser and wash, given your skin type.

Dry skin

Dry skin comes from a deficiency of lipids (fats), water, or both. You want a cleanser that cleans away the grime and pollutants that build up on the surface without stripping away the natural lipids of your skin that form a protective barrier. Look for hydrating ingredients like glycerin, jojoba, or essential oils. 

Essential oils can be tricky, while they can bring a host of benefits, some people’s skin just doesn’t tolerate them well and can become irritated. If you ever notice irritation after using a product, stop using it immediately. You want a cleanser that is oil, cream, or milk-based, which will help preserve your skin’s natural oils and prevent further drying. 

Oily skin or acne-prone skin

Oily skin has an excess of oil (sebum), giving it a greasy shine and usually large visible pores. Look for an oil-control face wash. They will help regulate sebum production in your sebaceous glands (the glands that produce sebum) without stripping away oils to leave your skin dry and tight. Drying out your skin can increase its production of natural oil and exacerbate the problem. You also want to look for antibacterial ingredients that can help prevent breakouts. They can come in the form of antiseptic or pH balancing compounds. Oil-free foaming cleansers that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can clean out blocked pores and prevent breakouts. Likewise, activated charcoal can help to clear pores and prevent acne.

Sensitive skin

Redness, irritation, and inflammation plague those of us with sensitive skin. But these conditions can also be caused by known irritants like parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, and phthalates. They can also be caused by using too much of a given product on your face. If you know these are not the causes, and you have other conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis, you probably have sensitive skin. Look for products with minimal ingredients as a longer list equals more chance for reactions.

What to watch for:

Avoid products that contain any of the above, but also ones that have added fragrances, dyes, or alcohols. Lipoic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid, while helpful for other skin conditions, are likely to irritate your skin, so you should probably avoid them. Look for calming ingredients like green tea, chamomile, aloe, willow bark, witch hazel, and polyphenols. Balancing your skin’s pH can also help as it can reduce irritation.

Combination skin

You’ve got some oily skin and some dry or healthy skin, which can make it extremely hard to find the right product. You will likely need to do a lot of experimentation. Start with mild products, especially cleansers, for dry skin and see if that has enough cleansing power for the oily areas. If not, step things up slowly, working your way towards stronger cleansers. If the drier areas feel tight after washing, you’ve gone too far. You want something that protects the lipid barrier of your skin but washes away excess oil and grime on the oily areas.

Consider your moisturizer:

Both your cleanser and your moisturizer should offer oil-control. Oil-control products do not strip away all the oil. Instead, they help your skin regulate the production of natural oil, keeping it at healthy levels all over your face.

“Normal” skin

Most of us do not have so-called “normal” skin, “normal” just means you have no underlying conditions. You want to keep it that way, so look for mild products that strip away grease and grime but leave your skin’s natural barrier (sebum) intact. Gels, creams, and foaming washes could all work, just find something that leaves you feeling clean but not tight and dry. Added hydrating, anti-aging, and toning compounds can all be a plus, just make sure you don’t react to any of the added ingredients and discontinue use if you see any issues arising.

How we chose these products

To bring you our list of the best natural cleansers and face washes, we looked for top-quality products that cleanse your skin without using harsh, harmful chemicals that can irritate skin and lead to health issues. We searched for the best organic cleansers and washes for all skin types and conditions and made sure to include trusted brands that can meet any budgetary constraints you might have.

No matter your skin’s condition, you can find something targeted to treat it on our list. Each of these products provides gentle cleaning action while having ample amounts of nutrient and vitamin dense compounds to help keep your skin looking young and healthy. Each product has clinically tested compounds in appropriate concentrations to help clean and heal your skin.

We only include reputable brands that are trusted by the skincare community. We searched for expert and user reviews and combined all that information so that you can be better informed while looking for an effective way to keep your face clean and healthy. That way, you can spend less time and money trying different products and begin cleaning your face the right way, giving you the best possible foundation for the rest of your skincare routine.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Can I wash my skin too much even if I have oily skin?

Yes, washing too frequently strips away your skin’s barrier, which can send it into crisis mode, which means producing even more sebum than before. Washing too often will strip away the skin barrier and lead to overactive sebaceous glands and an even greasier complexion. You want to remove only the excess oil that traps dirt and grime on your face.

Do I need to moisturize after washing?

Yes, as we discussed earlier, this is important for everyone. Even if you have an oilier complexion, moisturizing, especially with oil-control moisturizers, will help to balance the skin’s natural oils and bring that greasy look under control. 

If I have oily skin, don’t I need the strongest product possible?

Maybe, it can depend. Everyone is different, really what you want is to regulate sebum production. If you have extraordinarily oily skin, you might need something more robust. However, you may not need the strongest possible. You could end up stripping away too much of the skins natural oils which help to lock in water and protect your skin. It’s a balance between removing the excess but leaving enough to protect. Don’t jump right to the end of the line. Start with something in the middle and adjust from there. 

Can I scrub harder if I have oily or acne-prone skin?

No, scrubbing harder may remove slightly more dirt and grime but adds a lot of irritation that can worsen all skin conditions including acne according to the ADA.[24]

Can I skip cleaning if I have dry skin?

Not cleaning your faces is not recommended; you still want to get rid of the impurities and pollutants that build up on your skin and damage your health. You don’t want to avoid cleaning, but you can limit it to once per day and after you sweat as well as opting for the gentlest of products that have added ingredients to hydrate and lock in moisture by supporting your skin’s natural barrier.

Can’t I just use bar soap or body wash on my face?

Probably not, if you have been using it for a while and have no skin conditions—i.e., you fall into the “normal” skin category—you can probably keep using whatever you are using. If you start to or are already seeing dry, irritated skin on your face, then you will want to switch to a product designed for the more delicate skin we have on our face.

In general, you want to avoid any soap products for your face. They are meant to be used on the more resilient skin of our body, and they are often too harsh for facial skin. Stick to facial cleansers and washes, which, even though they clean, do not contain soap. Many products can do the job of cleaning and soap is not the best choice for most people’s faces.

What does hypoallergenic mean?

In terms of skincare products, it means that they contain ingredients that have been clinically tested and proven to be non-sensitizing (doesn’t make the skin more sensitive and prone to irritation) and non-irritating (doesn’t irritate the skin directly). They are less likely to cause allergic reactions in the majority of the population. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t react to the ingredients, but it does mean the product is free of known irritants and compounds that commonly elicit allergic reactions. 

Conclusion

All good skincare routines start with cleaning the skin so that you have a solid base from which to begin the rest of your routine. As always, use your skin type and underlying conditions to help you find the best natural face wash and cleanser. Remember that we are all different, so relying on labels and advice from others can help to start your search, but you may need to try different products to find the one that is just right for you. 

The purpose here is balance. You want to remove any excess oil that traps impurities close to your skin while leaving as much of the natural lipid barrier intact, which protects your skin and locks in moisture.

Cleansers usually work to remove surface dirt, air pollutants, and makeup. Face wash works to clear out excess oil and impurities from your pores. Thus, you might need to use both products, starting with a cleanser so that the face wash can penetrate deeper. Avoid using soaps on your face as they are intended to be used on the tougher skin that covers the rest of your body. Always check labels to see what ingredients are present to improve the health and look of your skin.

If you found a product on the list that is working for you or if you have a tried and tested product that works well that we didn’t include, share it with us in the comment section.

Don’t forget to share this article with anyone you know who is also on the hunt for the best natural and organic face wash or cleanser. Let’s all work together to have healthier, happier skin!

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About The Author

Dr. Shane Jackson MBBS
Dr. Shane Jackson MBBS

Dr. Jackson is a UK based NHS clinician with over 10 years experience in both hospital medicine and surgery. After an initial career in maxillofacial surgery his focus now lies in elderly care and rehabilitation medicine. A board member for Wadham College of Science, Dr. Jackson is passionate about widening access to both education and healthcare around the world and as a result, outside of his clinical work he spends much of his time either teaching or providing medical consultancy to healthcare startups. Commercially, his interests lie in helping research and promote novel, evidence-based medicines originating from natural sources and processes.

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