Whether you’re waking up with an invigorating morning scrub or wiping the day away with a balm at bedtime, you probably know that a good cleanser is the bedrock of any skin care routine. We mean that quite literally: Your favorite toners, serums, moisturizers, and oils do their best work on a clean canvas, so it’s worth your time to find a face wash that can get the job done—while playing nicely with your skin type and personal preferences, of course.
That’s why, for the 2023 SELF Healthy Beauty Awards, we took a close look at the most exciting cleansers currently on the market, from silky-smooth oil-based options to exfoliating polishers to derm-approved drugstore brands. Though you’ve got no shortage of options, not all are created equal—and after putting dozens and dozens of products to the test, we can officially recommend the ones we stand by, featured below.
Want to see more from the 2023 Healthy Beauty Awards? Check out the best moisturizers, best body care products, and the best serums, oils, masks, and spot treatments.
The Best Oil Cleanser: Byoma Milky Oil Cleanser
Byoma’s Milky Oil Cleanser takes on a rich, creamy texture to gently (but effectively) wash away dirt, oil, sunscreen, and makeup—at an excellent price point, no less. Its hydrating formula rinses off with little to no residue. If you’re a fan of double cleansing, use this as your first step.
Bonus points, per the experts: This product contains squalane, a hydrating ingredient that’s particularly well-suited to people with dry skin.
One tester said: “The difference I noticed when using this cleanser was in the way my skin felt afterward: The squalane and moringa seed oils leave my skin feeling silky and hydrated, whereas my everyday cleansing oil makes my skin feel dry by comparison.”
The Best Cleanser for Sensitive or Irritated Skin: Paula’s Choice Calm Ultra-Gentle Cleanser
This cleanser from Paula’s Choice lives up to its name thanks to the refreshing, soothing formula that removes dirt and makeup without leaving skin feeling tight and dry. Its texture is almost lotion-like, according to one tester, who said their sensitive skin remained calm and happy during consistent use.
Bonus points, per the experts: This product contains glycerin, a lightweight hydrating ingredient that prevents moisture loss.
One tester said: “I’d call this the ideal morning cleanser—it’s exactly what you need to refresh and start your day and not strip your skin in the process.”
The Best Cleanser for Dry Skin: Cetaphil Hydrating Foaming Cream Cleanser
If you thought having dry skin meant you needed to avoid foam cleansers, think again. This option from Cetaphil gets satisfyingly sudsy without sapping you of all that good moisture. And it washes and rinses away with ease.
Bonus points, per the experts: This product contains hydrating glycerin and calming niacinamide, two ingredients that are great for sensitive and dry skin alike.
One tester said: “I tried it both on its own and as the second step in my double cleansing routine, and it was equally effective in each scenario. My skin felt clean but not stripped, and it didn’t irritate my eyes.”
The Best Cleanser for Mature Skin: Womaness Clean Slate
Made with menopausal people in mind, Womaness’s Clean Slate applies smoothly, softens rough patches, and nourishes dry complexions. Its non-sudsing formula is gentle enough for sensitive skin types but highly effective when it comes to melting off makeup.