Cleanser vs Face Wash - What is the Difference

Scrolling through the thousands of products on askderm.com can be a daunting task. You are pummeled with product after product that promises to combat acne, reverse the signs of aging, or using advanced technology to turn back time. Ok, I exaggerated a bit, that last one does not exist.  Seriously though, when it comes to washing your face, there are countless ways to get the job done which is why we are going back to basics today to get to the bottom of the difference between a cleanser vs face wash. What is the difference between a Cleanser and Face Wash? 
  • Cleansers can be used on a daily basis to effectively remove makeup and dirt from your face, more so than a face wash would.
  • Unlike most soaps and body washes, cleansers do not contain the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, which is known to be a common skin irritant.
  • A cleanser is more moisturizing and hydrating than your typical face wash.
  • Face wash can be used as a substitute for soap.
  • Cleansers are proven to be gentler than face washes and soaps.
  • Face washes are perfect for those with oily skin, giving you a more matte look.
  • Face washes foam up like soap when applied to leave you feeling clean and refreshed.

Which one should you be using? Cleansers and face washes can most certainly be used together in one's skin care routine, but we have some recommendations to help you out. For those who tend to have dry skin, a cleanser can be used to keep your skin feeling soft and smooth. You can figure out how often you should use your cleanser based on how often you leave your house. If you tend to stay inside more, you will want to use your cleanser about once a week. Those who go out more frequently will want to use it daily to remove the dirt that built up during the day. For those with oily skin, a face wash is recommended to rid your skin of oil and provide much-needed nourishment. You can use this on a daily basis to wash and thoroughly clean your skin. If you plan on using these products together, it is better to use face washes more frequently than cleansers to keep you skin feeling healthy, hydrated, and refreshed.

Here are a few of our favorite face washes: SkinMedica Purifying Foaming Wash efficiently removes dirt, oil, and impurities from clogged pores to reduce breakouts. Giving you a fresher, clearer, and more even complexion. Belli Anti-Blemish Facial Wash - A pure facial wash that leaves skin clear and refined, without over-drying. Features lactic acid to cleanse and gently exfoliate acne prone skin.  For those looking for a Scrub, look no further than the NIA 24 Physical Cleansing Scrub- An all-in-one cleansing scrub removes dead skin cells. Pro-Niasomes, which are spherical Jojoba Beads infused with Pro-Niacin, help wash away skin’s visible imperfections.  Customers describe NIA's product as "an exfoliation product that is both gentle and effective.   

Here are a few of our favorite cleansers: Murad Renewing Cleansing Cream - Loaded with papaya and tangerine botanicals, this cleanser not only washes away dirt, oil and make-up, but it exfoliates and hydrates too. GlyDerm Gentle Face Cleanser -  Is a cult favorite amongst cleanser gurusA concentrated AHA (glycolic acid) cleanser which contains no soap or alkalis. Gentle Face Cleanser is a non-irritating formula and may be used on even the most sensitive skin. Glytone Mild Cream Cleanser - Glytone Mild Cream Cleanser thoroughly washes away the day without causing redness, itching or dryness. Those with acne, eczema or sensitive skin will love using Glytone Mild Cream Wash. It is safe for all skin types and for use up to twice daily.

What is your favorite face wash or cleanser, let us know?


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7 comments


  • thank you, this was super helpful

    Elvina Adams on

  • Helpful article. But I want to know, what should I use first? Do I use facial cleanser first before facial wash or is it the other way around? What I do is use a facial wash then a facial cleanser afterwards, and then toner and moisturizer. I have read somewhere that it should be facial cleanser before facial wash first, instead. I hope you can help me. Thanks! ♥

    Rururu on

  • I prefer cleanser! My skin needs a moisturizing cleanser because soap/water/face wash dries out my already really dry skin too much, so a cleanser keeps my skin moisturized and soft. I use Albolene; I’m super picky about ingredients so I like that it’s paraben, preservative, and fragrance free.

    Allie Moore on

  • Love this article! So many people get confused about the difference between a cleanser and a face wash; they’re definitely not one size fits all. Ingredients are definitely a big deal to me, I started using Albolene Moisturizing Cleanser because it’s paraben, fragrance, and preservative free. The cleansers are wayyyy more gentle on my face and you’re right that they’re better for people with dry skin! That’s me! lol

    Allie Moore on

  • My problem is that my skin color is totally different from my body color and my skin is very oily and my skin is very dark full of moles and pimples blackspot pls suggest me

    Deepak pal on

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