This elite breed of all-star face washes includes award-winning classics, dermatologist favorites, and innovative new formulas that transform the task from a chore to a treat.
Cleansing is hardly the most glamorous step in a skin-care lineup, but in many ways, it’s the most important. Whether your skin-care regimen consists of a basic wash-and-moisture duo or it qualifies as something of a ritual, starting with a fresh canvas is a necessary step to reap the benefits of all that skin-loving goodness you layer on afterward.
If the idea of splashing water on your face just after opening your eyes (or right before shutting them) makes you squirm a little, here are 29 refreshingly pampering reasons you will reconsider and splash away. This elite breed of all-star face cleansers includes award-winning classics that are gentle as can be, dermatologist favorites that pack the benefits, and some fancy finds that give your skin the royal treatment.
Calling all opinionated beauty lovers: We want to know which products you can’t live without! Takeour annual pollto pick the top hair, makeup, nail, and skin-care products that deserve our coveted Readers’ Choice seal.
So, what sets this skin-cleaning lineup apart from all other cleansers and puts them in a league of their own? The answer lies in the meticulous formulations that combine dirt-eliminating, makeup-melting cleansers with impressively pampering hydration that leaves skin refreshingly clean but not over-stripped. The result is a fresh, supple, glowy complexion that turns an everyday chore into a twice-daily treat.
All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser washes the day away as good as any all-star cleanser, but there’s something about the bouncy jelly consistency, just-sweet-enough rosewater scent, and clean — yet supremely hydrated — result that will make you actually look forward to washing your face.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel
A 2020 Allure Best of Beauty winner, Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel is a drugstore favorite that locks in hydration, thanks to hyaluronic acid and glycerin. As the formula transforms into a silky lather it gently dissolves the day’s accumulated makeup, dirt, and bacteria.
Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser
The obsession with Drunk Elephant’s Beste No. 9 Cleanser is real — and for all the right reasons. Like all products from the brand, commonplace irritants like silicones and fragrance are replaced with skin-perfecting goodness like makeup-melting emollients and mega-hydrators, aloe vera and glycerin, which do all the dirty work — or rather, clean work. Skin is left fresh and coddled with a post-wash glow thanks to marula oil and cantaloupe extract.
Carbon Theory Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Breakout Control Facial Cleansing Bar
The three main ingredients of Carbon Theory’s no-fuss Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Breakout Control Facial Cleansing Bar are activated charcoal, tea tree oil, and shea butter. As a team, they draw out dirt, kill inflammatory bacteria, keep excess sebum under control, and hydrate your face without further clogging pores. It’s a great all-rounder cleanser that helps prevent future breakouts, which is why it won a 2020 Allure Best of Beauty Award.
Peach & Lily Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser
The “power” in Peach & Lily Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser refers to two things: how thoroughly it cleanses and how deeply soothed it leaves skin. It’s full of key calming ingredients like cica, chamomile, and camelia to keep skin happy while the gel-to-foam formula lifts dirty out of pores without stripping moisture.
Bioré Rose Quartz + Charcoal Facial Cleansing Bar
The charcoal in Bioré’s Rose Quartz and Charcoal Facial Cleansing Bar dives deep into your pores and clears out dirt and oil. Rose quartz, on the other hand, claims to help promote and attract self-love, so you can mentally recharge while carrying out your skin-care routine. It’s no wonder why such a thoughtful product won a 2020 Allure Best of Beauty Award.
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser is a mild gel wash that has been a favorite of dermatologists and the greater face washing universe for nearly a decade. It’s loaded with squalene and avocado oils to moisturize and antioxidants to protect, explains Massachusetts board-certified dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. “This gel cleanser foams to gently remove makeup and grime while leaving skin supremely hydrated,” she says.
Tatcha The Deep Cleanse
For starters, the pretty teal bottle will instantly dress up your bathroom counter. Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse also has an Allure Best of Beauty Award, which is concrete proof it’s in the “best ever” league. But one wash with the luxurious formula inside the pretty packaging and you’ll understand what makes it worthy of a spot in your starting lineup. The gel-based cleanser is laced with tiny Japanese luffa fruit fibers, which add an element of gentle — and wildly satisfying — exfoliation and dissolve as you cleanse, turning the whole face-washing experience a bit more spa-like.
Krave Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser
Although Krave’s Krave Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser main claim to fame is how skilled it is as not disrupting skin’s barrier and keeping your complexion balanced and hydrated, its titular ingredients have another important job: adding antioxidant protection to the mix. There’s no one who can’t benefit from this formula, but it’s especially awesome for dry skin types.
Youth to the People Kale + Green Tea Spinach Vitamins Cleanser
Youth to the People Kale + Green Tea Spinach Vitamins Cleanser sounds like a cold-pressed juice, smells like apples, and looks like dish detergent, but don’t be fooled, this face wash is something worth talking about — and clearing off some counter space for. The antioxidant-heavy formula is a 2021 Readers’ Choice Award Winner because it’s packed with everything it touts in all caps on the front of the bottle (kale, green tea, spinach, and vitamins — C, E, and K, to be exact). The ingredients work double-time to wash away daily grime, reduce inflammation, and keep skin bright and dewy.
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
The fact that CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser has won two Allure Best of Beauty Awards eight years apart just goes to show how long we’ve loved this face wash and how happy we are to return to it after trying others. Its hyaluronic acid ensures hydration while it gently cleanses, and its signature ceramides help protect that newly clean, moisturized skin barrier.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser
If the idea of splashing water on your face first thing in the morning (or minutes before bedtime) deters you from the whole face-wash process, this genius no-rinse-necessary cleanser will speak to you. Massage the light lotion all over your face to remove makeup and residue, then use a cloth to gently wipe that grossness away and reveal a clean, hydrated canvas.
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil
It looks fancy, it feels fancy, and it even sounds fancy, thanks to key ingredients such as Coix lacryma-jobi seed and tangerine peel extract. That’s because Sulwhasoo’s Gentle Cleansing Oil is, in fact, fancy — with a Best of Beauty award proving it’s not just all looks. “It has a light, pleasant, ginseng-y smell,” says Massachusetts board-certified dermatologist Papri Sarkar. “It always gets all of my makeup off and never dries out my skin.”
StriVectin Comforting Cream Cleanser
Infused with a blend of olive oil, jojoba oil, and evening primrose extracts, StriVectin’s Comforting Cream Cleanser hugs your skin in moisture, so your skin feels soft and never stripped after the fact. But make no mistake, the 2020 Allure Best of Beauty winner does an excellent job at removing makeup and dirt and leaves skin looking more radiant with continued use.
La Mer The Cleansing Oil
If you’re looking for a reason to be more diligent about your nightly pre-bed face cleanse, The Cleansing Oil will give you something to look forward to — morning and night. The fancy oil-based cleanser works up to a satisfying, milky lather that melts away every speck of makeup, oil, and grime, transforming your twice-daily wash into the most luxurious cleansing experience imaginable.
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
It’s impossible to talk about all-star cleansers without mention of Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser, which has been racking up award wins (seven Best of Beauty and five Readers’ Choice to date), dermatologists’ praise, and mom recommendations since it first hit the scene in 1947. The super-gentle, lotion-like formula is spiked with fatty alcohols that coat the skin to replace that typical post-cleanse tightness with skin-coddling goodness.
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser
If you’re looking for that satisfying deep cleanse sans scrubbing, Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate Cleanser delivers those complexion-buffing results without the aggressive rubbing. A tag team of glycolic and lactic acids clean without over-drying, so pores appear smaller and your skin noticeably smoother and more even.
AHC Aqualuronic Cleanser
A K-beauty favorite and 2020 Allure Best of Beauty winner, AHC Aqualuronic Cleanser lathers into a satisfying foam with a bit of lukewarm water. It thoroughly cleanses and moisturizes skin with a combination of three weights of hyaluronic acid, moisture-attracting ceramides, and mineral-rich French seawater.
The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser
Salicylic acid is the gold-standard ingredient in acne-clearing cleansers, and The Inkey List makes it especially affordable with its Salicylic Acid Cleanser. Just under 10 bucks, the 2020 Best of Beauty winner teams up the all-star beta hydroxy acid with a zinc compound to keep oil under control long after you’ve rinsed off the foaming formula.
Skinfix Barrier+ Foaming Clay Cleanser
If you love the way your skin feels after a clay mask, you’ll love the Best of Beauty award-winning Skinfix Barrier+ Foaming Clay Cleanser. Made with two kinds of clay — Brazilian kaolin and Canadian glacial — this creamy cleanser foams up without sulfates to stop excess oil before it clogs your pores and makes sure no trace of makeup is left behind to gunk things up either.
First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser
First Aid Beauty’s Pure Skin Face Cleanser is chock full of antioxidants that help to balance your skin’s natural pH level and aloe to calm and soothe. “This creamy, gentle cleanser also has glycerin, a potent humectant that pulls water into the skin,” notes Hirsch, who says it gets your face really and really soft.
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
Garnier’s SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water scored a 2020 Readers’ Choice Award because it checks all the boxes: It’s easy to use, effective at removing dirt and makeup in one fell swoop, and it’s ideal for all skin types. The no-rinse formula leaves skin feeling soft and clean — never stripped.
Renée Rouleau Moisture Protecting Cleanser
If you can’t visit Renée Rouleau herself for a life-changing facial, her Moisture Protecting Cleanser is a pretty fabulous consolation. One of the most barrier-respecting formulas available, it calls on glycerin, allantoin, and aloe vera to ensure that its thorough, makeup-erasing cleanse never irritates or dehydrates even dry, sensitive skin.
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar
“I have some patients who hate washing their face, so I love having a bar soap that’s gentle, doesn’t cause breakouts, and can be used in the shower,” recommends Sarkar, who says the gentle, non-drying CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Bar meets all of those criteria and doesn’t interact with any topical prescription medicines.
Dr. Jart+ Teatreement Cleansing Foam
Who knew there were three types of tea tree extracts that could benefit skin in a breakout-fighting cleanser? Dr. Jart+ did, apparently, and the K-beauty brand combined them with exfoliating and clarifying salicylic acid to create a bubbly and balancing face wash that won’t irritate the oily and combination skin types it’s intended for.
Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
Despite its name Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser can and should be used not only in the morning, but at night, too. The foaming face wash combines clarifying tea tree oil with a slew of hydrating botanicals, making it an ideal way to sweep away the day’s makeup, sweat, and general grime.
Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
There’s a reason why nearly 5,000 beauty fans have gone public with their love for Fresh’s Soy Face Cleanser. It works — really, really well — and is gentle as all hell. The ultra-soothing formula is spiked with a cocktail of skin calmers like rosewater, aloe vera, and cucumber, which make the whole cleansing experience feel a bit more spa-like. It’s also infused with soy proteins that deliver a supple (instead of stiff) post-cleanse result.
Restorsea Pro Foaming Cleanser
California-based board-certified dermatologist Jason Emer recommends this cleanser because of its vitamin C, brown algae, and a proprietary ingredient from salmon roe. “They work to gently exfoliate the skin enzymatically in a foam that is soft and lathery and leaves the skin very smooth,” he says.
Holifrog Tashmoo Water Lily Nourishing Milky Wash
Holifrog’s Tashmoo Water Lily Nourishing Milky Wash looks like a face lotion out of the bottle, and it feels like one, too, as you rub the soft conditioning cream around your face. But make no mistake: This pampering formula (made up of a cocktail of amino acids — 14 to be exact — vitamin E, and blue-green algae) is whisking away daily grime in between all that conditioning. Waterlily root and lotus flower help to maximize the skin’s water supply for a comfortable and comforting cleanse.