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The best face wash of 2024 to cleanse away dirt, makeup and past mistakes

Cetaphil, Cerave, Youth to the People, Tata Harper, Tatcha and The Outset top our list and tackle every problem and skin type.

a trio of face washes on a pink backdrop
Our favorite face washes of 2024 include big splurges and major steals (Amazon)

When it comes to curating a solid skincare routine, finding the best face wash is usually the first and somewhat easiest product to figure out. After all, washing your face was something that many of us were taught to do as little kids long before we learned the concept of skincare. (Though, did anyone else’s mom instill the benefits of face moisturizer as a young child? Anyone?) While there are plenty of face washes out there that are effective for all skin types, you might need something formulated for your specific concerns.

Quick overview
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My skin type has always been combination with an oily T-zone, but between cold winter weather and perimenopause, it’s now seen its fair share of dryness. (Not to mention a few mishaps with product overuse!) Experiencing myriad skin issues can be annoying but, on the positive, it’s given me an advantage as a beauty writer and avid product tester. I tested more than 20 face washes, taking into consideration how well the cleanser removed my makeup, the feel, effectiveness, how my skin felt afterward and its value for the cost.

Ahead, you'll see six of the best face washes, with a couple of honorable mentions thrown in for good measure. Whether you have dry, oily, acne-prone or sensitive skin, you’ll leave here with a new face wash recommendation to keep your skin healthy, clean and rejuvenated.

Texture: Gel | Size: 8 ounces | Skin Type: Oily, combination, dry, normal | Key ingredients: Kale, spinach, green tea, alfalfa, vitamin C, vitamin E

Once I started using this cleanser, my first reaction was anger — I got mad at myself for taking so long to try it! Now, I use it almost every day. It works extremely well to remove makeup (especially black liquid liner and mascara) — so well, in fact, that sometimes I don’t even need to double cleanse. On the ingredients side, it’s chock-full of superfood antioxidants that provide all kinds of good stuff, like protection from free radicals and increasing hydration. At about $40, it can be pricey for some, but it’s lasted me a long time, heavy eyeliner and all. A couple of pumps go a long way.

Pros
  • Refillable glass bottle
  • Vegan and cruelty-free formula
  • Free of PEGS, dimethicone, parabens, phthalates and artificial dyes
  • Dermatologist tested
Cons
  • May be considered pricey for some
  • Lightly scented, but might not work for those sensitive to fragrance
$39 at Amazon
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$39 at Kohl's$39 at Nordstrom

Texture: Gel-to-foam | Size: 16 ounces | Skin Type: Normal, oily | Key ingredients: Ceramides 1, 3, 6-II, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide

While some skin types are told to avoid foaming face cleansers, these sudsy washes can clear away excess oil and sebum in a way that non-foaming formulas cannot — making them ideal for oily skin. CeraVe’s Foaming Facial Cleanser is gentle and doesn’t overstrip the skin. I found this face wash made my skin feel clean, refreshed and even plump, thanks to three key ingredients.

It’s formulated with three types of restoring and barrier-strengthening ceramides, which retain the skin’s moisture and boost its resilience. Additionally, it contains hyaluronic acid, another big moisture-booster, and niacinamide, which can calm the skin and also reduce TEWL (transepidermal water loss).

Pros
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Developed by dermatologists
  • Fragrance-free
  • You get a good amount of product for the price
Cons
  • May not be good for dry or sensitive skin types
  • Doesn't appear to have acne-fighting ingredients
$15 at Amazon
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$21 at Ulta Beauty$19 at CVS Pharmacy

Texture: Cream | Size: 4 ounces | Skin Type: Dry, normal, combination | Key ingredients: Japanese rice powder, hyaluronic acid, red algae

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t extoll the virtues of a skincare product from Tatcha. The J-beauty brand is beloved among beauty editors, celebrities and skincare lovers. The Rice Wash is a godsend for those with dry skin. Made with rice powder, hyaluronic acid and red algae, the soft cream, pH-neutral formula gently removes dirt without causing tightness or stripping. It's also mildly exfoliating, and my skin always feels soft and refreshed immediately after use. 

I find that a small amount goes a long way, even when I’m wearing a full-coverage foundation. However, this is one where I’ll usually use micellar water to remove my heavy eye makeup. Still, if you want your face to feel like a silk pillow after cleansing, this is the face wash for you.

Pros
  • Clinically tested to show skin's hydration was boosted on average by +41%
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Free of mineral oil, synthetic fragrances, sulfate detergents, parabens, urea, DEA, TEA or phthalates
Cons
  • Some say it's too pricey for the value
  • May not work for oily skin
  • Might need another product to remove heavy eye makeup
$40 at QVC
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$40 at Tatcha$43 at The Perfume Spot

Texture: Gel | Size: 5 ounces | Skin Type: Normal, Oily, combination, dry | Key ingredients: Proprietary botanical alternative to hyaluronic acid complex, seven amino blend, antioxidant fruit extracts

Not gonna lie, I’ve put my skin through the ringer more than I’d care to admit (usually by overdoing it with harsh acids). I’ve learned my lesson and my skin barrier lived to tell the tale, thankfully in part to The Outset’s Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser. The bouncy, lightweight formula feels nice on the skin while effectively removing dirt and oil. If I’m wearing heavy eye makeup or lipstick, I usually need to use micellar water or an oil-based remover first, but double cleansing with this face wash is worth it. I’ve even used this cleanser on fresh tattoos — that’s how gentle it is.

Pros
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Gentle on the eyes
  • Free from sulfates
Cons
  • May need something additional to remove heavy makeup
  • Some say it's too pricey
$32 at Amazon

Texture: Cream | Size: 20 ounces | Skin Type: Dry, normal, sensitive skin | Key ingredients: Niacinamide, panthenol, glycerin

This Cetaphil face wash is my go-to when my skin needs TLC, like after a laser resurfacing treatment or if I used something too harsh. It’s made with niacinamide, glycerin and panthenol, which all keep moisture locked into the skin while having their own additional benefits. Though, like other face washes, I have noticed that I still have some eyeliner leftover, so I usually have to use micellar water or makeup remover separately! (If you haven’t been able to tell by now, my liquid eyeliner is pretty much bulletproof.) One of the greatest things about this face wash is you get a lot of product for your money, which makes it an amazing deal.

Pros
  • Derms love it
  • Fragrance-free
  • Free from parabens
  • Great for sensitive skin
Cons
  • Might not be strong enough to remove heavy eye makeup
  • Doesn't create much lather for those who prefer suds
$14 at Amazon

Texture: Liquid | Size: 4 ounces | Skin Type: Dry, combination | Key ingredients: Apricot microspheres, pomegranate enzymes, white willow bark extract

When it comes to luxury skincare brands, Tata Harper is, in my opinion, one of the best. I love how everything is formulated, manufactured and even packaged right on their farm in Vermont. This face wash is made with 100% ingredients that come from nature, like apricot microspheres that gently exfoliate skin and white willow bark to clean out pores. (P.S. White willow bark is often marketed as an alternative to salicylic acid, but it probably won't work on acne.) This cleanser can be used daily to buff out dead skin cells and keep your skin looking healthy.

Pros
  • 100% natural origin ingredients
  • Free from fillers, synthetics, and GMOs
  • Can be used daily
  • Contains 16 high-performance botanical ingredients
Cons
  • May not be best for acneic skin
  • Has a light apricot scent, so it's not the best choice if you don't do fragrance
$88 at Amazon
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$88 at Nordstrom$88 at Sephora

E.l.f.'s Holy Hydration! line of products is solid, so it was really hard not to include this (or the Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm) on the list. Packed with hyaluronic acid and ceramides, it leaves skin clean, plump and hydrated, of course. And it's only $6!

$6 at Amazon
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$6 at CVS Pharmacy$6 at Target

It has a nice, non-drying formula filled with anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial ingredients and is great at removing makeup in one go. While I really liked this cleanser, the price tag is a bit too steep for what you get. I went through it fast!

$65 at Amazon
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$65 at BeautifiedYou.com

Let your skin type act as your guide to finding the right face wash. Depending on what kind you have, there could be a better formula or ingredients to seek out or even avoid. According to Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, those with oily skin should look for foaming cleansers with more surfactants while cleansers that contain salicylic acid can be helpful for those prone to breakouts. “Salicylic acid is an excellent pore-clearing ingredient because it exfoliates the surface of the skin and penetrates into pores to remove oil,” she explains. “This helps to prevent pores from becoming clogged and can help remove clogs that have already formed. This is a great ingredient for people with oily and acne-prone skin, and particularly for treating and preventing comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads).”

If you have dry skin, Dr. Mara Weinstein Velez, a fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist in Rochester, New York, recommends cream-based cleansers on a daily basis, “because they help keep the skin hydrated and calm.” Meanwhile, Dr. King suggests looking for cleansers that “contain humectants to hydrate the skin and emollients to support the skin barrier.” These should also be free of harsh detergents, like SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), that can strip the skin of moisture.

As tempting as it can be to use a face wipe and be done with it, you'll want to make sure you’re cleansing your skin thoroughly, especially after a long day of wearing makeup or being exposed to the elements. According to Dr. King, a dime-sized amount of cleanser massaged gently into the skin for one to two minutes is generally sufficient for cleansing. “If the cleanser contains active ingredients like salicylic acid or lactic acid, then massaging for two to four minutes will give the ingredients longer to be effective,” she says.

Dr. Tess Mauricio, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Beverly Hills and San Diego, says similar. “The first step in your skincare routine should always be cleansing,” she says. “After wetting your face, massaging the cleanser into the skin on the face and neck for 30 seconds to one minute is usually enough.” She adds that if you’re wearing thicker makeup in a certain part of your face (like heavy foundation), make sure to massage the cleanser more in the area.

Double-cleansing is exactly what it sounds like: cleaning with two different products! But don’t worry—not everyone needs to do it. For others, it can be a key part of keeping their skin healthy.

“Double-cleansing is optional and can be beneficial for those wearing heavy makeup or sunscreen,” says Dr. Mauricio. “Double-cleansing typically involves using an oil-based cleanser first to dissolve makeup and sunscreen, followed by a water-based cleanser to remove impurities. This method ensures a deeper clean and can be particularly useful at the end of the day to remove all traces of makeup and pollutants.” However, Dr. Mauricio points out that if you have very dry or sensitive skin, double-cleansing could potentially strip your skin of its natural oils.

You can also try a makeup remover balm, like the E.l.f. Cosmetics one we mentioned above. “Cleansing first with a cream-based or ‘balm’ type of a cleanser to break down the makeup, THEN cleansing with your specific cleanser is a great practice,” says Dr. Velez.

Hadley King, MD, Board-certified dermatologist

Tess Mauricio, MD, Board-certified dermatologist

Mara Weinstein Velez, MD, FAAD, Board-certified dermatologist