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The best face wash for sensitive skin in 2024 will leave your face fresh, clean and never angry

We found it: the best face wash for those with eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and any kind of irritable skin

a bottle of face wash on a bright pink background
The Outset's antioxidant face wash is our pick for best sensitive skin face cleanser of the year (Amazon)

Compared to oily and dry skin types, the concept of sensitive skin feels less straightforward, maybe even a little bit vague. Still, that doesn’t mean finding the best face wash for sensitive skin is difficult. While certain skin conditions fall within the sensitive skin territory, such as eczema, rosacea and psoriasis, anyone can experience skin that feels irritated or reactive. Chances are you yourself have experienced a sensitive skin moment even without having a designated skin issue. Spoiler: I sure have!

Quick overview

One fateful morning, I woke up with extremely dry skin due to a panicked moment between me and a benzoyl peroxide-based acne product. My chin had broken out bad, and I ended up going a tad too hard on my acne treatment plan. It was so irritated, itchy, dry and flaky that the skin on my chin felt almost stiff. At the time, I was in the midst of testing The Outset, the skincare brand co-founded by Scarlett Johansson and Kate Foster, and the timing turned out to be serendipitous. The products, including the Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser, cleared up my irritated skin in a matter of a few days. So, why was this cleanser the best for my sensitive skin? Let’s get into it!

  • Form: Gel, cream, oil, liquid, foam, wipes, etc.

  • Key ingredients: Niacinamide, aloe, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, citric acid, botanicals

  • Active ingredients: Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide

  • Skin type: For dry skin, for combination skin, for oily skin, all skin types

  • Sustainability: Cruelty-free, organic, fair trade

Active Ingredients: Micelles, chamomile | Skin type: For all skin types | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Some of the face cleansers I tried were almost too gentle, and it felt like they weren’t cleansing my skin at all, but the Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser gets the job done without making my skin pay. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s my official go-to face cleanser and the one that I’ve repeatedly recommended to friends, no matter what their skin type. I’ve also used it to cleanse brand-new tattoos, no joke.

It makes sense why this cleanser (and really, the entire Outset line) is so great for sensitive skin — the brand prioritizes skin that can be easily upset. No really, you can even take a sensitive skin quiz. 

The Outset’s products are free from thousands (2,700, to be exact) of questionable ingredients. The only downside, if I can even call it that, is I wear heavy black eyeliner and red lipstick that usually needs a separate makeup remover, like micellar water. But this product is so good, I don’t mind the double cleanse!

Pros
  • Ultra-gentle
  • Soothes skin
  • Packed with high-quality, skin nourishing ingredients like chamomile and sunflower seed oil
  • Fragrance-free, silicone-free, sulfate-free
  • Vegan and cruelty free
  • Dermatologist tested
Cons
  • May not remove the heaviest makeup
  • On the pricier side
$32 at Amazon

Whenever I talk about double-cleansing with micellar water, know that I'm always talking about Bioderma Sensibio. It's the only micellar water that doesn't irritate my eyes, and I've tried them all. 

$19 at Amazon
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$19 at CVS Pharmacy$19 at Target

La Roche-Posay is a trailblazer in the sensitive skin community. The brand is dedicated to developing products that can be tolerated by sensitive skin types, including this Toleriane Face Cleanser, which contains hydrating glycerin and the brand’s soothing thermal spring water.

$26 at Amazon
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$26 at Ulta Beauty$26 at Target

This cleanser, which is free of sulfates, dyes, essential oils, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde, also has the approval of the National Eczema Association and was awarded its Seal of Acceptance. It's not surprising why Vanicream is so beloved at dermatologist offices. 

$9 at Walmart
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$9 at Amazon$13 at Ulta Beauty

As mentioned, sensitive skin is associated with various skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis and allergies. The American Academy of Dermatology simply characterizes sensitive skin as skin that "may sting or burn after product use." Research shows that signs of sensitive skin can include consistent itching, burning, stinging, tightness and dryness, and around 60–70% of women and 50–60% of men report having some degree of sensitive skin.

If you don’t have a chronic skin condition, your skin sensitivity could very well be due to something environmental, like sun exposure, cold weather, air conditioning, or a beauty and personal care product that causes irritation. Whatever the reason for your troubles, a sensitive skin-friendly face wash is necessary.

Sensitive skin can be tricky. A certain product might work okay on your skin on one occasion and wreak havoc on the next. It’s a game of skincare roulette. So, what can you do besides say a little prayer? In general, there are ingredients you can easily avoid. (Just make sure to read the ingredient list before using a product!)

Dr. Tess Mauricio, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Beverly Hills and San Diego, says to avoid fragrance, alcohol, sulfates, parabens, artificial colors and harsh chemical exfoliants. Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, says to avoid products with SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), which can be harsh on the skin. She also says to "avoid potentially irritating ingredients like glycolic acid, charcoal, and essential oils."

Thankfully, a lot of brands these days, like The Outset, make an effort (and even part of their ethos) to make sure their products are free from phthalates, dyes, parabens, etc.

When testing sensitive skin-friendly cleansers, the first thing I looked for was if "fragrance-free" was listed on the label. Even if the cleanser doesn’t have a synthetic fragrance and the scent is from a natural origin (like an essential oil), it still has the potential to irritate. “Opt for gentle, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic options,” says Dr. Mauricio.

Another thing I looked for was whether the cleanser contained ingredients that calm and soothe the skin and help with hydration and barrier repair, such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. It’s important to note that some experts consider salicylic acid a no-no for sensitive skin types. However, there are exceptions, especially when you consider the benefits of BHAs. "BHAs also have anti-inflammatory, skin-calming properties, so they are gentle enough even for sensitive skin prone to redness and/or rosacea," explains Dr. King.