Face cleansers are not created equally. They have different consistencies and ingredients. And because of those differences, not all face cleansers work on every skin type. If you have dry skin, you might want one that is an oil or creamy cleanser. For combination skin, you need a product that can manage your dry areas but also clear up any extra oil. And if you have oily, acne-prone skin, derms and experts say you might want to consider trying out foam facial cleansers.
“If you have oily or combination skin, foaming cleansers are a great choice, as they are especially effective in helping to remove excess oil from the skin,” explains board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, medical director at Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology. “Acne-prone skin, teenagers, and those who love that squeaky-clean feeling do best with foam cleansers.”
And what exactly is a foaming face cleanser? Well, it’s pretty much as its name suggests. “A foam face cleanser is a facial cleanser that foams as soon as it’s pumped out,” says dermatological nurse and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar. “However, some are called foaming cleansers because they foam really nicely when mixed with water. Foam face cleansers contain more water than oil, gel, or cream cleansers.”
They’re not just for oily, acne-prone, or combination skin types. Others can use this kind of cleanser, but you’ll want to proceed with caution if you have dry skin. “If you have dry or sensitive skin, foaming cleansers may not be for you,” Evans says. “Cream-based cleansers are often best for sensitive or dry skin, which has a higher need to maintain the oil and hydration of the skin. Cream cleansers emulsify dirt and are less drying than foaming cleansers.”
But if you love that foaming action and have dry skin, Aguilar says that there are new formulas that are made specifically for sensitive, dehydrated, or dry skin. And SkinSpirit lead aesthetician Karen Fernandez recommends looking for a very neutral, gentle foaming cleanser with no “extras” (like vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids, salicylic acid) and with hydrating properties or fine oils.
When shopping for a cleanser, Evans recommends looking for one that has moisturizing or emollient properties. “For normal to oily, I would suggest trying them out and finding one that agrees with your skin,” Fernandez says. “In general, these are key ingredients and their main function: Vitamin C will brighten skin; salicylic acid will clear acne and lessen oiliness; glycolic acid will deep-clean; and lactic acid is more hydrating. Be sure the base ingredients are clean with no synthetic fragrances or detergents.”
For oily or acne-prone skin, Aguilar recommends looking for these exfoliating and toning ingredients: alpha-hydroxy acids, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid. “If one has reactive or sensitive skin, look for calming ingredients that soothe and hydrate, such as hyaluronic acid, calendula, chamomile, and cornflower, as well as ingredients that strengthen the skin such as beta-glucan, lipids, and peptides,” she says.
And one last piece of advice on cleansers: Find the exact one that works for you since it can affect the overall health of your skin. “Cleanser is not typically an expensive item to buy, yet it can be the most important step in having skin feel clean, balanced, and primed for the application of serums and creams,” Fernandez says. “I always encourage my clients to get the best cleanser they can find.”