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The Difference Between Face Wash and Cleanser!

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Difference between Face Wash and Cleanser: What do they do?

Do you ever feel confused when you see brands promoting both face washes and cleansers and wonder if they’re just the same thing under different names? Aren’t they all substitutes for a regular soap bar? Don’t they all clean your face and keep pimples away?  Today we’re explaining the difference between face wash and cleanser.

Both contain ingredients that mix with dirt and oil to clear impurities away.  However, one has a stronger cleansing effect, and one can help repair skin damage.

So which is which?


Face Wash

A face wash is your go-to product if your pores need a thorough clean to fend off breakouts.  Whereas, a cleanser is your best bet if you have dry or sensitive skin and want something that can remove dirt and make-up.  While keeping it hydrated.

A face wash cleans deep into your pores and gets rid of oil, dust, germs, and all the dirt that could be lurking in there after a hectic day. It’s a perfect match for oily, acne-prone skin types. If you live in the hot and humid tropics and just can’t seem to catch a break from zits popping up all over your face, then a face wash is a must-have for your beauty kit.

Face washes usually come in the form of gel or foam. They’re really good at removing excess oil and clearing up clogged pores. But when they’re used too much or for too long, the foamy washes can destroy the skin’s moisture barrier, and without moisture, skin loses its elasticity and starts feeling tight and irritated. It might even develop wrinkles and start to peel off!

Here are some ingredients you can find in a face wash:


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Also called SLS, it’s what makes some face washes so foamy, and it really cleans well, but it might dry your skin if you’re not careful. Make sure you know the right way to wash your face.


Salicylic Acid

This ingredient is great for removing dead skin and stopping blackheads and whiteheads. It unclogs pores and makes your face feel clean and oil-free. But of course, if you use too much of it, your skin might peel or itch or feel tingly all over. So use it in moderation.

Our recommended Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Click to shop it here


Benzoyl Peroxide

It’s a little stronger than salicylic acid, so be extra careful when using this! Benzoyl peroxide is a wonderful acne treatment that kills the bacteria causing acne, reduces red, inflamed pimples, and exfoliates dead skin. Many who suffer from acne swear by its antibacterial effect. But don’t go overboard! It can dry your skin out. Make sure the formula of your face wash doesn’t contain too much benzoyl peroxide, especially if your skin is already damaged, to begin with.

Our recommended Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser

Click to shop it here


If you have sensitive skin or are looking to use a face wash long term, one with all-natural ingredients is your best option.  There are a lot of natural soap products that foam and gently cleanse your skin to give you the same result as a chemical based cleanser.  These are great for removing dirt and oil build up.

If you are prone to more oily skin, it’s better to use soaps that contain goat milk or cucumber.  Goat milk soaps, for instance, not only cleanse the skin but also keep it hydrated and nourished.  While cucumber soaps make your skin fresh, clean and soft.



Now, if you have dry and sensitive skin, face washes maybe a little too harsh for you. It might even cause redness and sensitivity because of its astringent effect. If you’re having issues with cold weather drying out your face, or you forgot to apply sunscreen at the beach and can’t take any more strong chemicals without your skin feeling scrubbed raw, I suggest you reach for a milder facial cleanser.

Facial cleansers may contain oils, balms, lotions, powders, or creams. Unlike face washes, they don’t foam so much and don’t always need to be rinsed away. They not only clean your face but also contain moisturizers, ceramides, and other ingredients to repair and nourish your skin. They’re great at removing dirt and make-up, but they don’t go deep into clogged pores.

Here’s a list of things to look for in a facial cleanser:



You can find glycerin in lots of beauty products, and that’s because it’s not too expensive and its moisturizing effect lasts a long time after you apply it to your skin. It gives intense hydration and is great for all skin types.

Our recommended Cleanser with Glycerin

Click to shop the cleanser here




Ceramides form a barrier to keep moisture in the deeper layers of your skin. This prevents skin from being dehydrated and helps keep it firm and elastic. Skin with a damaged moisture barrier feels extra tight on your face and tends to crack and peel. Sadly, skin loses ceramides as you age or get exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Using harsh chemical exfoliants only makes the situation worse. You could end up with skin that looks several years older!

It could take up to three months or more to fix this. And if you’re like me, you wouldn’t want to wait that long! Fortunately, you can speed up the healing process by finding products that rebuild the ceramide layer. To get that youthful, hydrated glow and say goodbye to wrinkled and dry skin, keep an eye out for moisturizers and cleansers with ceramides.




Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid restores moisture by attracting water molecules from deeper skin layers or from moisture already in the air. Your skin produces hyaluronic acid on its own, but again, damaging ultraviolet rays stop your skin from making enough.

To replace lost moisture, you can apply special serums, moisturizers, creams, or even cleansers that contain hyaluronic acid. This helps minimize fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin, dryness, and other blemishes that you don’t want on your face. Hyaluronic acid is also completely natural, which is awesome if you’re not a fan of slapping too much synthetic ingredients on your skin.

Our favourite Hyaluronic Acid Cleanser

Click to shop the product here 


There are two main kinds of Hyaluronic Acid: those that sit on the surface of the epidermis, and those that reach the deeper layers. Using products that contain a combo of different types of hyaluronic acid gives you maximum hydration— so remember to check the label the next time you go shopping!

Let me guess what you’re thinking — why don’t we all just skip the face wash and stick to cleansers instead? Well, if you have really oily skin, a gentle cleanser is not going to be strong enough to prevent pimple breakouts. Yes, your skin will stay hydrated and moisturized, but your face is going to be full of red polka dots! I don’t think you’d like that, right?


Best Dual Purpose Cleanser

Click to shop it here

This cleanser offers benefits as a face wash and a cleanser due to its ingredients.  It has Salicylic acid to fight acne but also contains ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid to maintain your moisture barrier.


What about other skin types?

Normal Skin

For normal skin, a cleanser may be enough, and for combination skin, using different products in different areas of your face might work. You can actually use both cleansers and face washes in your beauty routine, especially if you wear heavy make-up or live where air pollution is pretty high.


Oily Skin

Even if you have very oily skin that needs to be washed twice a day, try to use a face wash in the morning only and opt for a cleanser at night. An evening cleanser lets your face relax and adds in all those soothing nutrients to repair your tired skin. In the morning, use a face wash to clear out the sweat and dirt, especially after hot, summer nights. Here are some ideas if you’re still figuring out essentials for your skincare routine.

Sometimes, you can tell which to use by checking the weather report. If the air is cold and dry, use a cleanser. If it’s so humid and your face feels sticky all over, use a face wash!  You’ll need to experiment to discover what routine allows you to prevent acne and combat itch and dryness. Remember, what works well in one season may not be the best fit for another.

Our recommendation for oily skin

Click to shop the cleanser here


Regardless of your skin type, you wouldn’t want to use too much face wash. It can remove all the beneficial oils from your skin and cause your oil glands to react by producing even more oil! It’s also best to swear off face wash while your skin is healing from an exfoliating session or a nasty sunburn.

Whichever you choose, I recommend that you check the ingredients so you understand the difference between face wash and cleanser.  That way, you ensure you pick a product that’s just right for your needs.

Written by: Katherine Pierce