What a cleanser does, and how to use it

We all know we should be using facial cleansers regularly, right?
But what is a facial cleanser, and how can we use it properly to maximise its skin-boosting benefits?
Here’s what you need to know about what cleansers do and which ones you need to use for the best results for your own skin.

The role of cleansers in skincare

Arguably the most important skincare products out there, facial cleansers are formulated to remove all the dirt, oil, sweat, pollutants, and other impurities that build up on the skin’s surface throughout the day, as well as our makeup. All these elements can clog pores, contributing to acne and affecting the brightness and radiance of the skin itself.

What else does a cleanser do?

Cleansers also help to maintain the skin's natural balance by removing excess oil without over-drying the skin. This is essential for individuals with oily or combination skin types, as it can help to regulate oil production and keep spots at bay.

At the other end of the scale, some cleansers – particularly cream or oil-based products – contain hydrating ingredients that can help with moisture retention in individuals with dry skin.

Cleansing is also a vital step because, once the skin has been cleared of debris, it will absorb the active ingredients of other products more effectively. Put simply, you can’t look after your skin without investing in a great facial cleanser that is designed to complement your skin type.

Types of cleansers

There are a few different kinds of cleansers on the market, and they are each designed to address specific concerns and play their own role in your skincare regime.

Gel cleansers

Best for: General cleansing; combatting excess oil; acne-prone skin (especially those that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide)

Not great for: Dry skin; skin that needs a deeper clean

Cream cleansers

Best for: Gentle cleansing; dry, sensitive or mature skin; calming the skin; removing makeup

Not great for: People who want a one-step cleansing solution – you will often need to cleanse again with a different kind of product to get rid of any excess oil

Foam cleansers

Best for: General cleansing; sensitive and acne-prone skin

Not great for: Dry or easily irritated skin, as their surfactants can be drying

Oil cleansers

Best for: Deep cleansing; removing makeup

Not great for: Oily or acne-prone skin

Bar cleansers

Best for: General cleansing

Not great for: Sensitive or delicate skin; maintaining skin pH; removing oil

Exfoliating cleansers

Best for: Deep cleansing and skin regeneration; blackhead removal

Not great for: Sensitive or delicate skin; infected or acne-prone skin

How to use a cleanser properly

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to cleaning your face properly. Here, you’ll also find advice on choosing the right cleanser for your skin type – something that’s hugely important if you want to prevent skin damage and irritation (and avoid wasting money on a product that simply won’t work well). You’ll need to use your cleanser in the morning and at night – and we always advise washing away sweat and any excess dirt after a workout, too.

Our favourite cleansers

Finding the right cleanser can be a Godsend. Once you’ve experienced the benefits of a product that’s tailormade for your skin, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!

Here are a few of our favourites but be sure to check out our full collection of facial cleansers online.

My Clarins RE-MOVE Purifying Cleansing Gel

This will leave your skin squeaky clean and smelling gorgeous.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Foaming Gel

This product delivers a wonderfully deep clean in a way that won’t irritate sensitive skin.

CeraVe Blemish Control Cleanser for Blemish-Prone Skin

CeraVe’s gel-to-foam cleanser is an excellent choice for spot-prone skin.

CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser

Struggling with dry skin? This nourishing product, packed with ceramides, will be a game-changer.

Bioderma Pigmentbio Foaming Cream Pump

Easy to use, this cleanser will brighten your skin’s texture and dull down any dark spots.