Whether You're in Your 30s or 70s, These 12 Face Washes Do the Absolute Most

I think we all owe face wash an apology—or at least I do. I considered my cleanser the least important part of my skincare routine for years. I'd splash some water on my face, slather on the cheapest drugstore face wash, mush it around for a good 10 seconds, and then rinse. But I know better now! For one, most experts say we should spend at least one full minute massaging our cleanser into our face, a time frame that ensures we get every last crumb of naughties expunged from our pores. So set a timer, listen to half your favorite tune, or count to 60 in your head.

Second, the formulation of your face wash can and will make a significant difference in the health and look of your complexion. (Take it from someone who learned the hard way that her cleanser was solely responsible for a never-ending cycle of breakouts.)

Additionally, some face washes are equipped with strategic, higher-quality ingredients for those looking to boost their skin with an extra dose of anti-aging perks. While your cleanser won't be as important as your serums and moisturizers (those are the products that spend the most amount of time on your skin), every little bit helps, and using a face wash with the right ingredients can definitely encourage a plump, balanced, hydrated, all-around youthful-looking complexion. 

To get the scoop about anti-aging face washes, I spoke to celebrity facialist Renée Rouleau and dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, FAAD. Ahead, they'll break down what to avoid and what to look for when shopping for a face wash. Plus, they share the specific products they recommend. Keep scrolling for the lowdown.

But wait, can a face wash really be anti-aging?


(Image credit: @astyleedit)

Sorry to be confusing, but the answer is yes and no. "I wouldn't say that a face wash can be anti-aging, per se, but what I know to be true is that skin cells are like fish, and they need water to live," clarifies Rouleau. In order to keep your skin looking healthy and in tip-top shape, she explains that it's important to use a non-drying cleanser that won't strip essential, glow-giving moisture from your complexion. If you're stripping the skin, you're causing damage to the protective barrier, which in turn can expedite visible signs of aging.

Since cleansers are mingling with our skin for a minute maximum, Rouleau says there's no need to waste your money and efforts on face wash formulas packed with anti-aging actives—they simply won't have the time that serums and moisturizers do to effectively penetrate the skin. That said, she notes a face wash that utilizes gentle exfoliating beads can softly whisk away any dulling dry skin cells hanging out on the surface of our skin. Once they're gone, you'll likely notice a brighter, smoother, younger-looking finish.

"I look at face washes as short contact therapies for the skin," agrees Zeichner. "They can exert meaningful effects, so long as they are used the right way. I typically have people lather therapeutic cleansers on the skin and let them sit while you sing the alphabet to yourself, which ensures enough contact time for the ingredients to do their jobs."

What to look for in an anti-aging face wash:


(Image credit: @mariaalia)

Zeichner notes that before we all get ahead of ourselves with fancy-schmancy extras, it's important to remember the actual purpose of face wash: to remove the soiling of the skin without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier.

"First, do no harm," he warns, "Over-scrubbing does more harm than good and can disrupt the outer skin layer, leading to irritation and inflammation. Think of your cleanser as the foundation of a skincare routine. It provides a fresh canvas for the rest of your skincare products. You want to make sure that canvas is clean, intact, and well-hydrated."

That said, if you're looking for a specific ingredient strategy for your next face wash purchase, Zeichner likes certain additions like hydroxy acids (which can provide anti-aging benefits through their exfoliating effects) and any high-quality hydrating ingredients, which you can also find in traditional moisturizers. Specifically, Rouleau mentions glycerin, aloe vera, and panthenol, which are all moisture-binding humectants and therefore great for encouraging a plump, dewy complexion.

Ingredients to avoid:


(Image credit: @thetennillelife_)

According to both Rouleau and Zeichner, sulfates such as sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and ammonium laurel sulfate are on a strict do-not-call list if you're looking for a gentle, hydrating face wash enriched with anti-aging benefits. "These ingredients generally have a high pH, so they can put your skin at risk for dehydration when used in a cleanser," Rouleau points out. 

Zeichner also recommends avoiding cleansers that contain synthetic fragrances, which are linked to skin allergies if you're super sensitive. Oh, and while we're on the topic of sensitivity, you can nix other buzzy ingredients like retinol and potent antioxidants from your face wash shopping list since Zeichner notes that it is still unclear whether or not they're effective in the form of a cleanser versus other approved carriers like serums and creams. 

The best anti-aging face washes, according to experts:

Best Overall Anti-Aging Face Wash: Rodan + Fields Daily Foaming Cleanser

 Best Anti-Aging Face Wash for Combination Skin: Renée Rouleau Mint Renewal Cleanser

Best Anti-Aging Face Wash for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: InnBeauty Project Foam Around Clarifying Daily Cleanser

Best Anti-Aging Face Wash for Dry Skin: Renée Rouleau Moisture Protecting Cleanser

Best Drugstore Anti-Aging Face Wash: Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser

Alpha-H Balancing Cleanser

RoC Multi Correxion Revive + Glow Gel Cleanser

The best anti-aging face washes, according to beauty editors:

Tata Harper Superkind Softening Cleanser

Glossier Cleanser Concentrate

Shani Darden Cleansing Serum

Augustinus Bader The Cream Cleansing Gel

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.