Face cleansers come in all shapes and sizes, from foaming washes to micellar waters and everything in between. But one type of cleanser that you should get to know—especially if you suffer from dry and dehydrated skin—is cleansing milk.
Milk has had a long, interesting history with beauty. In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was rumored to have bathed in a concoction of donkey milk and honey as an anti-aging and skin-nourishing regimen. Queen Elizabeth I was also a frequent milk-bather. But thanks to the invention of cleansing milks, you don’t have to fill your bathtub with gallons of dairy products to luxuriate in its skin benefits. (That’s good news for anyone who’s lactose-intolerant.)
According to Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York City, cleansing milks, or milk cleansers, are thin emulsions that rinse off and are non-foaming. “Cleansing milks offer a gentler approach to face wash. They are formulated for very dry skin and are non-stripping,” explains Idriss. “It’s said that Karl Lagerfeld used to bathe in cleansing milks every day to keep his body and skin soft. At least that’s the myth I’ve heard around the block.” Looks like the queens and Lagerfeld had something in common!
Because the best cleansing milks pamper the skin but are much gentler than traditional face washes, you might need some extra help when it comes to removing makeup. (Read: Don’t forgo your double-cleanse ritual just yet.) “It depends on how much makeup you typically wear. For a full face of makeup, I recommend using micellar water first before cleansing milk,” says Idriss. However, some cleansing milks contain oil, which can also assist in removing heavy makeup such as eyeliner and mascara.
The Best Cleansing Milks for Your Skin Type
While cleansing milks are great for people with dry skin, pretty much anyone can benefit from them. “Cleansing milks are for every skin type, including acne-prone and sensitive skin, as they can calm redness and reduce any form of irritation,” says Idriss. “However, people who have sensitive skin can be sensitive to different ingredients, so look out for that as well.” There are also cleansing milks that contain ingredients like salicylic acid and PHAs to help with breakouts, sebum production, and exfoliation. Ahead, 14 cleansing milks to try that will keep your skin happy, hydrated, and free of gunk.
This isn't your average cleanser, folks. Heck, this isn't even your average hydrating cleanser. Instead, think of this no-suds face wash as a five-for-one gem that effectively cleanses with the same finesse and TLC as the gentle cycle you'd use on your most-treasured delicates. It's pH-balanced to protect your skin's delicate barrier while simultaneously quenching its thirst with lush, high-quality nutrients for optimum hydration levels and a silky-smooth finish.
If you want something that deep-cleans your pores while still making your skin feel soft and hydrated, pick up this cleanser from Neutrogena. It has 2% PHA, which will help purge out gunk and exfoliate the skin.
Idriss suggests this milk cleanser, which promises to thoroughly clean the skin from impurities while protecting it from irritation. It has moisturizing vitamin E and hyaluronic acid plus Avène’s signature Thermal Spring Water to ensure skin is soft and hydrated.
Another great option, according to Idriss, this cleansing milk has some pretty standout antioxidant ingredients, including black-currant-seed oil, which helps with irritated and sensitive skin, and fennel seed, which protects the skin from outside pollutants.
Not only will your skin be fully cleansed without getting dried out, but it will also smell amazing thanks to the presence of sweet-almond oil. It also contains cornflower water, which controls sebum and also helps with brightening and toning.
Once you add water, this vegan face cleanser transforms from oil to milk, allowing it to gently remove makeup and dirt while preventing your skin from feeling stripped and dry at the same time. Fermented oat and an oat lipid complex ensure your skin is healthy and balanced.
This is another great cleanser for oily and acne-prone types thanks to the inclusion of kaolin clay, which unclogs pores and helps with sebum production. It also contains rose water, which calms irritated skin, maintains the skin's pH levels, and helps to control oil.
The next best thing to getting IRL time with celebrity facialist Renée Rouleau? Getting your hands on this dreamy aloe-infused cleansing milk from her eponymous product line. It gently works to dissolve oil, makeup, and impurities from your pores while soothing hints of aloe keep your complexion calm and cool as a cucumber.