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."
Evans says this is her favorite drugstore find. "This is a great cleanser for those who have drier or more sensitive skin but still want to experience a foam cleanser," she says. "It has a great price point and will not irritate the skin."
"It's a super gentle, unscented, foaming cleanser with a creamy texture that effectively removes dirt, makeup, and sweat while balancing the pH of your skin—it's great for all skin types," Aguilar says. "This clean facial cleanser is formulated with white willow bark and apple cider vinegar to provide the deepest cleanse. Azelaic acid is a powerhouse that works to help brighten skin while delivering antioxidant benefits and may also help reduce skin sensitivity."
"I love this clean (no bad ingredients) cleanser because it lathers nicely, and although foaming, it leaves the skin feeling moist, supple, and pH balanced," Aguilar says. "One Love Organics Easy Does It Foaming Cleanser has a unique combination of organic Chilean soap bark to thoroughly cleanse, cold-pressed apple oil to soothe, and vegetable glycerin to help retain moisture. This multi-use cleanser lathers into a soothing, non-drying foam that works to clean and soften skin. It can be used on the face, neck, body, and even hair, and it cleanses without stripping or drying skin. It is gentle enough for morning or nightly use."
"When shopping for a foaming cleanser, it is best to use ones that are gentle and have ingredients such as Caudalie's Instant Foaming Cleanser with grape-seed oil and sage and chamomile extracts," Evans says.
"I love this cleanser for oily skin because it has zinc, which is soothing and calming; glutamic acid that is toning and mattifying; and thermal spring water that soothes and hydrates the skin—because oily skin needs water," Aguilar says. "It's a lightweight, cleansing foam that gently removes makeup, dirt, excess oil, and other impurities while soothing skin for a clean and calm complexion. Skin is left with a healthy, matte finish. Formulated to minimize the risk of allergic reactions, it won't clog pores and is soap-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free, mineral oil–free, and vegan."
Ideal for normal to oily skin types, this cleanser is made with calendula flower extract and glycerin, so it both cleanses and soothes the skin. At first, it's a gel texture that quickly becomes a dense foam when applied.
This creamy mousse-like foaming cleanser targets clogged pores and oiliness. It works to rinse away all kinds of dirt and makeup while also leaving the skin hydrated and soft thanks to glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
This cleanser from Paula's Choice not only works to reduce excess oil and enlarged pores but also has anti-aging properties. There is hyaluronic acid in the formula to condition the skin and give it a more youthful appearance.
If you have sensitive skin but want to try a foaming cleanser, Aveeno might be the option for you. The cleansing product also contains calming Feverfew extract, which can reduce the appearance of redness and soothe irritation.
Great for normal, dry, and combination skin types, Skinfix's cleanser is lightly foaming and doesn't strip lipids from the skin. It contains a hydrating triple-lipid complex, a plumping seaweed hyaluronate blend, and aloe leaf juice.
14. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash
At first, the cleanser starts as a refreshing gel. Then, when lathered up, it becomes a foamy consistency to get the skin super clean. There's also thermal spring water, ceramide-3, niacinamide, and glycerin to moisturize, soothe, and hydrate.
EltaMD's oil-free facial cleanser has Ultra-Fine Self-Foaming Technology, which means it uses ultra-fine foaming bubbles to deep-clean the skin. It's also enriched with the pineapple-derived enzyme bromelain to smooth and soften the skin.
17. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash
Just like its name suggests, Kate Somerville's cleanser will exfoliate the skin to reveal smoother and brighter skin. It's formulated with glycolic and lactic acids to refine and clear pores, plus papaya, pineapple, and pumpkin enzymes to exfoliate but not dry out the skin.