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A good cleanser is more than just that: Yes, it cleanses, but it should do so in a way that complements your skin needs. If you have acne-prone or oily skin, then it should deep clean the pores. If you have sensitive skin, then it should soothe as much as it flushes away oil and grime. Someone with dry skin needs a hydrating, nourishing cleanser, unless they like having an irritated, rough complexion.
So, the best cleanser for men—all men, that is—doesn’t really exist. Some come close, and many are so carefully formulated that they work for most skin types. But the next time you top-up on a cleanser (and maybe that day is to-day), get one that addresses your specific skin needs and goals. You want balance, calm, brightness, and clarity, and a cleanser is pivotal to achieving exactly those things. After all, it’s the beginning of your skincare regimen, and sets the tone for all of the other products to follow.
Here are the best face washes for men, in a handful of categories.
The Best Overall Face Wash for Men
Cardon Purifying Clay Cleanser
If there’s one cleanser that we’d suggest across the board, no matter one’s skin type, this from Cardon is the best bet. That’s because of its key ingredient, clay, which not only absorbs excess oil and grime from deep within pores (like any clay-based face mask), but it also does so in the gentlest, most subtle manner. It boasts Vitamin E to nourish skin as well as cica grass and cactus extract (the Cardon signature) to soothe. Use it three or four times a day if you have to, between morning/evening regimens, midday refreshes, post-workout flushes, etc… it simply won’t throw skin out of whack. Perhaps that’s why they call it “Purifying”; that’s the perfect description for what this product does.
The Best Face Wash for Oily Skin
Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel
And speaking of deep clean: That’s exactly what someone with overly oily skin wants in a cleanser. Vichy’s Normaderm gel cleanser is gentle on the most sensitive skin types, but tough on oil, sweat, and grime, since it contains pore-clearing salicylic acid. The ingredient also tempers oil production to prevent additional buildup. Pair that with the anti-inflammatory powers of zinc, and you’ve got a potent defense against greasy, grimey forehead film.
The Best Face Wash for Sensitive Skin
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Enzyme Cleansing Foam
This creamy, foaming cleanser is part of Dr. Jart’s Cicapair line, which touts cica grass as its key ingredient. Cica (aka centella asiatica aka tiger grass) calms inflammation plus is rich in amino acids and antioxidants to fortify skin’s barrier defense and thwart skin-aging toxins. This recipe also includes probiotics to reinforce skin’s “good” bacteria, which in turn counter the bad acne-inducing bacteria.
The Best Face Wash for Dry Skin
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Dry skin is extremely irritable, especially when it comes to cleansing. (Since many cleansers parch the skin even further, stripping dry skin of what little nourishing oils it possesses.) Cetaphil’s gentle cleanser targets this skin type with its fragrance-free, soap-free, hypoallergenic formula. It is pH balanced, meaning it matches the naturally acidic “chemistry” of skin to prevent further drying and irritation. And, it cleans much like micellar water, which is a common cleanser used by makeup wearers. With micellar technology, a product pulls away impurities and excess oil almost like a magnet, requiring no friction for effectiveness. It’s so kind to skin that Cetaphil even endorses a water-free cleansing regimen with it, should you find yourself away from a water source.
The Best Face Wash for Acne-Inflicted Skin
PanOxyl Acne Foaming Face Wash 10% Benzoyl Peroxide
If you’re preventing acne, then a simple deep-cleaning or salicylic acid-based cleanser will suffice (like the products on this list from Cardon and Vichy). However, if you’re countering active acne or are routinely acne prone, then you want to use something a bit more prescription grade, with benzoyl peroxide. PanOxyl’s cleanser has a high grade of the antimicrobial ingredient, with 10%, to kill acne in its tracks and prevent further breakouts and to boost cellular turnover (in turn preventing pore clogging). Use white towels if this is in your regimen, since any leftover residue on your skin (upon rinsing away) can bleach fabric. (Be careful with pillow cases too; typically, it’s the leave-on overnight topical creams that cause bigger problems in this regard.)
The Best Cleanser for Athletes
Jordan Samuel Skin The After Show Treatment Cleanser
Once a professional ballet dancer, Jordan Samuels created a skincare line that is perfect for stressed out, exhausted skin. (Read: Constantly sweating, and part of an overworked body.) This cleanser is the foundation of his regimen, fueled by three nourishing oils—olive, jojoba, and grape seed—and supplemented by soothing aloe and chamomile, as well as oil-balancing willow bark extract. It lifts away sweat, sebum, and grime while simultaneously cradling and calming the dermis. Use it multiple times a day, whether you’re in constant need of a reset, or any time you want to wash away the day’s stressors and feel an instant sense of calm.
The Best Face Wash for Dull Skin
SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Dull, tired skin needs more than a wash. It needs a deep clean and a face lift of sorts; rather, it needs those dead, outermost skin cells to lift away and make room for the younger, brighter ones underneath. (That’s the fastest way to a more “glowy” youthful complexion, not to mention to accelerate the disappearance of hyperpigmentation.) And what this demands is a product powered by alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, and that’s what SkinMedica’s cleanser delivers: It has citric acid, an AHA, as well as salicylic acid, a BHA, to lift dead skin cells and clear out pores, respectively. It also has a small dosage of jojoba beads to help physically buff away rough patches of skin.
The Best Joint Face + Body Wash for Men
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap (Peppermint)
Body washes are best avoided on the face, since they’re often too irritating for the face’s gentle skin. The same isn’t true in reverse, but most facial cleansers would be wasted on the body, since it requires a lot more product to clean, and a lot fewer targeted ingredients. (This is why you can buy larger volumes of body wash for less money.) That being said, some brands have products so universally powerful yet gentle, that they buck all of the rules—and Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is one of them. It’s perfect for minimalists, light travelers, and multitaskers. This thing is strong enough to clean your floors and your dirty laundry, but also gentle enough for your face. And among its many scents, we love peppermint most for its tingling, refreshing feeling.