A face cleanser or wash is the one thing that just about everyone has in their skincare routine, whether they have a 15-step ritual or use just a couple of products. On a basic level, face washes and cleansers do just what you think they’re supposed to do—remove impurities like dirt, oil, and makeup from the skin. Board-certified dermatologist and Docent medical advisor Farhaad Riyaz, MD, says that they pave the way for your other skincare products to work more effectively.
But let’s get into the details, shall we? To start, face washes and cleansers are not quite interchangeable. (I know—I thought they were the same too.) “Face washes are more targeted to deeply cleanse pores and are usually better options for oily skin, while face cleansers can have hydrating benefits,” explains Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, FAAD, FACMS, co-founder and partner at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta (DESSNA). “Face washes are more soap-like, and face cleansers are milkier.”