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Is Cleanser The Same as Face Wash? What You Need to Know

Is Cleanser The Same as Face Wash? What You Need to Know

Dec 07, 2022

Is a cleanser the same thing as a face wash? Today, we’re diving into how they are different and the ways they are the same.

Most people — even us — use the terms “cleanser” and “face wash” interchangeably. In reality, there are a few significant distinctions between the two. It’s a common misconception— people often mistake cleansers for face washes all the time!

While both of these skincare products help clean your skin, how they clean is what makes them different. It’s essential to ensure that either of the two types of facial cleaning products you use fits your specific needs. Since everyone’s skin is a little (or a lot!) different, what works for one person might not work so well for another.

Sure, the differences between a face wash and a cleanser for the face might be subtle. But they are certainly there, and today, we’re outlining it all.

Continue reading below to find out more.

Cleanser vs. Face Wash: What You Need to Know

As we said above, despite popular belief, cleansers and face washes are not exactly the same — insert confused, yet intrigued emoji here. Are we ready for the cleanser vs. face wash face off?

Basic Functions of Face Washes:

  • Focuses on cleaning the deeper skin layers and deep into pores
  • Best suited for oily or combination skin types
  • Typically a foaming or gel consistency or formulation
  • Much gentler than a bar of soap
  • Not as hydrating or moisturizing
  • Best used in the mornings, but it can also be used at night
  • Must be rinsed away with warm water

Basic Functions of Cleansers:

  • Cleanses the skin’s surface from dirt, makeup residue, and excess oils from the skin’s surface
  • Best used on those with dry and sensitive skin
  • Non-foaming, and a cream, oil, or lotion consistency
  • Gentler than face washes
  • Very moisturizing and hydrating
  • It can be used morning and night
  • Rinsing may or may not be necessary

How a Cleanser and a Face Wash Cleans

Cleansers come in milk, cream, and thick textures and primarily hydrate, cleanse, and soothe your skin. In contrast, face washes are typically water-based formulas and come in gel and foam consistencies.

Both products contain ingredients that wash away dirt, called surfactants, which are composed of a hydrophilic and hydrophobic tail. The hydrophobic parts — those that do not like water but love oil and grease — attach to dirt and oil buildup on the skin’s surface and form structures called micelles. The micelles trap dirt and are washed away during the rinse.

Cleanser vs. Face Wash: Which Should You Use?

Face washes are best suited for acne-prone, oily, and combination skin types. The foaming action of face washes helps reduce breakouts and clogged pores by removing deep-seated oils. For the best results, choose a product that contains the following:

  • Salicylic Acid — An amazing anti-blemish ingredient that helps chemically exfoliate pores
  • Ceramides — Help improve the appearance of dry skin and increase hydration
  • Glycerine — Hydrates the skin’s natural moisture barrier and helps prevent moisture loss
  • Green Tea Extract — A natural ingredient that helps control oil production

For those with sensitive, dry, or combination skin, cleansers are ideal because they are mild and very beneficial to those with skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, etc. Look for cleansers with an ingredient list that contains:

  • Glycerine
  • Ceramides
  • Green Tea Extract

Can Facial Cleansers and Washes Be Used Together?

Yes! Depending on your skin type, you can use both cleansers and face washes as part of your skincare regimen. If you wear makeup or are exposed to air pollutants frequently, consider using a face wash and then a cleanser to get a thorough cleaning — this is called a double cleanse and is a great routine to get into.

Ingredients to Avoid in Cleansers and Face Washes

Regardless of whether you use a cleanser for face or a face wash, here are some ingredients you should avoid:

  • Sulfates — Sulfates are salts that form when sulphuric acid reacts with other chemicals. Common ones you’ll see in cleansers and face washes are SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). These are produced from petroleum and plant sources such as palm and coconut oil.
  • Phthalates — Phthalates are slats that make cleansers easier to spread. These endocrine disruptors have been linked with developmental and reproductive toxins.
  • Parabens — Parabens are used to preserve face washes and cleansers, keeping them fresh and germ-free. These hormone disruptors are linked to various cancers and belong to chemical families like propyl, butyl, and methyl.
  • Fragrance — Fragrance is an unnecessary ingredient loaded with chemicals that can trigger various allergic reactions. If you want products that smell great, opt for one scented with essential oils or plant extracts.
  • Mineral Oil — Mineral oil can clog pores leading to breakouts.

Tips for Using Face Washes and Cleansers

  • Avoid Hot Water — Don’t use hot water to wash your face since it can strip the skin of its natural oils, leaving it tight and dry. Use lukewarm water instead.
  • Never Use Bath Soaps on Your Face — Cleansers for face and body are not the same! The pH of body washes and bath soaps is closer to 10, while the skin’s pH is somewhere between 4.7 and 5.8. Soaps can disrupt the optimal pH value of your skin and ruin the moisture barrier.
  • Always Be Gentle — Excessive rubbing can damage your skin and strip it of the necessary natural oils, messing with the skin’s pH.
  • Don’t Over-Cleanse — If you have oily skin, cleansing your face multiple times might be tempting. However, over-cleansing your skin can damage your moisture barrier and harm the top layers of your skin.

Find the Best Cleanser and Face Wash at GetGlowing Skincare

Are you on the hunt for the best cleanser or face wash? GetGlowing Skincare can help!

Whether you’re looking for your next favorite serum, a new go-to mask, or the best cleanser, we have your back! Each of our skincare products is expertly formulated, highly effective, and set at a price that won’t break the bank. Our Korean products are packed with innovative and exotic ingredients that will give you the radiant, youthful-looking skin we all want.

Check out our awesome selection of cleansers and face washes, and other must-have skincare products today!