If you're like me, you've probably gone most of your life without knowing there is a difference between a face wash and a facial cleanser. Crazy right?! I mean aren't they the same? Aren't they both used to clean your face? The answer is yes and no. Life is already stressful enough without having to worry about deciphering skin products and deciding what to buy, when to use what, etc. My goal with this post is to go back to the basics and better explain the matchup between a face wash versus a facial cleanser. By the end of this post, my hope is that you can decide on which product type is best for you so you can take another step in the right direction towards better skin care.
Facial Cleanser: The More Gentle Option
The facial cleanser is a go-to product, an absolute must in any daily skin regimen. Its primary role is to remove make-up, dirt, and some skin oils without being excessive and leaving your skin dry and feeling tight. Generally, when you apply it onto your face, you're met with a really smooth consistency that does NOT foam up as you rub it onto your face (UPDATE: While foaming facial cleansers do exist, the general trend is that facial cleansers do NOT foam up upon application). It rinses off easily unlike thicker cleanser types (ie cream cleansers). You can read more about cream cleansers in my other post HERE. Some people say you can simply wipe off the cleanser with a towel and don't need to rinse it off. Personally, I think rinsing off with water is part of the invigorating experience of washing your face in the morning and/or at night.
One of the selling points of facial cleansers, especially to those of you who have sensitive skin is the fact that facial cleansers do NOT contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This is why facial cleansers are generally considered more gentle-acting on your face when compared to face washes.
Other things to consider when choosing a facial cleanser is to find cleansers that are "soap-free" and don't leave your face oily. This last point can sometimes be a problem for those of you with oily skin because facial cleansers are generally more moisturizing and hydrating than your typical face wash. With that being said, facial cleansers are better suited for people with normal to dry skin types.
Face Wash: For Those Wanting "Heavy-Duty" Cleaning
The face wash can almost be considered a more "heavy-duty" version of a facial cleanser. Unlike a facial cleanser, a face wash foams up when you apply it to your skin with water. Similar to the facial cleansers, these products typically rinse off without difficulty.
One of the primary reasons face wash products foam up upon application is because a majority of them contain the infamous Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (aka SLS). This compound has received increased attention over the years, for good reason I might add, because SLS has been shown to cause increased skin irritation, especially in people with sensitive skin. So if SLS causes skin irritation, then why do skin care companies include it in their products?
This is because of one main reason: SLS is really effective at allowing soap agents to access the skin to facilitate the removal of nasty dirt molecules, oils, and make-up. This is why it is no surprise that SLS is found in many cleaning products across your house including shampoo, body washes, toothpaste, and normal detergents.
With SLS increasing a face wash's cleaning capacity, it is typically better suited for those of you with oily skin, giving you a more matte look. People with normal to dry skin might feel their skin become too dry and irritated with continued use of a face wash.
It Doesn't Have To Be One Or The Other
Up until now, it seems as those using a facial cleanser of face wash might be a polarizing event where no mixing is allowed. However, this is NOT the case. Cleansers and face washes can most definitely be used together in your skin care regimen. Here are some general recommendations:
For those of you who tend to have dry skin, a facial cleanser can do you some good in keeping your skin feeling soft and smooth. When deciding how often to use a facial cleanser, you should look at how often you leave your house. Generally, if you go out more frequently, you will want to use a facial cleanser daily to remove the dirt buildup from the course of the day.
If you happen to have oily skin, a face wash is preferable to eliminate excess oils and provide much-needed nourishment. Daily use is recommended to thoroughly clean your skin.
If you do end up deciding that using both product types is optimal for you, it is better to use face washes more frequently than cleansers to keep your skin in tip-top shape. However, this generally does not apply to those of you who have sensitive skin. The bottom line is whether it is with a facial cleanser or face wash, you should make it a habit to wash your face before bedtime to remove the accumulation of pollutants and oils that have become entrapped in your pores. This is especially the case for those of you who wear makeup regularly. Using a facial cleanser or face wash allows your skin to breathe overnight to rejuvenate and revitalize itself.
Whew! We've covered a lot of ground so far. Here is a helpful table highlighting the main defining features between a facial cleanser and face wash for those of you who like visual aids.
When finding the right facial cleanser/wash for you, like many things, it takes time and is truly a process of trial and error. I know it can be overwhelming and stressful to find a product(s) that work for you, but with determination, perseverance, and consistency, you'll be doing your skin a lot of favors in the long run. Your skin will thank you.
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