Beauty & Style

Which Facial Cleanser is Right for Your Skin Type?

Everyone needs to wash their face, right? But removing dirt, sweat, dead cells, and makeup with just any old cleanser won’t cut it. Ideally, the facial cleanser you choose should line up with your skin type – whether dry, oily, or neutral.

A key part of any effective skin care routine is properly cleansing your face, which basically clears it all unwanted substances.

By maintaining clean skin, you not only reduce your risk of clogged pores, but also boost skin tone and enable other skin care and cosmetic products to work better.

You’ll find countless versions of facial cleansers on the market, but that doesn’t mean all of them are right for your particular skin. Using the wrong ones can actually worsen any skin problems, potentially leading to overly dry or oily skin, or nasty breakouts.

Identifying your skin type 

The first step in choosing the right facial cleanser for your skin type, of course, is knowing which type you actually have. These traits should clue you in:


With its small pores, dry skin usually feels stretched and taut. Close observance may show tiny skin flakes on the surface. The lack of moisture in dry skin can leave it vulnerable to aging faster, with fine lines perhaps showing up prematurely.


Clogged, open pores dominate oily skin, whose texture is classified as coarse. You may notice a shiny look to your face shortly after cleansing. Oily skin is also more acne-prone, but the upside is that it ages more slowly as well.


Also known as “combination” skin, neutral skin can combine areas of both dry and oily skin or simply be well-balanced between other types. Often the T-zone – which includes the forehead, nose and chin – will be oily and the rest of the face is more prone to being dry. 

Considering these characteristics, it stands to reason that cleansers for dry skin should veer away from being too harsh, which can further strip the skin of vital oils. Meanwhile, cleansers geared toward oily skin should remove excess oil without being too drying. For neutral skin, you’ll want a cleanser that both moisturizes and hydrates.

Ingredients to look for 

Each facial cleanser on the market is formulated with ingredients that can add up to a big impact on your skin – not only on how well it cleans, but also how your skin type reacts.

I recommend these specific ingredients in facial cleansers to align with your skin type:

Dry skin:

Avoid alcohol and soap while aiming for a gentle cleanser with moisturizing ingredients and fatty acids in the form of oils. Look for products that incorporate glycerin, petrolatum, lanolin and ceramides, which help your skin keep its moisture.

Oily skin:

Ironically, you should avoid alcohol-based cleansers, which can prompt your skin to overproduce oil to compensate for the alcohol’s stripping effects. Look for a noncomedogenic cleanser (which won’t clog pores) containing salicylic and glycolic acids, which can prevent breakouts. A cleanser with glycerin will help your face retain needed moisture.

Neutral skin:

Since you’re trying to both hydrate and moisturize, mild, gentle cleansers often work for neutral skin types. But look for those free of alcohol and soap to avoid skin irritation. Finding the right cleanser may take some trial and error to tackle both oily and dry areas.

If you haven’t been using the right facial cleanser for your skin type, then switching should yield some significant improvements. You’ll likely notice your skin looks and feels better, with enhanced texture and tone.

Everyone’s skin is different, so it’s worth the effort to accurately identify and understand your skin type and choose a facial cleanser that suits your unique needs.

Jennifer M. Wong, PA-C Physician Assistant. Ms. Wong has comprehensive experience in medical and cosmetic dermatology for all ages.

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.  

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