Looking for a more caring cleanse? Right this way...
They say that cleansing is the foundation of a good skincare regime. Not only does it get rid of all of that built-up make-up, grime and SPF at the end of a long day, but it preps skin and provides the perfect canvas for your favourite night serum (check out our guide to the best night serums) However, if you have sensitive skin, the risk of a reaction is real and we know only too well how much trial and error it can take to get your choice of cleanser right.
For some, a flare-up may cause itchiness. For others, it could be a breakout, stinging or even a burning sensation. An impaired barrier function (the skin’s protective layer) is the main reason behind sensitivity, which can be caused by things such as genetics, environment and lifestyle (using harsh skincare, for example). If you’ve got eczema or rosacea, you may need to take extra care to ensure that you’re using a product that provides a more gentle cleanse and doesn’t strip skin of valuable oil and moisture.
Unsure of where to start? Here’s our guide for keeping skincare stress to a minimum. From what to look for in your ingredients list to what to avoid, we’ve got you covered.
Which are the best face washes for sensitive skin?
Look for gentle, non-stripping formulas, and focus on hydration from the very first step of your skincare routine to help keep your skin soft and supple.
Which face washes should you avoid if you have sensitive skin?
Be wary of foaming cleansers containing high concentrations of surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulphate if you have dry, sensitive skin as they may be too harsh. Also have a good scan of your ingredients list to see if it contains irritants that may have caused you problems in the past, such as fragrance (look for “parfum”).
Finally, try to avoid cleansers that have exfoliating acids in them like glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids as they can aggravate sensitivity.
The best face washes for sensitive skin
These are 10 of the best to try whether you have eczema, rosacea or sensitive skin that is dry, dehydrated, oily or breakout-prone.
Best face wash for sensitive skin dermatologist recommended
Try: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin (£9.50)
• Size: 236ml
• Non-comedogenic (formulated in a way that is not likely to cause pore blockages and breakouts)
“For sensitive skin, I like recommending this creamy cleanser,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Shaaira Nasir. “It’s hydrating and doesn’t strip the natural oils off the skin, which is good for maintaining the skin barrier.” Dry, sensitive skin types will love it.
Best face wash for eczema
Try: E45 Emollient Wash Cream for Dry & Itchy Skin (£5.39)
• Size: 250ml
• Soap and detergent-free
This super gentle, non-foaming face wash is perfect for more delicate skin types thanks to its simple formula and creamy texture that provides a more caring cleanse.
Best micellar water for sensitive skin
Try: Boots Micellar Water Sensitive (£3)
• Size: 400ml
Micellar water acts as a perfect pre-cleanse step for removing make-up – including wiping away all traces of make-up around the eye – before using a face wash. This fragrance-free pick is ideal for sensitive skin types, too.
Best cleansing balm for sensitive skin
Try: The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm (£9.99)
• Size: 150ml
As well as colloidal oatmeal (known for its nourishing and soothing abilities), this luxuriously textured cleansing balm also contains calming oat kernel oil to gently dissolve make-up while supporting skin’s barrier function.
Best value face wash for sensitive skin
Try: Garnier Micellar Gel Wash Sensitive Skin (£3.99)
• Size: 200ml
Think of this pick as micellar water 2.0. Providing a more thorough cleanse that combination and oily skin types may particularly like, it mops up make-up and dirt without leaving skin feeling uncomfortably tight.
Best face wash for dry and sensitive skin
Try: Curél Foaming Facial Wash for Dry, Sensitive Skin (£12.50)
• Size: 150ml
• pH balanced
This replenishing face wash from Japan’s leading skincare brand for sensitive skin has been designed to gently lift away dirt while respecting skin’s ceramides. What are ceramides? They’re the natural lipids that can be found in the skin’s protective barrier and increase its ability to hold on to moisture.
Best gel face wash for sensitive skin
Try: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Cleanser (£7.99)
• Size: 200ml
This hard-working face wash leaves skin feeling refreshed (especially nice in the summer months) and soft, thanks to ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, and its lightweight gel texture.
Best face wash for sensitive, oily skin
Try: Avène Mattifying Cleansing Foam for Sensitive Skin (£13.50)
• Size: 150ml
If you have extremely oily skin, you may enjoy the deeper cleansing action of this sebum-sapping face wash. As well as calming Avène Thermal Spring Water and soothing zinc, it also contains glutamic acid to control excess oil.
Best face wash for sensitive, oily and breakout-prone skin
Try: Avène Cleanance Cleansing Gel Cleanser for Blemish-Prone Skin (£18)
• Size: 400ml
If shine is one of your key concerns and your skin isn’t super sensitive, this purifying gel may help. It contains zinc gluconate to reduce redness and Comedoclastin, a plant-based active that helps with excess sebum (as well as soothing Avène Thermal Spring Water, of course). If you have acneic skin, you may find our guide for the best cleansers for acne-prone skin helpful, too.
All prices correct on date of publication