Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
While we’ve covered Rio’s favorite cleansers, a certain natural face wash that’s ideal for fighting acne, and a pricey yet soothing oat face wash for sensitive skin, here we’re doing a deeper dive on all the best face washes overall, according to the very opinionated reviewers at Sephora.
Best-rated face wash
No other cleanser at Sephora has as many reviews (over 11,000) as the award-winning Philosophy Purity face wash. It’s made from a base of 12 essential oils, though reviewers from across the age spectrum support Philosophy’s claims that it works for all skin types. One 59-year old reviewer praises how well it removes “heavy mascara, foundation, powder, what-have-you” and notes that her husband is now a fan, too. “It’s the only product that has gotten rid of his blackheads.” It’s especially popular among acne-prone reviewers who like that it’s gentle and deep cleansing for clearing up pimples, without causing any new ones.
It’s standard for longtime fanatics of the cleanser to talk about how profoundly it’s changed their skin over time. One who’s been using it since a bad bout of hormonal acne in her teens, says, “Within a week of using it twice a day I noticed my skin improving. This is the only cleanser my sensitive skin hasn’t reacted to and four years later, I can say my skin looks brighter, healthier, and glowing.”
Best-rated less-expensive face wash
Repeat purchases of this First Aid Beauty face cleanser are a common thread among Sephora reviewers, with some on their third or fourth tube, and others upgrading to the bulk size: “I have purchased the medium size three times now, so I decided to go ahead and get the jumbo.” Reviewers consistently mention how “extremely gentle, but effective” this cleanser is at removing dirt and oil, even those with a range of skin maladies, from acne and eczema, and including one reviewer who is “allergic to everything.” Others praise its unique “creamy texture that transforms into a luxurious foam with water.”
Best cleansing oil
Reviewers who want a hydrating cleanser–cum–makeup remover flock to this Tatcha cleansing oil, often after trying others that aren’t up to par. Though they often complain about the high price point, they generally say it’s worth it for the quality. One reviewer with combination skin considers it “the best of the best” over other oil cleansers from Origins, Shu Uemara, and Boscia because “it is lightweight, and still allows my skin to retain its moisture, without being greasy.” Most reviewers also mention that it’s magical for removing layers of face makeup, and even oily-skin types who might normally shy away from an oil cleanser chime in to say that it has dramatically improved their skin “from oily, pore-gaping, and rough, to smooth, soft, supple, and squeaky clean.”
Best cleansing balm
Other Sephora shoppers who prefer the sherbet-y texture of a balm makeup remover swear by this one from Clinique. Almost everyone mentions how it gradually “melts away makeup” with no leftover residue, like one hyperbolic reviewer who says it can tackle even the most budge-proof makeup. “Glitter liner, liquid liner, and so on — just a few swipes of this stuff and it’s like it never happened!” Another, who’s a makeup artist, claims that it’s so fast-acting, it cut her nighttime skin-care routine in half. “I don’t have to rub or tug on my skin anymore. This dissolves makeup very quickly and easily.”
Best face washes for oily skin
Sephora offers a range of exfoliating face washes for combating acne, but reviewers say this OleHenriksen oil-control cleanser goes the extra mile of keeping them oil-free. There is a subgroup of dissenters who say it did absolutely nothing for their skin, but the superfans don’t hold back in their praise of its shine-reducing powers, calling it a “gift from God,” an “oily girl’s dream,” and “magic in a tube.” Even those who claim to have “the biggest pores in the world,” say it can help shrink pores, reduce blackheads, and clean up the T-zone area. One repeat user says, “I use this religiously and will purchase it until Sephora goes out of business or I die.”
Here’s another popular cleanser for oil-reduction from Boscia with overwhelming positive reviews — some entire paragraphs long. A majority mention that it works wonders at cleansing dirt and oil without drying out skin — but said not to expect it to remove makeup. And because it’s not an exfoliating scrub, some reviewers add that it’s easier to use. “It is not a deep scrubby with particles I have to make sure are all off the face, nor one I have to swirl for minutes before rinsing,” says one. Those prone to blackheads and large pores even credit the “incredible foam” for performing some delicate extractions: “I believe it literally seeps into my pores and pushes out the blackheads!”
Best face wash for dry skin
Across 2,000 reviews, dry skin types were the biggest champions of this creamy Korres’ Greek yogurt face wash, and praised it for its cleansing yet nondrying lather. One reviewer with “ridiculously dry,” eczema-prone skin describes it as “gentle, lightly but pleasantly scented, and nourishing,” as well as ideal for leaving skin “squeaky clean but not stripped.” Some reviewers warned that the dairy in it can cause breakouts, but it was mostly a hit among people with sensitive, acne-prone skin. Take it from one aesthetician who says, “My skin dries out SO easy and breaks out at the drop of a hat, but I keep coming back to this cleanser. It is truly moisturizing and super gentle, yet cleanses so deeply.”
Best face wash for sensitive skin
Reviewers with sensitive, reactive skin like to rejoice that they “have finally found the one” after trying Fresh’s soy face cleanser. The high price point was an issue for some, but many agree that a little goes a long way. The bulk of reviews note that even the most temperamental skin will take to it, like one person with reactive combination skin who says, “I have a loooooong list of ingredients I avoid and spend weeks reading reviews. This is a good, simple cleanser that won’t irritate or exacerbate any issues.” The light cucumber scent comes up a lot, too, with some considering it a form of aromatherapy. One reviewer calls it “divinity in a fresh tube” and compares it to a “cool summer breeze, gentle and never drying.”
Best face wash for acne
Here’s another popular face wash from Philosophy that acne-prone reviewers love for gently exfoliating skin and clearing up breakouts. One who has tried “literally dozens of exfoliators” sums it up as “the ONLY one that I have been able to use daily without turning my skin into sandpaper.” Most of the reviewers came to the same conclusion, which some credit to the size of the micro-particles used to exfoliate skin. One reviewer describes it has having “a slight sandiness to it — the particles are small enough to exfoliate without irritating,” and almost everyone marvels at how “smooth and soft” their skin feels afterward.
Best face wash for men
The majority of the reviews for this Jack Black cleanser were written by women who have successfully gifted it to their boyfriends and husbands, so there are variations on the same story: “I bought this for my boyfriend to get him into skin care. Surprisingly he really liked it, and has bought several bottles now.” Many men are into it, per their girlfriends, because it brightens without stripping any moisture away. And even though it’s technically billed for men, many female reviewers who buy it for someone else end up becoming converts themselves. One writes, “Ladies, you will LOVE this face wash. It took off my makeup in one wash. I’ve bought a ridiculous number of face washes through the years, but I’d never found one like this.”
Best pH-balanced face wash
And if you’re looking for something that won’t offset the pH balance of your skin, reviewers love this bar of soap from Drunk Elephant. Most reviewers had to overcome some aversion to bar soap in general, but say it ticks off all of their boxes for a gentle, nonirritating face wash that doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or fragrances. Some who have drier skin to begin with complained that the soap was super-drying and aggravating to their skin, though a typical response goes like this, “Never dry or tight, just clean and calm and very pretty.” And while Drunk Elephant also carries another pH-balanced Juju bar for cleansing, reviewers pointed out that this one tends to be better at removing makeup because it lathers up nicely.
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