The first thing many skin care specialists will tell you to do for good skin is to cleanse it every day.
Cleansing your skin helps remove makeup and environmental impurities that can clog pores and keep serums and anti-aging treatments from penetrating.
While you could splash out the big bucks for a status brand in a fancy container, why not just choose a drugstore brand for less money?
Below are 10 drugstore face wash brands that work as well — or better than — some of their overpriced cousins.
How We Chose The Best Drugstore Face Wash
You don’t want to slather just anything on the delicate skin of your face.
To make our “10 Best” list, these drugstore face washes had to be gentle, effective, and easy to use.
We didn’t want thick products loaded with caustic chemicals, and we didn’t want to have to use a special technique or applicator, either.
Essential daily skin care should be uncomplicated, so you’re more likely to stick with it every day.
Finally, while celebrity endorsements are great, celebrities aren’t skin care experts. Each of our finalists had to be dermatologist-recommended to be included on our list.
The following 10 drugstore face washes are a great example of what happens when budget meets beauty.
If you love the idea of using a product that’s natural and cruelty-free, then this cleansing oil should rank first among choices for the best drugstore face wash.
This gentle wash is 100 percent natural, with a nourishing blend of argan and coconut oils that cleanses your skin without removing moisture.
In fact, oil removes oil, so even breakout-prone skin will benefit from this cleanser.
Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil also wins the simplicity award — you don’t even need a cloth to apply it.
Just dispense a dollop from the convenient pump built in to the top into dry hands, massage into face, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.
As the most natural facial cleansing wash on our list, it richly deserves the number one spot.
If you’ve got sensitive skin, you know that harsh cleansers can be dry and irritating.
People with sensitive skin often discover it hard to find a face wash that doesn’t turn their face red or cause it to feel taut, dry, or itchy.
But Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser will gently remove the dirt, grime, oil, and makeup from your pores without stripping your skin of moisture.
A dermatologist-derived formula means it’s no surprise that many dermatologists recommend it to patients embarking on a skin-care regimen.
Using Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser, even on a twice-daily basis, will leave your skin feeling refreshed and clean, without irritating redness.
Another brand that’s been created in association with dermatologists, CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is a triple-action facewash that’s available at nearly every local drugstore.
Using three ceramides, which a part of your healthy skin’s natural protective barrier, CeraVe not only cleanses, but hydrates and restores.
With the addition of hyaluronic acid, a substance proven to improve skin hydration, this gentle cleanser packs a powerful beauty punch.
It features a unique delivery system called MultiVesicular Emulsion (MVE) that delivers skin-nourishing ingredients to your face over time, to keep skin hydrated and protected.
CeraVe is a L'Oréal brand. According to L'Oréal’s website, the company no longer tests any ingredients or cosmetics on animals.
In particular, they have partnered with China in recent years to help that country abolish animal testing. Since 2014, there have been no face washes manufactured in China that are tested on animals, due to the active assistance of L'Oréal.
Ah, the wonders of micellar water!
Cleansing molecules called micelles attract impurities, oils, and dirt like a magnet, so you never have to rub or scrub at your skin.
Garnier Waterproof Micellar Cleansing Water can remove all makeup — even the stubborn waterproof variety — without water.
And those longwearing makeup brands? Gone in a swipe with just a dab of Garnier’s micellar formula —just wipe on the Cleansing Water and wipe off the makeup!
Garnier Waterproof Micellar Cleansing Water is made for all types of skin, although Garnier also sells some specialty micellar cleansers for specific skin types, if your skin needs a further boost.
Garnier Micellar Water is silicon-, paraben-, sulfate-, and fragrance-free for maximum gentleness.
It soothes, cleanses, and refreshes, all without water. This makes it the perfect go-to when you know you’ll need to cleanse on-the-go, like between the office and a dinner out.
It’s also great to take on travel, especially in places where the water source may be suspect, or on a plane, where you may not have the luxury of water to wash with.
Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, a gentle face wash developed by dermatologists, is a low-lathering formula that removes oil, dirt, impurities, and even makeup without drying.
It rinses clean, making facial residue a thing of the past and leaving you feeling fresh, not tight.
Cetaphil‘s blend of mild, safe ingredients are formulated to clean without drying and it really works — making it a top choice for dermatologists whose patients want a low-cost, high-powered product.
Oil and dirt are removed by Cetaphil’s mild surfactants, while other ingredients — like cetyl alcohol — help slowly evaporate any product left behind.
Unscented, noncomodogenic, and hypoallergenic, this formula is safe for daily use — no matter what your skin type.
Dove Soap, “With a quarter cup moisturizing cream,” has been a leader in soft skin care for decades — and with good reason.
The company’s unscented, hypoallergenic formula is gentle on sensitive skin, and leaves even redness-prone skin looking smoother and more radiant.
And if you love the old-school feel of bar soap by don’t like the dry feeling it leaves on your face, Dove’s proprietary formula is one that won’t dry your skin out. In fact, it’s gentle enough to use twice daily.
Plus, it’s the #1 recommended brand of dermatologists, so you can’t go wrong.
Just make sure to take a few extra steps to keep your bar of soap free from germs:
- Rinse the lather off the bar after using
- Store the soap out of water
- Don’t share facial soap — or any soap for that matter
It’s a small price to pay for the old-fashioned luxury of a simple bar of soap that will leave your face feeling smooth and fresh.
Purpose Gentle Cleaning Wash can clean your skin without irritating or drying it because it’s 100 percent soap-free.
It’s also fully oil-free as well, so doesn’t block pores or leave behind a greasy residue.
This brand is also dermatologist-recommended as an effective, hypoallergenic cleaner that’s ideal for any type of skin — from normal to oily and dry to sensitive.
As kind to your skin as plain water, this cleansing wash can be used twice a day to remove dirt, oils, and makeup.
The oil-free formula is good for those who prefer a lighter, less hydrating wash.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Cream Facial Cleanser is a favorite of dermatologist Dr. Yelena Yeretsky — and others — to conquer breakouts.
Gentle yet effective salicylic acid boosts away dirt and oil while Neutrogena’s new MicroClear Technology delivers this acid where it will work best — deep within your skin.
With the clean scent of natural grapefruit and a splash of vitamin C to boost cell turnover, this refreshing scrub will lather away blemishes, blackheads, dirt and oil for clear, glowing skin.
As always, Neutrogena tops the list of dermatologist-recommended skin care brands.
It’s fragrance free and non-stripping so your skin will stay hydrated, even if you cleanse twice a day.
In fact, even dry or sensitive skin responds to the gentle effectiveness of Eucerin Gentle Hydrating Cleanser.
Its rich, moisture-filled lather rinses away completely, so there’s no soap residue to clog pores or dull your complexion.
This cleanser, from a dermatologist-recommended national brand, is also non-comedogenic and soap-free.
Dr. Jeanine B. Downie told Today that Aveeno’s brightening cleanser helped even out her clients’ skin tones and clear up breakouts.
Aveeno ads soy to their formula to tackle discoloration and blotchy skin. They found an inventive way to retain soy proteins through processing to provide long-term benefits to your skin.
The moisture in the Soy Complex in the Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser will help make uneven, dull skin visibly brighter.
In addition, the formula is safe, gentle, and non-irritating.
What Should You Look For In A Face Wash?
Now you’ve seen what the experts’ choices — but what about when new products come out? You can wait for the reviews, or you can take a chance with one right off the shelf.
Picking the Best Drugstore Face Wash on Your Own
When choosing a face wash, Houston dermatologist Sherry Ingraham says you should watch out for a phenomenon she terms “After Wash Tightness.”
That feeling of stretched, taut skin after using a cleanser means your skin’s natural barrier of lipid — fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides — has been disrupted.
A good cleanser will have your skin feeling refreshed, not dry.
All cleansers should be non-comedogenic, but if you have sensitive skin you might want to make sure there’s no parabens or fragrance, and that the formula is hypoallergenic as well.
If you’re concerned about animal cruelty, you can search for cruelty-free companies at PETA’s website, or look for a cruelty-free disclaimer on your cleanser.
Of course, if you’re still worried about making a poor choice, you can always go with the brands that dermatologists recommend most often, including:
Even better, ask your dermatologist what he or she recommends from the drug store shelf.
Dermatologists don’t just advocate the high-end brands — they know their clients are budget-conscious and they also know some of the simplest brands are the best for your skin.
Go Ahead, Get Radiant Skin!
You’ve got all the information you need to make an educated choice among the many options for face washes.
Remember, the best drugstore face wash will be the one that makes your skin feel soft, smooth, and hydrated.
It will not give you a dry or tight feeling and it will be gentle and safe for the most sensitive skins.
So, turn over a new leaf in your skin care regimen — choose a drugstore face wash and save money, while enjoying the most radiant complexion ever!