Cleanser or face wash, which is better?

This article is a look at the difference between face cleansers and face washes.

They may be used in the same way but they aren’t the same thing.

This article shows how they are different and answers the question “cleanser or face wash which is better?”

There are so many skincare products on the market. Trying to figure out what’s worth using can be a challenge.

But as long as you know what your skin needs and how it reacts to products you’ll be ok

Cleanser or face wash, which is better?

What does a face wash do to your face?

Face washes are products that are designed to clean your skin.

If you’re looking for a soap replacement than this is probably the first thing you’d naturally gravitate towards.

Face washes give the skin a refreshed feeling. They have a gel consistency and they usually contains sulphates which are responsible for creating foam and lather.

This foam and lather clean and breaks down oils, dirt and makeup from your face.

Note: if the product has too many sulphates it can wind up stripping the natural oils off of your skin.

If you have oily or combination skin then it is recommended that you use face washes. This is because face washes can cut through the excess sebum on your skin and they also mattify the skin.

Face washes offer more of an aggressive clean than cleansers.

What does a cleanser do to your face?

Cleansers are also products that are designed to clean your skin.

They can remove both makeup and any dirt that might have collected on your face throughout the day. They are just as effective as any face wash, just more gentle.

If you have dry, normal or sensitive skin then you should use a cleanser.

The consistency of a cleanser is similar to a lotion and they are usually a milky white colour.

Most cleansers are a non-foaming, the formula will have less or no sulphates so the product won’t dry out your skin.

This cleanser is well-loved and widely used.


Different skin types have different needs.

Both of these products do the job of cleaning the face.

The difference between the two is that facial cleansers use sulphates to clean and degrease and cleansers use oils or sugar-based cleaning agents to eliminate bacteria and dirt on your skin.

Face washes can be harsher and stripping on the face if you have dry or normal skin and cleansers may not remove all the excess oil on your face if you have oily or combination skin.

Can I use both face wash and cleanser?

You shouldn’t use both a face wash and a cleanser in the same skincare routine one after the other.

The products do the same thing. If used together this can lead to you over-washing your face (read more about that here).

You can alternate between the two if you choose to. If your skin can handle it I suggest you use the face wash more frequently to really get all the dirt and grime off of the face.

The cleanser can be used when your face needs a break from the face wash and needs something gentler.

How do I cleanse my face?

  1. Before you touch your face you need to wash your hands. Our hands come in contact with dirt, debris and oils as we use them throughout the day. If you don’t wash your hands before you touch your face you will transfer all that dirt onto your  face
  2. Rise your face with lukewarm water, lukewarm water is the perfect temperature to use on your face. Do not use hot water on your face as this can be damaging to your skin (read more here).
  3. Apply the facial cleanser or face wash on your face and massage into your skin in circular motions. Massage the product into your skin for 1 minute, this will allow the product to properly penetrate your skin.
  4. After this, you can rinse the product off of your face
  5. Use a toner on your face to balance the ph of your skin then use your serum, treatments and moisturisers. Apply the products from heaviest to lightest

If you’re wearing makeup you need to use an oil-based cleanser before you dampen your face, this is a great oil-based cleanser you can use.

Oil-based cleansers work off of the principle that “like dissolves like” making an oil-based cleanser the best to remove your make up.

These types of cleaners will break up your makeup, (even the waterproof make up) and will emulsify as you rinse your face taking the makeup with it. Read more about oil cleansing here.

Is it good to use face wash daily?

Yes and no. There are many factors that you need to consider if you want to use face wash daily:

Skin type: If you have oily or combination skin you can get away with using a face wash daily but if you have normal or dry skin it will be a better idea to use a cleanser daily.

If you have dry or normal skin your skin doesn’t produce that much sebum so it will dry out faster.

Using a face wash on dry skin can give you irritated and cracked skin in the worst-case scenario.

If you have oily or combination skin and your skin is producing sebum in excess you’ll need to wash off the excess sebum to avoid looking greasy and getting blemishes.

Using a face wash daily will remove the excess oils off of your face.

If you want to use face wash daily make sure it’s well suited for your skin and listen to your skin if it reacts badly to the face wash.

Lifestyle: If you don’t lead an active lifestyle where you’re sweating from exercise on a regular basis then you don’t need to wash your face daily.

If you sweat a lot from exercise you need to clean your skin after you work out.

Makeup: If you wear makeup you need to wash your face every day, makeup has ingredients that will clog your pores and age you if you don’t wash it off.

In addition, if you sleep in your make up it can wreak havoc on your skin.

Genetics: Some people can get away with pretty much using any product to wash their face.

Genetics plays a role in how your face responds to products. If you’re lucky you can use face wash daily without your skin drying out.

Cleanser or face wash

Can I use face wash 3 times a day?

If you’re trying to get rid of acne or are just trying to keep a clean face then you may be tempted to wash your face multiple times a day but washing your face too often can do more harm than good.

Washing your face 3 times or more a day can lead to you over-washing your face. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing and that includes washing your face

Over-washing your face can damage your skins moisture barrier.

The moisture barrier is a lipid layer on your face that protects the skin from external irritants. If it is damaged you can develop holes in your skin where pollutants, external irritants and products can enter and irritate your skin.

This can lead to acne, dry skin and sensitive skin

If you want to keep your face clean but don’t want to over wash then alternate between washing and wiping down your face. Don’t wash your face before you work out, wash only after.

If you’ve cleansed your face well at night you don’t have to wash your face in the morning, you can use rose water to wipe your face down. This rose water works well

Why should you not wash your face in the shower?

You should not wash your face in the shower because the hot water that we shower in can dry out your skin.

Generally, the temperatures that we shower in are hotter than the temperatures we use to wash our faces in.

The skin on your body is also less sensitive to temperatures when compared to the skin on your face.

If you wash your face in the shower you have a higher risk stripping the natural oils off of your face and drying your skin out and even damaging your skins natural moisture barrier.

In addition, you may want to splash your face with some cold water after you cleanse your face. This is good to improve circulation.

But you probably don’t want to splash your whole body with cold water. That’s why it’s important to not wash your face in the shower.

Should I wash my face in the morning or at night?

The best time to wash face is at night. During the day our skin is exposed to the outside world. 

Any pollutants, external irritants, debris and dirt in the air will attach itself to the sebum on your face (sebum is the natural oil that the skin produces to  moisturise itself.)

You should wash this all off at night before your sleep

Washing your face at this time ensures that you don’t sleep with this gunk on your face for 8 hours. If you don’t wash it off you can also transfer this dirt, bacteria and debris onto your pillow.

If this happens your pillow can become a hotbed for dirt, bacteria and fungus. The more you sleep on this dirty pillow the worse your skin will get

The skin works the hardest at night (read more about it here). It rejuvenates itself and creates new skin cells to replace the older dead skin cells.

Washing your face at night will ensure your skin is at the optimum condition to do its job the best it can.

In addition, your nightly moisturisers, serums, essences and anything else you use will do wonders at night for the rejuvenation process.

Can I wash my face with just water?

Some people can wash their face with just water.

We generally use too many products anyway and these can irritate our skin, and some are too harsh on our skin.

Using only water to wash your face can actually help in avoiding dry skin. (read more about it here)

When you cut out other facial products and only use water your skin can regulate the oil levels on your face and won’t be dried out by other products.

I don’t recommend cutting products out entirely but using water only every second or third day will do your skin good.

Note: if you exercise often of you live in hot climates and sweat a lot then you may need to wash your face more often.

I hope you enjoyed this article looking at which is better between a cleanser and a face wash. If you enjoyed the article please share it.

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