Looking for the Best Face Wash? 17 Vogue Editors Weigh In on Their Favorites

Many would say washing your face is the most important part of a skin-care routine. Now the quest to find the best face wash is even more imperative: Our vital, necessary use of face masks has led to an uptick in maskne and other irritations.

From dermatologist Carlos A. Charles’s perspective, it’s most important to find a cleanser that removes buildup, dirt, makeup, and other unwanted particles from the face without damaging the skin’s protective barrier. The founder and medical director of Derma di Colore recommends three go-to cleansers to clients: Jurlique Revitalizing Cleansing Gel because it “thoroughly cleanses the skin and leaves it feeling fresh without overdrying or stripping the skin,” and does so without parabens, polyethylene glycols, or artificial fragrances and colors; Ren Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel, as it cleans without being rough on the skin; and, lastly, CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser. “It removes impurities from the skin delicately and works well for those with the most sensitive skin. Also, it’s a good choice when starting a prescription-strength acne or anti-aging regimen,” Charles notes.

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Buy at Dermstore $15

Jurlique Revitalizing Cleansing Gel

Buy on Amazon $34

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Gel

Buy on their website $32

And while doctors certainly know best, everyone’s skin is different (and cleansers tend to elicit strong feelings), so we asked Vogue staffers to share their favorites in the hopes of making your search for the best face wash a little bit easier.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser

Buy at Nordstrom $22

“I got this cleanser as a gift three years ago and haven’t gone back to whatever I used to use since! I have combination skin, so the biggest thing for me was to find a cleanser that doesn’t strip my face too harshly, which this one definitely doesn’t. It’s gentle, and leaves my skin feeling clean and naturally moist.”

RMS Beauty Raw Coconut Cream

Buy at Nordstrom $18

“I love oil cleansers, and RMS’s raw coconut cream is one I always go back to. It doesn’t strip your skin like a traditional face wash, so I don’t feel like I need to immediately layer on serums and moisturizers after I rinse it off. I’ve been trying to simplify my routine as much as possible during quarantine, so this has been key!”

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

Buy at Sephora $38

“I love this lightweight, fresh-scented gel cleanser. Not only is it gentle enough to use every day on my skin, but it leaves it feeling hydrated and refreshed each and every time. Plus, its compact size makes it easy to pack during weekend getaways.”

Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel 

Buy at Dermstore $38

“When I told Follain founder Tara Foley that I hadn’t yet found the right natural face wash, she steered me toward Naturopathica’s Aloe Cleansing Gel. I now use it every night, and it leaves my face feeling clear without any of the tightness or dryness that I’ve experienced with other cleansers. I also find I don’t need to use much for it to be effectively cleansing and hydrating, which means the five-ounce bottle has lasted me many months (a win on the less-waste front).”

Grown Alchemist Hydra-Restore Cream Cleanser

Buy at ULTA $49

“There are many reasons why I love this face wash: It’s gentle and hydrating on my sensitive skin, it looks pretty on my countertop, and it smells good too.”

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Buy at Bed Bath & Beyond $11

“For a splurge, I love to indulge in a cream face wash from Biologique Recherche or Joëlle Ciocco. But really, in my opinion, there is nothing better than a bottle of Cetaphil—it’s plain and simple.”

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Facial Cleansing Gel

Buy at ULTA $12

“I’m a drugstore enthusiast when it comes to basic facial care. My skin is very sensitive and I found that this is one of the only cleansers that truly caters to my skin type. Because it’s hypoallergenic, I felt confident in giving it a chance, and I haven’t looked back since. My face is always left feeling refreshed and under control.”

Eve Lom Cleanser

Buy at Dermstore $135

“I am sorry to inform you that this Eve Lom Cleanser is worth every penny. Never in my life would I think I’d be someone to pay $80 on a facial cleanser, but I am. Because of the price, I use it sparingly, but it always makes my skin look and feel much better. I love the ritual of putting it on and taking it off by using a muslin cloth that’s been soaked in warm water. Plus, you can’t beat that clean smell.” 

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser

Buy at ULTA $25

“I’ve used this face wash since high school—thank you to my local Sephora for the introduction! Despite trying posh, highbrow cleansers and drugstore staples, I’ve found that the Philosophy wash is the only one that leaves my skin feeling and looking fresh.”

Neutrogena The Transparent Facial Bar

Buy on Amazon $5

“I use Neutrogena’s Transparent Facial Bar. It’s like a tried-and-true wardrobe classic but for cleansers, maybe comparable to the turtleneck of skin-washing regimes. I’ve been using it since high school. The crisp bar, which comes in a hue of honey, lasts forever, and is under $5. How can you go wrong?”

Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm

Buy at Dermstore $62

“My favorite face wash is more of a balm. Made from manuka honey, this Naturopathica cleaner cleans effectively and without drying out my face. You can also apply it with a little brush that feels supernice on the face and, I think, gives me a little extra exfoliation bang for my buck. This is definitely a hero product for me and one of the most natural but effective cleansers I’ve found in my clean beauty searches. Plus, it smells so amazing you almost don’t want to wash it off.”

Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser 

Buy at Dermstore $20

“I am very picky about face washes because I have extremely sensitive skin (eczema, rosacea, you name it!), and this has been my favorite cleanser for a year now. Once something lasts in my skin-care routine for more than a few months, it’s going to stay there forever. I love the consistency of this cleanser; it’s gel-like but not sticky, and so soothing, always leaving my skin feeling so clean!”

Lesse Refining Cleanser

Buy at CAP Beauty $55

“I swear by Eve Lom’s cleanser (a classic for a reason!), but for an extra-deep clean I always go to Lesse’s all-natural scrub, which contains ultrafine apricot granules to gentlyexfoliate the skin—a must after long beach days (and lots of sunscreen). Plus, the charcoal-blue-colored formula is just about as pretty as they come.”

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash

Buy at Dermstore $62

“There are very few constants in my skin-care routine, but the one product I will always go back to is Dermalogica’s Clearing Skin Wash. I can try other cleansers, but this is the one that I repeatedly purchase and always have on hand (I own the largest possible size and keep travel versions at my parents’ house just in case). My skin tends to be oily, but this saves me from needing a thousand blotting papers.”

Tatcha The Rice Wash Skin-Softening Cleanser

Buy at Sephora $35

“Tatcha was the first skin-care brand I splurged on growing up; the brand’s infamous inclusion of milky rice water brings an extra boost of moisture to my otherwise dry, and at times, flaky skin. The gentle texture combined with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and Okinawa algae (known to plump and lock in moisture), leaves my skin feeling supple and bouncy every morning.”

Epi Logic True Calm Rosehip Gel Cleanser

Buy at Brooklyn Face & Eye $40

“All I can say is God bless Chaneve Jeanniton and every product in the Epi.Logic line! Chaneve created this face wash to soothe sensitive skin, and since using it, I never have to worry about my skin getting irritated while washing my face in the morning!”

Chantecaille Pure Rosewater

Buy at Nordstrom $32-74

“This is not necessarily a face wash, but I’ve been loving Chantecaille’s rosewater spray. It leaves me looking dewy and is naturally perfumed with a faint floribunda smell. Plus, it comes in the prettiest packaging designed by tastemaker extraordinaire John Derian. I spritz my face liberally each night with it so it might as well be a wash!”

VOGUE article

“Maskne” Is a Thing — Here’s How to Fight Face Mask Breakouts

So, you made (or bought) your own face mask and have been diligently wearing it for the past few months. Now, out of the blue, you’re experiencing breakouts in strange new spots.

You’re likely dealing with “maskne“, the latest not-so-fun term to enter the coronavirus lexicon.

While it was primarily healthcare workers experiencing mask-induced breakouts and skin irritation at the beginning of the pandemic, now that masks are becoming a part of everyday life for the rest of us, dermatologists are being bombarded with (virtual) appointments for this skin woe, explains New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. And unfortunately, the warm weather we’ve all been waiting for is only making matters worse.

So you’re not alone in your skincare struggles… but how do you treat these breakouts, and prevent them from happening in the first place? Here, derms break down everything you need to know about maskne.

What exactly is ‘maskne’ — and what causes it?

As the name suggests, “maskne” is acne brought on by wearing a face mask — and its been on derms’ radar long before COVID-19. “We saw similar skin concerns with mask use during the SARS crisis years ago,” says New York City dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D.

“The clinical term for maskne is acne mechanic and it is caused by friction, rubbing, and occlusion of the skin by outside forces,” she explains. (You may have even experienced this from wearing sunglasses in the sweaty summer months.)

“Any friction and irritation can push bacteria into the skin, creating micro-tears — which allow easier entry for bacteria and dirt — and can lead to inflammation which then drives the acne process,” explains dermatologist Tiffany J. Libby, M.D, assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University.

You’ll notice these breakouts where the mask sits — the bridge of the nose, chin, and cheeks — and they make take the form of whiteheads, blackheads (if oxidized by the air), or even abrasions and cysts, Dr. Engelman says. “Masks can also trigger rosacea, perioral dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and skin breakdown,” Dr. Henry adds.

While masks already trap humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat on a good day, our chin, mouth, and nose area are even more susceptible to breakouts now that summer is here. “Maskne is absolutely worse during the summer months as the increased oil production in our pores creates the ideal environment for cysts,” Dr. Henry says.

How can you prevent and treat maskne?

While any form of acne is frustrating, maskne can be particularly pesky due to the combination of factors that contribute to it — and the fact that you can’t simply eliminate the ‘outside force’ causing it. (Seriously, keep wearing your mask!) Luckily, you can make a few adjustments to your skincare routine to combat mask breakouts, soothe irritation, and stop the vicious maskne cycle.

Wash your face before and after wearing a face mask.

Hopefully, you’re taking the time to diligently wash your hands throughout the day — and avoiding touching your face as much as possible. But you should also be sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser before applying a mask to prevent trapping bacteria under the mask and pushing it further into your skin, Dr. Engelman says.

“I recommend starting with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser once a day to target bacteria and remove excess oil,” Dr. Libby says. “I love Differin Daily Deep Cleanser which has 5% benzoyl peroxide, which is just as effective as [higher concentrations], and gentler.”

For healthcare workers on the frontline wearing the tightest-fitting masks for many hours of the day, a combination of “maskne” and eczema (which can occur in the forms of irritant or allergic contact dermatitis) is common, and can manifest as dry, itchy skin, Dr. Libby says. If you are experiencing both of these conditions, it’s important to immediately cleanse your skin after removing your mask and to use a cleanser that won’t over-dry or stripping your skin, which can worsen irritation.

Both derms recommend Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which can also be used without water. If you have irritated or sensitive skin, gently swipe a cotton round with the cleanser over your skin, Dr. Libby suggests.

Use a chemical exfoliant.

While benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatments can help target whiteheads once they are formed, chemical exfoliants, which dissolve dead cells on the skin’s surface, are key for preventing mask breakouts from forming in the first place, Dr. Engelman says.

She suggests opting for one with salicylic acid, like Humane Clarifying Toner, once per week to unclog pores, without irritating sensitive skin. (It’ll also leave skin softer and brighter in the process.)

Apply a skin-soothing moisturizer.

After cleansing, be sure to add moisture back into the skin — but skip your heavy winter creams. “I suggest a gentle, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer like Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion,which is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help hydrate, soothe, and restore the skin protective barrier,” Dr. Libby says.

“I recommend moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help strengthen and reinforce the skin barrier,” Dr. Henry adds.

For healthcare workers or those experiencing extra dryness and eczema, applying an OTC cortizone cream on a short-term basis is helpful in alleviating skin irritation and calming down inflammation, Dr. Libby says.

Ditch your foundation.

Dr. Engelman suggests ditching heavy foundations as we head into warmer months, which will only further trap bacteria in your pores under your mask — the perfect storm for acne.

Instead, opt for a tinted moisturizer, or tinted sunscreen for breakout-friendly SPF protection, like IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream SPF 40.

But don’t forget the SPF.

If you’re forgoing makeup altogether, you still need to apply sunscreen. “Even though our faces will be mostly covered by masks, other areas are still exposed, so it’s best to just apply an even layer of SPF as the finishing step to your morning routine,” Dr. Libby says. (And FYI, you need to wear sunscreen indoors, too).

Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free options as they work to decrease excess oil that can clog pores and lead to acne. “I like mineral options, as zinc oxide is an anti-irritant and has antimicrobial properties, both which are suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin types,” she adds.

Or, swap your moisturizer for one with SPF. Dr. Henry suggests Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 25. “It’s a great non-comedogenic option for your daily moisturizer with sunscreen that won’t clog your pores.”

Add a soothing, occlusive balm.

If you’re already dealing with maskne, creating a physical barrier to protect this chapped skin is key. Layer on a hydrating and occlusive balm, like Glo Skin Beauty Barrier Balm, along the area where the masks sits right before you put it on, Dr. Engelman says. This will not only soothe parched skin, but it will prevent bacteria from spreading, she adds.

Or, opt for pimple patches.

Another physical barrier Dr. Libby suggests is silicone tape or Duoderm ($24; amazon.com), again applied to skin where the mask contacts your face and applies the most friction. “Acne patches, like COSRX, are another dual-functioning solution as they apply acne medication to individual lesions throughout the day, while also serving as a physical barrier to the mask,” she says.

And don’t forget to wash your fabric mask every time you wear it.

If you’re wearing a fabric face mask, you should be washing it after every. single. time. you wear it. This is important for your health: You don’t know what bacteria the mask has come in contact with and don’t want germs making their way into your nose or mouth. But it’s also helpful for keeping breakouts at bay.

Bottom line: “Masks, while important for our safety, can trap in humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat and — if you’re not cleaning them properly or reusing them for prolonged periods of time — this can further exacerbate these symptoms,” Dr. Libby says.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to make or buy a few masks (ideally in a softer fabric, like a silk blend, to reduce friction) so you can easily switch them out and wash them in between uses, Dr. Engelman says. Another option? A mask with the aforementioned zinc oxide embedded in the fabric may be helpful, Dr. Henry adds. “Zinc is anti-inflammatory and soothing to the skin. It will contribute to protecting the skin barrier.”

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