20 Best Face Wash for Sensitive Skin (2019 Dermatologist Recommended)

Updated 5 years ago

What’s the best way to wash your face if you have sensitive skin? What works for you might not work for the next person. It may depend on a few factors, like whether you have oily skin, dry skin, combination skin, or a skin disorder. It may depend on whether you wear makeup or take acne medications. To find the perfect face wash, you have to consider its ingredients.

When you select a new face cleanser, avoid alcohols because they will dry out your face. Choose something light and water-based that you can rinse away. Foaming washes are a good choice for acne-prone skin. If you have problems with clogged pores and blackheads, look for cleansers that contain salicylic or glycolic acid to exfoliate dead cells.

Don’t try to strip away all the excess oil by scrubbing your face with harsh products. It will only speed up oil production if you irritate your skin. Instead, be patient for a new product to do its work. Wash twice a day to keep excess oil under control.

The Top 20 Face Washes for Sensitive Skin

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

This popular oil-free, non-pore clogging cleanser is a go-to wash for sensitive skin sufferers.  Formulated without harsh detergents nor chemical irritants such as dyes, fragrance, formaldehyde, lanolin, and paraben, this cleanser still effectively removes dirt, oil, and make up, without stripping the skin of essential moisture. It is highly rated by those with sensitive skin for calming inflammation and even breakouts! Reviewers who suffer from eczema and dermatitis particularly swear by this product’s compatibility with their skin.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

Infused with ingredients such as Prebiotic Thermal Water, lipid-replensishing Ceramide-3, soothing Niacinamide and moisturizing Glycerin, this cream cleanser helps restore and retain skin moisture as it gently cleanses. Formulated by La Roche-Posay’s with their stringent clinical testing, this cleanser is trusted by dermatologists all over for its purity from irritating soap, sulfate, oils, and fragrance that aggravate sensitive skin. Reviewers compare this non-foaming cleanser to Cetaphil and Cerave but goes further to say it works better in removing make-up that even acne sufferers love.

First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser

A whipped texture gentle cleanser that effectively removes dirt and make up and still keeping it supple, First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser’s claim to fame are their products are all allergy and safety-in-use to ensure safety on sensitive skin. It contains such caring ingredients as Aloe  and Allantoin to soothe the skin, Glycerin that acts as moisture sealer, and their own Fab Antioxidant Booster which combines Licorice Root, Feverfew and White Tea extracts to defend the skin against aggressors. Some customers who love this cleanser even call this a holy grail for their combination skin – addressing their variety of skin conditions: dryness, oiliness, blemishes, and acne.

Eucerin Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

Reviewers love Eucerin’s lathering but easy-rinse formula that gently cleanses the skin without over-drying This soap-free, fragrance-free, and non-pore clogging cleanser has been a staple for many who suffer from inflamed skin who find this cleanser is able to address combination issues of dryness, inflammation, and even acne breakouts. People in particular mention how soft and plump this leaves their skin with consistent use, sans the oiliness, and without breaking the bank with its excellent price point!

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

The National Eczema Association recommends CeraVe Foaming Face Cleanser to people suffering with skin disorders. It contains hyaluronic acid to moisturize, niacinamide (Vitamin B3) to reduce redness, and ceramides to help your skin protect itself.

Since it moisturizes as it cleans, your skin won’t feel the need to overproduce oil. Many users report that their skin feels very clean, but a little stiff, after they use it. It’s not a bad idea to apply moisturizer after you rinse and dry your skin.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Cleanser is made for all skin types and people of all ages. It’s hypo-allergenic, non-comedogenic, and has no scent. In other words, buy this in the bulk so the whole family can enjoy it.

Besides acne, people suffering with psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema have reported success using the Gentle Skin Cleanser. It moisturizes, but doesn’t strip off all the skin’s natural oil. It can remove makeup and dirt. And one last thing—you can use it without water. It doesn’t have to be rinsed.

Christina Moss Naturals Organic Facial Wash

Users have noticed that using the Christina Moss Naturals Organic Facial Wash makes their skin feel very clean and soft. Some have commented that their pores seem smaller and they have fewer breakouts.

The formula avoids all the irritants like SLS, SLES, parabens, petroleum derivatives, sulfates, dyes, and synthetic fragrances. Instead, it contains coconut oil, olive fruit oil, sunflower seed oil, aloe vera juice, shea butter, and rosemary.

COSRX Low pH Good Morning Cleanser

This K-Beauty gel cleanser is hyped by many, and for good reason, for being a sensational pH-balancing through its weak acid formula (pH 5-6), naturally formulated cleanser that doesn’t dry up the skin and is mild enough for every day use. It contains tea tree oil to control oil and tighten pores, natural BHA for exfoliation, and is well-liked by people who suffer from sensitive, dry skin that get tight, chapped or irritated easily for its ability to keep the face moist all day.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Water

Bioderma’s Sensibio H20 Water is a Micellar formula designed for users with sensitive skin. It’s not the drugstore variety—this particular non-prescription brand is sold in pharmacies in Europe, not in places like Target or Walmart.

If you plan to remove water-resistant makeup, soak a pad and press it to the area you want to clean for 20 to 30 seconds to help dissolve the makeup. Otherwise, you can simply wipe your face with the cotton pad and you’re done. Some users don’t even bother with moisturizer afterward because their skin is that soft.

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water

The Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water is safe to use on your eyes and lips, as well as the rest of your face. It has no fragrance and no alcohol.

Garnier says the method for using it is, “Pour, Press, Proof.” That translates into putting it on a cotton pad, pressing it against your skin, then wiping gently. They say the Micelle technology attracts dirt and makeup like a magnet, lifting it from your skin. You’ll see the proof on the cotton pad. Since it’s water-based, your skin will feel refreshed and light after using it.

Amara Organics Facial Cleanser with 15% Vitamin C

Amara Organics Facial Cleanser with 15% Vitamin C removes waterproof mascara. That’s what satisfied customers users are saying. They say it makes their skin feel soft, too.

If you choose the Amara Organics cleanser, you’ll notice that it doesn’t lather up much because it doesn’t have sulfates in its formula. (Yes, those sulfates—SLS, the skin irritant.) It doesn’t have parabens, dyes, or artificial fragrances either. It’s vegan and cruelty-free.

The main ingredients are aloe, rosehip oil, and the tea tree (Melalueca) oil that gives it a little tingle. If you have especially sensitive skin, it might be a bit much for you. Amara Organics offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you’re not delighted.

Era Organics Natural Face Wash Moisturizing Facial Cleanser with Organic Aloe Vera & Manuka Honey for Dry, Oily, Damaged, Sensitive Skin

Era Organic’s Natural Face Wash doesn’t disrupt your skin’s pH balance like some cleansers do. Instead, the vitamin-packed formula lifts away oil and grime to leave skin soft and toned. It’s enriched with aloe vera and Manuka honey to soothe and heal irritated skin.

The ingredient list does not include parabens, sulfates, or fragrances so it’s safe for most people with sensitive skin. Individuals who say they suffer from acne have reported positive results with clearer skin and fewer breakouts.

Dermalogica Ultra Calming Cleanser

Reviewers love this pH-balanced, fragrance-free cleanser that contains naturally calming ingredients such as cucumber and oats. Despite its non-foaming texture, it deeply cleans the skin but does not leave it dry, and even oily skin, blotchiness, and rosacea sufferers praise this product for helping manage their skin conditions really well.

Bioderma Sebium Foaming Gel Pump

From the same company that makes the Sensibio H20 Water comes this Foaming Gel face wash. While you may love Micellar water, it may not be enough for you if you have oily skin. So combine it with this product to control the production of sebum, the “oil” on your face. Sebium Gel has two uncommon ingredients: zinc sulfate and copper sulphate. These purify skin and may be linked to skin healing faster. (These are not the infamous sulfates you should be avoiding in personal care products. Those are SLS, or Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, a known skin irritant found in shampoos, etc.)

Another unique feature of Bioderma’s Sebium Gel is that you can use it as a foam for shaving. That’s really convenient when you’re traveling.

Simple Kind to Skin Facial Cleanser

Simple is a brand from the United Kingdom that’s been around since the 1960s. Their Kind to Skin Facial Cleanser is designed to remove makeup and grime while moisturizing your face. It contains Vitamin B5, chamomile, glycerin, and geranium, all nutrients to that end. There are no synthetic perfumes or dyes, but it does contain Methylisothiazolinone, which can be an irritant to sensitive skin. On the bright side, it’s the last in the list, so it’s probably a small portion of the entire formula.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash

Beauty sites like it and dermatologists recommend it. Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Acne Wash uses the power of salicylic acid to clear up acne, clear out pores, and get rid of dead skin. It also includes aloe and chamomile soothe skin.

Although Neutrogena says you can use it morning and night, it may be too drying if you already have dry, irritated skin or use acne medications. Consider using it only at night, or every other day.

Mustela Gentle Cleansing Body Gel

Yes, it’s a body wash—for babies. Which means it’s safe for your face, too. Mustela’s formula is free of parabens, phthalates, and Phenoxyethanol so it’s non-irritating to skin. Ninety percent of the ingredients are derived from plants, and it’s enriched with Vitamin B5.

SAL3 Cleansing Bar - 3% Salicylic Acid, 10% Sulfur from Braunfels Labs

Who knew you could use sulfur to wash your face? The SAL3 Cleansing Bar from Braunfels Labs contains 3% salicylic acid, the strongest concentration you can buy in a cleanser. It also contains 10% sulfur which is a strong weapon against the bacteria that causes acne.

While sulfur may bring to mind the smell of rotten eggs, don’t turn up your nose at this soap yet. It doesn’t actually stink, plus sulfur doesn’t dry skin like benzoyl peroxide, which makes it safer for sensitive faces.

You can use this cleanser bar on just your face or any part of your body to attack acne. Use a washcloth for extra exfoliating action. Rinse well afterward. Then definitely use a moisturizer after drying off your skin.

AHAVA Dead Sea Purifying Mud Soap

Dead Sea mud is good at removing impurities from skin. If you’re not a fan of face washes in pump-top bottles or the slight scent of sulfur, try this bar of Purifying Mud Soap. Users report that it clears up their face and body acne and leaves their skin feeling soft, but not dried-out or stiff.

CLINIQUE Take The Day Off Micellar Cleansing Towelettes for Face & Eyes

Forget soaking cotton pads with Micellar water, use these pre-moistened wipes from Clinique instead. They aren’t designed to replace a regular face care regimen, but are super handy for using on the go.

Oils in my face wash?

You may have noticed that some of these face washes include oils. How can oils be beneficial for skin if you’re suffering from clogged pores or too much sebum already?

Plant-derived oils like coconut, olive, sunflower, and jojoba are beneficial to skin. They can help dissolve makeup, grime, and oils on your face so your cleanser can lift all that away out of your pores and off your skin.

How to choose a face wash for my sensitive skin?

When dealing with sensitive skin, you have to be especially mindful in choosing a facial wash to cleanse it with. Since sensitive skin is primarily an indication that the skin’s natural barrier has been compromised, you should consider a cleanser that does not contain ingredients that can potentially dry out the skin even more.

A drying face wash on the skin can further cause micro-injuries that might allow germs into the skin and inflame it. Unfortunately, a lot of soaps and foaming washes can have this effect, especially ones formulated with Sulfates which is one of the most common foaming agents in cleansing products. This means choosing a gentle and hydrating cleanser like those with hyaluronic acid that acts like a magnet in retaining moisture on the skin.

Likewise, check for irritants in your cleanser’s formulation, such as alcohol. They are notorious for its over-drying effect, and also harsh fragrances and even anti-aging elements such as Glycolic and Retinol can aggravate and trigger sensitivity.

How can I clean my sensitive skin?

Follow the C-A-L-M checklist in cleaning your sensitive skin:

Check for irritants in the products

Every person’s skin is unique, and what may be irritating to one person’s skin may not be necessarily irritating to yours. It is therefore important that when using products, especially when trying out new ones, that you carefully observe the effect on your skin, and keep note of potential irritants in the products that trigger sensitivity or inflammation on your skin.

Avoid hot water

There is a common misconception that hot water cleanses better. Not! For people with sensitive skin, using hot water can further inflame your skin, stripping the skin unnecessarily of its natural oils. The recommended temperature when washing your sensitive skin is tepid to cold.

Less ingredients and procedure in your routine

People have gone bonkers with all these hyped multiple step routines and cleansers with so many ingredients. The skin can take so much aggression, that is true, but if you are suffering from sensitivity, the simpler, the better. This means reading the formulation and avoiding those with unnecessarily many ingredients as it’s more difficult to identify what might trigger a sensitive reation. The same principle applies to your cleansing routine!

Minimize manual or harsh exfoliation

While the skin requires regular exfoliation, make sure that your minimize or eliminate manual or harsh exfoliation for your sensitive skin. This means avoiding agents such as some exfoliating beads that may actually inflame the skin, and even more so, harsh chemical peeling products such as acids.

How can I make my sensitive skin less sensitive?

Remember L-E-S-S to lessen sensitivity:

Lipid restoration

Since sensitive skin is primarily a sign of an impaired skin barrier function (the protective, moisturizing part of skin) and therefore more susceptible to irritants coming into contact with the deeper layers of the skin, it is important to work on gradually repairing and restoring this with products that contain high linoleic acid: examples are plant-based oils such as sunflower and rosehip oil. These oils work in replenishing lipids on the skin, sealing it and locking in the hydration, and thus reducing exposure from microbes and inflammatory substances.

Easy on the products

Hand in hand with restoring your sensitive skin’s lipids, it is also important to stick to the products that are compatible with your skin. Avoid slathering on too many different products at the same time, and now, even those popular sheet masks can potentially irritate your skin if they contain your trigger irritants.

Start from the inside

As with any skin condition, nutrition is of benefit in addressing your concerns. Eating food rich in antioxidants. Vitamin D in particular supports the immune system and help strengthen the skin barrier, and of course

Stay away from extreme temperatures

Because of sensitive skin reduced barrier protection, extreme weather conditions can exacerbate sensitive skin flare ups as nerve endings are more accessible to triggers– both extreme heat and cold, so avoid exposing yourself to such conditions. As mentioned also, this includes avoiding hot water when cleansing, and using tepid or cold water instead.


We hope we gave you a hand in selecting the perfect face wash today. Choosing skin care products is a personal decision because one product never suits everyone and every skin type.