The Ultimate Guide to Face Cleansers

12th September 2017
All ELEMIS cleanser textures for facial cleansing: oil, milk, water, balm, foam and cream

The world of skincare is ever evolving, and it’s not always easy to know which face cleanser is best for your skin. Trust ELEMIS’ Ultimate Guide series to answer your questions and simplify your skincare routine. This week, we go back to basics to explore cleansing and how you can find the right face cleanser for your skin type.

Why use a face cleanser?

A cleanser should always be the first step in your daily skincare routine, as cleansed skin is the essential foundation for a healthy complexion. Skin becomes dirty and oily during the day as make-up as well as environmental aggressors congest the pores. Your face cleanser works to remove all these pollutants as well as dead skin cells, oil and dirt, leaving it perfectly clean and ready for the next steps in your routine. A well-chosen cleanser will also help unclog pores and prevent skin conditions such as acne.

Unsure about the order you should be applying your skincare products? Learn about the recommended steps in our Ultimate Guide to Product Layering.

How to use a face cleanser

You should be cleansing your face both morning and night, every day – even if you haven’t been wearing any makeup. Use a moderate water temperature, - too hot, and it will aggravate the pores, while too-cold water will not remove product as effectively.

Double-cleansing is an especially beneficial technique for days when you have been wearing heavy makeup and SPF, or have been battling pollution in the city. The first step involves using a cleansing oil or balm to dissolve make-up, dirt and grime, before removing with a soft muslin cloth. The second step involves massaging a treatment cleanser into the skin - usually a cream, milk or foam – to target your individual concerns, whether acne, pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, or dryness. It’s a good idea to perform your cleansing routine in the shower, as the mild steam can help to soften hardened oil in the pores – just remember to replace your cleansing cloth with a clean one every time.

woman cleansing face with cleansing foam

How to choose a cleanser

When it comes to actually choosing a face cleanser, it can prove tricky to know where to start. If you choose a product that is too stripping, it can leave your skin dry, irritated or sensitised. But a cleanser that is too rich can clog your pores and leave you with blemishes and breakouts. It’s also wise to tailor your face cleanser of choice to the seasons – milder months require a light, gentle formula and mild exfoliation, while the winter months are perfect for indulging in a deeply nourishing oil.

When it comes to choosing a cleanser, you should select one that is tailored to your skin type. However, you can also use texture to guide you. Texture is often a forgotten factor that could hold the key to finding your perfect face cleanser. After all, considering you spend time cleansing your face twice every day, the ritual should be a joy, rather than a chore. Whether cool and refreshing or balmy and decadent, the sensation of smoothing a cleanser onto your skin can tap into your mood.


The different face cleanser textures

Cleansing Balm: Soft and nourishing, cleansing balms are rich in hydrating oils, so ideal for tackling dehydration. These formulations will deeply cleanse without stripping the skin’s natural oil content, ensuring skin is left clean yet plump and moisturised.

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm face cleanser in jar with silver lidsmooth yellow cleansing balm smeared on a white surface

Rich and decadent, ELEMIS’ award-winning Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm melts seamlessly into skin to soothe, hydrate and comfort. Formulated with revolutionary Padina Pavonica – a powerful Mediterranean algae- this face cleanser is perfect for purifying skin and removing make-up while providing an anti-ageing boost.


Cleansing Milk: Cool and creamy, a milk feels simultaneously soft and crisp when smoothed over the skin. A creamy and soft texture makes these formulations ideal for all skin types, but they are especially nourishing on dry winter skin.

ELEMIS Balancing Lime Blossom Cleanser for face in green bottle with pump-dispenser


ELEMIS Balancing Lime Blossom Cleanser is formulated with a zingy hit of citrus to boost your mood and renew skin equilibrium. Extracts of Lime Blossom, Vitamin E and Lecithin restore order to oily or combination skin – a lovely way to both start and end the day.


Cleansing Cream: Denser than a milk yet lighter than a balm, a cream can often feel like the ideal compromise. These formulations will add moisture to the skin, making them ideal for tackling dry patches and early signs of ageing.

ELEMIS Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser for face in white bottle with pump dispenser

ELEMIS Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser is scented with Brazilian Orange and Ylang Ylang to awaken the senses, and contains Moringa Seed peptide alongside superfood Acai to hydrate skin while removing all traces of make-up, grime and city pollution. An ideal cleanser for mature skin.


Cleansing Gel: A gel-textured cleanser will glide effortlessly over the skin. These formulations will dissolve surface oil and bacteria that can lead to blemishes and breakouts, making them ideal for use on sensitive and problem-prone skin.

ELEMIS Sensitive Cleansing Wash for face in an orange bottle with pump-dispenser

Ideal for soothing an irritable complexion, ELEMIS Sensitive Cleansing Wash feels refreshing and cooling on application, and contains Thyme, Chamomile and Lady’s Mantle to bring dry skin back to full bloom. An added bonus, you can also use it as a body wash and shaving product. A brilliant multitasker.


Cleansing Oil: Believe it or not, cleansing oil is actually the ideal choice for nourishing all skin types – even oily. A modern skincare essential, these deep-cleansing oils will melt away make-up residue and daily grime, and are the ideal texture for a circulation-stimulating facial massage.

ELEMIS Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil face cleanser in yellow bottle with pump dispenser

ELEMIS’ Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil is loaded with anti-inflammatory actives to leave skin deeply cleansed, nourished and plump.


Cleansing Foam: Seemingly as light as air, a foam feels lovely against the skin. However, there’s also a science behind the texture. Simply put, the dispenser foams up the product, meaning there’s less need for a chemical foaming agent to do the same job. A foam cleanser is highly efficient at removing excess sebum, and thus ideal for oily skin.

ELEMIS White Brightening Even Tone Cleanser for face in a blue bottle with pump dispenser

ELEMIS White Brightening Even Tone Cleanser is a great treatment formula for targeting excess oil, age spots, pigmentation and uneven skin tone.


Cleansing Water: This is one of the most gentle of facial cleansers. Ideal for sensitive and irritated skin, they’re formulated with cleansing micelles that attract both water and oil-based grime from within the pores, as well as gentle natural cleansing agents to lift impurities from the skin.

ELEMIS Smart Cleanse Micellar Water face cleanser in clear bottle with pump-dispenser

ELEMIS’ Smart Cleanse Micellar Water is formulated with micelles derived from Rosehip Seed Oil, Apple Amino Acid, and Indian Soapnut that cleanse without stripping the skin. Simply apply it with a cotton pad and sweep over the face to reveal a clear, radiant complexion.

Best face cleanser for your specific skin type

Cleanser for Oily Skin:  Oily skin requires an effective yet gentle cleanser. When working to combat excess oil production it can be tempting to reach for a strong, stripping formulation, but an oil-based product is actually the key, as oil dissolves oil. When the skin feels tight and squeaky-clean, it has actually been stripped, which will lead to accelerated oil production as the skin seeks to counteract the dryness.

For a double-cleansing routine, try the following cleansers for oily skin:

  1. Start with: Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil or Balancing Lime Blossom Cleanser
  2. Follow with: Gentle Foaming Facial Wash or Smart Cleanse Micellar Water


Cleanser for Sensitive skin: Sensitive skin requires special attention to keep irritation at bay, so look so look for a formula with gentle cleansing ingredients and anti-inflammatory extracts. The best types of cleanser for this skin type are creams, oils and milks, as they won’t upset the delicate balance of the skin barrier.

For a double-cleansing routine, try the following face cleansers for sensitive skin:

  1. Start with: Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil or Soothing Chamomile Cleanser
  2. Follow with: Sensitive Cleansing Wash or Smart Cleanse Micellar Water


Cleanser for Combination skin: While any texture will work well on combination skin, a balm is especially effective as it will balance oil production while simultaneously hydrating dry areas.

For a double-cleansing routine, try the following face cleansers for combination skin:

  1. Start with:  Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil or Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm
  2. Follow with: Smart Cleanse Micellar Water or BIOTEC Skin Energising Cleanser


Cleanser for Dry skin: Dehydrated and dry skin needs a hydrating creamy texture that won’t strip any of the skin’s natural oils. Try a rich cleansing balm or milk, used in conjunction with a soft muslin cleansing cloth.

For a double-cleansing routine, try the following face cleansers for dry skin:

  1. Start with: Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser or Rehydrating Rosepetal Cleanser
  2. Follow with: BIOTEC Skin Energising Cleanser



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