5 So-Called Gentle Cleansers, Reviewed

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Many cleansers advertise themselves as gentle or non-drying, but are they really? I put five of them to test on my combination (oily T-zone, normal-to-dry cheeks and chin) skin.

Cleansers $10 and Under

Neutrogena One Step Gentle Cleanser

neutrogena one step gentle cleanser

Neutrogena One Step Gentle Cleanser

This rinse-off face wash claims to remove makeup and gently cleanse the skin without leaving any residue in just one step. Despite making my skin feel squeaky clean in seconds, I found this cleanser to be drying--the kind of drying that makes you really feel every facial expression you’re making. I had to quickly and heavily apply moisturizer after using this. On the bright side, it certainly lived up to its makeup-removing claim--it quickly took off all my makeup, except for my Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Top Coat, which is always a pain to remove without eye makeup remover.

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

cerave foaming facial cleanser

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

Geared toward people with normal to oily skin, this fragrance-free, rinse-off face wash claims to help repair and restore the skin’s protective barrier while gently removing dirt, oil, and makeup. Some moisture-promoting and skin-barrier restoring ingredients include ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid.

Like the Neutrogena cleanser, it was good at removing most of my makeup and thoroughly cleaning my skin, but it left my face feeling tight and dry. This cleanser does contain a bunch of good-for-you ingredients which might improve my skin after multiple uses, but in the short term, this product didn’t feel that gentle on my skin. Again, I had to pile on the moisturizer after using this.

Cleansers $10 and Up

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser

la roche-posay toleriane purifying foaming cleanser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser

The label of this cleanser says it’s suited for combination and oily skin and can remove makeup. Main ingredients, aside from water, include moisture-attracting glycerin and myristic acid, which is a cleansing agent.

This foaming cleanser is a rinse-off product that builds into a rich, creamy lather that felt really nice to apply. Due to the creaminess, I expected it to be slightly hydrating, but when I started rinsing it off, my face started squeaking--not a good sign. Like the previous two cleansers mentioned, this product was also good at removing makeup, but my face still felt very dry after cleansing with this, and I couldn’t wait to put moisturizer on.

Korres Greek Yoghurt 3 in 1 Cleansing, Toning and Eye Make-Up Removing Emulsion

korres greek yoghurt 3 in 1 cleaning, toning and eye makeup removing emulsion

Korres Greek Yoghurt 3 in 1 Cleansing, Toning and Eye Make-Up Removing Emulsion

This emulsion, which boasts soothing yogurt and moisturizing sunflower and safflower seed oils as ingredients, is meant to be used on dry, not damp, skin as a cold cream cleanser that can be wiped away or rinsed off. Since my T-zone gets oily, I opted for the latter. In addition to being good for all skin types, it claims to cleanse, tone and remove eye makeup.

The consistency is like a creamy lotion. It left my skin feeling soft-to-the-touch, but I can imagine it making my skin feel heavy if I hadn’t rinsed it off. On the downside, it wasn’t as efficient at removing makeup as the Neutrogena or CeraVe cleansers I tried, as this cleanser mainly melted and then moved my eye makeup around, so I still had to wipe away my eye makeup with a tissue for full removal.

Josie Maran Argan Exfoliating Cleansing Powder

josie maran agran exfoliating cleansing powder

Josie Maran Argan Exfoliating Cleansing Powder

This powder cleanser claims to gently exfoliate and soften skin. Its exfoliant is crushed argan shells. Since it’s a powder cleanser, it needs to be mixed with water (or argan oil, as its label suggests) to be activated. The resulting lather is massaged on the face before being rinsed off.

Maybe I’m not used to the feel of any exfoliant other than my konjac sponge, but I thought the argan shells were a bit too rough on my skin for daily use, even though the label says it can be used every day. As you might expect, this is not intended to be used around the eyes.

After rinsing, I could feel a light coating of moisture over my skin--a nice reward after all that uncomfortable scrubbing. I would probably use this product once in a while, or use it as a lip scrub or mask, as the label suggests.

Although I wasn’t completely blown away by any of the products I tried, each of them still had some good qualities, such as makeup removal and light moisturization. I think even the drying ones are still usable if you have very oily or combination skin, just don’t skip your moisturizer afterward--or better yet, just have it right next to your sink.

  • Can someone please recommend a cleanser that removes makeup and doesn’t quickly dry out skin?
  • Do you also get frustrated when gentle cleansers are actually drying?
  • Did you have good experiences with any of these products?