Beauty

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You Need a Real,
Grown-Up Face Wash

The sleepaway-camp adage that plain old soap and water is all skin really needs sounds so simple. In reality, soap is decidedly unhelpful when it comes to improving the health and look of your skin. Conventional soaps and cleansers are often made with industrial surfactants that strip and dry skin, and even the ones labeled “moisturizing” often just contain added moisturizer on top of the same industrial-surfactant base. Dry skin is not just unhealthier and less able to defend itself; it also looks older—less even, less plump, less dewy.

Even oily skin can be disturbed by strong surfactants, which can aggravate already-aggravated skin and stimulate oil glands to produce even more oil, says New York dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD, an advisor for Chanel skin care. In short, even the most anti-makeup, least beauty-oriented person is better off without (aptly called) “plain old” soap.

Surfactants are what make soapy things foam up, so many of the best-for-skin cleansers don’t foam. It can take some getting used to, but once you’re into the creaminess and comfort of nonfoaming, it’s hard to return to the world of stripping, drying surfactants. Our favorite new example: the unique soft-springy exfoliating jelly face wash from GOOPGLOW. Made with antioxidant cloudberry and moisturizing squalane plus exfoliating bitter orange peel and fruit enzymes, the cleanser feels lush and soft as you smooth it on skin, then rinses off easily, leaving your skin fresh, beautifully textured, and glowing. And the foamless jelly formula is gentle enough to use every day (even in a routine with AHA, BHA, or vitamin C treatments).

For the healthiest skin, think of dewy-clean or hydrated-clean instead of squeaky-clean: Skin has a protective barrier that keeps moisture in and bacteria (including acne bacteria), dirt, and irritants out, and you want to keep that barrier intact.

With that in mind, don’t assume you need to cleanse in the morning. In the evening, there’s stuff to remove—makeup, sunscreen, dirt, pollution—but when you wake up, your skin’s in pretty good shape. “If your skin’s clean at bedtime, it should still be clean in the morning,” says Wechsler. If you like cleansing in the morning, it certainly won’t hurt, but you can save money, time, and a bit of skin-protective barrier by skipping.

Every time you do cleanse, you want it to work, and not just for the obvious grime-off-face reasons. The right cleanser preps your skin for the treatment products that go on afterward—simply wetting your skin makes even prescription creams more effective, as water speeds and deepens absorption of ingredients dramatically. To further increase absorption, using a mildly exfoliating cleanser—like the new jelly cleanser—sloughs away dead skin cells, makeup, and grime to help clear the way for skin-care-ingredient delivery.

The form of a cleanser—cream, foam, etc.—doesn’t always dictate the types of skin it’s good for: Not all foams are surfactant-intensive. Cleansing oils can be counterintuitively amazing for oily skin, and gel formulas, like our G.Tox Malachite + Fruit Acid Pore Purifying Cleanser, can be moisturizing. So shop for what sounds most delightful to use, and great skin will almost inevitably follow.

THE BEST CLEAN FACE WASHES

Balm

  1. True Botanicals Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm
    True Botanicals Ginger Turmeric
    Cleansing Balm
    goop, $48
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  2. The Organic Pharmacy Carrot Butter Cleanser
    The Organic Pharmacy Carrot Butter Cleanser &
    Organic Muslin Cloth
    goop, $83
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  3. Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm
    Naturopathica Manuka Honey
    Cleansing Balm
    goop $62
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Foam

  1. Dr. Nigma Cleanser No. 1
    Dr. Nigma Cleanser No. 1 goop, $70
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  2. Follain Hydrating Cleanser
    Follain Hydrating Cleanser goop, $22
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  3. Beautycounter Countermatch Foaming Cleanser
    Beautycounter Countermatch
    Foaming Cleanser
    goop, $32
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Cream

  1. Alpyn Beauty Plantgenius Creamy Bubbling cleanser
    Alpyn Beauty Plantgenius Creamy
    Bubbling cleanser
    goop, $36
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  2. The Organic Pharmacy Rose Diamond Exfoliating Cleanser
    The Organic Pharmacy Rose Diamond
    Exfoliating Cleanser
    goop, $73
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  3. Skin Design London Face Bath
    Skin Design London
    Face Bath
    goop, $100
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Exfoliating

  1.  goop Beauty GOOPGLOW Cloudberry Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser
    goop Beauty GOOPGLOW Cloudberry
    Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser
    goop, $28/$25 with subscription
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  2. Dr. Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser
    Dr. Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser goop, $75
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  3. Clark’s Botanicals Dual Charcoal Detox
    Clark’s Botanicals Dual Charcoal Detox goop, $45
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  4. Okoko Beauté Majestique Cleanser
    Okoko Beauté Majestique
    Cleanser
    goop, $116
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Bar Soap

  1. Binu Binu Shaman Black Charcoal Soap
    Binu Binu Shaman Black Charcoal Soap goop, $22
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Oil

  1. Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser
    Tata Harper Nourishing Oil
    Cleanser
    goop, $86
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  2. Kora Organics Milky Mushroom Oil Cleanser
    KORA Organics Milky Mushroom
    Oil Cleanser
    goop, $40
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  3. de Mamiel Pure Calm Cleansing Dew
    de Mamiel Pure Calm
    Cleansing Dew
    goop, $104
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Gel

  1. Augustinus Bader The Cream Cleansing Gel
    Augustinus Bader The Cream
    Cleansing Gel
    goop, $69
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  2. goop Beauty G.Tox Malachite + Fruit Acid Pore Purifying Cleanser
    goop Beauty G.Tox Malachite + Fruit Acid
    Pore Purifying Cleanser
    goop, $48/$44 with subscription
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  3. Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash
    Ursa Major Fantastic Face Wash goop, $30
    SHOP NOW