Cleansers for “normal” skin

The best face wash for balanced, healthy skin

6 minute read

We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

Normal is kind of a loaded word — everyone is unique, so what does it mean to have “normal” skin? Another word for it might be balanced: skin that isn’t too oily, too dry, or too sensitive. It’s basically the Goldilocks of skin types. If this describes your skin, count yourself among the lucky ones! Still, that leaves you with plenty of skincare products to choose from, and we know it isn’t easy to narrow it down, no matter what your skin type. So we’ve whipped up this in-depth guide of the best cleansers for your skin type, including products we recommend based on our in-house dermatologists’ criteria for safe, non-pore-clogging, non-irritating ingredients. We believe in simple, so let’s simplify the most basic step in any skincare routine: washing your face.

How to determine your skin type

STEP 1 Wash your face gently, wait an hour, then check out your skin in the mirror. STEP 2 Pat a blotting paper (gently) on each area of your face: T-zone, forehead, chin, and cheeks. It can be hard to tell whether what you’re seeing on your skin is oil, shine, or just glowiness, so check the sheet each time you blot to see which part of your face was oilier. STEP 3 Wait an hour. If oil has reappeared on your face, your skin type is likely oily skin or combination skin (if you’re only oily in certain places). “Normal” skin isn’t dry nor oily, but smooth and balanced. Normal: Smooth, no signs of dry flakes or shiny oil Oily: Slick and shiny, larger pores Dry: Dry flakes, tight-feeling Combination: Oily T-zone, with normal-to-dry skin everywhere else (fun fact: most people actually have combination skin!)

Best face wash for normal skin (or any type!)

The cleanser by Curology Curology’s cleanser is designed to work well for any skin type: it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin, but cleans deeply enough for normal or even oily skin. Our in-house dermatologists made sure our cleanser was formulated with non-comedogenic ingredients, free of parabens, sulfates, fragrances, and dyes, so there’s nothing in there that doesn’t need to be. One of the great things about having “normal” skin is that caring for it is pretty straightforward — and we believe in keeping skincare simple for everyone.

If you have another favorite cleanser that your skin likes, feel free to keep on using it. If you’re ready to try something different, we’ve got a few more dermatologist-recommended face wash options for you to try.

We also recommend…

Ingredients to avoid in a cleanser

Alcohol. Alcohol is unfortunately used in a lot of skincare products, even though it dries out the skin and can damage its protective barrier! Watch out for alcohol (usually listed as “denatured alcohol” or “alcohol denat.”) on the ingredients list of your products, especially if your skin seems dry, red, tight, itchy, or irritated after using it. Some products have alcohol at the end of the ingredients list, likely meaning there’s not too much of it — in that case, it may not irritate the skin as much. But it’s best to avoid it whenever possible!

Benzoyl peroxide, AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid). Benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid (BHA) and glycolic acid (AHA) are a few ingredients found in skincare products you can buy over-the-counter that might help clear out excess oil in your pores and treat mild acne breakouts. These can be irritating to dry and sensitive skin, however, so we recommend trying a custom formula like Curology to fight breakouts instead!

Isopropyl myristate, sodium laureth sulfate, myristyl myristate, and laureth-4. You’ll want to look at the ingredients list, because these pore-clogging ingredients are pretty common.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS can often dry out the skin, and some people find it may lead to more acne when their skin is in frequent contact with SLS. Many people can tolerate SLS in body washes, though — just don’t use it on your face.

Products not labeled with terms “non-comedogenic”, “non-acnegenic”, “does not clog pores”, or “won’t cause breakouts.” The label “non-comedogenic” (or similar) indicates that the product has been designed with acne-prone people in mind. It’s no guarantee — sometimes, a product labeled “non-comedogenic” will still contain a pore-clogging ingredient! — but it can be a useful guideline. We recommend checking even products labeled non-comedogenic for pore-clogging or irritating ingredients.

How to check if any cleanser has pore-clogging or skin-irritating ingredients

CosDNA.com is such a valuable (free!) tool — it’s a must-have for your Bookmarks. We recommend using CosDNA.com to research your skincare products (including body washes and lotions) in their product database. Pull up and run the ingredient list through the “Analyze Cosmetics” section of their website. Once you click “Analyze”, look in the “acne” column — if there are any 3’s, 4’s, or 5’s, consider stopping using that product. Of course, these ratings are a guide; your (sk)individual reaction may vary.

Check out our in-depth guide to using CosDNA.com to screen your products.

Best makeup remover: micellar water

Micellar water is a secret one-minute shortcut to clean skin. A skincare staple originating from French pharmacies, the oil molecules in this water draw makeup, dirt, and excess oil right out of the pores — so it’s perfect for removing makeup or simply freshening up your face! A few drops on a cotton pad will gently remove oil, dirt, and makeup in a hot minute. We recommend Bioderma Sensibio H2O for normal to sensitive skin.

When in doubt, custom skincare is what it’s about

Even if you’ve got “normal” skin, you might want to prevent or minimize the signs of aging — or nip the occasional breakout in the bud. Whether you’d like to prevent wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation from sun damage, or improve your skin’s texture, you can do it with a custom formula of prescription ingredients with Curology. If you haven’t given us a try already, sign up for a free trial (you just pay $4.95 for shipping and handling) to get your very own custom cream! Just apply it at night after cleansing your face, and let it do the work while you get some beauty sleep.

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