Which face cleanser is right for you?

Choosing the right cleanser for your 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.

At Curology, our relationship status with cleansers skews “It’s Complicated.” So many cleansers out there have ingredients that can hurt more than they help your skin, such as fragrance (irritating), coconut oil (pore-clogging), and salicylic acid (drying/irritating). That’s why we made our very own cleanser, formulated by real skincare experts with simple, safe, effective ingredients. The Curology cleanser is the one you can count on to work for you, no matter what your skin’s unique quirks are.

But this isn’t a sales pitch—we’re here to give you the facts! So we’ve whipped up this guide with everything you need to know about cleansing your face. You know your skin best, and when it comes to choosing skincare products, we’re all about listening to your skin’s unique preferences and needs.

Take it easy

The first important thing is to be gentle with your skin. You can use a cleanser or just wash with plain water. Sometimes, swiping a cotton pad soaked with micellar water is all you need (read more on micellar water below).


Whatever cleanser you try, pay attention to how your skin reacts to it. There are some pretty obvious signs it isn’t working for you.

After you use it, does your face:

  1. Look shiny and feel tight?

  2. Feel dry?

  3. Get red and/or stingy?

But don’t wash your face with hot water

No matter what cleanser you use, here’s our professional advice: don’t wash your face with hot water. When hot water hits your face, it can strip your skin of its natural moisture barrier, leaving your skin damaged and vulnerable. Wash your face with lukewarm water—your skin will thank you.

If you like to take piping-hot showers, try turning it down a notch when washing your face. Or wash your face over the sink with lukewarm water before or after your shower.

Micellar Water: The French lifehack


Micellar water is a quick, easy, gentle way to cleanse your face, remove makeup, or freshen up if your face feels oily. It’s a non-rinse, soap-free cleanser, made of tiny oil molecules called micelles suspended in soft water. Micellar water pulls dirt, excess sebum, and makeup out of your skin, all in one step – and leaves skin slightly moisturized, too! Simply dampen a cotton pad with the stuff and swipe it all over your face to remove makeup and cleanse your skin all in one step.

The micellar water trend originated in French pharmacies, but it’s now available in the skincare aisle at many U.S. drugstores and department stores, too. Bioderma is the go-to brand, and it’s very reasonably priced. It’s the Swiss army knife of face cleansers! It even comes in the form of wipes (Bioderma Sensibio H2O Wipes, $9.90 on Amazon) as well as in mini travel-friendly sized bottles ($6.90 at Dermstore.com). Bioderma offers options for every skin type: Sensibo H2O is perfect for normal, sensitive or reactionary skin; Sébium H2O is for oilier skin types, and Hydrabio H2O for dry skin.

Bonus: using micellar water will show you exactly what is coming off of your skin onto the cotton pad. One go with a cleanser doesn’t necessarily get everything out of your pores. Go over your face once more with a new, freshly soaked pad to get any remaining residue.

Even better: Micellar water is both gentle and effective enough for all skin types. (Though if you have oily skin, you may want to use a regular face cleanser after using micellar water to remove makeup, just to make sure your skin’s been fully cleansed.)


We recommend…

Oil Cleansers: Wait, What?


Cleansing oil is good option for those with dry skin. Counterintuitive though it may be, certain oils are super-effective at cleansing your skin of both makeup and excess oil without stripping, drying, or irritating. Think of it this way: water and oil don’t mix, and not only does skin get oily, but lots of makeup is oil-based, as well. Oil-based cleansers include not just straight-up oil but cleansing balms and oil-based cleansing creams, all of which can leave the skin looking and feeling more hydrated than traditional cleansers do. We’d recommend cleansing oils and balms for those with drier skin to lock in that extra hydration.

Whatever you do, don’t use coconut oil to cleanse your face — it can clog your pores!


We recommend…

Gentle Cleansers: Easy Does It


A good gentle cleanser is hard to find—that’s why we made our own! As a general rule, you want a cleanser that’s labeled fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. Our cleanser is both, plus it balances and soothes your skin with anti-inflammatory oat extract, and keeps your skin hydrated with a combination of plant sugars that creates a unique moisture-locking barrier effect. You can get our cleanser when you upgrade your Curology subscription to the set, which also includes our moisturizer and the custom formula, delivered right to your door!

We also recommend…

The above cleansers are other good options. If you have another favorite cleanser that your skin likes, especially if is labeled gentle or formulated for sensitive skin, it is likely fine to continue.

Do be aware that ingredients such as botanical extracts and essential oils can be irritating for some skin types—”natural” treatments are not necessarily better for your skin.

The takeaway here is: you’ll want to check out the ingredients before you use. You can easily vet the ingredients in any product on CosDNA.comHere’s a quick guide to how to analyze any product for pore-clogging or skin-irritating ingredients!

Body Cleansers: We Got Your Bacne

For bacne (or body acne), our experts recommend soaps containing Pyrithione Zinc, which fights both bacteria and fungus. (Acne is often caused in part by pityrosporum, a type of normal fungus that lives on our skin.) Avoid any body soap that contains coconut oil – it can block pores! If you’re using bar soap, store it on a holder with perforations so that it doesn’t stay damp, and give the bar a quick rinse before you use it. Use it every day to cleanse anywhere on your body prone to breakouts, and leave it on for a minute or so before rinsing off.

Think Zinc: we recommend these soaps

Keep It Clean

While beauty magazines and the skincare blogosphere make the case for intricate cleansing routines, take it from the Curology experts: less is more. Truly. Opt for a simple, gentle cleansing routine, like removing your makeup with micellar water and cleansing with The Cleanser by Curology. Then you can let your custom Curology cream do the rest of the dirty work to keep your skin clear, healthy, and glowing.


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