It is universally acknowledged that the best foundation of a skincare routine is a good quality face wash. Whether you’re looking to treat a skin problem, reduce the signs of ageing, or simply hydrate your skin, a face wash removes excess oil and grime from your skin and provides a blank canvas with which you can apply toners, moisturisers and SPF.
While this might sound fairly straightforward, selecting the best face wash for you requires some careful consideration. Your skin type – dry, oily or rough – will dictate the kind of face wash and cleanser best suited to your skin’s needs. There are similarly some subtle differences between male and female skin types and products that you should be aware of.
To help you pick the best product for you, The Recommended spoke to a leading dermatologist and skincare expert to find out how you can identify what skin type you have and what you should look for (and avoid) when shopping for men’s face wash.
The best face wash for men:
- Best face wash for oily skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Cleansing Gel
- Best face wash for dry skin: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best cleansing face wash: CeraVe Foaming Cleanser with Niacinamide
- Best for acne-prone skin: Bioderma Sébium Purifying Foaming Gel
- Best for combination skin: Eucerin DermatoClean Refreshing Cleansing Gel
- Best face wash for rough skin: CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser with Salicylic Acid
- Best for sensitive skin: Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Facial Wash
- Best fragrance: Elemis Deep Cleanse Facial Wash for Men
- Best pre-shave face wash: Anthony Glycolic Facial Cleanser for Men
- Best face wash for beards: L’Oreal Men Expert Barber Club 3-in-1 Beard, Hair & Face
Our skincare expert
Dr Abha Gulati is a UK-trained consultant dermatologist for The Harley Street Dermatology Clinic and the lead clinician for skin cancer services and dermatology teaching lead at Homerton University Hospital. Dr Gulati studied medicine at University College London and has been practising dermatology since 2003. She is an active member of the British Association of Dermatologists Skin Cancer Prevention Committee and the British Society for Skin Care of Immunocompromised Individuals (BSSCII) and has over 15 years of experience in general dermatology in adults and children, consulting on all aspects of skin disease.
How can you find out what skin type you have?
What face wash you should choose will depend on your skin type. If you don’t know, “men can identify what type of skin they have by how it looks and feels in the morning through the day with activities and their skincare routines,” explains Dr Gulati.
“If it is generally dry, easily irritated and sometimes itchy even with moisturisers, you likely have dry skin and would benefit from washes with less or no soap and minimal fragrances and preservatives,” she says. “If your skin is more greasy than dry and you are prone to blackheads and outbreaks of acne, you would do better with oil-free products with ingredients like salicylic acid to help control sebum production.”
Is there a difference between male and female skin?
As a consultant dermatologist, Dr Gulati says she sees a similar range of skin problems in men and women. These include “inflammatory problems such as acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, infectious problems from yeasts and viruses and problems related to ageing skin such as cancers, pigmentation and age spots”.
However, she adds that “while there may be differences between men and women as to when these problems occur and how bothersome they may be, depending on hormones, stress, exposure to sunlight and smoking, essentially the underlying skin is similar, and we use the same basic principles to find individualised management plans for each patient”.
Are there any differences between male and female skincare products?
Generally speaking, no. “The basic active ingredients and principles of skin care are the same,” says Dr Gulati, but there may be some subtle differences to look out for. “Differences in skin care products might reflect the need to prepare and protect male skin for shaving habits or facial hair care,” she says. “There may also be differences in fragrance preferences.”
What is the best face wash for men?
Dr Gulati recommends using a good quality face wash that suits your skin type, such as soap-free for dry skin or oil-free for oily skin. “Many of my patients have skin problems that they have to consider when choosing skincare products so that they don’t develop allergies or worsening of their skin condition. I have found products by La Roche-Posay, CeraVe, Bioderma and Eucerin to be well tolerated and effective across a range of skin types and skin problems.”
The best face wash for men
Best face wash for oily skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Cleansing Gel
Gentle on skin
Specifically formulated to unblock pores, this non-comedogenic cleansing gel from La Roche-Posay is a great daily face wash for people with oily and spot-prone skin.
Recommended by our expert Gulati as an effective and well-tolerated skincare brand, La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Cleansing Gel promises to remove dirt, grime and sebum away from your skin without disrupting your body’s natural oils. This face wash has been designed to reduce the visibility of spots and leave your skin feeling fresh, and it can also be used as a body wash.
Best face wash for dry skin: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser with Hyaluronic Acid
Protects your skin’s natural oils
Promising to prevent dryness and tightness, this non-foaming cleanser with hyaluronic acid from CeraVe is formulated to lift dirt without disrupting your skin’s natural oils and moisture.
A skincare brand recommended by our expert Dr Gulati, CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which hydrates the skin, as well as three essential ceramides, which are said to protect moisture and restore your skin’s natural oils. Ideal for people with dry skin, this face wash is fragrance-free and developed by dermatologists.
Best cleansing face wash: CeraVe Foaming Cleanser with Niacinamide
For normal to oily skin
Designed to remove oil and dirt, CeraVe’s Foaming Cleanser is suitable for people with normal to oily skin.
Non-comedogenic and fragrance-free, this face wash is designed to unblock pores for people with spot-prone skin, while the addition of niacinamide helps to reduce moisture loss. It is also great for removing oily products like concealer and foundation for men who wear makeup. Our expert Dr Gulati has found products from CeraVe to have been effective for people with oily skin.
Best for acne-prone skin: Bioderma Sébium Purifying Foaming Gel
Recommended by our expert Dr Gulati as a well-tolerated skincare brand for people with skin conditions, Bioderma’s Sébium Purifying Foaming Gel promises to limit blemishes and reduce oily skin.
Bioderma says its Sébium Purifying Foaming Gel gently cleanses the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin on your body) without drying it out and keeps pores from becoming clogged with oil. This face wash is also soap-free, which Bioderma says maintains your skin’s natural pH.
Best for combination skin: Eucerin DermatoClean Refreshing Cleansing Gel
Suitable for people who experience dry and excessively oily areas of skin, this mild daily cleanser from Eucerin promises to hydrate and gently remove impurities.
Eucerin’s DermatoClean Refreshing Cleansing Gel includes hyaluronic acid, which the company says helps maintain your skin’s natural balance. It is also suitable for removing makeup.
Best face wash for rough skin: CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser with Salicylic Acid
For smoother skin
Designed to alleviate rough and bumpy skin while removing dirt and oil, this daily foaming cleanser from CeraVe promises to leave your skin feeling smoother.
CeraVe’s SA Smoothing Cleanser is formulated with salicylic acid, which is said to gently exfoliate the skin without impacting your skin’s natural barriers, while the addition of hyaluronic acid helps to hydrate your skin. This face wash is also fragrance-free and free of exfoliants.
Best for sensitive skin: Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Facial Wash
Ideal for post-shave
Formulated with thyme, chamomile and lady’s mantle essential oils for their antibacterial qualities, Elemis’ Sensitive Cleansing Facial Wash promises to gently soothe and moisturise sensitive skin.
Elemis says this daily face wash leaves your skin looking cleansed and with a healthy radiance and is specifically formulated for people with dry and sensitive skin.
Best fragrance: Elemis Deep Cleanse Facial Wash for Men
Specifically designed for men, Elemis’ Deep Cleanse Facial Wash is formulated with English oak bark, spearmint and peppermint essential oils designed to remove impurities and prevent ingrown hairs.
Elemis says their gel formula leaves skin looking and feeling clean, fresh and replenished by removing excess oil and dirt. The addition of milk protein promises to provide your skin with health-boosting nutrients.
Best pre-shave face wash: Anthony Glycolic Facial Cleanser for Men
For normal to oily skin
Scented with chamomile, this non-foaming facial cleanser from Anthony is designed to remove dead skin cells and lift stubble and hairs for a closer shave.
This face wash includes vitamins A, C and E, which Anthony says protects skin against environmental aggressors such as pollution, while the addition of glycolic acid is said to gently exfoliate and brighten your skin.
Best face wash for beards: L’Oreal Men Expert Barber Club 3-in-1 Beard, Hair & Face
Multi-use and cost-effective
This daily, all-in-one beard, hair and face wash from L’Oreal promises to wash away beard flakes, residue and odours while cleansing the skin beneath and leaving it feeling fresh.
The Men Expert Barber Club 3-in-1 is formulated with cedar wood essential oils designed to nourish skin and relieve irritation. This face wash contains no soap, parabens or colourants and is made without animal-derived ingredients.
Want to read more expert-recommended men’s beauty round-ups? Check out our Grooming page for a full list of recommendations, including our guide to the best hair clippers for men, the best beard trimmers, and the best beard oils, as recommended by our haircare experts, as well as the best moisturisers for men, recommended by dermatologists.