Difference between cleanser and face wash? (Big Or Slight): Beginners Guide

Today, I am going to write about the difference between cleanser and face wash, because I myself was confused with what is the difference between the two.

There are many differences between using a cleanser and using a face wash, but there are also some similarities. First of all, both should be used regularly (3-4 times a day) to keep your skin healthy, clean, and clear. But they are not the same. Let’s compare them:

What Is Cleanser?

What Is Cleanser?

A cleanser is used to remove makeup, oil, and dirt from your skin. It should be used daily and it removes the top layer of your skin along with removing oils, dirt, etc. Your cleanser should contain ingredients that will cleanse your skin without being too harsh on your skin.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you are going to buy a cleanser, instead of having one specific type for oily, dry, etc., have multi-purpose cleansers which can be used daily by all skin types.

A few points to remember:

Cleansing is an essential part of your morning and nighttime ritual because if not done regularly it can lead to many other problems like blemishes, clogged pores, and breakouts.

It should also be noted that although cleansing removes the surface oils from your skin, it doesn’t remove excess oil or deep-seated impurities from blocked pores. Since this is the case, you should use a face wash along with your regular cleanser.

If you wear makeup, it is advisable to remove this first then cleanse your face rather than the other way round because makeup sticks to all of those dead skin cells and oils on your face and when removed in a larger clump rather than just naturally off your skin, they become over-stripped from the natural oils creating a dryer effect.

If you must wash and cleanse in that order make sure that after cleansing your face you moisturize as soon as possible.  This will help offset any further dehydration/damaging effects which may occur while having cleansed in that order.

What Is Facewash?

What Is Facewash?

A facewash is used to have the bulk of makeup and dirt removed from the face prior to cleansing. It is usually very runny in consistency (water) and contains lactic acid, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid. This allows the skin to be more receptive to higher levels of exfoliation which are achieved through a cleanser (that you will use after). 

The suggested pH for a facewash is between 3-4 but there are many on the market that has a pH range much higher than this so always store-bought one that sits closer to that 4 range.

I personally recommend Dr. Bronners Peppermint soap as my main facewash, although I do not use it every day because my skin does dry out with it every now and then. Otherwise, I have used Cetaphil and that works fine as well, it’s just more expensive than Dr. Bronners.

If you wanted to go cheaper than Dr. Bronners another good option is making your own pH-balanced facewash using baking soda (pH of 8) and water. You can use a ratio of 1:1 to start out with but play around until you get the desired consistency. 

Check out one of my posts on how to make this below!

What is the difference between cleanser and face wash?

Difference between cleanser and face wash

Technically, cleanser and face wash are the same thing. However, ‘soap’ has come to be associated with harsh chemicals and a higher pH level than we really want to deal with.

In terms of ingredients, there are no differences between facial cleansers and soaps they’ve both been marketed as being gentler on the skin because historically it was more abrasive on the skin.

But that doesn’t mean it’s any better for your skin in the long run! So now some companies have started marketing their cleansers as being called “face wash” instead of “facial soap” since most people are interested in gentler products.

Why do I need to clean my skin with a cleanser?

Do you use facial cleanser before or after shower

Cleansers are necessary to remove any dirt, excess oil, and grime that gets build up on our skin throughout the day before we use any other products.

This is a crucial step in skin care because if you don’t cleanse your face first it will be harder for the rest of your products to absorb properly thus leaving them less effective.

If you’re not able to remove all makeup and sunscreen after cleansing it would make sense that these “residues” could clog pores and cause breakouts right?

Of course, this doesn’t mean that every time you get a pimple there is something leftover on your face (you can find more info about acne here ) but it may help prevent some future breakouts from happening.

What are the benefits of using a cleanser rather than just soap?

In skincare, it’s important to remember that “simple” doesn’t necessarily mean “ineffective”.

We need ingredients in high enough concentrations for them to be effective. If you are washing your face with soap, the ingredients in it at such low concentrations won’t do much at all. The only things happening would be:

– removal of excess oil (this can have a positive effect on acne) thanks to sodium lauryl sulfate ( SLS ) and other surfactants

– cleaning off bacteria thanks to the antibacterial properties of SLS.

Soap is an excellent everyday cleanser but isn’t necessarily ideal for skincare. It’s often harsh on skin because of its alkaline pH level (on a pH scale, where 7 is neutral, soap has a pH of 10-11.5). This alkalinity can irritate sensitive skin and cause redness by stripping the protective layer of lipids that keep your moisture in (hydration = softness!).

But I’m not saying that all cleansers with SLS are bad! It’s about using it wisely. You need to know how much is optimal for you and be careful when it comes to other ingredients that may aggravate or irritate even those who don’t have sensitive or acne-prone skin.

How often should I use a cleanser on my skin?

From the expert’s recommendation, a cleanser should be used about 2-3 times a day. On certain days, you can use it at night as well if you’ve been wearing makeup.

Which type of cleansing products should I choose- oil, cream or lotion?

This is purely a matter of personal preference, but basically, it will depend on how quickly you want your skin to be washed. Lotion or gel takes the longest, the cream comes in second and oil cleansers are the quickest.

Personally, I think oil cleansers may work well for oily skin because instead of adding more oils, you use them to remove them so they don’t sit on your face.

How do I know which ingredients my skin doesn’t like?

If you take a look at the ingredient lists of many cleansing products that are targeted towards sensitive or acne-prone skin, there’s usually a lot of things like tea tree oil, aloe vera, or any other number of plant extracts and essential oils. Different people react differently to particular ingredients, so those ingredients may be good for you but not for others.

What do I do if the products in my routine are causing breakouts?

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There’s a common misconception that acne is caused by dirt and impurities but it’s usually a reaction to something we put on our skin. That means getting rid of your old products and giving your skin time to recover while using gentle alternatives will reduce redness, inflammation, and breakouts over the long run.

One thing to remember is that despite sometimes having comedogenic ratings, some oils like castor oil, jojoba oil, or argan oil don’t seem to cause acne for most people (there’s an entire Reddit thread full of positive reviews just 4 days ago). Retry these oils if you’re still breaking out even after changing all your skincare products to non-comedogenic ones.

When should you use an exfoliator with your facial cleanser?

The most basic recommendation for exfoliation is to do it after you wash your face. However, some people enjoy exfoliating before they wash their faces because they feel that it helps the cleanser work better and it makes their skin smoother (just make sure not to rub too hard or you may damage your skin).


In this blog post, I hope that you have learned more about the dereference between cleanser and facewash. Different people have different skin needs, so you should carefully consider your own skin condition and look for products that will work best for you.

Because even if the advertising says “cleanses deep into pores!”, what’s really important is how it feels on your face! That’s right, don’t just trust what companies say about their skincare products; try them out yourself! And if they still don’t meet your expectations, move on to something else!

Remember, taking medication for acne is only a temporary solution (some do require long-term usage though). In my honest opinion, the best way to get rid of acne is to always wash your face properly (use non-comedogenic cleansers!).

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