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  5. Difference Between Face Wash And Cleanser Explained

Most of us often mistake a face wash for a cleanser. While both the skincare products help in cleansing your skin, there are some subtle differences that you should be aware of. This will help you understand which one or two you should be incorporating in your skincare routine.

1. Face Wash Vs Cleanser: Basic Function


Face wash



Removes debris from deeper layers of skin and cleanses pores

Removes the dirt, makeup residue and excess oils from the skin’s surface

Suited for

Oily and combination skin types

Dry and sensitive skin types


Usually well foaming



Gentler than a soap bar

Gentler than a face wash


Less hydrating and moisturizing

More hydrating and moisturizing


In the morning

In the night


Rinsing required

Rinsing may or may not be required

2. Cleansing Activity Of Cleansers And Face Washes

Both cleansers and face washes contain synthetic detergents to wash away dirt. These detergents, also called surfactants (surface active agents), are composed of a hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-hating but oil or grease-loving) tail.

The hydrophobic parts attach to the oil and dirt to form structures called micelles. These micelles that trap the dirt are washed away with a good rinse.

3. Can I Use Face Wash And Facial Cleanser Together?

Yes, you can use both face wash and facial cleanser in your skincare routine. However, you may want to use the face wash before starting your day for a deep cleanse and use a cleanser during the day between workout sessions and before bedtime to remove all the dirt.

You can adjust your products based on whether your skin feels dry or oily after cleansing. With cleansers you do not need to rinse off the product. You can use a washcloth or a towel to wipe it off.

4. How To Cleanse/Wash Your Face?

  • Wash your hands before you begin because the cleanser may lose its function due to your greasy hands.
  • Gently massage a coin sized amount of face wash into your skin for about 30-60 sec. Work your way upwards in small circles.
  • Rinse thoroughly.

5. Ingredients To Avoid In A Cleanser or A Face Wash

A. Sulfates

Sulfates are salts that are formed when sulphuric acid reacts with another chemical.

Common sulfates used in cleansers or face washes are SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). They are produced from petroleum and plant sources like coconut and palm oil.

Sulfates create lather or foaming but can irritate your eyes and skin. If you have extremely dry or sensitive skin, it is best to avoid foaming face washes.

B. Parabens

Parabens are used as preservatives in cleansers or face washes to keep them fresh and germ free. Parabens belong to chemical families like methyl, butyl and propyl.

Parabens are hormone disruptors and can lead to breast cancer.

C. Phthalates

Phthalates are salts that are used in cleansers for easy spreading.

Phthalates are associated with reproductive and developmental toxins. They are endocrine disruptors.

6. The Don’ts Of Cleansing

A. Don’t Wash Your Face With Hot Water

Hot water can remove the natural oils from your face, leaving it dry and tight. Use lukewarm water to wash your face.

B. Don’t Use Bath Soap on Your Facial Skin

The pH of bath soaps is around 10, whereas the skin’s pH ranges from 4.7 and 5.75 (slightly acidic). Soap bars can disrupt skin’s optimal pH value.

C. Don’t Rub The Cleanser Too Hard Into Your Skin

Excess rubbing while cleansing can strip off the natural oils from your skin and interfere with the skin’s pH. Use a toner after cleansing to neutralize skin’s pH.

D. Don’t Over Cleanse

You may be tempted to over cleanse your face if your skin type is oily. Over cleansing can strip off the top layer of your skin plus your skin's natural oils (sebum).

Now that you’ve understood the differences between a face wash and a cleanser, we hope you won’t get stuck in the skincare section next time you are shopping.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin