Skin Deep

How to choose a skin cleanser

With so many different cleansers on the market, selecting the right one for your skin can be difficult without some guidance from a board-certified dermatologist.

The first step is to understand the characteristics that correspond with your skin type so that you can then choose a cleanser that will enhance the effects of the other products in your regimen. Using the wrong cleanser, on the other hand, can cause negative effects like dryness, flaking, acne and flare-ups of eczema and rosacea symptoms.

Cleansers for oily vs. dry skin

If you have dry skin, it is especially important that you choose a creamy cleanser that will not strip away lipids from your skin. Depending on the severity of your dry skin, you may be able to skip cleansing in the morning to avoid dryness and irritation. However, all skin types need to make sure they wash their face in the evening before going to bed.

Dr. Leslie Baumann.jpg
Dr. Leslie Baumann

Oily skin types should use a foaming cleanser first thing in the morning to help remove excess oil and increase the absorption rate of subsequent skin care products.

Acne-prone skin

Many acne-fighting cleansers contain ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. However, these medications are very drying and are therefore not the best choices for dry, acne-prone skin. Oily, acne-prone skin types, however, can do well with cleansers that contain these ingredients.

If you have dry skin and struggle with acne, you may need to use two cleansers: a glycolic acid cleanser in the morning and a creamy cleanser in the evening. Glycolic acid lowers the pH of your skin, making it more difficult for P. acnes bacteria to live there. A creamy evening cleanser can help to keep pores clean and combat dryness.


Many people with rosacea experience redness and other symptom flare-ups when they wash their face, even with just water. For this reason, you can skip morning cleansing if you struggle with red flushing. In the evening, use a gentle, non-foaming cleanser that contains anti-inflammatory ingredients such as argan oil, green tea, feverfew and aloe.

Never mechanically exfoliate your skin if you have rosacea. This means no abrasive loofahs, cloths, scrubs or chemical exfoliants.


If signs of skin aging are a concern, choose hydroxy acid cleansers. Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid are best for dry skin types, as they will not dry out your skin like salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, however, can help to clear your pores if you have oily skin.

Both types of hydroxy acids can also help to minimize signs of aging by lowering the pH of your skin, thereby causing skin cells to let go of each other and flake off your skin’s surface. This triggers existing skin cells to divide and make new younger-looking cells, thus improving your skin’s appearance.

Bottom line

Your cleanser plays an integral role in the health and beauty of your skin, so it is important that you choose the right product(s) based on your skin type and goals.

For more information and videos about how to choose the right cleanser, you can follow Baumann Cosmetic on YouTube, or follow @BaumannCosmetic on Instagram or Facebook.