The Best Drugstore Cleansers: Guilt-Free Face Wash


Let’s talk drugstore face wash. You just need one, but there are a million to choose from—and decision fatigue is a real thing. Overwhelmed with options, my choice becomes solely based off packaging (looking at you, Neutrogena Grapefruit Wash). For someone who suffers from acne, this is an ill-advised way to make a decision. To make your life easier and your skin happier, try this checklist to quickly find a face wash.

First of all, bar soaps are out. For dry skin, choose a cream or oil based cleanser. Those with normal or oily skin types should stick with gel or foaming face washes. When reading the oft-indecipherable ingredient list, know this—avoid fragrance, natural irritants like citrus and menthols, drying agents (sodium palm kernelate, potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide to name a few), and most alcohols (excluding lauryl alcohol) when high up on the ingredient list.

Too tired to even read the ingredient list? Here are a few cleansers that meet all the above criteria. If your dermatologist already converted you to Cetaphil, may I suggest an alternative to their oft-touted gentle skin cleanser? DermaControl Oil Control Foam Wash. It’s great for oily skin (which the former isn’t) but still cleanses gently like Cetaphil should. Neutrogena is another standard go-to brand. Their Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser contains salicylic acid naturally found in willow bark. The bottle is made with post consumer recycled plastic if you’re into the environment, too. Then there’s Olay’s Foaming Face Wash for Sensitive Skin. It’s soap-free, oil-free, and fragrance-free—but, you still have to pay for it.

—Alexis Cheung

Photographed by Tom Newton.

If you're looking to spend a little more on your cleanser, we've got a guide for you.