Difference Between Cleanser and Face Wash

If you've ever pondered the distinctions between a cleanser and a face wash, questioning when to use each, or contemplating whether to use both in your skincare routine, you're certainly not alone. 

Though their primary goal is to cleanse your skin, face wash and cleanser, they employ distinct methods to achieve this task. In this comprehensive article, we will unravel all the differences between cleansers and face wash and delve into their unique working mechanisms. Keep on reading to gain a deeper understanding of the disparities between face wash and cleanser!


What is a Face Cleanser?

A face cleanser is designed to cleanse your skin and effortlessly remove dirt and oil from your face. Our skin faces dirt and oil from the environment daily, which can cause skin issues. By incorporating a cleanser into your skincare routine, you can eliminate makeup, grime, and excess oils, particularly before bedtime. Remarkably, face cleansers are non-foaming liquids that offer the convenience of no-rinse application, making them a quick and efficient solution for your skincare needs.


What is a Face Wash?

A face wash is a liquid used to clean our faces, replacing traditional soap. It offers a modern alternative for cleansing our skin, especially our faces. Face wash creates a delightful foamy lather to effortlessly whisk away dirt and grime leaving your skin completely clean and ready to glow with radiance.


Do they serve the same purpose or different roles?

Both face washes and cleansers are designed to cleanse your face by removing dirt, oil, pollution, and more. A cleanser effectively dissolves excess oil, makeup, and grime from your face, particularly oil-soluble impurities. Although a face wash can also remove these impurities, it might not be 100% effective.

The main task of a face wash is to go deeper and cleanse your pores with its foamy action, targeting more embedded debris. If you're wearing heavy makeup or have been exposed to dust and pollution, using a cleanser before using a face wash is a good idea.


Difference between a Cleanser and Face Wash



Cleansers come in various types, each tailored to different skin types and concerns. You can pick the one that aligns with your beauty goals and suits your skin type. Most cleansers have a skin-friendly pH level, making them suitable even for sensitive skin.

Effective Dirt Removal

Our faces encounter various daily pollutants that cling to the skin's surface, dulling it. These dirt particles are not water-soluble, making removing them with water alone challenging. That's where cleansers come to the rescue. They work wonders in removing dirt and dust, leaving your skin feeling fresh and radiant.


Keeping Acne under Control

Excess dirt, oil, and bacteria can clog our pores, leading to acne, blackheads, and whiteheads. Additionally, residues from cosmetics and beauty products can linger on the skin. By using cleansers, you can clear away acne-causing pollutants and impurities before they have a 

chance to invade your pores.


Hydration Boost

Proteins like collagen and elastin need proper moisture for healthy and elastic skin. Cleansers help preserve the skin's natural moisture, leaving it soft and supple, ensuring your skin stays well-hydrated.


Face Wash

A face wash deeply cleanses the pores by removing dirt, dead skin cells, oil, and grime. It generates a rich lather and may contain more astringent ingredients. 


Eliminates Dead Skin Cells

In addition to removing oil and dirt, face washes can remarkably get rid of dead skin cells. This prevents acne and promotes a faster cell turnover rate, leading to a more youthful appearance.


Prepares Your Skin

A face wash is an essential preparatory step for the rest of your facial care routine. By clearing and opening your pores, it enhances the absorption of other facial products, including popular options like Neutrogena Face Wash.


Boosts Blood Circulation

Massaging it onto your skin is the way to go when applying face wash. This invigorates blood circulation in your face, resulting in a healthy and radiant glow.


When to Use Face Wash and When to Use Cleanser?

The timing depends on your daily routine. For instance, you can use a foaming face wash in the morning and immediately when you return home from work. However, if you've encountered heavy traffic and pollution on your way home, starting with a cleanser followed by a face wash is wise. Another popular approach is using a cleansing lotion before bedtime, ensuring your face remains free of impurities while you sleep.

Cleansers can also be the initial step before applying makeup, as they moisturize and gently cleanse the face simultaneously.

How to Use Cleanser? 

Using a face cleanser before using the face wash is generally recommended. For optimal results, follow the steps below:

  • Splash your face with lukewarm water, ensuring your skin is thoroughly soaked.
  • Apply a pea-sized cleanser to your cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead.
  • Gently massage the cleanser onto your skin using the tips of your fingers.
  • Use a wet cotton ball to effortlessly wipe away the cleanser from your skin
  • Complete your routine by applying toner or moisturizer to your face.


Cleansing Properties of Cleansers and Face Washes

Face washes are water-based formulations available in gel or foam textures. Their foaming and astringent properties work deep within the pores to combat oil production and provide a thorough cleanse. On the other hand, cleansers come in thick, milky, cream, or clay textures, primarily focusing on cleansing, hydrating, and soothing the skin.

Both cleansers and face washes contain synthetic detergents, also known as surfactants (surface-active agents), effectively washing away dirt. These surfactants consist of a hydrophilic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (oil or grease-loving) tail.

The hydrophobic parts of these surfactants attach to the oil and dirt, forming micelles. These micelles effectively trap the dirt, and with a good rinse, they are washed away, leaving your skin clean and refreshed.



Both face washes and cleansers effectively remove excess oil, dirt, and pollutants from your skin. However, their additional benefits vary based on your skin type and specific needs. Consider using both products to maximize their advantages, tailoring your routine to your unique requirements. With a clear understanding of the distinctions between a face wash and a cleanser, you can now approach the skincare section confidently during your next shopping trip, making informed choices for your glowing skin.