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Cleanser Vs Face Wash: Here’s The Real Difference Between The Two

Cleanser Vs Face Wash: Here’s The Real Difference Between The Two

Back in the ‘90s, we did not have access to many skincare products as we have today. With K-Beauty products becoming a huge success in the beauty industry, we now are introduced to new and exciting skincare products like serums, elixirs, sheet masks, nose patches, face scrubs, facial oils, face tools and more. However, some products tend to share similarities with each other like the cleanser and face wash. A lot of us get confused because on face value, these products look identical and claim to do the same thing (ie – keeping the pores squeaky clean). However, there’s a big difference between the two. Today, we’re going to find out what makes them special and which one should you spend your moolah on. 

What Is A Cleanser?

What is cleansing




Simply put, a cleanser’s job is to remove makeup residue, dirt, oil, dust and other impurities on the face. It’s the first step of your CTM routine and post-cleansing, you will have to follow it up with a toner and a moisturiser. As compared to an ordinary bar of soap, cleansers are designed for the skin on your face. While the cleanser helps to unclog the pores, it also keeps the acne at bay. 


However, cleansers are not a one-size-fits-all kind of product for the skin. To get the most out of a cleanser, you need to know your skin type first. Using the wrong cleanser can dry your skin out or cause breakouts. If you have oily or combination skin, look out for gel, clay or a foam-based cleanser. If you have dry skin, look out for cream cleansers. If your skin is sensitive and flares up easily, then you should invest in a micellar, powder or cream cleanser. So, it is important that you buy face cleansers as per your skin type only.

What Is A Face Wash?

Face Wash




As the product’s name suggests, a face wash is specially meant for your face. Since the skin on the face is more sensitive than the other parts of your body, you need a special skincare product for it. It deep cleans the pores and washes away all the gunk, sebum, makeup residue, dirt and bacteria. A face wash leaves your skin feeling clean, smooth and radiant. 


Also Read: Best herbal face wash 

Apart from just cleansing your face, a face wash also promotes blood circulation and exfoliates the skin by scrubbing off dead skin cells. The best time to use a face wash is once at night and once in the morning. Not only does this product make your pores squeaky clean, but it also gives your skin a chance to breathe. 


What Is The Difference Between A Cleanser & Face Wash?


If you’re new to skincare, this question has probably crossed your mind, ‘what’s the difference between cleanser and face wash?’ These two products have different names but do almost the same thing, right? Wrong! They are anything but similar. So how is a cleanser different from a face wash?

1. Texture


As mentioned above, cleansers are available in various textures. You get them in gel, foam, milky, cream, clay and more. The main job of a cleanser is to cleanse, hydrate the skin and calm inflamed skin. Cleansers do not create foam while face washes do. Cleansing feels more like a luxury treatment done at a spa, while face washes cleanse the skin sans the fluff.


Also Read: Best Face Washes In India

2. Skin Type


Face washes tend to be a bit harsh on the skin, while cleansers are fairly gentle and mild. Face washes usually target oily and combination skin types, while cleansers are great for sensitive, normal and dry skin types. If you know your skin type, it becomes easier to choose a cleansing product for your skin. The targeted skin type is usually mentioned on the product’s packaging. If you have any doubts with regards to the ingredients in the product, read up on its reviews online and do a patch test before applying the product all over the skin.


3. Usage

How to use Face wash & Cleanser




It’s great to start your day with a face wash and then use a cleanser post-workout and before bedtime. One pump of face wash or cleanser is more than enough. Do not apply too much product on the skin as it will strip it from its natural oils. A little goes a long way with cleansers and face washes.

4. Gentleness

Face washes may be gentler than an ordinary bar of soap on the skin. However, cleansers are gentler than face washes. A face wash only focuses on deep cleansing the pores, while a cleanser cleanses the skin and hydrates and moisturises it at the same time.


Also Read: Salicylic Acid Face Wash

5. Side Effects


Facial cleanser vs face wash – which is more harmful to the skin? Well, it depends on the ingredients in the product. If they contain alcohol, parabens, fragrances, synthetic colours in them, it’s bound to negatively impact your skin. You may experience a tingling sensation on the skin post-cleansing or notice dry patches or rashes on the skin. Hence, do a patch test before you use any skincare product.


Can I Use Both- A Cleanser & Face Wash On The Same Day?

cleanser vs face wash



Yes, you certainly can! You can either space them out and use the face wash in the morning and the cleanser at night or you can give double cleansing a shot! Double cleansing is a great option if your skin is prone to acne and gets oily quickly. Also, if you’re someone who wears heavy makeup, double cleansing helps to get rid of all the gunk and makeup residue on the skin. First, use a face wash and then a cleanser. Use a toner later to balance the pH of your skin and moisturise the skin after to nourish and hydrate it.

Ingredients To Avoid In A Cleanser & Face Wash

When shopping for the perfect face wash or cleanser product, look beyond pretty packaging. Keeping your skin type in mind, pay attention to the ingredients listed at the back of the product. Sometimes, even the best-looking skincare products can wreak havoc on the skin.


Ingredients to avoid in a face wash

Grab a notebook and pen, will you?

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – an ingredient that is responsible for making lather. Not recommended for sensitive skin types as it can be too harsh and rough. It’s known to strip the skin from its natural oils and cause dryness. 
  • Fragrance – loaded with chemicals and can trigger allergic reactions in the skin. If you’re drawn to sweet-smelling beauty products, opt for ones that contain essential oils or plant extracts. 
  • Parabens – they are basically preservatives added to beauty products to increase their shelf-life and effectiveness. Some studies believe that parabens cause breast cancer and skin allergies. 
  • Alcohol – will dry the skin out and cause irritation. Fatty alcohols like Cetearyl alcohol and Cetyl alcohol are relatively gentler on the skin. 
  • Mineral oil – can clog the pores and give birth to breakouts. Natural plant oils, on the other hand, will nourish the skin without clogging the pores.

Ingredients to avoid in a cleanser

Some toxic beauty ingredients used in the face wash are often used in a cleanser as well. Apart from the ingredients listed above, here are some more ingredients to avoid in facial cleansers.

  • Phthalates – an ingredient that helps the cleanser to spread smoothly and evenly on the skin. Prolong use of cleansers with phthalates can cause health damage to lungs, reproductive system, kidney and the liver. 
  • Isopropyl myristate – helps active ingredients to penetrate deep into the skin. Can cause blackheads and whiteheads.  
  • Sodium hydroxide – is alkaline in nature and has a negative effect on the skin because the skin is acidic. Dries the skin out and slows down the cell turnover process. 
  • Triclosan – causes damage to the immune system and causes skin inflammation.

Final Verdict: Cleanser vs Face Wash – Which one is better?

 Face wash VS Cleanser



Depending on your skin type, you need to make a choice whether you would like to invest in a face wash or cleanser. So face wash vs cleanser – which one to spend your moolah on? The cleanser keeps the pores squeaky clean and hydrated, while the face wash deep cleans the skin from all the gunk on its surface. If you like, you can use both these products together as well.

Also Read: Best face wash for combination skin


Also Read: Non comedogenic face fash

Also Read: Best Face wash for sensitive skin


Featured Image: Shutterstock

16 Sep 2020
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