What are the different types of cleansers?

Throughout my blog, I use affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of my links or discount codes, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

There are many different types of cleansers on the market including cleansing balm, gel cleansers and even powder cleansers. In this blog post, I am going to explain the different types of cleansers and also explain why you may prefer to use each cleanser type. I will also explain how to know which cleanser to use for your skin type.

If you don’t know your skin type, then this is the first step you need when choosing a cleanser. There are certain cleansers that work best for oily skin and other cleansers for dry skin.

Find out your skin type by downloading my free guide below on how to find out your skin type below. This is a really easy 3 step process that you can do at home for free (no extras needed!). It will take you minutes and will make sure that you are using the right skin care going forward.

After you find out your skin type, you will be able to see which cleanser is best to use for your skin type. Normal skin can use most of the below types of cleansers. For dry skin, combination skin and oily skin, it is best that you download my guide to find out your skin type.

Certain cleansers are harsher than others so if you have dry skin, you need to be careful of this. Similar for oily and combination skin, it is important to have a cleanser that will really work to remove excess oil while still hydrating.

PS. There are top tips to apply cleanser, you can find out all about how to use cleanser properly here.

Now that you know your skin type, let me tell you about all the different types of cleansers.

Types of Cleansers and the best cleansers

Type of Cleanser #1: Cleansing balm

I am going to start off with my absolute favorite type of cleanser – cleansing balm. I love cleansing balms because I can use them on my face and on my eyes. They are gentle cleansers and really work.

A cleansing balm is a creamy, balm texture that works to remove dirt and impurities, gently, without stripping the skin. Cleansing balms are gentle enough to use around the eye area. This limits the need of having 2 products for cleaning your face as you can use the cleansing balm all over your face.

I have a blog post on my top cleansing balms HERE that you can read to decide which cleansing balm to buy.

One of my favorite cleansing balms is the Glow Recipe Papaya Cleansing Balm. It smells so so good and is very gentle on your skin. Use my discount code LORNA to get 15% off.

Glow Recipe Cleansing Balm
Image via Glowrecipe.com

Cleansing Balms are suitable for all skin types in general as they provide hydration for dry skin and are effective in removing dirt and excess oil for combination and oily skin.

Type of Cleanser #2: Oil Cleansers

The next type of cleanser that I am going to talk through is oil cleansers. This is another one of the best cleansers to buy as oil cleansers are really gentle on your skin. While it may seem a little odd to wash your face with oil, it really works. Using an oil cleanser is a way to hydrate your skin while also removing makeup, dirt, sunscreen and excess oil gathered throughout the day. Similar to cleansing balms, oil cleansers are very good at removing eye makeup including waterproof mascara. Oil Cleansers are really gentle on the skin so I highly recommend them.

Oil cleansers are suitable for all skin types including oily and combination skin.

One oil cleanser that I absolutely love is Dermalogica Cleansing Oil. It smells heavenly and is so gentle and hydrating. My skin feels so fresh after using this cleansing oil.

You can use this Oil Cleanser as a pre-cleanser to remove makeup, sunscreen and dirt before using another cleanser to really clean your pores. This is called double cleansing. I double cleanse sometimes and other nights, I use this cleanser alone to cleanse my face.

Type of Cleanser #3: Micellar Water

Micellar water is the easiest of the cleansers to use because you do not need to wash off. Micellar water is a product that comes from France. The meaning “micelles” refers to small oil molecules that are in the micellar water (you can’t see these as they are so small).

If you are wondering how to use micellar water, then add some to a cotton pad and wipe against your face in order to take the dirt off. It’s as simple as that, no washing off. Micellar water is really good for bringing on trips as you can get small little bottles for carrying with you. Make sure your micellar water does not have alcohol in it. This will strip the skin of essential oils.

I love this Micellar water from Caudalie. It is so lasts ages and it packed full of goodness.

Micellar water is great for dry and sensitive skin.

Type of Cleanser #4: Gel Cleansers

I have tried a lot of cleansers over 20 years and there have been lots of harsh cleansers that I will avoid using going forward. For me, gel cleansers have been the most harsh on my skin. If you have sensitive skin, be careful of which gel cleanser that you choose.

Gel cleansers are clear and have a gel-like consistency. As I mentioned above, gel cleansers are very good at deep cleansing and getting any excess oil and dirt out of your pores. Gel cleansers will also remove acne causing bacteria.

For these reasons, gel cleansers are good for oily or combination skin. If you have dry or sensitive skin, pick a more gentle cleanser such as a cleansing balm or an oil cleanser.

I use a gel cleanser once or sometimes twice per week to really clean out my pores. I love this Dermalogica gel cleanser and it is not drying at all.

I also love this Drunk Elephant Jelly Cleanser.

I have a full Drunk Elephant Skin care review here including all the details on this Drunk Elephant Cleanser.

The Drunk Elephant Cleanser has salicylic acid which is a great ingredient for oily skin or acne prone skin. You can read all about cleansers with salicylic acid here. I will also tell you all about the best cleansers with salicylic acid.

Type of Cleanser #5: Cream Cleansers

Another type of cleanser is a cream cleanser. This can be called a cleansing cream, cleansing lotion or cleansing milk. Cleansing milks and lotions are really gentle on your skin. The texture is as it sounds, a cream, and it works to remove all makeup, sunscreen, sweat and dirt. The thick and creamy texture of cream cleansers are perfect for dry skin or sensitive skin. Cream cleansers work to cleanse your skin without stripping the skin of needed natural oils.

Cream cleansers are also one of my favorite cleansers as they are so gentle, yet effective.

This Tatcha cleanser is a really gentle, cream cleanser with amazing reviews. I love Tatcha products and the values of the brand. I met the founder of Tatcha once and she talked through how you should think of your evening skin care routine as cleansing the day away and also a self care routine where you take a few minutes to relax.

If you have oily skin, then cream cleansers are not the best cleansers for oily skin.

On another note, there are top tips to apply cleanser, you can find out all about how to use cleanser properly here.

Type of Cleanser #6: Foam Cleansers

Foam cleansers are a good cleanser for oily skin as they really work to remove excess oil. Foam cleansers can start as a cream or as a gel, but when mixed with water, they (usually) turn into a foam. Foam cleansers are deep cleansers similar to gel cleansers. If you have dry or sensitive skin, avoid foam cleansers as they can be too harsh for your skin. If you have oily skin, the foam cleansers will be perfect to give you a really squeaky clean feeling.

Farmacy Green Clean Cleanser is really amazing. It smells like a spa! This is one foam cleanser that I recommend. I personally don’t use foam cleansers as I have learnt over the years that they are too harsh for my skin.

Type of Cleanser #7: Clay Cleansers

Clay Cleansers have become a facial staple in recent years. Clay cleansers are great for really clearing pores and drawing out the excess oils that can cause breakouts. I use a clay cleanser about once per week to do a deep clean. The next morning I really notice a difference.

If you have oily skin, you can use a clay cleanser as your regular, daily cleanser. You can use this every night and in the morning (if you need it too). Avoid clay cleansers if you have dry or sensitive skin as they can be too harsh.

One of the top rated clay cleansers is First Aid Beauty’s Pure Skin Deep Cleanser with Red Clay. It works to really remove excess oil, dirt and leave the skin hydrated also.

Although I mention that I use different cleansers, it is completely fine to just use one cleanser. I did this for years and my skin was great. I love trying out new products so I have one daily cleanser and then try one or two other cleansers during the week when I am doing an at home facial night.

Type of Cleanser #8: Powder Cleansers

Powder cleansers are the final type of cleanser that I am going to walk you through. Powder cleansers come in a powder form and are activated by adding a little water into the palm of your hand along with the product. You only need a tiny bit of powder so these powder cleansers last a long time.

Powder cleansers are generally used as an exfoliator and after you have taken any makeup off. I use a powder cleanser once per week (on the same night as I use the clay cleanser). A powder cleanser will generally work to remove dead skin cells. This is an important step so any skin care or moisturizer will be able to soak into your skin better.

I love this Powder Cleanser from Sephora Collection. A little goes a long way. You can use this Powder cleanser morning or night. Build up use to a powder cleanser as they can be harsher than other cleansers. Powder cleansers are great for oily skin or combination skin.

Hope you enjoyed learning all about the different types of cleansers. Throughout the blog post, I made note of what type of cleansers are best for combination skin, dry skin and oily skin. With cleansers, it is really important that you take your skin type into consideration. To check your skin type, download my guide on determining your skin type above. You can buy the product that most suits your needs.

Find out all about how to use cleanser properly here. These are simple tips to make sure that you are using your cleanser properly.

More top tips to keep your skin glowing

I love using Cozy Earth’s plush wash cloths to take off my makeup each night. Use your favorite cleanser and remove with a warm, plush, hotel-like wash cloth. My Cozy Earth coupon code LORNARYAN40 gets you 40% off everything on Cozy Earth including these facial towels.

I also LOVE their new silk pillowcase. It is so soft and gentle on your skin and hair. Silk pillowcases have so many benefits which you can read about here.

One benefit about silk pillowcases is that they absorb less hair oil, skincare, and hair products than a traditional cotton pillowcase. This reduces breakouts as you are not continually exposing your skin to product and oil build ups on your pillowcase each night. Silk pillowcases also help reduce frizz (bonus!)

You can get this one at 40% off using my Cozy Earth discount code LORNARYAN40 for a limited time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of cleansers are best for combination skin?

The best type of cleanser for combination skin – cleansing balms, gel cleansers and oil cleansers.

What type of cleansers are best for dry skin?

The best type of cleanser for dry skin – cleansing balms, oil cleansers and cream cleansers

What type of cleansers are best for oily skin?

The best type of cleanser for oily skin – gel cleansers, cleansing balm, clay cleansers or foam cleansers

Do you have other blogs on cleansers and skin care

Below are links to my blog posts so you can have even more knowledge on cleansers and skin care:

Top cleansing balms

Drunk Elephant skin care review (full review on their cleansing balm and gel cleanser)

How to apply cleanser

Best Cleansers with Salicylic acid

Always check in with a dermatologist for any specific skin care concerns and always patch test products before trying out.

About Lorna Ryan

Lorna's fashion & beauty journey began on runways, including NYFW, which sparked her love for all things chic. Lorna spent two years as a SephoraSquad ambassador, sharing hero beauty products. Lorna unveils coveted beauty gems, the latest fashion trends, and best-kept jetsetter escapes.