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If someone asked me to characterize my teens in a few words, I would say they were constantly in flux. From big things like hormonal changes and academic pressures to small things like my sudden preference for watermelon jelly beans over green apple, my teenage years were a time of rapid change. I was quickly discovering what I liked and what I didn’t. However, despite the myriad of physical and emotional changes, the one thing that’s remained constant in my life is… my cleanser.
My dermatologist first recommended the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser in middle school and I have used it ever since. This cleanser dissolves dirt, oil and most makeup without stripping the skin’s natural oils. It’s also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores. Whether you have oily, sensitive or combination skin, the brand claims the cleanser is suitable for all skin types. As someone with dry, sensitive skin, I like that the jelly-like cleanser doesn’t make my skin feel tight after washing — which can be an initial sign your skin is being stripped of its natural fats and oils, according to board-certified dermatologist Jennifer MacGregor, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology. She added that Cetaphil’s characteristic gentleness is all thanks to the fatty alcohols in the formula that coat the skin cells and prevent detergents from drying it out.
Instead of taking away moisture in my skin, the cleanser adds it. And you don’t just have to take my word for it, as other shoppers seem to agree — this facial wash has garnered a solid 4.6-star average rating from over 20,400 Amazon reviews.
Made from eight simple ingredients, this fragrance-free cleanser is hypoallergenic and does not contain alkaline chemicals, which can inhibit the skin’s ability to ward off matrix metalloproteinases (MPPs), the collagen-destroying enzymes that lead to wrinkles and sagging. Cetaphil’s bestselling cleanser comes in multiple sizes: 2 ounces, 4 ounces, 8 ounces, 16 ounces and 20 ounces. My personal favorite is the giant 20-ounce tub — for about $16, this bottle lasts me for many, many months. I also like the mini 2-ounce travel size and keep it in my gym bag when I’m in need of a quick post-workout rinse.
Other hydrating cleansers to consider
Back in February, TikTok-famous skin care vlogger Hyram Yarbro recommended this gentle cleanser by CeraVe, which caused a nationwide drugstore sell-out for weeks. Aimed at people with drier skin, this cleanser contains two ingredients that hydrate and retain moisture: ceramides and hyaluronic acid. The product, which earned a 4.7-star average rating from over 43,000 reviews on Amazon, is also soap- and fragrance-free.
The Fresh Soy Facial Cleanser is a bestselling cleanser on Sephora, touting a 4.4-star average rating from over 8,300 reviews. Like the Cetaphil cleanser, it is formulated to remove makeup on all skin types, without overly drying out the skin. Made with soy proteins and other hydrating ingredients, the cleanser ensures the skin is left moisturized and hydrated.
Unlike the other cleansers on this lineup, this one by Tatcha is gel-based, which means it’s less likely to dry out your skin when cleansing, according to the brand. Made with the Japanese luffa fruit, the product utilizes natural amino acids to gently lift oil and dirt from the skin’s surface. It is also infused with tiny luffa fruit fibers that provide an extra level of exfoliation that dissolves as you cleanse and gently removes dead skin cells. Boasting a 4.6-star average rating from over 1,750 Sephora shoppers, many reviewers note their skin feeling more hydrated and supple.
Like Cetaphil’s gentle skin cleanser, this product by La Roche-Posay is noncomedogenic and works well with all skin types. Garnering a 4.6-star average rating from over 9,000 Amazon reviews, this cleanser utilizes glycerin to hydrate the skin in a non-oily way. A characteristic of glycerin is that it helps hydrate the skin without overproducing natural oils, Heidi Waldorf, MD, of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics, previously told NBC.
Shopping writer Rebecca Rodriguez is a fan of this Youth to the People cleanser and uses it once a day. With a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,100 reviews, this highly rated cleanser from Youth to the People is packed with superfoods — most notably kale, spinach and green tea. Rich in skin-loving phytonutrients and vitamins C, E and K, the kale brightens the skin cells. Like the Cetaphil cleanser, this one also has fatty acids derived from spinach that ensure a gentle clean. Completing the superfood triad is green tea, which touts anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients to keep the skin clear.