Face wash vs Face cleansers: What are the differences between cleansers and face wash?
5 Min Read
Face wash and cleansers sound more or less like the same products with different brand names, don’t they?
But are they the same?
What are the differences between face wash and face cleansers? Perhaps you’ve asked yourself questions like, “Is there a distinction between a cleanser and a face wash?” or “When is the best time to use each product?” or even “Do I need to use both?”
If so, you’re not alone. These are common queries that many people have when it comes to their skincare routine. Fortunately, we have some answers for you that we’d like to share in this blog.
What are the main differences between a face wash and a face cleanser?
The main difference between soap, face wash, and cleansers lies in the amount and type of surfactants they contain. Hold on, don’t go away yet. Let’s simplify this for you…
Surfactants are nothing but chemical compounds that help eliminate grease and grime from the face by dissolving oil and water, which can then be easily rinsed away.
(Since oil and water do not naturally mix well, surfactants help to dissolve both substances).
Also, one other difference between cleansers, face wash, and soaps is that cleansers additionally contain active ingredients that help nourish skin. Having said that, here are a few other differences worth knowing.
|Removes grease and grime from the surface. Ideally suited if you are out mostly
|Removes grease and grime without drying your skin. Ideally suited if you mostly stay indoors
|Oily and combination skin types
|Dry and sensitive skin types
|Usually well foaming
|Gentle than soap bar
|Gentle than face wash
|Less hydrating and moisturizing
|Relatively more hydrating and moisturizing
|Can be used once or twice depending on the use
|Can be used once or twice depending on the use
|Rinsing with water required
|Depending on the type, rinsing may or may not be required
|Formulations include gel and foam
|Formulations include cream, lotion, oil and powder
Cleansing activity of cleansers and face wash
The basic principle of how cleansers and face wash work is essentially the same.
When your face is oily, you may have noticed it feeling sticky and dirty. That’s because oil by nature traps a lot of dirt. Soap and face wash can remove oil and dirt from your face, but they differ in the concentration of surfactants they contain. So while harsh soaps remove all grease and grime, they also remove moisture along with it from your skin.
A typical example of this is when you wash your clothes by hand using bar soap. You may have noticed that your hands become extremely dry after washing them with detergent. This is because the soap not only removes dirt but also the natural oils and water present in your skin. The same thing happens with other products like face wash and cleansers but to a lesser extent.
Coming back to surfactants, they are made up of hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts.
- Hydrophilic (water-loving) and
- Hydrophobic (oil-loving).
When mixed with greasy dirt and oil, surfactants form tiny micro-droplets of water, soap, and oil called micelles. These micelles help remove oil and water as explained below.
In the image above, the orange circles and green tails represent the surfactants that we just discussed. Normally, water alone is not effective in removing oil and grime from your face. This is because oil and water repel each other. However, when you add a surfactant like the ones found in soap or face wash, they trap oil and remove it.
As seen in the picture, the hydrophilic or water-loving part of the soap molecule sticks to the water (H2O) and forms the outer surface of the micelle. Meanwhile, the hydrophobic or oil-loving parts hold tight to the oil and trap it in the center.
Soap molecules arrange themselves to become a barrier, trapping the oil in the center. When the soapy water is rinsed away, the oil and dirt attached to the soap are removed as well.
Harsh soap has a higher concentration of surfactants that can wash away everything, including the natural oils that your skin needs. face wash, on the other hand, has a lower concentration of surfactants that can help remove dirt but not all the oil. Cleansers are much gentler than face wash and can remove dirt without stripping away the natural oils from your skin.
In general, you can safely use soap or face wash for oily skin. However, cleansers are better for sensitive or dry skin as they help retain moisture.
Which type is best for me?
It is important to understand your skin type before choosing a suitable skincare product. Your skin type could be normal, dry, oily, combination or sensitive, and you may also have other skin conditions such as acne, pigmentation, dark circles, or aging.
Depending on your skin type and condition, there are different formulations of cleansers available like gel, foam, cream, lotion, oil, and powder. Here are some cleansers, you could try:
If you need help choosing the right skincare product, MFine provides a FREE consultation with a dermatologist. You can also take our AI-powered FREE skin assessment test, which takes only a few minutes to complete. By answering a few questions about your skin type and condition, you can get personalized product recommendations.
If you prefer not to see a dermatologist or take a skin assessment, you could also check out our products available online and make a purchase if needed.
When it comes to skincare, using the right products can make a significant difference. Two of the most common skincare products are face wash and cleanser. Although they may seem similar, there are distinct differences between the two. A face wash is primarily designed to clean pores, remove dirt and grime from the face. On the other hand, a cleanser goes a step further by removing any remaining dirt and grime that may be present on the skin. This makes a cleanser an excellent choice for those who want a deeper cleaning experience, which can help to keep their skin looking healthy and radiant.
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