The Best Gentle Cleansers That Won’t Turn Your Skin Red, Splotchy, Or Dry
Up until I discovered I had rosacea a few years ago, I'd always thought of cleansers as an insignificant step in my skincare routine — there to take off makeup and sweat and not much else. That all changed when I realized that every redness trigger mattered when it came to keeping my skin under control, and it seemed like face wash was one of the biggest triggers of them all. So I gave up my exfoliating scrubs and foaming washes and set out on a quest to find the best gentle cleansers that would keep my flare-ups to a minimum.
It was more difficult than I anticipated. Because while it seems nearly every product claims a "gentle" formula, when it comes to sensitive skin, only a few live up to the test. Thankfully, one of the first I stumbled across is still my favorite to this day — Neutrogena's Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, a $9.99 drugstore product that removes my makeup and leaves me with not an ounce of redness or dryness after I use it, which is an actual miracle considering I usually look like I just ran a marathon post-wash. And that's not an accident: As Dr. Bruce Robinson, dermatologist in New York City and creator of JAS, Just Amazing Skincare, told TODAY in 2019, the formula features hydrating glycerin which is "great for patients with eczema, rosacea and psoriasis."
While I rarely stray from my tried-and-true find, I found a few other options during my years as a beauty editor that deliver equally gentle results. Ahead, 10 formulas that my reactive skin and I love.
We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Anyone who was a fan of Avène's since-discontinued Antirougeurs Dermo-Cleansing Milk (RIP) knows that there's very little on the market that lives up to its gentle properties. However, this cleanser does and more — so any OG fans out there, you'll want to add this one to cart immediately. I can actually use this morning and night without causing any splotches or dryness, and I never get that awful tight feeling so many cleansers leave.
Like its name says, this cleanser from skincare whisperer Renée Rouleau keeps the moisture in my skin totally intact. It's sulfate-free and never causes flare-ups in my skin, and is a truly luxurious experience, to boot.
When I'm feeling too lazy to take a shower, I love to use this gentle cleansing milk from cult-favorite brand Biologique Recherche. I just slather it on, wipe it off with a wet muslin washcloth, and bask in the dewy, non-red effect it leaves me with. *Price available upon login.
Eve Lom's balm cleanser is truly the holy grail when it comes to luxurious face washes. Though according to the brand it technically decongests, exfoliates, tones, soothes, and deep cleanses, it still somehow never leaves me dry, tight, or red. Honestly, it just feels *good* — and leaves my skin looking that way, too.
For a cleaner option, I love Farmacy's surprisingly lightweight cleansing balm. Though it doesn't always remove *every* ounce of my makeup, it is moisturizing and non-drying and doesn't leave a residue as many balms do.
Though double-cleansing has certainly had its moment in the spotlight, I've always found that washing my face twice is an absolute no-go — why give my skin even more of a chance to turn splotchy and red? However, there are times when it's necessary (i.e. when I've layered on the makeup and setting sprays) and this ultra-gentle cleansing oil makes it a painless and overall lovely experience that leaves me with zero irritation.
Yes, it's a splurge, but Chanel's gel-to-oil cleanser is a gentle formula that feels luxe and takes off my makeup with ease. Though I don't use it as an everyday option, I do love it on special occasions when I want something that will brighten my skin without irritating it.
There's a reason every model, editor, and actor recommends this product: It's perfect (no, seriously). I'm a micellar fiend who's tried her fair share of sticky, stinging, and just plain ineffective formulas, but this is none of those. I'm never red or dry after I use it, and it removes my makeup easily and without any sign of residue.
This affordable option is equally good (and made specifically for sensitive skin). Thanks to essences of aloe, cucumber and tea extracts, it really does calm my skin, and after I use it I'm left feeling hydrated and not sticky at all.
Drunk Elephant's buzzy micellar water actually took some getting used to for me — it doesn't sink into cotton pads like most, so you really have to rub it into whatever you're applying with or you risk ending up with a big glop on one part of your face (or in your eyes, like me). However, once I adjusted, I fell in love. The formula is made with ceramides, plant oils, and vitamin E which makes it hydrating and milky, and it's designed so that it doesn't strip the skin's acid mantle or cause irritation.