15 of the Best Drugstore Face Cleansers That Are Just As Good As the Pricey Stuff

Vetted by a dermatologist

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Best Drugstore Face Cleansers universal: a collage of face cleansers
Dasha Burobina for PureWow

Regardless of how many steps you have in your skincare routine, a good face wash is essential. And while we appreciate the high-end beauty world, we’ve found that drugstore face cleansers can be just as good as a pricier pick from Sephora or Ulta. But with such a wide array of products, how are you supposed to know which ones are actually worth snagging? (Spoiler alert: The Cetaphil Healthy Radiance Face Wash is a must-have for winter.)

In our hunt to find the best drugstore face cleansers, we sorted through over 40 options, ultimately narrowing things down to the 15 best. To make our final list, we consulted dermatologists, analyzed ingredients and perused customer ratings and reviews (which is why we’re adding the CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser to our carts ASAP). 

Ahead, check out the 15 best face cleanser we found, all of which are available for purchase at spots like Amazon, Target and CVS. 

The 14 Best Face Cleansers for Sensitive Skin, Vetted by Experts

The Best Face Cleansers at a Glance


Best Overall

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

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Best for Acne

Differin Daily Deep Cleanser

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Best for Aging Skin

DERMA-E Anti-Wrinkle Cleanser

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Best for Blackheads

Bioré Witch Hazel Pore Clarifying Acne Face Wash

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Best Fragrance-Free

Yes To Avocado Fragrance-Free Daily Cream Cleanser

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Meet the Expert

Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology, a clinic located in Toronto, Canada. She has a master’s degree in international health from Johns Hopkins University and an M.D. from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Her areas of expertise include skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and adult acne, skin cancer prevention and surgery and the treatment of skin color/BIPOC patients.

How We Chose the Best Drugstore Face Cleansers

With Dr. Yadav’s guidance, we created a checklist based on the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: We looked for active ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, niacinamide and panthenol, all of which are good-for-you additives that Dr. Yadav recommended looking for.
  • Skin type: The best face wash will depend on a person’s individual skin type, so we made sure to include options that addressed different concerns, like skin that’s oily, acne-prone, dry or aging.
  • Budget: Just because a product is sold at the drugstore doesn’t mean that it’s inexpensive. In order to make this list, the product had to be $15 or less.
  • Customer ratings and reviews: If it wasn’t recommended by Dr. Yadav or personally tested by a PureWow editor or writer, we relied heavily on customer ratings and reviews to make sure buyers were happy with their purchase. 

Best Overall

1. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser


  • Pro: formulation is non-comedogenic, non-drying and non-irritating
  • Con: it contains exfoliating ingredients, which might not be suitable for everyone in a daily face cleanser
  • Best for: all skin types
  • Active ingredient: salicylic acid 

Per Dr. Yadav’s expertise, our top pick for the best drugstore face cleanser went to CeraVe’s Renewing SA Cleanser. It contains salicylic acid, which works to exfoliate and soften rough skin texture, hyaluronic acid for hydration and ceramides 1, 3 and 6-II to support the skin barrier. The formula is also non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores. 

We also love that it’s fragrance-free, developed by dermatologists and doesn’t have any harsh exfoliating microbeads, which can often hurt your skin instead of helping it. 

Take it from this happy customer: “CeraVe SA Cleanser has exceeded my expectations. With its affordable price point for the value size, I suggest investing in it, as it will last for months. I highly recommend this cleanser to anyone looking for a reliable face wash.”

Best for Acne

2. Differin Daily Deep Cleanser


  • Pro: specifically formulated to target acne and absorb excess oil 
  • Con: not recommended to use with acne medications 
  • Best for: sensitive and acne-prone skin
  • Active ingredient: benzoyl peroxide

If you’re dealing with pesky breakouts or have acne-prone skin, it can be tough to find a good face wash that won’t irritate your blemishes further. We chose Differin’s Daily Deep Cleanser as our pick for the best face cleanser for acne because it’s specifically designed to help with breakouts and suck up oils without drying out your skin. It contains 5 percent benzoyl peroxide as its primary ingredient, a topical antiseptic commonly used to treat acne. 

It’s also free from dyes, parabens, phthalates and aluminum, making it a good option for folks with sensitive skin. It has a whopping 4.5-star rating from more than 760 Target shoppers, with one user describing it as a “magic fix.”

Best for Aging Skin

3. DERMA-E Anti-Wrinkle Cleanser


  • Pro: can be used to remove makeup and cleanse the skin
  • Con: there’s no promise that it’ll noticeably reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Best for: aging skin
  • Active ingredient: vitamin A, glycolic acid

The DERMA-E Anti-Wrinkle Cleanser works to gently exfoliate, brighten and renew the skin. Active ingredients vitamin A and glycolic acid help to encourage skin cell turnover and clean the skin without drying it out, while sea kelp maintains skin elasticity. 

DERMA-E is also a clean beauty brand that prioritizes sustainable ingredients. This product in particular is 100 percent vegan, cruelty-free and made without any parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, petroleum, soy or GMOs. As an added bonus, it’s packaged in a recyclable bottle.

  • Pro: addresses existing blackheads, while also preventing more from popping up
  • Con: witch hazel doesn’t work well for everyone’s skin type
  • Best for: acne-prone and oily skin
  • Active ingredient: witch hazel, salicylic acid 

With 2 percent salicylic acid and witch hazel in the formula, Bioré’s Clarifying Face Wash actively works to break down gunk in your pores, while preventing future blackheads. Dubbed by one recent shopper as their “go-to face cleanser,” it’s praised for removing dirt and oil on and in your skin. 

Witch hazel is a natural astringent, and coupled with salicylic acid, which breaks down pore-clogging materials like oil and dead skin cells, this face cleanser helps reduce the appearance of blackheads.

  • Pro: made from 95 percent natural ingredients
  • Con: formula may be a bit too thick for some users
  • Best for: dry skin
  • Active ingredient: hyaluronic acid

Cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny certified, Yes To’s daily cream cleanser contains avocado oil and hyaluronic acid to really enhance hydration. According to the brand, when mixed with water, the formula transforms into a “milky lather” that helps remove oil and dirt. It doesn’t have any parabens, fragrances or silicones, instead the nourishing formula helps protect your natural skin barrier to leave your face feeling plump and healthy, even in the driest of seasons.

Best for Combination Skin

6. Cetaphil Healthy Radiance Face Wash


  • Pro: it’s a super gentle formulation
  • Con: none that we could find
  • Best for: combination and sensitive skin types
  • Active ingredient: niacinamide

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what youneed in a face wash when you have combination skin (this means that parts of your skin may be oily or acne-prone, while others are dry). For optimal care, we recommend going with a mild cleanser like Cetaphil’s Healthy Radiance Face Wash (another one of Dr. Yadav’s faves).

Its primary ingredients are niacinamide and antioxidants, which work together to reduce the appearance of dark and age spots, hyperpigmentation and acne scars. Polyhydroxy acid (PHA) is another active additive, serving as a gentle exfoliant that gets rid of dead skin cells without causing irritation. 

It’s also hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, plus it’s designed to protect from the five signs of sensitive skin (dryness, irritation, roughness, tightness and a weakened skin barrier). 

Best for Dry Skin

7. CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser


  • Pro: contains hyaluronic acid, squalane and ceramides for optimal hydration
  • Con: the oil-to-foam formula may be drying for people with sensitive skin
  • Best for: dry to very dry skin
  • Active ingredient: squalane, hyaluronic acid

A personal favorite of PureWow freelance writer Melissa Lee, this ultra-hydrating face cleanser is a must-have for her during the colder months. Hyaluronic acid, a moisturizing super ingredient, and squalane oil, known to maintain the skin’s barrier, work together to defend against dryness. Meanwhile, the essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II) that are found in most of CeraVe’s products are another great addition.

The formulation is fragrance-free, developed by dermatologists and non-comedogenic. As a bonus, if you have eczema, you’ll be happy to know that it has a seal of approval from the National Eczema Association, too. 

Best for Oily Skin

8. Cetaphil Pro Oil Removing Face Wash


  • Pro: it’s part of Cetaphil’s DermaControl line, a clinically proven pH balancing array of products
  • Con: zinc is the active ingredient, which is slightly under researched for oily skin
  • Best for: oily and sensitive skin types
  • Active ingredient: zinc, glycerin

If you have oily skin, you’re probably looking for skin care products that will help with removing excess shine. This foam wash from Cetaphil is a good option for those who struggle with oil production, thanks to its gentle formula, which contains zinc, an ingredient has been found to regulate sebum production. We also really like that this face cleanser is free from any fragrances, is hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. "This really cleans your pores, gently removing the oil. My face feels clean but not stripped dry," shares one reviewer.

Best for Sensitive Skin

9. Aveeno Calm + Restore Redness Foaming Cleanser


  • Pro: can be used as a makeup remover
  • Con: the pump may dispense more product than you need
  • Best for: sensitive skin
  • Active ingredient: glycerin and feverfew

Formulated to address redness and irritation often found in sensitive skin types, the Calm + Restore facial cleanser from Aveeno is a foaming, fragrance-free pick. It’s also free from any parabens and phthalates, hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, too, making it a Dr. Yadav approved option for sensitive skin. 

It can be used to remove makeup, dirt and oil from the day, while gently cleansing the skin. Feverfew, a plant that’s been found to help reduce redness and soothe irritated skin, is one of the active ingredients found in this cleanser, alongside glycerin.

Best for Gentle Cleansing

10. Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser


  • Pro: addresses sensitive skin without causing dryness
  • Con: not fragrance free
  • Best for: all skin types
  • Active ingredient: glycerin

Neutrogena’s Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser delicately tackles key signs of sensitive skin, while also promoting the natural barrier and cleaning pores. It was developed by dermatologists and uses glycerin to enhance hydration, along with polymeric technology that, according to the brand, creates a foamy texture that won’t strip your skin and leave it feeling dry and tight. 

Just be aware that while it’s hypoallergenic and made without any soaps or dyes, this cleanser does contain fragrance, in case you’re sensitive to that.

  • Pro: the oily consistency is great for dissolving makeup
  • Con: contains fragrance
  • Best for: all skin types
  • Active ingredient: grapeseed oil and vitamin C

Palmer’s is a brand that’s perhaps best known for its array of body care items, so it’s no surprise that this cleansing facial oil landed on our list. While it does have a rosy fragrance to it, which not everyone may like, it also features grapeseed and jojoba oils to help break down the day’s makeup and grime. Vitamin C is another good-for-you skin additive, since it’s been found to help with hyperpigmentation, dryness and uneven skin tone. 

Although the brand notes that you can use this product for makeup removal, the directions suggest avoiding your eyes. We recommend taking a cleansing balm or eye makeup remover to those precious peepers before going in with this facial oil.

The Fan Favorite

12. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser


  • Pro: removes makeup while maintaining hydration
  • Con: the bottle only contains 2 fluid ounces
  • Best for: dry skin
  • Active ingredient: hyaluronic acid

If you’re trying to spend minimal dough on a highly-rated face wash, we recommend Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel Cleanser. Though it’s on the smaller side at 2 fluid ounces, we assure you that a little goes a long way with this moisturizing formulation. Hyaluronic acid works deeply hydrate your skin, while gentle cleansing properties remove the day’s dirt. And, despite its low price point, quality definitely isn’t compromised since it’s still paraben-free, non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic.

Most Hydrating

13. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser


  • Pro: moisturizing ingredients provide up to 24 hours of hydration
  • Con: it’s on the pricier side, especially in comparison to other drugstore options
  • Best for: normal to dry skin types
  • Active ingredient: hyaluronic acid

Another great option from CeraVe, this hydrating facial cleanser checks all the boxes: it has hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin, it’s certified by the National Eczema Association and is non-comedogenic, fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. It even uses CeraVe’s patented MVE Technology, which works to continually release moisturizing ingredients hours after you use it.

As if you needed any more convincing, it has a 4.6-star rating from more than 12,600 Target shoppers. One buyer even described it as their “holy grail face wash”. 

Best for Eczema

14. Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser


  • Pro: it’s recommended by the National Eczema Association
  • Con: honestly, none that we could find
  • Best for: dry and sensitive skin types
  • Active ingredient: glycerin

People who have eczema know how frustrating it can be to find products that won’t cause further irritation. So we looked through the National Eczema Association’s site to find the best option and settled on Vanicream’s Gentle Facial Cleanser, which is free from dyes, fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, soap, botanical extract, sulfate, gluten and cocamidopropyl betaine. It’s described as the brand’s mildest formula, while still removing makeup and excess oil from your skin. 

Best Nighttime Cleanser

15. Cetaphil Cream to Foam Face Wash


  • Pro: clinically tested for sensitive skin
  • Con: some users report that the formulation isn’t as foamy as they’d like
  • Best for: normal to dry skin types
  • Active ingredient: glycerin, vitamins B5 and B3

It’s important to wash your face every night before bed, even if you didn’t wear any makeup that day. To rid your skin of excess oils and grime, we suggest this cream-to-foam cleanser from Cetaphil. Glycerin and vitamins B5 and B3 are the primary ingredients, while prebiotic aloe is another shining star for soothing dry or sensitive skin. 

Like other Cetaphil products, it’s hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic and free from fragrances and parabens. One happy user wrote: “There are no harsh chemicals or weird smells. I just lather it on [a] wash cloth and go to town. After I’ve rinsed it off, I’m left with the most beautiful clean feeling.”

What Face Wash Is Recommended by Dermatologists? 

According to Dr. Yadav, the best drugstore face cleanser will ultimately depend on your skin type, but in general, she’s a big fan of Cetaphil and CeraVe. 

“They are carefully formulated, dermatologist-tested and clinically proven,” she says. “[They] contain blends of niacinamide, panthenol and glycerin to help purify, calm, condition and hydrate the skin.” 

What Ingredients Should I Look for in a Drugstore Face Cleanser?

Dr. Yadav recommends looking for ingredients that will protect and support the skin’s natural barrier, like glycerin and ceramides. “[They will] help the skin function its best, staying balanced and hydrated without irritation,” she explains.

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Freelance Writer

Melissa has been writing, editing, and producing product roundups and brand reviews for the past four years. She graduated with a degree in journalism from SUNY Oswego in 2019 and...

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