Shopping
Advertiser Disclosure

Best Face Wash for Sensitive Skin, As Recommended by a Dermatologist

Face Wash for Sensitive Skin
iStock

Our evaluations and opinions are not influenced by our advertising relationships, but we may earn a commission from our partners’ links. This content is created independently from TIME’s editorial staff. Learn more about it.

Updated February 22, 2024

Face washes are incredibly important when it comes to your overall skin care routine. Removing makeup and dirt that may be clogging your pores is important to hopefully keep breakouts and skin irritation away. However, when you have sensitive skin, it can be tricky. Certain products might leave your skin feeling worse, making it itchy, red, or irritated, so it’s important to find products that are not only effective, but gentle. To compile my list of the best face washes for sensitive skin, I spoke to Dr. Simon Ourian, a cosmetic dermatologist at Epione Beverly Hills, to have a professional weigh-in on what products you should look for and avoid, as well as what’s best for other needs you may have.

What to consider when buying face wash for sensitive skin

Ingredients

There are a lot of face washes out there, especially if you’re up on the latest beauty product launches, trends, or love a good beauty subscription box. While those who have normal skin can try new products without thinking twice, people with sensitive skin need to be extra cautious about the ingredients. “Avoid potentially harmful components such as sulfates (like sodium lauryl sulfate), fragrances, certain alcohols (like ethanol and isopropyl alcohol), parabens, harsh exfoliating acids (such as glycolic and salicylic acid), and synthetic dyes, as they can cause dryness, irritation, and allergic reactions,” Dr. Ourian says.

Hydration

It’s important to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized, avoiding anything that will dry you out and lead to peeling or irritation. “When selecting a face wash, especially for sensitive skin, opt for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, niacinamide, aloe vera, and chamomile, which hydrate and soothe the skin,” Dr. Ourian says. Tip: Look for these ingredients when choosing night creams, as well.

Fragrance

Some natural fragrance extracts might be okay, but you’re always best just avoiding any fragrances when possible. “It's best to choose products labeled "fragrance-free" and "suitable for sensitive skin," and to conduct a patch test before fully incorporating a new product into your skincare routine. Also avoid products that scrub your face,” Dr. Ourian advises.

Our top picks for best face wash for sensitive skin

Best overall face wash for sensitive skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Facial Wash

The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying face wash is gentle and cleanses the skin of dirt and grime when used with lukewarm water. It’s suitable for all skin types but Dr. Ourian says, “I recommend it for oily skin because it's formulated to preserve the skin's natural barrier, essential for managing oiliness without causing dryness.”

It includes some great ingredients for sensitive skin like ceramide-3 that can help moisturize, glycerin that can hydrate the skin, niacinamide (a soothing form of vitamin B3), and their special ingredient, La Roche-Posay prebiotic thermal spring water full of important minerals like selenium—a strong but natural antioxidant.

Specifications:

  • Size: 13.52 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Ceramide-3, glycerin, niacinamide, La Roche-Posay prebiotic thermal spring water
  • Price on publish: $16.99

What we like:

  • Soap-free
  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Sensitive skin tested

What we don’t like:

  • Some reviews claimed it wasn’t good for their skin type, making their skin dry, but I noticed the customer service team was on it, working with them to find a better product for their skin.

The bottom line:

If you’re looking for a basic place to start, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Facial Wash is a great option overall, but particularly for sensitive skin that’s oily.

Best overall face wash for sensitive skin
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Facial Wash

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Facial Wash

Best budget face wash for sensitive skin: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

This foaming formula is gentle and inexpensive. “These budget-friendly options are great. Neutrogena effectively removes impurities, suitable for normal to oily skin, while Cetaphil's mild formula is perfect for sensitive skin, providing gentle cleansing,” Dr. Ourian says. He recommends Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Combination to Oily Sensitive Skin as an alternative budget option to Neutrogena.

Specifications:

  • Size: 5.8 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Water, glycerin
  • Price on publish: $5.09

What we like:

  • Oil-free
  • Soap-free
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Cleanses but doesn’t disrupt the skin’s moisture barrier
  • Dermatologist developed

What we don’t like:

  • Contains fragrance

The bottom line:

For a very inexpensive but effective product, go with the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser for Sensitive Skin.

Best budget face wash for sensitive skin
Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser

Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser

Best luxury face wash for sensitive skin: DIOR PRESTIGE La Mousse Micellaire

The DIOR PRESTIGE La Mousse Micellaire is full of micro nutrients to remove makeup from the skin and keep your face feeling clean, with the majority of their ingredients remaining as natural as possible like glycerin and rose extract. “This luxurious cleanser combines effective cleansing with skin nourishment, leaving skin soft and luminous,” says Dr. Ourian. To add to the rose theme, DIOR PRESTIGE also makes a luxurious night cream that revitalizes the skin with a rose-based peptide.

Specifications:

  • Size: 4.2 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Water, glycerin, rose extract
  • Price on publish: $110

What we like:

  • Helpful ingredients
  • Gentle on the skin

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive
  • Contains fragrance

The bottom line:

If you’re looking for a luxurious option that will leave your skin soft and smooth, try the DIOR PRESTIGE La Mousse Micellaire.

Best luxury face wash for sensitive skin
DIOR Prestige Rose Micellar Mousse Face Cleanser at Nordstrom

DIOR Prestige Rose Micellar Mousse Face Cleanser at Nordstrom

Best face wash for acne and sensitive skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

If you’re prone to breakouts, Dr. Ourian recommends this medicated face wash for acne by La Roche-Posay. It “contains salicylic acid—a beta hydroxy acid excellent for treating acne by exfoliating and unclogging pores,” says Dr. Ourian. The 2% salicylic acid in the product can cleanse off oil and makeup without being too rough on irritated skin. It includes glycerin to moisturize and is fragrance-free.

Specifications:

  • Size: 6.76 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin
  • Price on publish: $16.99

What we like:

  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Free of oil and paraben
  • Foaming texture
  • Dermatologist tested

What we don’t like:

  • Some reviews mentioned slight dry patches, so it’s wise to do a test first before using it on your full face.

The bottom line:

The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser is a great product for people prone to acne with a little bit of skin sensitivity.

Best face wash for acne and sensitive skin
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser

Best face wash for oily, sensitive skin: Dr. Barbara Sturm Microbiotic Gentle Cleansing Balm

If your skin naturally tends to be on the oily side, this Dr. Barbara Sturm product is a great option because it’s gentle. “Its formula is specifically balanced for oily skin, helping to cleanse without stripping natural oils,” says Dr. Ourian. Helpful ingredients like vitamin E and bioflavonoids from the Maclura Leaf plant nourish the skin while also being effective enough for people with acne.

Specifications:

  • Size: 4.23 fl. oz
  • Key ingredients: Both pre- and probiotics, glycerine, hyaluronic acid, almond oil, panthenol, vitamin E, and more
  • Price on publish: $45

What we like:

  • Natural, recognizable ingredients
  • Cruelty-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Paraben-free

What we don’t like:

  • Pricey compared to drugstore products, but worth the investment.

The bottom line:

The Dr. Barbra Strum Macrobiotic Gentle Cleansing Balm is the ideal choice, especially if you have oily skin and need something that will balance you out, without removing natural oils.

Best face wash for oily, sensitive skin
Dr. Barbara Sturm Microbiotic Gentle Cleansing Balm

Dr. Barbara Sturm Microbiotic Gentle Cleansing Balm

Best face wash for dry, sensitive skin: Biologique Recherche Lait E.V. Revitalizing Milk Cleanser

If your face is prone to dryness, try the Biologique Recherche Lait E.V. Revitalizing Milk Cleanser. It’s “excellent for dry skin due to its hydrating properties and mild formulation,” says Dr. Ourian. The milky texture works into your skin and then you use a damp cloth to remove oil, makeup, dirt, and any impurities from your skin.

Specifications:

  • Size: 8.4 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Water, squalane, vitamin E, glycerin, amniotic fluid
  • Price on publish: $42

What we like:

  • In addition to it being a great cleanser, it removes makeup well
  • Squalane is moisturizing and helps slow the signs of aging
  • Vitamin F (alpha-linoleic acid and linoleic acid) supports the skin’s moisture barrier
  • Amniotic fluid helps with skin regeneration, which counteracts the effects of aging

What we don’t like:

  • Some reviews said it feels strange to not wash it off

The bottom line:

If you’re looking for a milky cleanser that doubles as a great make up remover, without drying out your skin, look no further than the Biologique Recherche Lait E.V. Revitalizing Milk Cleanser.

Best face wash for dry, sensitive skin
BIOLOGIQUE RECHERCHE LAIT E.V. (Cleansing Milk for Dehydrated Skin) 5.1 oz

BIOLOGIQUE RECHERCHE LAIT E.V. (Cleansing Milk for Dehydrated Skin) 5.1 oz

Best face wash for redness: Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm

If you deal with redness, try the Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm. “I find its soothing properties ideal for reducing redness and moisturizing the skin. I think Manuka honey is miraculous for almost everything,” says Dr. Ourian. The Manuka honey is combined with other helpful ingredients like Lactobacillus ferment as a probiotic used to pull out moisture, and royal jelly peptides for a smooth, even skin tone.

Specifications:

  • Size: 2.8 oz.
  • Key ingredients: Manuka honey, Lactobacillus ferment, and royal jelly peptides
  • Price on publish: $68

What we like:

  • Manuka honey among other helpful ingredients
  • Cruelty-free
  • Great for removing makeup
  • One reviewer notes “it hydrates without being oily”

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive for the amount

The bottom line:

If you’re prone to redness, the Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm is great for taming that and moisturizing your skin.

Best face wash for redness
Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm

Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm

Best hydrating face wash for sensitive skin: La Prairie Supreme Balm Cleanser

If your skin is desperate for a little hydration, the products from La Prairie work wonders, especially the Supreme Balm Cleanser. It “provides intense hydration, making it a top choice for clients seeking a hydrating cleanser,” says Dr. Ourian. Deep clean your skin in the evening to remove any dirt, grime, and makeup from the day. La Prairie is also known for their luxurious eye creams and anti-aging serums.

Specifications:

  • Size: 3.4 oz.
  • Key ingredients: Panax ginseng root extract, Vitis vinifera fruit extract, shea butter
  • Price on publish: $180

What we like:

  • Shea butter, among other helpful ingredients
  • Gives skin a velvety feel

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive
  • Contains fragrance

The bottom line:

Although a pricier option, the La Prairie Supreme Balm Cleanser is a worthwhile investment when it comes to keeping your skin looking young, healthy, and hydrated.

Best hydrating face wash for sensitive skin
La Prairie Supreme Balm Cleanser at Nordstrom

La Prairie Supreme Balm Cleanser at Nordstrom

Best for face wash for mature sensitive skin: Chanel La Mousse Anti-Pollution Cleansing Cream-To-Foam

If you’re looking for the best product to cater to aging, sensitive skin, the Chanel cream-to-foam cleanser is the ideal choice. “Formulated to meet the needs of mature skin, it offers gentle cleansing and supports skin rejuvenation,” says Dr. Ourian. They use blue micro-algae to act as a bit of a barrier from any harmful dirt and grime, while the marine salicornia extract used acts as an intense moisturizer. Considering the thoughtful ingredients and that it was made by Chanel, it’s surprising that the price tag is fairly low at $55.

Specifications:

  • Size: 5 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Blue micro-algae, marine salicornia extract, glycerin
  • Price on publish: $55

What we like:

  • Marine ingredients: blue micro-algae and marine salicornia extract
  • Cream texture

What we don’t like:

  • A little expensive for the amount, but worth it

The bottom line:

You can trust your skin with Chanel, incorporating high-quality marine ingredients to help keep your skin clean and looking hydrated and moisturized.

Best for face wash for mature sensitive skin
CHANEL LA MOUSSE Anti-Pollution Cleansing Cream-to-Foam

CHANEL LA MOUSSE Anti-Pollution Cleansing Cream-to-Foam

Best drugstore face wash for sensitive skin: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser For Normal to Dry Skin

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly face wash specifically for your sensitive skin, the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser is the ideal choice. “A favorite drugstore pick, it's enriched with hyaluronic acid, maintaining essential moisture. The price point is very affordable for everyone and it’s been true and tested over the years,” says Dr. Ourian. It’s loaded with ceramides and glycerin to keep your skin feeling hydrated, protected, and clean. Shopping tip: CeraVe also made our lists for the best creams for eczema, best face wash for dry skin, and best eye cream for puffiness.

Specifications:

  • Size: 16 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin
  • Price on publish: $15.48

What we like:

  • Ceramides help restore the skin’s barrier
  • Accepted by the National Eczema Association
  • Provides 24-hour hydration
  • Fragrance-free
  • Paraben-free
  • Soap-free

What we don’t like:

  • A few reviews mentioned that their skin dried out a bit

The bottom line:

If you're looking for the convenience of a drugstore option, this is a great choice with high-quality ingredients like ceramides and glycerin.

Best drugstore face wash for sensitive skin
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser with Ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser with Ceramides and Hyaluronic Acid

Best natural face wash for sensitive skin: Payot Herbier Organic Face & Eye Cleanser with Olive Oil

For the best natural face cleanser, an olive oil based product like this one by Payot is the ideal choice according to Dr. Ourian. You can also make a simple cleansing mask at home using olive oil, honey, egg yolk, and lemon juice. Let it set for 5 -10 minutes before rinsing it off. “A natural, DIY option that is gentle and nourishing,” says Dr. Ourian.

Specifications:

  • Size: 3.21 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, olive fruit oil, water
  • Price on publish: $27

What we like:

  • Paraben-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Removes makeup
  • Not animal tested

What we don’t like:

  • Have to pay for shipping on orders less than $85
  • A little expensive for the amount

The bottom line:

This is a great olive oil based product to use if you’re looking to buy one, but again, Dr. Ourian says that the DIY version with stuff you can grab from your kitchen is effective as well.

Best natural face wash for sensitive skin
Payot Herbier Organic Face & Eye Cleanser with Olive Oil

Payot Herbier Organic Face & Eye Cleanser with Olive Oil

Best face wash for sensitivity relief: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

If you have extremely sensitive skin and you’re looking for relief, this gentle face cleanser from La Roche-Posay is the ideal choice to soothe your skin. “Its niacinamide content is effective for sensitivity relief,” says Dr. Ourian. The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser incorporates ceramide-3, glycerin, niacinamide, and even prebiotic thermal water into their formula so that it’s gentle while cleansing your skin.

Specifications:

  • Size: 13.52 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Prebiotic thermal water, ceramide-3, niacinamide, glycerin
  • Price on publish: $16.99

What we like:

  • Fragrance-free
  • Inexpensive
  • Dermatologist tested
  • Sensitive skin tested

What we don’t like:

  • Remember to do a patch test. A small amount of reviews mentioned a little initial burning, so it might not be the best fit for certain skin types.

The bottom line:

If you’re looking for a product that will provide you some relief, the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser is a great option with ceramide-3, glycerin, niacinamide, and prebiotic thermal water.

Best face wash for sensitivity relief
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

Best anti-inflammatory face wash for sensitive skin: Sisley Paris Buff & Wash Facial Gel

For an ultra-gentle cleanser, go for the Sisley Paris Buff & Wash Facial Gel. “Its anti-inflammatory properties are excellent for calming irritated skin,” says Dr. Ourian. The gel leaves your skin feeling soft and is made from gentle ingredients like lemon extract and lavender.

Specifications:

  • Size: 3.3 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Soy proteins, lemon, poppy, essential oils of lavender, verbena
  • Price on publish: $150

What we like:

  • Natural key ingredients
  • Gel formula

What we don’t like:

  • Small amount of product for the price.

The bottom line:

If you’re looking for a natural, but quality cleanser that is anti-inflammatory, look no further than the Sisley Paris Buff & Wash Facial Gel.

Best anti-inflammatory face wash for sensitive skin
Sisley Paris Buff and Wash Facial Gel at Nordstrom

Sisley Paris Buff and Wash Facial Gel at Nordstrom

Best milky face wash for sensitive skin: Simon Ourian MD Cleansing Milk

The texture of the Simon Ourian MD Cleansing Milk makes it ideal for sensitive skin. “The milky formula is particularly beneficial for dry skin, offering gentle cleansing,” says Dr. Ourian. It’s effective, while being incredibly gentle on your sensitive skin, incorporating ingredients like agrimony extract used to balance skin tone, panthenol to keep your skin soft, bisabolol from chamomile to soothe, and ginger as an anti-stress factor in the formula.

Specifications:

  • Size: 3.38 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Agrimony extract, ginger, panthenol, bisabolol
  • Price on publish: $25

What we like:

  • Free from fragrances, sulphates, and parabens
  • Vegan
  • Subscription option to save 20%

What we don’t like:

  • Have to spend $99 to get free shipping

The bottom line:

If you’re looking for the ideal, milky cleanser with soothing, high-quality ingredients, the Simon Ourian MD Cleansing Milk is a great choice.

Best milky face wash for sensitive skin
Simon Ourian MD Cleansing Milk

Simon Ourian MD Cleansing Milk

Best fragrance-free face wash for sensitive skin: Simon Ourian MD MDO The Cleanser

Simon Ourian MD’s MDO The Cleanser is a mild, fragrance-free cream cleanser that works for all skin types. “Ideal for fragrance-sensitive skin, its formula is gentle and minimizes the risk of irritation,” says Dr. Ourian. It’s made to detox the skin but is soothing, so you can leave this cream formula on or wash it off.

Specifications:

  • Size: 3.38 fl. oz.
  • Key ingredients: Agrimony extract, panthenol, bisabolol, ginger
  • Price on publish: $25

What we like:

  • Free from fragrances, sulphates, parabens
  • Vegan
  • Affordable

What we don’t like:

  • Long ingredient list

The bottom line:

The Simon Ourian MD The Cleanser can be used without water, and is gentle on the skin, without any harsh fragrances.

Best fragrance-free face wash for sensitive skin
Simon Ourian MD MDO The Cleanser

Simon Ourian MD MDO The Cleanser

How we selected the best face wash for sensitive skin

In addition to looking at reviews and researching the products, I also spoke with a professional in the industry, Dr. Simon Ourian, cosmetic dermatologist at Epione Beverly Hills, to get specific product recommendations.

How to tell if you have sensitive skin?

Generally, if you’re prone to sensitive skin, your body will tell you in various ways. You might experience rashes, acne, burning, itchiness, redness, dryness, and even pain at times, among other various symptoms. Dr. Ourian always recommends conducting a patch test, especially with sensitive skin, before “fully incorporating a new product into your skincare routine.”

What ingredients should people with sensitive skin avoid?

When shopping for different face washes for sensitive skin, there are a few ingredients to avoid if possible. “Avoid potentially harmful components such as sulfates (like sodium lauryl sulfate), fragrances, certain alcohols (like ethanol and isopropyl alcohol), parabens, harsh exfoliating acids (such as glycolic and salicylic acid), and synthetic dyes, as they can cause dryness, irritation, and allergic reactions,” explains Dr. Ourian.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How often should you wash your face?

Dr. Ourian says, “Very gently, twice a day. In the morning when you wake up and at night to remove the makeup.”

What are the benefits of using a face wash?

Cleaning your face regularly can help protect your skin by removing dirt, grime, and makeup, helping you avoid potential breakouts and irritation. Many face washes, especially for sensitive skin, also include soothing ingredients that keep the skin moisturized and hydrated.

What face wash is good for irritated skin?

There are a lot of great products out there on the market for sensitive skin, but if your skin is really irritated, the more natural, the better. “I like pure olive oil when the skin is very irritated. Virgin olive oil,” says Dr. Ourian.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

1.993.1612+1.62.27