Cleanser v/s Face Wash

Nourish Mantra

Cleanser v/s Face Wash

Is cleanser the same as face wash? These terms are often confused as the same thing, but they are different from each other. Even though they both work to remove dirt, oil, makeup & other debris from your face, how they clean isn't the same. They are used interchangeably, but you should use the products that fit your skin requirements. The result of both the products will highly vary as it's dependent on your skin type & concerns. 

What's the difference between face cleanser and face wash?

It is necessary to clear the doubt & make sure that you are using the right product for your skin type. Let's dig and grasp the key difference between face wash and cleanser. 

How does a face cleanser work?

Face cleanser makes your skin squeaky clean without making your skin dry. They are mild & non-foaming. They boost hydration and soothe the skin. The texture of the cleanser is richer than that of face wash. They are either creamy or milky gels or balms ranging from thick to thin. The face cleansers are formulated with ingredients that add value to your skin by nourishing it, balancing the complexion and uplifting the moisture levels. 

It doesn't cause any harm to your skin as it doesn't strip off too much oil from the skin. It ideally works for many skin types, including normal, sensitive, dry & combination. Oily skin types can also reap some benefits from the cleanser, mainly if you notice skin dryness or tightness after washing your face. You can indulge in the cleanser in the morning  skincare routine & face wash in the evening skincare routine. 

What does face wash do?

Face washes are water-based products. It comes in gel, bar & foam formulations. When face wash is massaged onto your skin, it lathers. It controls the oil formation effectively with the power of its astringent ingredients. With most of its astringent ingredients and foaming action, a face wash deeply cleanses the pores & combats oil. Oily skin types should mostly use face wash. However, dry, sensitive, combination or normal skin types may experience them as too harsh for their skin. If the product  accidentally strips too much oil from the skin, it will result in a tight, dry, itchy and uncomfortable feeling. 

Learn the main difference- Face wash vs Face cleanser


Face Wash



Draws out debris from the deeper layers of the skin & cleanses pores

Withdraws dirt, excess oil & makeup residues from the skin’s surface

Best Suited For

Oily & combination skin types

Dry & sensitive skin types


Gentler than a soap bar

Gentler than a face wash

Skin Texture

Less hydrating & moisturizing

More hydrating & moisturizing


A.M skincare routine

P.M skincare routine



May or may not be required

Product Texture

Gel & foam formulations

Cream, lotion, oil & powder formulations

How often can you use cleanser and face wash in a day?

The right frequency of using cleanser or face wash also depends on your skin type. However, to specify in detail:

  1. Cleanser

Use a cleanser twice a day as it helps to remove the oil and impurities that pile up on your skin during the day & overnight. Making it a daily habit in your skin care regimen will help to decongest the pores, which would otherwise lead to blackheads & pimples. It also hydrates & moisturizes the skin, thereby softening & smoothing any dry patches.

  1. Facewash

People with oily skin types should use face wash twice a day. It is a massage on the damp skin to foam up & get rid of stubborn dirt. It is necessary to thoroughly rinse your face using lukewarm water; otherwise, it can dry your skin.

Both the cleanser & face wash have synthetic detergents to take down the dirt. These detergents are also known as surfactants (surface active agents). These surfactants are made up of a hydrophilic (water-loving) & hydrophobic (oil or grease-loving) tail. The hydrophobic part gets bound with oil & dirt to form structures called micelles. These micelles trap dirt & clear away with a thorough rinse. 

Best ingredients used to formulate a cleanser

Different ingredients in cleansers work perfectly well at combating various skin conditions. 

  1. Retinol

Purpose: increases skin turnover & encourages the generation of new healthy skin cells

Best suited for: Acne-prone or oily skin

  1. Salicylic Acid

Purpose: reduces excess oil production & removes dead skin cells

Best suited for: Acne-prone or oily skin

  1. Ceramides

Purpose: creates a strong skin barrier

Best suited for: Dry or sensitive skin

  1. Vitamin C

Purpose: combats free radical production

Best suited for: All skin types

  1. Chemical exfoliants

A broad category that involves different types of acid that removes the outermost layer of dead skin cells. Some of them are:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Salicylic acid
  • Azelaic acid
  • Trichloroacetic acid

Purpose: each ingredient tackles various skin ailments

Best suited for: salicylic acid for oily skin, lactic & glycolic acid for dry skin, azelaic acid for sensitive skin

  1. Physical exfoliants

It refers to scrubs with particles like seeds, beads and granules that slough away dead skin cells. 

Purpose: removes dead skin cells, increases skin cell turnover, softens & smooths skin

Best suited for: non-sensitive skin

  1. Glycerin

Purpose: moisturized & hydrated skin, curbs dryness, prevents skin irritation and maintains skin barrier

Best suited for: dry & sensitive skin

Best ingredients used to formulate a face wash

  1. Tea tree oil

Purpose: prevents acne & reduces its scars, leaves skin clear & smooth

Best suited for: oily skin

  1. Clay

Purpose: absorbs excess oil, manages dry skin & prevents acne

Best suited for: oily skin

  1. Niacinamide

Purpose: encourages new cells formation & protecting them from sunlight, pollution & toxins

Best suited for: acne-prone skin

  1. Salicylic acid

Purpose: reduces excess oil production & removes dead skin cells

Best suited for: acne-prone or oily skin

  1. Aloe vera

Purpose: moisturizes skin, slows signs of aging & manages acne

Best suited for: all skin types

  1. Vitamin E

Purpose: strengthens skin barrier function and protects cells from damage throughout your body

Best suited for: dry skin & eczema-prone skin

  1. Ceramides

Purpose: creates a strong skin barrier

Best suited for: dry or sensitive skin

  1. Honey

Purpose: improves skin appearance by reducing fine lines & wrinkles

Best suited for: oily & combination skin

  1. Milk

Purpose: moisturizes skin, slows signs of aging, brightens skin and treats acne

Best suited for: all skin types

  1. Jojoba oil

Purpose: retains moisture & rejuvenates the skin

Best suited for: oily or acne-prone skin

  1. Lanolin

Purpose: a moisturizer to treat dry, rough, scaly, itchy & minor skin irritations

Best suited for: dry skin types

  1. Hyaluronic acid

Purpose: slows down signs of aging, heals breakouts & hydrates the skin

Best suited for: all skin types except extremely sensitive skin type

  1. Mineral oil

Purpose: locks in moisturizer, soften skin & improves skin barrier function

Best suited for: dry skin types that aren't prone to acne

Can you use both cleanser & face wash in a day?

The usage of cleansers & face washes in the same skincare routine is dependent on your skin type. If your skin type is oily yet sensitive, pair it with a face wash & a cleanser in your daily skincare regimen, as it helps to prevent irritation. Use a face wash in the morning to remove excess oil formation & cleanser at night that adds a moisturization effect while you sleep. 

  • People with combination skin can also use the above mentioned trick. 
  • Dry & sensitive skin types should use cleanser only twice a day. 
  • If you have oily & acne prone skin and wear heavy makeup, then double cleansing is recommended.
  • If your skin is more exposed to air pollutants, then use a cleanser first & face wash afterwards to clear away the particles from your skin. 
  • You may feel that your skin needs a face wash to start the day and a cleanser between workout activities & bedtime. You are free to adjust your skin products as and when your skin feels dry or oily after cleansing. 

Which one is preferred the most?

This discussion on cleanser and face wash differences might have cleared all your doubts. But if this question still comes to your mind, then you should know that in face wash vs face cleanser:

Face washes are best for oily & acne-prone skin due to their strong cleansing effects. It lathers while using, thereby reducing the formation of future breakouts & clogged pores & washes away deep-seated oils.

Cleanser takes the front seat in case of sensitive skin types. They are mild & helpful for people who are prone to eczema, rosacea etc.

Combination skin types can use both face wash & cleanser to balance the oily & dry regions of their face. 

How to cleanse/ wash your face?

  • Cleanser
  • Step 1: Wash your hands before taking cleanser in your palm as it may lose its purpose due to your dirt or greasy hand

    Step 2: Take a bit of the cleanser & apply it to your face

    Step 3: Take it off either with water or washcloth or cotton as suggested by the brand you use

  • Face Wash
  • Step 1: Take a coin-sized amount of face wash in your hand

    Step 2: Gently massage it on your face for about 30-60 seconds. Move your hands in an upward direction in small circles.

    Step 3: Rinse thoroughly

    Ingredients to avoid in a cleanser/ face wash

    1. Sulfates

    It is a type of salt that is formed when sulphuric acid reacts with another chemical. SLS or SLES are the common sulfates used in face washes and cleansers. It creates foam or lather and irritates your eyes and skin. 

    1. Parabens

    It is used as a preservative in face washes and cleansers to keep them fresh & germ-free. It comes from chemical families like methyl, butyl & propyl.

    1. Phthalates

    It is a type of salt used in cleansers to spread quickly. It is related to reproductive & developmental toxins. It is an endocrine disruptor.

    1. Mineral Oil

    It can block the pores and result in breakouts.

    1. Fragrance

    It is loaded with chemicals & triggers allergic reactions in the skin; if you love fragrances in your skin care products, look for ones of essential oil or plant extracts. 

    Do’s & Don’t of cleanser/ face wash

    1. Cleanse your face before going to bed to wake up with clear skin but don't skip the morning wash as well. 

    2. You cannot avoid morning face wash as oil from the hair & saliva from the mouth can quickly transfer to your face.

    3. Don't splash water on your face. Choose the best cleanser/face wash according to your skin type.

    4. Massage the face wash/cleanser on the damp skin in circular motions instead of washing it away quickly.

    5. Use fresh face towels daily, as using the same daily may lead to acne.

    6. Over-exfoliation is always a bad idea. High concentration & chemical exfoliators in scrubs can strip off the natural hydro-lipid barrier of the skin, making your face vulnerable to inflamed & dry skin.

    7. Don't overwash the t-zone of the skin, as it can make the skin extremely dry.

    8. Don't directly use cleanser over makeup. Properly remove all your makeup first with a gentle makeup remover.

    9. A big no to soap bars for face cleansing because they can disbalance the skin's pH balance.

    10. Too much hot or cold water can cause skin irritation, so it is best to use lukewarm water to rinse your face. 

    11. Don't let the water drip from your face after the water rinses because it could lead to dryness when the water evaporates.

    12. Pat dry your face with a soft & antimicrobial towel.

    Look at the range of cleansers formulated by Nourish Mantra

  • Cucumber Mint Upvan Facial Cleanser
  • A perfect concoction of refreshing cucumber extracts & calming aloe vera leaf extracts with nutritive niacinamide will pull out impurities & makeup. It makes you feel fresh instantly & imparts an unmatchable radiance.

  • Green Tea Tatva Scrub Cleanser
  • A 2-in-1 product has the qualities of both a cleanser & scrubber. The unbeatable green tea in this product exfoliates dead skin cells and clears makeup, dirt & impurities. The antioxidant & antibacterial properties help to transmit a healthy appearance & youthful glow.

  • Ratrani Clay Cleanser
  • A luxurious formulation of Moroccan lava clay, french red clay and activated charcoal mixed with a buttery-soft base. It detoxifies the skin, absorbs excess oil produced by pores and gives you velvety soft skin.