The 15 Best Water Based-Cleansers for Every Skin Type in 2023

December 27, 2022
Christie Rotondo
By: Christie Rotondo | skincare.com by L'Oréal
photo of L'Oreal, Youth to the People, and Vichy water-based cleansers on a green background

The first step in any skincare routine needs to include some sort of cleanser — but with so many options to choose from, where should you start? Water-based cleansers are one of the most versatile options available, with formulas designed for nearly every skin type, especially those with sensitive skin. Whether you’re looking to remove your waterproof makeup without rubbing your face raw, or need a gentle cleanser for stressed-out skin, there’s a water-based cleanser for you.

What Is a Water-Based Cleanser?

So, how do you identify if a cleanser is water-based? Simple — just take a look at the ingredients. Whether the formula is a rich gel or a foaming lather, the first ingredient in any water-based cleanser will be water. Oil-based cleansers, on the other hand, will usually list oils first, as they are the most prominent ingredient.

What Are the Benefits of Water-Based Cleansers?

The benefits of a water-based cleanser will depend on the product you choose and your skin type. For example, micellar waters are ultra-gentle, so they’re great for removing makeup and dirt on sensitive skin. Those with oily skin or uneven textures will want to look for a cleanser that contains a glycolic acid or salicylic acid to address greasiness without over-drying their skin. 

The 15 Best Water-Based Cleansers

 

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Waterproof Makeup Remover

Micellar water is great for not only cleansing skin, but also for breaking down tough, waterproof makeup without all the rubbing. This formula helps waterproof mascara slide right off, making it perfect for the sensitive skin around your eyes.

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Waterproof Makeup Remover

CeraVe Hydrating Micellar Water

This ultra-gentle cleanser uses three different ceramides to cleanse, hydrate and remove makeup, plus it’s recommended by the National Eczema Association — so those with sensitive or dry skin can rest easy this one won’t overdry their skin.

CeraVe Hydrating Micellar Water

Thayers pH Balancing Gentle Face Wash With Aloe Vera

This clean cleanser uses aloe vera to balance the skin’s pH levels and strengthen the moisture barrier, making it great for all skin types — including mature skin.

Thayers pH Balancing Gentle Face Wash With Aloe Vera

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser

It’s important that cleansers clear dirt, debris and makeup from your skin — without drying it out. Thanks to Kiehl’s signature squalane (a botanical lipid made from olives) and glycerin to draw in added moisture, this cleanser achieves that.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser

Vichy Pureté Thermale Fresh Cleansing Gel

If your home is prone to hard water (and installing a water softener isn’t in the cards), this cleanser can help reduce some of the damaging effects it has on skin. The rich gel formula lathers up to eliminate dirt, makeup and even pollution — while counteracting the effects of hard water.

Vichy Pureté Thermale Fresh Cleansing Gel

SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser

Formulated with glycolic acid, this foaming cleanser is best for uneven skin texture or dull skin tone, as it works to gently exfoliate, while hydrating and softening the skin.

SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Gentle Facial Cleanser

It’s not just any old water from the tap that’s at the center of this cleanser. Instead, it’s sourced in the town of La Roche-Posay in France, and has a high concentration of selenium — a natural antioxidant.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Gentle Facial Cleanser

L’Oréal Paris Micellar Cleansing Water

At under $10, this micellar water is the perfect entry point for those looking to add a water-based cleanser to their routine. Plus, it comes in unique formulas for oily, normal or dry skin (as well as one specifically made to remove waterproof makeup).

L’Oréal Paris Micellar Cleansing Water

Lancôme Eau Fraiche Douceur Micellar Cleansing Water

It’s not just waterproof mascaras that are a pain to remove; long-lasting lipsticks can also require extensive rubbing and harsh products to fully get them off. Not with this micellar cleansing water though: it’s designed for eye and face makeup removal, and is also gentle enough to get your lipstick off, too.

Lancôme Eau Fraiche Douceur Micellar Cleansing Water

Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser

This rich gel cleanser uses superfoods like kale, green tea and spinach to cleanse clogged pores and blemishes — especially on those with oily skin.

Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser

Designed to be used alongside L’Oréal’s Revitalift moisturizers and serums, this cleanser works best for those concerned with signs of aging. The gentle exfoliants help to reduce uneven textures and leave skin looking radiant (hence the name!).

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Radiant Smoothing Cream Cleanser

Glossier Milky Jelly

A top-rated product from a fan-favorite beauty brand, Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser uses Poloxamer, a mild cleansing agent found in contact lens solution, rather than traditional soap. That makes it easy on your eyes and leaves your skin baby soft.

Glossier Milky Jelly

Om Organics White Willow Purifying Cleansing Gel

This Canadian beauty brand formulates all their plant-based products without harsh ingredients or chemicals, including this purifying cleansing gel. Thanks to a bit of salicylic acid, derived from white willow bark, this formula is ideal for those with acne-prone skin — and it’s a best-seller.

Om Organics White Willow Purifying Cleansing Gel

Tata Harper Superkind Softening Cleanser

Those with sensitive or stressed skin need to be particularly thoughtful about which products they incorporate into their routine, and this cleanser is sure to make the cut. The vegan, derm-tested, hypoallergenic formula is non-stripping, making it especially gentle.

Tata Harper Superkind Softening Cleanser

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip

Thanks to the green clay and rice oil extracts, this gentle cleanser protects even sensitive skin types from dehydration. Plus, it feels particularly soft and luxurious on your face — like slipping into a silky nightgown before bed.

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip
Visual Designer: Juliana Campisi

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