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Best face wash for men 2023: Stay spot-free with these clever face cleansers

We highlight the best men’s face washes – whatever your skin type – from just £6

Along with moisturiser, a decent face wash should be the bedrock of any man’s daily grooming routine. Not only will using one get rid of grease, grime and pollution, it’ll help head off zits by preventing pores from becoming blocked and will help prep skin and stubble for shaving too.

Oh sure, you could just throw some water at your mush and hope for the best but water by itself is unlikely to dislodge the dust, dirt and bacteria that skin attracts like a magnet during the day. Nor will it help dissolve excess sebum (the skin’s natural oil) that builds up in the course of a day.

There’s another benefit to using a face wash too: it creates a fresh, clean canvas for any skincare products you might want to use, aiding absorption of serums, moisturisers and face masks and boosting their effectiveness. It’s like priming a surface before painting it during a spot of redecorating; you’ll always get better results if you invest in the prep.

Not all face washes are created equal though, which is why we’ve road tested what’s on offer and narrowed the field to seven of the best.

So, whether you’re after something that can help with acne or need a cleanser that won’t exacerbate eczema, you’ll find something here to ensure you always start the day fresh faced.

Best face wash for men: At a glance

How to choose the best face wash for you

Can’t I just use a bar of soap?

You can but most regular soaps are alkaline by nature, whereas the skin is naturally slightly acidic, which means soap can often disturb its pH balance, robbing it of surface oils and leaving it dry, tight and itchy. Facial cleansers, on the other hand, are generally formulated with glycerin, which is kinder to skin.

This might be the only time you’ll ever be encouraged to be a soap dodger so make the most of it.

How do I choose the right face wash for me?

What face wash you choose largely depends on your skin type. Most washes are designed to cater for all skin types but if you’ve oily, blemish-prone skin you’ll need something that cuts through the grease but isn’t so harsh it strips dry strip skin of all its oil (that just stimulates skin to produce more of the stuff). To be on the safe side, look for ‘oil-control’ washes or ones containing oil-absorbing clays.

If dryness is your problem, opt for hydrating cream cleansers or oil-based ones and go for fragrance-free ones, without exfoliants, if skin is sensitive.

Whatever you use, no face wash should make your skin feel ‘squeaky clean’. That’s not a good thing – despite it being a term often used in relation to cleansing. Skin should feel clean but still supple. If it feels so dry and tight after washing that Dave Grohl could use it for drum practice you’re using the wrong cleanser.

What ingredients should I look out for?

Clay and salicylic acid are great for oily, spot-prone skin; charcoal is a good detoxifier; while hyaluronic acid will help keep skin hydrated and aloe will calm and soothe easily irritated skin.

Face washes that include exfoliants (either physical, like ground lava particles) or chemical (alpha hydroxy acids), meanwhile, are great for shifting dead skin and keeping pores free of debris.

How do I use a face wash?

Start by splashing your face with warm water (don’t use hot water as this can disrupt the skin’s natural barrier and actually make it drier), then apply a small blob of wash to the palm of your hands and apply to your face, massaging it in with gentle, circular motions. Pay particular attention to the sides of the nose and the chin which can be especially greasy.

Finish off by rinsing thoroughly with clean running water to remove any traces of cleanser and then moisturise while skin is still slightly damp. Repeat every morning – to prep skin for the day ahead or for shaving – and again at night to remove the grease and grime of the day.

How we test men’s face washes

Face washes are the bedrock of any man’s daily grooming routine, so choosing the right one is crucial. We test a similar amount of each face wash twice a day for several days and, though it’s normal to moisturise shortly after cleansing, we leave an hour before applying moisturiser to see if skin feels dry and tight after using the cleansers.

Key considerations are how refreshed the skin feels after each wash and whether there are any noticeable signs of redness or irritation. My own skin is combination – dry everywhere apart from the nose, chin and forehead – so is a pretty good testing ground for all types of washes. As always, value for money is a key consideration – and especially so given that face wash is a daily use product.

The best face washes for men you can buy in 2023

1. CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser: Best face wash for men with dry skin

Price when reviewed: £11 for 236ml | Check price at Amazon

If you’ve very dry or eczema-prone skin you’ll know how difficult it is to find a daily cleanser that doesn’t make skin even drier, tighter and itchier.

If you still haven’t found the right product then this lightly foaming oil cleanser might be for you because it’s so gentle on skin it can even be used on babies (always a good gauge of a product’s skin-friendly status). Don’t be put off by the world ‘oil’ – it’s not remotely greasy and still foams, though don’t expect a full-on froth.

Like all of CeraVe’s cleansers, it’s designed to cleanse without compromising the skin’s natural barrier and features three essential ceramides (naturally occurring lipids that help bolster the skin’s natural protective barrier) along with skin oils squalane and triglyceride which help maintain moisture.

It’s also fragrance free and can be used on both face and body, making it the perfect in-shower cleanser. The price is unlikely to bring you out in a rash either: given the generous size of the bottle you get great excellent bang for your buck.

Key specs – Quantity: 236ml; Fragrance: No; Hero ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, squalene

Check price at Amazon

2. HEATH Face Wash: Best value exfoliating face wash for men

Price when reviewed: £9 for 150ml | Check price at Amazon

Made in England and vegan-friendly, HEATH’s Face Wash isn’t just great value for money – since it’s an exfoliating face wash it also saves you dosh by dispensing with the need for a separate face scrub.

Gentle enough for daily use, this pale grey cleanser contains activated charcoal powder and super-fine, biodegradable black lava particles to detoxify skin and slough off dead cells, leaving skin feeling clean, fresh and smooth.

Since exfoliating washes are great for preparing skin for shaving (removing dead surface cells makes for a smoother shave) it’s the perfect prep if you’re a daily shaver, while the fresh, minty fragrance makes for the perfect early-morning wake up all.

Key specs – Quantity: 150ml; Fragrance: Yes; Hero ingredients: black lava, charcoal

Check price at Amazon

3. Lab Series Oil Control Clay Cleanser + Mask: Best face wash for oily skin

Price when reviewed: £24 for 100ml | Check price at Lab Series

How’s this for a clever idea? An oil-controlling face wash that also doubles up as a leave-on face mask. It comes from the masters of multifunctionality at Lab Series, whose range includes several multi-tasking skincare products and is the perfect product if you’re a guy who suffers from oily skin and blemishes.

Unlike the other cleansers here, it has a thick, clay-like consistency (which makes sense given in contains oil-absorbing white clay) and you can either use it like cleanser or slap it on and leave for five minutes as you would a pore-cleaning, grease-busting mask.

It has a lovely, creamy texture, washes off easily and as a bonus it also contains exfoliating AHA/BHA acids to help shift pore-blocking dead cells. The perfect antidote to oil-slick skin.

Key specs – Quantity: 100ml; Fragrance: No; Hero ingredients: clay, AHA/BHA acids

Check price at Lab Series

4. Garnier Skincare Pure Active 3-in-1 Charcoal Anti-Blackhead Wash-Scrub-Mask: Best for dealing with blackheads

Price when reviewed: £6 for 150ml | Check price at Amazon

Another hybrid cleansing product, Garnier’s clinically proven Anti-Blackhead wash/scrub/mask can be used in three ways. You can use it as a daily wash by applying as you would a normal cleanser; as a traditional face scrub by spending time massing it into skin or as a mask by applying a decent amount up to three times a week and letting it sit on the skin for five minutes before washing off.

However you use it, though, it’s great for unblocking pores and helping dislodge those unsightly blackheads that often form on the nose and chin. As a bonus, it also contains salicylic acid which helps keep pores free of debris.

As with all charcoal products, it’s dark in colour so can be a bit messy and its fresh smell is a bit generic but it’s impossible to fault its performance or bargainalicious price.

Key specs – Quantity: 150ml; Fragrance: Yes; Hero ingredients: charcoal, salicylic acid

Check price at Amazon

5. Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel: Best high-end face wash

Price when reviewed: £39 for 250ml | Check price at John Lewis

Dermalogica have long been a brand favoured by skincare geeks, partly for their high-quality, problem/solution-based formulas but also for their stripped back, no-nonsense, unisex packaging.

This Special Cleansing Gel is the brand’s best-selling cleanser globally and we can see why. Gentle, soap-free and only lightly fragranced, it focuses on getting skin clean without the addition of tonnes of unnecessary ingredients.

It froths up nicely (thanks to the addition of Quillaja Saponaria – an ingredient extracted from the ‘soapbark’ tree) and features Lavender Extract and Balm Mint to soothe irritated skin.

There’s something reassuringly simple about it which perfectly matches an act that should be simple. It’s the priciest of the washes here but it’s worth the outlay.

Key specs – Quantity: 250ml; Fragrance: Yes; Hero ingredients: Quillaja Saponaria, Lavender Extract, Balm Mint

Check price at John Lewis

6. Hawkins & Brimble Elemi & Ginseng Face Wash: Best value-for-money face wash for men

Price when reviewed: £7 for 150ml | Check price at Amazon

What’s not in British brand Hawkins & Brimble’s award-winning Face Wash is almost as important as what’s in it. Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, it’s free of parabens, colourants and foaming agents like sodium lauryl sulphate – an ingredient that can strip skin of oils and cause sensitivity in some people. This means it’s at the lower end of the foaming spectrum but it still gets the job done, cleaning skin without drying it out – something helped by the presence of skin-soothing aloe vera.

What really elevates this face wash above similarly priced competitors, though, is its smell. Infused with Hawkins & Brimble’s signature Elemi and Ginseng fragrance (lemony, gingery and floral all at once) it’s wonderfully fresh and uplifting and we couldn’t resist cupping our palms and taking in the aroma before applying.

Key specs – Quantity: 150ml; Fragrance: Yes; Hero ingredients: Aloe Leaf Juice

Check price at Amazon

7. Grüum kÿra Gentle Face Wash: Most invigorating face wash for men

Price: £8 for 120ml | Check price at Look Fantastic

Featuring a mild formulation that’s suitable for all skin types, Brit brand Grüum’s Gentle Face Wash not only impressed us with the its performance (it left skin feeling clean but not dry) and its ingredients (96% of which are naturally derived), but with its scent – which is a wonderfully cooling and invigorating blend of lavender and eucalyptus.

The Scandi-chic slimline design of the bottle – think hip flask – impressed us too and makes it perfect for travel and for storage in jam-packed bathroom cabinets. The perfect face wash for those mornings when you wake up feeling like death and need some jump leads.

Key specs – Quantity: 120ml; Fragrance: Yes; Hero ingredients: Aloe leaf juice, lavender, eucalyptus

Check price at Look Fantastic

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