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Best cleanser for sensitive skin 2023: Wash off the day without any irritation

Is your skin easily aggravated? Then the best cleansers for sensitive skin will remove makeup and grime, without upsetting the balance

Finding the best cleanser for sensitive skin can be a chore, with the wrong choice leaving your face red, irritated, flaking or even covered in a rash. Most people with sensitive skin will have tried a range of products, many of which will have left skin looking angry. If this sounds like you, then our guide should help to find the right cleanser for you.

There is a belief that foaming cleansers deliver a more thorough clean, but since many such formulas are made up using an array of ingredients and chemicals, they can often prove too harsh for sensitive skin, stripping skin of its natural moisture and causing flare-ups.

Our guide below will help you determine the signs of sensitivity, and answer any questions on how to choose the best cleanser for sensitive skin. Then read on to discover our recommendations of the best cleansers for sensitive skin.

Best cleanser for sensitive skin: At a glance

How to choose the best cleanser for sensitive skin for you

Happy and healthy skin starts with a cleanser. But first you need to figure out your skin type, so that if you have sensitive skin, then you’re using the right product for you.

How do I know if I have sensitive skin?

Everyone’s skin is different, so there aren’t any absolute signs that you have sensitive skin. However, there are some common traits that could provide an indication that your skin is sensitive:

  • Redness: Products that upset sensitive skin can often trigger redness in the face or patches of redness.
  • Dryness: Dry skin is a very common side effect of sensitive skin, and can lead to cracked skin or even acne breakouts in more severe cases.
  • Reactions: Those with sensitive skin are likely to find out by their skin telling them – using something that doesn’t agree with their skin will cause it to go dry, red, itchy or develop a rash.
  • Breakouts: Sensitive skin can be prone to breakouts and acne. You may also find that you may develop lumps under the skin.

Is my skin dry, oily or a combination of the two?

Once you’ve determined that your skin is of the sensitive type, before you can buy any products, you also need to ascertain whether it’s dry, oily or a combination of the two. A simple way to do this is using a piece of blotting paper.

Lightly press the blotting paper on your cheeks and along your t-zone (this covers the area along your forehead, nose and chin). If the paper doesn’t pick up any grease marks, you likely have dry skin. If there’s oil from the t-zone, you have combination skin. And if the paper comes away with a lot of oil on it, you have oily skin.

Which type of formula best suits sensitive skin?

Cleansers arrive in a variety of types from balms, oils and gels to lotions and impregnated cloths. There’s no right or wrong type when it comes to picking a cleanser for sensitive skin – opt for the formula that suits you best, or that you feel leaves your skin clean and refreshed.

How much should I spend?

Our list of products includes options at all budgets; however, our general advice would be that it’s worth paying a little more for a product that particularly suits you.

How do we test?

The cleansers were used by a range of testers with sensitive skin, but different skin types (normal, dry, oily and so on). They cleansed twice a day using the products for several weeks to see how their skin reacted.

READ NEXT: Best cleanser for oily skin

The best cleansers for sensitive skin you can buy in 2023

1. Super Facialist Creamy Cleanser: Best for dry skin

Price: £9 | Buy now from AmazonFormulated with shea and cocoa butter, Super Facialist’s cleanser is rich and creamy, and leaves skin feeling soft and plump – even before you’ve moisturised. Our testers loved the smell of marshmallow and rose, and the boost in hydration delivered.

To use the cleanser, simply massage the product into your face and neck before rinsing off. Although we needed a bit of elbow grease to remove mascara, its vitamin B5-packed formula tackled all other makeup and grime with ease.

The Super Facialist cleanser is our top pick for dry skin since it leaves the skin soft and supple, without any residue that could irritate sensitive skin. It’s suitable for vegans, too.

Key details – Type: Lotion; Size: 150ml; Suitable for: Dry skin, normal skin; Removes makeup?: Yes; Vegan: Yes

2. UpCircle Cleansing Face Balm: Best for vegans

Price: £21 | Buy now from OcadoFinding vegan cleansers can be difficult, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Not only is UpCircle’s cleansing face balm vegan, but it’s also completely free from plastic and certified by Cruelty Free International. Equally importantly, it does a fantastic job of cleansing skin.

Arriving in an attractive pot with a screw-on lid, the cleansing balm is similar in colour and texture to beeswax. To use, you simply massage a coin-sized amount between your fingers and smooth the balm in upwards circular motions on your face. Remove using a warm wet flannel or muslin.

Containing a variety of natural ingredients, the UpCircle balm does have an overriding smell of eucalyptus (if you’re not a fan, then avoid), and a few people found it a little greasy and difficult to remove. Nevertheless, our tester rated this cleanser for leaving their face sparkling clean. An added bonus is that it removes makeup, so you won’t need a separate product for this, and all the packaging is recyclable.

Key details – Type: Balm; Size: 55ml; Suitable for: All skin types; Removes makeup?: Yes; Vegan: Yes

Buy now from Ocado

3. True Skincare Organic Cleansing Oil: Best for oily skin

Price: £14 | Buy now from OcadoA cleansing oil for oily skin? Absolutely. True’s lightweight cleansing oil with sunflower, geranium, jojoba and vitamin E helps to keep skin both hydrated and balanced, with oily patches controlled without any drying out of the skin. While some users said that they felt the oil left a slight residue on the skin, it also ensured the skin remained hydrated.

Like the UpCircle balm, True’s cleaning oil is applied using clean fingers. Massage the oil into the skin in circular motions, before removing with a warm damp cloth. The cleanser also removes makeup, making it a great all-in-one product. An eco choice, too, this cleanser is suitable for vegans and is cruelty-free, and all the packaging is recyclable.

We particularly welcomed the elegantly designed bottle in which the True cleanser arrives – it’s sure to look attractive on any bathroom shelf.

Key details – Type: Oil; Size: 100ml; Suitable for: Oily to normal; Removes makeup?: Yes; Vegan: Yes

Buy now from Ocado

4. Olay Daily Facials Dry Cloths: Best for travel

Price: £6.99 | Buy now from BootsWhen we’re on the road, most people don’t want to pack their entire skincare regime to take with them. And, for those with sensitive skin, using products that might be available in a hotel bathroom, for example, might be a risk they’re not prepared to take. Olay’s facial cloths offer the ideal solution, as you can pack as many, or as few, as you like.

The two-sided cloths – one smooth and one textured – deliver both gentle exfoliation as well as cleansing. They remove makeup, too, alongside dirt and impurities. To use, you simply wet the cloth with warm water and massage it in your hand until you see a lather. Clean the face thoroughly using the cloth, rinse it, and then reuse to clear any leftover residue. Olay’s cloths are suitable for all skin types, with micellar cleansing water ensuring no irritation on any area of the face, including the eyes.

We do wish these cloths were biodegradable, however; right now, they’re disposed of in the bin – we hope to see Olay working on this. Nevertheless, they’re a great option for holidays.

Key details – Type: Cloths; Size: 30 in pack; Suitable for: All skin types; Removes makeup?: Yes; Vegan: Not stated

Buy now from Boots

5. Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water: Best for those on a budget

Price: £6.50 | Buy now from AmazonWhile this particular cleanser we’ve linked to is specifically for sensitive dry skin, there are other options in the range for sensitive skin. However, the combination of natural oils and cleansing milks, alongside micellar water, is perfect for those whose skin is easily irritated – and it even gets the seal of approval from Allergy UK and the British Skin Foundation for its suitability for sensitive skin.

Apply the cleanser using a cotton pad – Garnier also makes reusable eco pads to reduce waste – and there’s no need to rinse afterwards. It does a good job of removing dirt and makeup, and even has a little exfoliating action to remove dead skin to leave your face feeling clean and fresh.

Key details – Type: Lotion; Size: 400ml; Suitable for: All skin types; Removes makeup?: Yes; Vegan: Yes

6. Environ AVST Cleansing Lotion: Best for combination skin

Price when reviewed: £43 | Check price at Face the FutureThe Environ SkinEssentiA range is formulated around vitamins A, C and E, and is designed to leave skin glowing after use. It’s expensive, but worth the money in our opinion – and particularly if you have combination sensitive skin. Environ’s cleansing lotion leaves skin supple and hydrated, while also maintaining an even look and feel across the different areas of the face.

To use, massage the lotion with your fingertips and then rinse well with water. Note that this cleanser doesn’t remove makeup, so you’ll need to use a pre-cleanser beforehand – and it works best alongside the pre-cleanser and moisturiser from the same range. Although this ups the cost, the products leave skin glowing and supple, thanks mainly to the high concentration of vitamin A they contain.

Key details – Type: Lotion; Size: 200ml; Suitable for: All skin types; Removes makeup?: No; Vegan: Not stated

Check price at Face the Future

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