The best face wash accomplishes two essential goals for the skin: it cleans it but doesn’t dry it out. Dead skin cells, dirt, oils, pollutants, and if you apply it, makeup, must be regularly removed, but cleansing the face should not strip it of the acid mantle that protects it from infection and other threats. Soap and water does not work well for this purpose.

Too often, soaps strip the skin of its healthy level of moisture. When excessive dryness occurs, the skin will start to itch, crack, flake, and become more susceptible to invasion by bacteria and viruses. The skin may also overreact to dryness by producing extra oils, which can lead to acne.

Exfoliation is the technical term for what the best face washes do for the skin. Exfoliation involves washing the dead skin cells from the epidermis. Beauty salons and medical spas have a variety of fancy of treatments that accomplish this, from chemical peels to microdermabrasion. In Europe, the latest spa craze is Vinotherapy, which entails exfoliation with the use of wine-producing grapes. But the average consumer doesn’t have to go nearly that far: most basic drug store face washes include chemical exfoliants such as salicylic acid, malic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid, or fruit enzymes.

Consumers choose the best facial wash based on whether their skin tends to be oily or dry. Dermatologists also define other skin types as combination (dry/oily), sensitive, or blemished, and suggest particular treatments for each of them.

Milky lotion cleansers are recommended for people with dry skin, because they provide more oils and emollients to keep the skin moisturized. For oily skin, experts suggest gel cleansers for a best facial wash. Gels effectively unblock pores and remove excess oils and makeup, but users should guard against a cleanser that over-stimulates the oil glands. Look for antimicrobial products that kill acne-producing bacteria.

The vogue for all-natural ingredients has introduced nettle and fennel for cleaning oily skin. Sage tightens pores, an effect that oily-skinned consumers appreciate, and lemon and thyme have been shown to control oil production. Awapuhi, a tropical ginger plant cultivated in Hawaii, is an effective moisturizing ingredient, and some product lines use chamomile for the same purpose.

Some people who prefer all-natural and organic products believe the best face wash is one you make for yourself. For example, a mixture of glycerin, castile soap, extract of rosemary, mint, and witch hazel depends on the rosemary and witch hazel to clean, and the glycerin to moisturize. For a soap-free alternative, try orange juice and honey mixed with bentonite clay powder for an exfoliant. An even simpler mix, applied with cotton balls, is three tablespoons of milk and one tablespoon of rosewater.

Overwashing can be just as damaging as not washing at all. Twice a day — in the morning and in the evening — is quite sufficient, according to beauty experts. Lukewarm water is better than hot or cold, and don’t rub your face hard with the towel. Patting it dry is the gentler method. Washing even just once a day, in the evening to exfoliate and remove dirt, oils, and pollutants, may be enough, once you have identified your best face wash.

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