11 Best Water-Based Cleansers For Squeaky Clean Skin

Gently cleanse away dirt and impurities to uncover your natural radiant skin.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna H. Chacon, MD, FAAD Dr. Anna H. Chacon Dr. Anna H. ChaconMD, FAAD facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Associate Commerce Editor Krati Darak Associate Commerce Editor Experience: 3 years
Edited by , Associate Commerce Editor Krati Darak Associate Commerce Editor Experience: 3 years
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Picking the correct cleanser for your face is essential since cleansing is the most crucial step in one’s skincare routine. There are plenty of cleansers out there that are oil, water-based, and gel-based, and picking the right one can be a pretty daunting task. Water-based cleansers are best for oily skin and can be easily added to one’s routines. Korean skincare routines encourage double cleansing with an oil-based cleanser to remove the impurities and follow it up with a water-based cleanser to remove the remaining residue. Water-based cleansers are loaded with a large concentration of water that can help healthily cleanse one’s skin. Check out our article to know about the best water-based cleansers on the market and find out which suits your skin.

Top PicksCheck Price
Best Non-Comedogenic: CeraVe Hydrating Facial CleanserPrice on Amazon
Best Cruelty-Free: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing WaterPrice on Amazon
Best Non-Drying: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Make-Up Removing Micelle SolutionPrice on Amazon
Best Hypoallergenic: Neutrogena HydroBoost Hydrating Cleansing GelPrice on Amazon
Best Oil-Free: The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foaming CleanserPrice on Amazon
Best Gentle Formula: TOYO Cure Natural Aqua Gel ExfoliatorPrice on Amazon
Best Hydrating: Neogen Dermalogy Real Fresh Green Tea Foam CleanserPrice on Amazon
Best Mild Formula: Obagi Nu-Derm Gentle CleanserPrice on Amazon
Best Acne-Prone Skin: Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial CleanserPrice on Amazon
Best pH-Balanced: Naturium Niacinamide Cleansing Gelée 3%Price on Amazon

What Does A Water-Based Cleanser Do?

 Water-based cleansers clean the skin by removing impurities from the surface. Water-soluble particles like dirt, dust, grime, makeup, and oils dissolve along with the lather and detach themselves from the surface of the skin. They’re best-suited for deep pore cleansing for oily and acne-prone skin types as they won’t strip away natural oils, which can cause the skin to become too dry. Micellar water is a type of water-based cleanser that uses micelle technology to cleanse the skin without foaming and you can easily wipe impurities off with a cotton pad without rinsing.

Read on to find out the 11 best water-based cleansers that will effectively clean your skin depending on your skin type.

11 Best Water-Based Cleansers That Are Gentle On Your Skin

1. Best Non-Comedogenic:CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser Image: Cerave

This water-based face cleanser by CeraVe feels like a huge chug of water for your skin as it contains hyaluronic acid, which retains the natural moisture of your skin and keeps it looking plump. To strengthen and protect the skin’s barrier, there’s also ceramides 1, 3, and 6-II, along with niacinamide, which brightens your complexion. A combination of these hydrating and nourishing ingredients will have you on your way to healthy skin as you introduce this water-based cleanser for dry skin as the first step in your skincare routine. If you’re not a fan of cleansers that foam up, good news! With a lotion-like consistency, this gentle water-based cleanser effectively cleanses your skin of dirt without the stripping feeling. This milky cleanser has garnered positive feedback from several online reviewers who, after testing, commended its non-irritating nature and the gentle touch of this non-foaming lotion.

Skin Type: Oily, Sensitive, Dry, Normal | Product Dimensions: 1.95 x 3.38 x 1.63 inches | Weight: 1.04 Pounds


  • Non-comedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Retains skin moisture
  • Protects skin barrier
  • Non-irritating formula
  • Ideal for dry and very dry skin types
  • Creamy texture


  • The cleanser may not be strong enough to remove heavy makeup.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

This product is so liked by shoppers that it has gained over 6,165 great reviews on Amazon.

2. Best Cruelty-Free: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water



This cleansing water is the only thing you need for those nights you’re completely exhausted and the last thing you want to do is take your makeup off. You’re absolutely going to love this drugstore water-based cleanser by Garnier as it effectively cleanses the skin and you can also use it as a makeup remover! Several reviewers online have praised the same after testing it. With micellar technology, the micelles attach themselves to the dirt and oils on your skin and easily remove them without you having to tug or rub harshly. Just pour some SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water on a cotton pad and gently swipe it over your eyes, lips, and face to cleanse your skin without the need for rinsing. A good water-based cleanser, it is great to travel with as it cleanses and hydrates skin on-the-go. And also, this product does not undergo any animal testing, so this is a guilt-free pick for the ethical users out there.

Skin Type: All | Product Dimensions: 2.73 x 2.17 x 2.73 inches | Weight: 15.58 Ounces


  • Doubles as a makeup remover
  • Residue-free
  • Aids in environmental pollutants removal
  • Cruelty-free
  • Gentle on the skin
  • Convenient when traveling
  • Fragrance free
  • Doesn’t contain parabens, sulfates or silicones


  • You may need to use a lot of product.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

This product has garnered over 45,820 positive reviews on Amazon, and the number continues to grow.

3. Best Non-Drying:Bioderma Sensibio H2O Make-Up Removing Micelle Solution



Cleansing sensitive skin can be tricky and sometimes even downright painful as you never know which ingredient may trigger an adverse reaction. But fret not, Bioderma’s simple water-based cleanser is formulated specifically for sensitive and allergy-prone skin types. Apart from water, this cleansing product contains cucumber extract, which offers a cooling effect on the skin, reduces irritation and inflammation, and shields your skin from damage. The fatty acid ester micelles present in this water-based cleanser for sensitive skin actively detach impurities and oils from the skin’s surface, leaving it looking plump and soft. You can take a look at this YouTuber’s review to understand this cleanser’s merits and demerits based on the tester’s experience.

Skin Type: Sensitive | Product Dimensions: 2.76 x 2.76 x 8.27 inches | Weight: 7.05 Ounces


  • Contains calming botanicals
  • Has a cooling effect on sensitive skin
  • Non-drying
  • Skin softening
  • Paraben-free
  • Non-irritating formula
  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free


  • Some may find the smell slightly pungent

protip_icon Quick Tip
Soak a cotton pad with this cleanser and gently rub the pad on your skin. Do not rinse your face and let the product seep into your skin.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

The overwhelming 6,914 positive reviews on Amazon show how popular this product is with happy users.

4. Best Hypoallergenic:Neutrogena HydroBoost Hydrating Cleansing Gel



Neutrogena’s water-based facial cleanser is exactly the boost of hydration your skin needs after carrying all the makeup and impurities from a long day. The affordable water-based cleanser is hyaluronic acid-infused, which intensely hydrates your skin and prevents moisture loss, giving you a skin-plumping effect. Super lightweight, this gel-based cleanser forms a silky lather that efficiently removes makeup, dirt and oils without making your skin feel tight. Use both day and night for a refreshing feel. If you want an elaborate tester’s experience review of this cleanser, make sure to take a look at this skincare enthusiast’s video.

Skin Type: All | Product Dimensions: 1.69 x 1.69 x 6.81 inches | Weight: 0.18 Ounces


  • Hypoallergenic
  • Lightweight formula
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Paraben-free
  • Doesn’t contain oil or soap
  • Gel consistency is gentle on skin


  • Contains fragrance

protip_icon Pro Tip
Rinse your face with lukewarm water after using this cleansing gel to open up your pores. Then, use a hydrating mask for skin radiance enhancement.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

There are more than 20,571 Amazon reviews attesting to the quality of the product and endorsing its value.

5. Best Oil-Free:The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foaming Cleanser



This Korean water-based cleanser contains rice water that is loaded with vitamins A, B, and E, which slow down the signs of aging and protect skin from inflammation. There’s also an abundance of minerals and ceramides, which give you a refreshed complexion and nourish dry skin. These rejuvenate aging skin by giving it a new lease of life. Rice extract has been a staple ingredient in a ton of Asian beauty routines and this Rice Water Bright Foaming Cleanser uses the same for hydration lock and to mildly cleanse and moisturize the skin, leaving it bright and nourished to keep intact your timeless beauty. Additionally, you’ll also find antioxidant-rich oils like moringa, which purify skin cells by removing dirt and soapwort, which gently cleanses sensitive skin. Super gentle on the skin, we think this is the best Korean water-based cleanser with enhanced features on the market for those who want cleansed skin that is not stripped of natural oils. You can also check this review of the tester’s experience to understand more about the final results after using this water-based cleanser from The Face Shop.

Skin Type: All | Product Dimensions: 2.76 x 1.77 x 6.89 inches | Weight: 5.29 Ounces


  • Skin clarifying
  • Creamy cleanser
  • Non-irritating
  • Paraben-free
  • Doesn’t contain talc, animal fat or paraffin
  • Mineral oil-free
  • Moisturizes and brightens skin
  • Skin-replenishing
  • Gently cleanses skin


  • Contains mineral oil

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

The product has more than 2,167 reviews claiming its efficacy.

6. Best Gentle Formula:TOYO Cure Natural Aqua Gel Exfoliator



Japanese brand Natural Aqua Gel Cure’s natural water-based cleanser contains a cocktail of skin-nourishing extracts like aloe to cool and soothes skin, rosemary to reduces puffiness and inflammation, and gingko for pollution protection and antibacterial properties. This microbiome-friendly deep cleanser’s main ingredient is 91% activated hydrogen water formula that gently exfoliates skin to remove impurities like dirt, dust, and oils to unclog pores. It has antioxidant benefits that protect irritated skin from effects of aging and sun damage, too. Without scrubbing too hard, you’ll notice clean skin that’s well-moisturized and smooth.

Skin Type: All, Acne Prone, Sensitive | Product Dimensions: 7 x 3 x 3 inches | Weight: 9.88 Ounces


  • Suitable for all skin types
  • Gentle formula
  • Detoxifying
  • Contains no added fragrances
  • Contains natural ingredients
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Evens out skin tone


  • Slightly expensive

protip_icon Pro Tip
Wash your face with water and dry it completely with a towel. Then massage this gel on your face with your fingertips for 30 to 60 seconds. This will help benefit from its exfoliating properties.

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

A whopping 3,332 reviews on Amazon make it obvious that users genuinely love this product.

7. Best Hydrating:Neogen Dermalogy Real Fresh Green Tea Foam Cleanser



Neogen’s organic water-based cleanser combines 6-core biotechnology with skin-conscious ingredients to bring forth natural glow from gently-cleansed skin. The main character in this vegan water-based cleanser is green tea, which combats acne, reduces inflammation, signs of aging, redness, and also effectively moisturizes skin. Passing 7 clinical tests, this purifying cleanser effectively cleans your pores of dirt, oils and dust without making your skin feel tight or itchy.

Skin Type: Dry | Product Dimensions: 1.57 x 1.57 x 6.77 inches | Weight: 5.64 Ounces


  • Contains green tea extract for skin-nourishing benefits
  • Contains organic ingredients
  • Free from talc, sulfates, BHA, mineral oils and petrolatum
  • Doesn’t contain tar, salicylic acid, ethanol or animal ingredients
  • Hydrates skin


  • Some may find the smell slightly odd

Why We Think It's Worth Buying

It has received over 500 rave reviews on Amazon, proving it is a mass favorite.

8. Best Mild Formula:Obagi Nu-Derm Gentle Cleanser


Obagi’s Nu-Derm line is formulated with oat amino acids to tackle mature and aging skin concerns. This water-based skincare product is mild and vows to remove dirt, dust, and oils that may have been trapped in your skin along with layers of makeup. Now, you can look forward to waking up to a fresh, glowing face ready to take on the day. Formulated for dehydrated, dry, and sensitive skin types, this water-based cleanser does to your face what drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning does to your body. Obagi’s water cleanser for the face transforms your damaged skin by brightening it and imparting a youthful glow. Aloe vera extract, sage, and apricot extracts combine in this water-soluble face cleanser to give off a subtle, sweet scent.

Skin Type: Dry, Normal | Product Dimensions: 1.94 x 2.38 x 6 inches | Weight: 6.4 Ounces


  • Mild formula
  • Suitable for normal and dry skin types
  • Reduces anti-aging skin concerns
  • Has hydrating benefits
  • Has a subtle smell
  • Non-drying


  • Might not remove waterproof makeup effectively

My Personal Experience

"This water-based cleanser helps maintain my skin's hydration and at the same time offers squeaky clean skin. It has a unique lotion-like texture that foams up well and gently cleanses the skin. It can also remove everyday makeup easily."

protip_icon Quick Tip
Store this cleanser at a controlled room temperature (15°−25°C) to prevent reducing its shelf life.

9. Best Acne-Prone Skin:Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser



A gentle water-based cleanser for oily skin and acne-prone skin, the Clean & Clear Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser can be used daily for a refreshed look. With ingredients derived from coconut oil, this water-based cleanser for acne-prone skin feeds the skin with antioxidants and amply moisturizes it. Also containing myristic acid, this cheap water-based cleanser draws out oil from your skin, balancing sebum production. To minimize and prevent breakouts, lather up some of this water facial cleanser and use it twice daily for smooth and healthy skin.

Skin Type: Acne Prone | Product Dimensions: 1.35 x 2.65 x 7.4 inches | Weight: 8.8 Ounces.


  • Minimizes oil production
  • Controls acne
  • Moisturizes skin
  • Gently removes impurities
  • Suited for oily, acne-prone skin


  • Contains parabens

My Personal Experience

"This cleanser stands on its promise of giving a clear complexion. It is an excellent daily use face wash that foams really well and deeply cleanses the skin to make it squeaky clean. It's truly worth it."

protip_icon Pro Tip
Use this cleanser with the Clean & Clear Essentials Deep Cleaning Astringent and Essentials Dual Action Moisturizer to gain clear skin and strengthen your skin barrier.

10. Best pH-Balanced:Naturium Niacinamide Cleansing Gelée 3%



Naturium’s Niacinamide Cleansing Gelée 3% is a water-based gel that feels like a soothing essence gliding on the skin. Its star ingredient is niacinamide, which brightens skin complexion by evening out skin tone and fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation. There’s also powerhouse ingredients like hyaluronic acid that amply hydrates the skin while retaining moisture and vitamin C that lighten and reduce scars. This cruelty-free water-based cleanser is devoid of harsh ingredients and effectively removes dead skin, pollutants, and makeup from the skin while being ever-so-gentle. And that’s not all, it preps your skin so that it can absorb skincare products like  essences, serums, and moisturizers better.

Skin Type: All | Product Dimensions: 2.87 x 0.13 x 6.22 inches | Weight: 8 Ounces


  • Contains skin-brightening ingredients
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Paraben-free
  • Gentle formula
  • Gluten-free
  • Treats uneven skin tone
  • Allows better absorption of skincare products
  • Fragrance-free
  • Balances skin’s pH level
  • Not tested on animals


  • People with dry skin may find this cleanser to be stripping

My Personal Experience

"Everytime I use this cleanser, it makes my skin appear visibly rejuvenated and feel clean. It is gentle on the skin and does not cause any irritation. It is effective for those with sensitive skin, as it doesn’t provoke breakouts."

11. Best For Radiant Skin:Mediheal Intense Pore Clean Cleansing Foam


With a creamy consistency, this water-soluble face cleanser rids the skin of oils, pollutants, makeup, and skincare. Charcoal present in the Mediheal Intense Pore Clean Cleansing Foam dives deep into your pores to purify them by removing impurities and oils, controls oil production, and gently exfoliates skin to remove dead skin cells and allow for new skin to shine through. This water-based exfoliator also contains mushroom extract, which is anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and contains numerous anti-aging benefits and there’s also zinc that’ll soothe your skin. Transform dull, oily, and distressed skin to rejuvenated, radiant and healthy skin in a single wash with this non-comedogenic water-based cleanser. You surely can’t fail with an ingredient list like that, so this is a winner in our books!

Skin Type: Oily


  • Controls oil products
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Detoxifies pores
  • Exfoliates skin
  • Contains anti-aging properties
  • Soothes skin
  • Minimizes blackheads


  • Specially formulated for oily skin only

My Personal Experience

"It is very satisfying to use a cleanser like this one as it provides a squeaky clean feel to the skin. It has a creamy foam that deeply cleanses the skin and leaves it skin feeling soft without causing dryness or irritation. The charcoal content in the product is beneficial for a thorough cleanse."

*The prices provided in this article are based on the latest available information. However, they may vary due to changes in pricing by the seller and/or promotional offers.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the best water-based cleansers in the market, allow us to simplify the complicated process of choosing the right one for yourself.

How To Choose A Water-Based Cleanser

  • Skin type

It’s important to choose a water-based cleanser that’ll help improve your skin and tackle specific skin concerns. If you have dry, normal, or combination skin, water-based cleansers that use micellar water as the base are a good choice as they tend to work well on all types of skin. People with oily skin must look for additional ingredients that control oil and sebum production, unclog pores, and prevent acne. Charcoal, salicylic acid, and green tea are good examples.

  • Safety

As with any product that goes directly onto skin, it’s wise to avoid some harmful ingredients in water-based cleansers. Look out for parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, petrolatum and phthalates as these can cause damage to your skin barrier.

Now that you’ve got your favorite water-based cleanser sitting on your bathroom shelf, let’s take a look at how you can use it for best results.

How To Use A Water-Based Cleanser

  • Step 1: Wet your face and use a small amount of the water-based gel cleanser, gently work up a lather, carefully rubbing your face in circular motions. Non-foaming cleansers have a cream-like consistency and are foam-free.
  • Step 2: Rub for at least 1 minute to remove all the dirt, impurities, and oils and rinse with warm water.
  • Step 3: If you have heavy makeup on, you can double cleanse and use an oil-based cleanser to fully dissolve all the makeup.
  • Step 4: Follow with serum or moisturizer as part of your remaining skin care routine.
  • If you’re simply using micellar water, all you need to do is wet a cotton pad with the product and gently swipe on your face to cleanse. Some products require rinsing afterwards and some don’t, so make sure to check the instructions on the packaging.

Infographic: Key Ingredients In Water-Based Cleansers

Water-based cleansers gently scrub away the deep-seated dirt, grime, and pollutants from your skin, revealing a youthful and bright skin tone. They are infused with potent ingredients that offer excellent skin benefits. Check out the infographic below to learn about these ingredients and how they benefit the skin.

Key Ingredients In Water-Based Cleansers (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Get the high-quality PDF version of this infographic.

Download Infographic in PDF version

The Bottom Line

If you’re majorly struggling with oily or acne-prone skin, water-based cleansers will be a great match for you. You can choose the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser which retains moisture levels and makes the skin look plump, the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Make-Up Removing Micelle Solution which soothes inflammation and softens the skin, or the Neutrogena HydroBoost Hydrating Cleansing Gel which provides hydration and removes oil and dirt. These are super gentle and will not dehydrate your skin like some harsh scrubs and washes. Cleansing the face the right way is so important to maintaining healthy skin and using the right cleanser can fast-forward you on that path. Our list of the 11 best water-based cleansers is meant to lay out all the options you have when shopping for an affordable cleanser. And even if you don’t have oily skin, there are so many gentle skin cleansers that can be used for all skin types, like micellar water. Since we’re so developed in skincare technology these days, there’s always something for everyone.

Why Trust Stylecraze

Krati Darak is a skin and hair care enthusiast who holds vast experience in writing by working as a lifestyle writer and editor. She writes about beauty and wellness products after carefully understanding the features, pros and cons, and in-depth analysis of feedback from existing users. In this post on the best water-based cleansers, she explained each product in detail and shared a complimentary buying guide to help you pick the best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are water-based cleansers good for oily skin?

Yes, water-based cleansers have a gentle formula that effectively dissolves all the dirt, grime and makeup in oily skin without stripping it of natural oils.

Are gel cleansers water-based?

Gel cleansers can be water-based, but not all gel cleansers are so. They are good for all skin types and help remove dust, oils, and makeup when cleansing.

Can water-based cleansers remove sunscreen?

Yes, water-based cleansers can remove sunscreen effectively as they are well-equipped with surfactants that dissolve skincare products and dirt.

What is the difference between micellar water and cleanser?

Micellar water is super gentle on the skin, removes dirt, oil and impurities without stripping the skin, or leaving a ‘tight’ feeling. You can even pour some on a cotton pad and swipe to cleanse, without even having to rinse. Cleansers, on the other hand, aren’t as gentle and usually need to be rinsed off as they can lather up.

Do water-based cleansers work on all skin types?

Water-based cleansers are best-suited for oily and acne-prone skin, as they gently dissolve surface makeup, oils, and dirt without stripping the skin of natural oils. However, if you’re wearing heavy makeup, oil-based cleansers will do a better job of effectively cleansing the skin. You can use an oil-based cleanser and follow it with a water-based one for other skin types.

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