What Is The Difference Between A Face Wash And Face Cleanser?

Written by Arshiya Syeda

A proper skin care routine is essential to keep your skin healthy, nourished, and youthful. The first step towards this regimen is cleansing, which goes a long way to make you feel refreshed. Most of us often get confused between a cleanser and face wash. While both products help cleanse your skin, there are several differences between the two. This article explains how a facewash is different from a cleanser. Scroll down to know more about them.

Difference Between A Cleanser And Face Wash

1. Benefits


This gentle skin care product eliminates dirt, grime, oil, and even makeup from the skin surface.

  • Removes Dirt Effectively

Throughout the day, our face comes in contact with several pollutants that stick to the surface of the skin and make it appear dull. These specs of dirt are not water-soluble and cannot be removed with the liquid alone. Cleansers are a great way to tackle this issue. They help remove dirt and dust particles, making your skin fresh and bright.

  • Keeps Acne At Bay 

Excessive amounts of dirt, oil, and bacteria can build up in the pores, resulting in acne, blackheads, and whiteheads. Cleansers wipe away acne-causing pollutants from the skin before they get a chance to enter the skin pores.

  • Offers Hydration 

Proteins, such as collagen and elastin, which contribute to your skin health and elasticity, require moisture to function. Cleansers help retain the natural moisture of your skin to keep it looking soft and supple.

Face Wash

A face wash eliminates the dirt, dead skin cells, oil, and grime from the pores and offers deep cleansing. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, face washes also have the following USPs.

  • Removes Dead Skin Cells 

Besides oil and dirt, a face wash has the unique ability to remove dead skin cells. This prevents acne and enhances the rate of cell turnover, resulting in younger-looking skin.

  • Preps Your Skin

Face wash essentially preps your skin for the rest of your skin care routine. It clears and opens your pores, enabling better absorption of other skin care products.

  • Enhances Blood Circulation 

The best way to apply face wash is to massage it onto the skin. This boosts blood flow to your face and helps achieve a healthy glow.

2. Usage

How Do You Use A Cleanser? 

While you can use a cleanser alone, it is typically used before the face wash. For best results, follow the steps mentioned below:

  1. Splash your face with lukewarm water. Ensure that your skin is thoroughly soaked.
  2. Take a pea-sized amount of cleanser and apply it over your cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead.
  3. Gently massage the product onto your skin with the tips of your fingers.
  4. Wipe away the cleanser from your skin using a wet cotton ball.
  5. Apply some toner or moisturizer to your face.

How Do You Use Face Wash? 

Follow these steps while applying a facewash:

  1. Wet your face with lukewarm water.
  2. Take a coin-sized dollop of face wash and rub it with your hands to lather it up.
  3. Massage the product gently onto your forehead, cheeks, chin, lips, and nose in small circular motions. Then, slowly proceed in upward and outward directions. Be careful with the skin around your eyes.
  4. Rinse your face with lukewarm water.
  5. Use a toner and moisturizer to soothe your skin.

3. How Does It Work?

Interestingly, cleansers and face washes function similarly. They contain surfactants,  natural or chemical compounds that penetrate the surface layer of the skin. These products break down the larger substances present in the skin through a process called micellization. This helps remove dirt, dust, and impurities from the skin easily.

Face washes and cleansers also contain fatty acids and alkaline solutions. The fatty acid attaches to the oil in the skin pores and dissolves it, while the alkaline solution washes away the oil.

However, a face wash contains more potent surfactants and is primarily used for deep cleansing the skin.

4. When Should You Use These Products?


Cleansers are mild and can be used multiple times during the day without drying out the skin. You can use a cleanser:

  • After waking up in the morning and before going to sleep.
  • After exercising, running, or swimming.
  • After a bath to ensure that your face is properly cleaned.
  • If you have dry or sensitive skin.

Face Wash 

Unlike cleansers, face washes contain relatively strong agents that can dry out your skin if overused. Therefore, it is recommended to limit their usage. You can use a face wash:

  • Before you go to sleep.
  • After intense physical activity that results in sweating.
  • After exposure to the sun, pollution, and dust for long hours.
  • If you have oily or combination skin type

Now that you know the major differences between a cleanser and face wash, let’s explore the frequency of their usage.

Cleanser Vs. Face Wash: How Often Should You Use Them?

Both cleanser and face wash can be used daily to ensure smooth, flawless skin. However, avoid using face wash more than twice a day to prevent dry skin. You can use a cleanser as many times as required.

Are you wondering if you can use a cleanser and face wash together? Read the next section to find out.

Can You Use Cleanser And Face Wash Together?

Yes. A cleanser and face wash can be used alone as well as in tandem. However, it is recommended not to use these products together during your daily skin care routine.

Note: Remember to follow up with a toner, moisturizer, or face oil after using a face wash.

Cleanser Vs. Face Wash: Which One Should You Use?

Although cleansers and face washes are different, they play an equally important role in your skin care routine. If you want to cleanse your skin lightly, go for a cleanser. On the other hand, if you want a deep cleansing, opt for a face wash.

In A Nutshell

Both cleansers and face washes have specific roles within the skin care routine. Cleansers help remove makeup, dust, and grime from the skin surface, whereas face washes are used to deep clean the pores. All you need to know is the right way to use your cleanser and/or face wash for attaining soft, youthful, and healthy skin.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is cleanser better than face wash?

No. Both cleanser and face wash play very distinct roles in your skin care routine, so one product cannot be considered better than the other.

Do I need to use a cleanser and face wash both?

Yes. Based on your skin needs, use a cleanser and face wash both as they are quite different.

Should you use a cleanser every day?

Yes, you must use a cleanser daily for soft, supple, and healthy skin.

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).