How to Choose a Soap to Wash Your Face

There are many types of facial cleansers to choose from

Choosing the best soap for your face can be confusing. Should you pick a bar soap or a liquid soap? A foaming solution or a non-foaming solution? Or should you go with a facial cloth?

Not too long ago, the only choices that you had in terms of facial cleansers were bar soaps and cold creams. Now, entire store aisles are devoted to various facial-cleansing options. These tips may help you figure out which kind of soap is best for your face.

the best face soap
Illustration by Brianna Gilmartin, Verywell

The Importance of Facial Cleansing

Washing your face is important because the skin on your face has more sebaceous glands, which makes your facial skin oilier than the skin on other parts of your body. In addition to having more oil on your face, cosmetics or other products can create a film on the skin. This film can trap pollutants from the environment like dust and cigarette smoke. Using soap on your face is important; using water alone will not wash away these residues.

Wash your face twice a day—once in the morning and once before bedtime. Be sure to wipe off all makeup each night before washing your face.

Being Gentle Is Key

You may be tempted to wash your face aggressively, thinking that it will help get rid of any oil and dirt and keep your face cleaner. But that’s not true.

That skin on your face is very delicate. The top layer of facial skin, the stratum corneum, has fewer cell layers than any other part of the body (except the genitalia). This thin layer makes the skin more easily irritated.

It’s important to note that over-scrubbing or using a harsh soap can over-dry the skin and cause the oil glands on your face to produce even more oil to hydrate your skin. If you have acne, this can make it worse.

How to Pick the Best Soap for Your Face

These are some guidelines to keep in mind as you look through the aisles in a drugstore for the best soap for your face.

  • Use something that’s made for the faceFacial soaps are designed specifically for sensitive facial skin. Even the mildest body soap or liquid cleanser for the body may be too hard on the face and may contain fragrances, dyes, or scrubbing materials not recommended for use on the face.
  • Start with something mild: Use the mildest cleanser that gets rid of oil and residue. 
  • Pick something non-foaming: Foaming cleansers look and feel cool, but they contain ingredients that might irritate your skin, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin. 
  • Consider a facial cloth: A facial cleansing cloth has soap already embedded in the cloth. The facial cloth also exfoliates, helping you slough off dead skin cells that may clog your pores and cause acne. Note, however, that using anything other than your fingertips can irritate your skin, so if you use a cloth, be gentle and do not scrub.
  • Consider your skin type: Different types of skin—dry skin, oily, acne-prone skin, and sensitive skin—have different needs. If a regular cleanser isn’t working, try something matched to your skin type. If that doesn’t work, make an appointment with a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in treating the skin) for more advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can soap cause pimples?

    Sometimes. It depends on your skin type, and the soap you’re using. The sebaceous glands in your skin keep it hydrated and supple. When they produce too much oil, you may develop pimples. Using harsh soaps can trigger the glands to make more oil than your skin actually needs. This can cause—or worsen—acne.

  • Is it good to use soap to wash your face?

    Experts agree that a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser is best for washing your face. Soaps or cleansers designed for your body may not be suitable for your face, depending on your skin type.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Endly DC, Miller RA. Oily skin: a review of treatment options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(8):49-55.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Face washing 101.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Acne: tips for managing.

By Heather L. Brannon, MD
Heather L. Brannon, MD, is a family practice physician in Mauldin, South Carolina. She has been in practice for over 20 years.