You can’t build a house without solid foundations. Similarly, a high-quality face wash sets the foundation of any good male grooming and skincare regime. Cleanse properly and you set your skin up to reap the benefits of the rest of your routine – and the day ahead.
What Are The Benefits Of Using a Cleanser or Face Wash?
Struggling with a skin complaint? The right cleanser can help alleviate problems such as flakiness, congested pores and help prevent ageing. At the end of a long, tiring day it can be very tempting to roll into bed without washing your mug – but it pays dividends to commit to this important ablution.
Sarah Chapman, top facialist and product formulator of her eponymous skincare line, says, “cleansing properly is vital for keeping skin healthy and functioning well. It removes dirt and grime that can block pores and lead to breakouts, and allows any other products you use to penetrate effectively, for better results.
“Due to higher testosterone levels, men’s skin is usually around 25% thicker than women’s, and produces more sebum. This means that men’s skin is typically oilier compared with women’s, and more prone to blackheads and blemishes. A well-formulated cleanser will help to remove excess sebum and ensure your skin stays clear and balanced.”
Drier skin types also benefit. “Cleansing effectively can help to restore radiance to dull, tired-looking skin by removing dead or dry cells on the surface, and improving your complexion’s overall health,” says Chapman.
What Are The Typical Ingredients To Look For?
“Most cleansers contain one or more surfactants – ingredients like sodium laureth sulphate that lift away dirt, oil and debris – combined with emollients like fatty acids and natural oils, which keep skin soft and smooth; as well as humectants like glycerin that prevent moisture loss,” explains Chapman.
“It might seem counterintuitive, but oil-based formulas are most effective at breaking down other oils.” Typically, a good face wash will be effective but gentle on the skin. It will also be pH-balanced to protect the skin’s protective acid mantle and not strip the skin of its essential natural oils.
Of course, these days they can also contain advanced ingredients including actives like Vitamins C and E, salicylic acid or prebiotics and be targeted towards specific issues like pigmentation. Chemical exfoliants (salicylic/lactic acids) can refine both dry and oily skin, as can pre- and probiotics, which work to balance the skin’s microbiome.
How To Use A Face Wash Correctly
The basic directions are to mix a small amount of face wash with a little warm water to generate a lather in the palm of your hands and apply to damp skin twice daily, morning and night. Do this for around 30 seconds at a time.
From her Skinesis clinic in Chelsea, Chapman recommends a more advanced technique: “massaging your cleanser in will enable a more thorough cleanse, as well as boosting circulation and delivering more vital nutrients and oxygen to the skin. Start by warming your cleanser between your fingertips, then smooth it evenly over your face, applying firm pressure with your fingertips and knuckles to massage it in. By using upward, circular motions, you will work the product in the direction of your pores, allowing it to penetrate more efficiently for enhanced results. This will soften the beard growth in preparation for a close shave.”
Fingers are fine but rougher texture can help. “Removing your cleanser with a cotton cloth or mitt will gently exfoliate the skin, sweeping away dry or flaky patches for a smoother, healthier appearance. However, avoid cleansing brushes with very firm bristles as these can damage the skin over time,” says Chapman.
Choosing The Right Face Wash
Of course, there are many variants on the market. We believe these intricacies are all personal preference. Where we can advise – and where it really matters – is to ensure you pick the right face wash for your skin type. This can change, unhelpfully, with the seasons and with life’s many curveballs. Drier skin in winter and oilier in summer is common. New breakouts around the chin, mouth or cheeks? You may be experiencing blemishes caused by wearing a face covering for prolonged periods, so remember to wash your reusable masks frequently, too.
The majority of products are labelled as cleanser or face wash – they mean exactly the same thing. These days, most men’s face washes tend to be gel, oil or cream-based. Bars of soap, while much improved, are generally not recommended for the face as they strip the skin. Stripping your skin of natural oils dries out normal skin, and encourages excess production of sebum in oily skins, causing more breakouts.
Every gentleman’s face has its own unique characteristics, quirks and concerns – this determines your skin type. There are five main categories: oily skin, dry skin, sensitive skin, normal skin, and combination skin. Read on to assess which skin type best matches your skin, where you’ll also find Ape’s top picks for the best face washes to suit.
If you’re lucky enough to have normal skin (the scientific term is eudermic) you can pretty much use any decent cleanser of your choice. Your skin is well-balanced, it’s not flaky, red or sensitive, nor irritated, and has no oily sheen or blemishes. You have good blood circulation and unremarkable pores, so count your blessings and try not to brag.
You may be battling acne, your pores are visible and over-delivering in the sebum department leaving persistent shine. Clay, charcoal and exfoliating acids can help. On the upside, oily skins age better, with less tendency to wrinkle. Tell that to Mr. Dry, and wipe the smug smile off his spot-free face.
Dry skin presents itself mainly around the cheeks, nose and mouth. It can feel uncomfortable and tight after a swim or shower. This usually means you get less spots and breakouts, which is the silver lining to a rough, itchy or flaky face.
Oil- and cream-based cleaners are your best friends, as you need to shore up the skin’s barrier with hydration. This skin type can be seasonal, thanks to central heating.
Easily triggered. The ‘snowflake’ of the skin types, sensitive skin can be set off by allergies, stress and sensitivity to specific ingredients. It can appear red and feel unhappy with unpleasant sensations like stinging, burning or tingling caused by irritated nerve endings from a weakened skin barrier. Be gentle and work on those defences.
Ah, the best of both worlds. This tricky combination can mean dry cheeks with an oily T-zone. You need a balancing act of giving the skin hydration, whilst refining the pores. Pre-and probiotic and exfoliating, acid based cleansers should help you find dermal equilibrium.
The Best Face Washes For Men
Now you have an idea of your skin type and the key considerations, here is a rundown of our favourite face washes on the market, and who they are most suitable for.
Malin+Goetz Grapefruit Face Cleanser
Skin Types: All
A foaming cleansing gel that synthesises natural grapefruit extract with amino acid-based cleansing agents. There are no traditionally harsh detergents that can dry, strip and irritate. Just a formula that gently and thoroughly purifies and hydrates all skin types, especially normal. Natural fragrance and colour.
Anthony Algae Facial Cleanser
Skin Types: Normal, Dry, Sensitive
The gentle Algae Facial Cleanser from New York City-based Anthony moisturises and soothes the skin, leaving it feeling soft, smooth, and clean. Designed specially for dry, sensitive and mature skin it employs nourishing Algae, soothing and moisturising Aloe Vera, as well as calming and soothing Lavander Extracts and Rose Hip Oil.
CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser
Skin Types: Normal, Dry
US import, CeraVe, earned its name and cult status from its ceramide infused, MultiVesicular Emulsion (MVE) – a patented delivery system that allows controlled hydration to protect the skin barrier. Created by high brow dermatologists, with a low brow price, CeraVe’s mission is to bring better skin to everyone – you can often pick it up in your local chemist. With the radiators currently blasting, this new cleanser for normal to dry skin, should work well for a lot of us, and it removes makeup: essential if you wear light foundation, concealer, brow gel, eyeliner or full on drag.
Chanel Le Gel Anti-Pollution Cleansing Gel
Skin Types: Normal, Combination
Think the upside to all this hanging around at home is protecting your skin from pollution? Think again. Indoor environments, and the inside of a running car, can have worse air quality than outdoors. So, increase the ventilation and bag this pollution fighting cleanser for all skin types. Chanel has put hero ingredient, blue micro algae, to good use in this gentle face wash. It helps to protect cells from stress caused by pollution and a marine salicornia extract (a hardy coastal plant) works to hydrate and encourage the epidermis’ capacity to self-regulate water.
Sarah Chapman London Skinesis Ultimate Cleanse Cleansing Balm
Skin Types: All
Sarah Chapman harnessed over twenty years experience as a facialist and cosmetic scientist to create her acclaimed cleanser. The omega rich formula contains collagen stimulating peptides and anti-ageing Vitamin A, melts into the pores for a deeper clean. With a holistic scent of neroli and chamomile, reinforced with stimulating camphor, it tingles the nose, and comforts troubled skin. It’s on the more expensive side, but the plentiful five star reviews should reassure you it’s worth the dosh, and the wait, if it’s temporarily sold out.
Aesop Purifying Facial Cream Cleanser
Skin Types: All
Aussie stalwart Aesop has cleansing solutions for every skin type. Made with fatty-acid rich botanicals, lavender stem and chamomile bud, this soft, creamy formulation lathers easily and helps to wash away grease and grime leaving the skin feeling comfortable. White clay helps to draw out impurities from the pores and it has a very mild scent. Leave on for a few minutes extra for a quick face mask.
Triumph & Disaster Ritual Face Cleanser
Skin Types: All
This grime fighting concoction features tamanu oil, willow bark extract and bentonite clay to dissolve away dirt and oil without stripping or drying the skin. Even if you don’t believe in aromatherapy, you’ll still feel the benefits of the gentle wakey-wakey from the peppermint scent each morning.
Horace Purifying Face Cleanser
Skin Types: Normal, Oily, Combination
Horace’s mild foaming face wash contains Binchōtan, Japanese activated charcoal, zinc, aloe vera and plant-derived glycerin to regulate sebum around the T-zone. It’s sulphate free, which means it won’t cause dryness and fragrance free, so less likely to irritate.
Daimon Barber Face Wash
Skin Types: Normal, Dry
A moderately priced, gentle foaming cleanser made with ingredients sourced from within the UK, this contains glycoderm and propolis, a glue like substance produced by bees, that can help repair the lipid barrier and retain moisture to keep the skin hydrated. Thank the bees for the nice honeyed scent, too.
Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser
Skin Types: Oily
Battling a shiny face? Too many blackheads to count? This gentle Dermalogica cleanse is made with prebiotics – food for the good bacteria – to bring blemished skin back into line. The grey goo contains an advanced of formula of kaolin clay, botanical lipids and murumuru seeds to mop up excess oil, Binchōtan charcoal to absorb impurities, and a bio-flavanoid complex of citrus, aloe and broccoli to help purify pores, balance the microbiome – the skin’s ecosystem of bacteria – and protect the skin’s barrier.
Bulldog Sensitive Face Wash
Skin Types: Sensitive
Looking after sensitive skin needn’t cost a packet. So, if you’re putting off starting a cleansing regime because you think you’ll need another expensive product to keep your skin happy, Bulldog has the affordable solution. The sensitive face wash contains baobab, willow herb, wheat germ and oat. These soothing ingredients will help keep skin clean and calm, without a call from your bank manager.
Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser
Skin Types: All
A light, refreshing cleanser that harnesses the goodness of hemp to do wonders for sensitive to spotty skin types. Cold pressed sativa seed oil, green oregano oil and peppermint are the central ingredients to help cleanse, calm and give a herbaceous aroma. Kiehl’s like to loudly proclaim that this cleanser has no psychoactive properties, just in case you were thinking of adding a dash to any recipes. It’s great for your face; for cookies, not so much.