The 9 Best Facial Cleansers For Sensitive Skin Types, According to 5 Dermatologists

Derm recommended face washes for sensitive skin

Each skin type presents its own unique challenges, whether it’s managing breakouts on acne-prone complexions or adding enough moisture on dry ones. Sensitive skin, however, can be particularly difficult to manage, as selecting something as simple as a cleanser can feel like a game of Russian roulette with irritation. “Sensitive skin has an impaired barrier that leads to increased water loss and increased sensitivity to allergens and irritants,” explains Kathleen Behr, MD, a Fresno-based board-certified dermatologic surgeon. 

If you’re dealing with sensitive skin, Dr. Behr notes that you should opt for gentle cleansers, which are typically creamy, have moisturizing ingredients, and are free of (potentially irritating) fragrance. But don’t just grab any cleanser labeled as “sensitive” or “gentle” — you need to understand the ingredients in the bottle, too. 

According to Heather D. Rogers, MD, dermatological surgeon, founder of Doctor Rogers RESTORE Skincare®, and owner of Modern Dermatology℠ in Seattle, some gentle formulas contain propylene glycol, which can cause an allergic reaction. Propylene glycol allergies are rare, she explains. However, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to look out for it on product labels.

Other ingredients to steer clear of, according to Rachel Cayce, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles and founder of DTLA Derm℠, include sulfates, formaldehyde, cocamidopropyl betain, and lanolin, as they’re all potentially irritating. Caroline Robinson, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago, stresses the importance of choosing cleansers with nourishing ingredients like glycerin, squalene, essential oils, and vitamin E. 

Editor's Note

If you have sensitive skin, be sure to talk to your doctor to see what’s right for you.

Now that you’re armed with all this knowledge, you can start browsing skincare shelves with impunity — or, you can simplify your quest even further. We tapped five dermatologists to weigh in on their go-to face wash recommendations for sensitive skin types so you can cleanse with confidence.