Best Cleansers for Sensitive-Combination Skin

Let’s face it: we can’t wake up everyday with Instagram-ready skin (even though we really wish that we could). In reality, everyday life is busy and we’ll be the first to admit, we don’t always have a lot of time to take care of our skin.

Whether you suffer from acne, an overly oily t-zone or you find your skin feeling a little lacklustre and dry; there’s one thing that you can do each day to comfort and refresh your complexion - and that’s cleansing it.

Your skin is unique and, though it may feel frustrating at times, there are many ways of helping to calm a confused complexion! One of those ways lies in using the right types of skincare products for you and more importantly, the correct ingredients, too.

If you suffer from a sensitive to combination skin type, you’ll be the first to know how tricky it can be to find the right cleanser that is going to be able to both de-congest your skin and alleviate any signs of irritation (such as redness) but there is a silver lining!

Here at Gotham Skincare we’ve created this article to bring to you our top 5 best cleansers for sensitive to combination skin, while also providing a useful buyer’s guide that will go into more detail about why the correct cleanser is so important, and what ingredients to look out for (and which to avoid!). 

Luckily, more and more brands — high-end, affordable, and all those in-between — are now creating thoughtfully formulated cleansers that specifically cater to sensitive-combination skin. (Can I get an  "amen"?) To find out which gels, foams and creamy concoctions are worth your precious pennies, we’ve taken to the internet to pinpoint our expert picks. Scroll to find your new favorite face wash for that sensitive-combination skin of yours.

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Our Pick

Why is it our top pick?

Our top pick comes from leading skincare brand Elemis. Known for their groundbreaking formulas that combine a blend of science with the chemistry of nature, it should come as no surprise that their Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash Skin Smoothing Cleanser slots itself at the very top of our review.

Why? This gentle yet powerful cleanser works to promote the skin’s natural cell renewal cycle (so with prolonged use your skin will feel more plump, youthful and well-rested).

Formulated with a proteolytic enzyme, this cleanser has the ability to lift away any dirt and debris while encouraging your skin’s natural barrier to strengthen, leading to a more balanced and calmed complexion, use after use.

Suitable for daily use, this cleanser will:

  • Lift away dead skin cells

  • Brighten your skin 

  • Purify to help prevent breakouts

Best Cleansers for Sensitive-Combination Skin - Comparison Table

Best Cleansers for Sensitive-Combination Skin - Reviews

Ideal for sensitive-combination skin types, this daily face wash helps to actively smooth and refine the texture of your skin, while gently lifting away dead skin cells and other impurities that may make your complexion appear a little dull.

A patented Tri-Enzyme technology is the star of the show: acting as a catalyst to resurface the skin’s upper layers for a more clarified appearance the more that you use it. 

Galactoarabinan (a polysaccharide from the Larch Tree) helps to encourage the non-abrasive exfoliation process for clear skin, while Brazilian Babassu Oil (rich in soothing fatty acids) replenishes moisture levels, so don’t worry about this cleanser drying out your skin -  because it wont.

Taking daily life into consideration, Elemis have formulated this clarifying cleanser to help protect your skin against environmental damage that may trigger a breakout (such as pollution if you live in a city). This is achieved from the inclusion of Moringa, an ingredient rich in powerful antioxidant-properties to keep your skin safe from free radicals (which can speed up the ageing process). White Truffle Poria Cocos will help to soothe and support the microflora of your skin, making it ideal for days when your skin needs a little extra TLC.

With regular use, your skin will look and feel more smooth, radiant and clear.

Pros

  • Formulated without ingredients that will congest your complexion
  • Powerful without being abrasive
  • Included moisturising ingredients will comfort your skin after it has been exfoliated for added protection

Cons

  • As you reach the end of this cleanser, you may need to unscrew the cap to get the remaining formula out

Gentle and creamy, the Pevonia RS2 Gentle Cleanser is a great choice suitable for sensitive to combination skin types. Combining Green Tea and Chamomile, this water-soluble cleanser will refresh skin types prone to breakouts, rosacea and irritation thanks to its comforting yet revitalizing properties.

It has the ability to wash away the day with exceptional efficacy, removing dirt and makeup residue from your face quickly and easily without irritating your skin. It will leave your skin feeling soft as-can-be and more clear, lifting away impurities from the surface of your skin without stripping it of its natural oils (meaning that this gentle cleanser is not going to dry out your complexion).

It’s suitable for vegans and has been formulated to be free of sulfate which is an ingredient that can often irritate hypersensitive skin, especially those prone to bouts of rosacea.

Pros

  • Alleviates redness
  • Does not strip your skin of its natural oils
  • Vegan-friendly

Cons

  • May be a little pricey for some

Just the ticket for complexions in need of soothing relief, the VENeffect Pore Minimizing Cleanser is a daily skincare solution that will help to promote a glowing complexion, use after use.

This super gentle foaming gel cleanser is the perfect skincare addition to anyone with a sensitive-combination skin type. It has a ‘fresh skin’ feel that instantly revives while a concoction of gentle nutrients and enzymes will work to deeply cleanse and nourish your skin without irritating it.

For a more youthful feel, this cleanser is also enriched with phytoestrogens (like grape seed and soy extracts) that will instantly get to work in stimulating your skin’s collagen production, while hydrating hyaluronic acid will deliver an instant burst of intense moisturisation, leaving tired skin feeling totally refreshed. One thing’s for sure: this cleanser feels like a real treat when you use it.

Fortified with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pomegranate enzymes, this cleanser will work to efficiently remove dead skin cells while helping to strengthen your skin’s natural barrier. The inclusion of Willow Bark and Ginger Root extract have the ability to reduce the appearance of pores as well as lifting away excess sebum to reduce shine and lower the risk of skin breakouts. Winning.

Pros

  • Hydrating and nourishing
  • Reduces excess sebum and visible pores, making it ideal for oilier days
  • Enriched with anti-inflammatory properties to combat both the appearance and feel of sensitive skin

Cons

  • Higher price point

A powerplayer in the skincare industry and the leader of the coveted French Pharmacy world,  La Roche Posay are known for their exceptional formulations dedicated to providing natural yet effective solutions that can be tolerated by the most sensitive of skin types.

Each and every one of La Roche Posay skincare products are developed according to a strict formulation charter to combine both safety and ultimate efficacy - and this cleanser is no exception.

This creamy formulation made with oily skin in mind (but suitable for sensitive skin, too) will help to thoroughly cleanse and visibly minimize the look of pores while also working to lift away any excess oil built up throughout the day. 

An excuse to steal some time for yourself, this cream texture of this cleanser transforms into a soft and rich foam when in contact with water, which is able to gently yet effectively refresh and clarify your complexion without overburdening it.

Use after use, this gentle cleanser will help to regulate the sebum production within your skin, all the while lifting away dirt, debris and other impurities to leave your complexion looking revitalized and feeling even better.

Pros

  • Oil control
  • Non-comedogenic (it’s not going to break you out!)
  • Gentle and nourishing

Cons

  • It has a fragrance - some users may not like this

Perfect for sensitive-combination skin types and even better for those extra sensitive days, the CeraVe Hydrating Face Wash is packed full of soothing ingredients that will calm an irritated complexion without leaving it feeling congested.

Its unique formula utilises three essential ceramides (1,3,6-11) that helps to cleanse and hydrate the skin, all the while helping to restore the skin’s natural protective barrier and healthy cell turnover.

It has the ability to effectively remove dirt, oil and makeup (without leaving it feeling tight and dry), while a generous dose of hyaluronic acid will influx the skin with instant hydration. Developed by dermatologists to cleanse and refresh the skin without over-stripping it or leaving it feeling tight and uncomfortable, this non-comedogenic face wash is a really effective way to begin any skincare regime.

Not only that, this innovative cleanser has also been infused with MVE Delivery Technology that will help to supply the skin with a steady stream of nourishment throughout both the day and the night.

Pros

  • Infused with hyaluronic acid for intense moisturisation
  • Accepted by the National Eczema Association
  • Fragrance-free

Cons

  • Those with skin that leans more on the combination side may find this cleanser too mild 

Best Cleansers for Sensitive-Combination Skin - Buyers Guide

How to choose the best face wash for combination-sensitive skin

Go for soothing textures: Many people switch to a gel cleanser in the summer months to help control oil and shine in the humidity. However, these may not always be super comforting to skin in need of a little extra nourishment. A creamy face wash is ideal for sensitive-combination skin types because these offer both comfort and clarification, so look out for labels that say “creamy” or “lotion,” or feel like a moisturizer when applied.

Where possible, avoid fragrances: This is a big one. It’s really important to choose unscented products, as fragrances can spur irritation. Look for unscented or fragrance-free on the label, although sometimes exceptions can be made (such as La Roche Posay products) as these offer maximum tolerance levels to sensitive skin types.

Look out for moisturizing ingredients: Hyaluronic acid is the cream of the crop when it comes to hydration because it attracts water to skin! Glycerin and ceramides also deliver an extra boost of moisture, while aloe vera and soy can feel soothing - especially if your skin is feeling unbalanced.

Be mindful of anti-aging ingredients: Ingredients like glycolic or lactic acids may help fight the signs of aging (and keep blackheads at bay), but they may strip dry skin of the oil it needs. 

How to care for your Combination-Sensitive Skin

So, once you find a face wash you like that is suitable for your fluctuating skin type, be sure to cleanse only once a day before bed - (we suggest supplementing with a micellar water or hydrating toner in the morning to avoid congestion.) Immediately after when skin is still damp, lock in hydration with a good moisturizer for those more sensitive skin days. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Sensitive-Combination Skin?

A variety of factors can contribute to combination skin, but more often than not, it just comes down to the luck of the draw in terms of what you inherited from your mom and dad! However, the types of skincare products you’re using can potentially do more harm than good. Read on to learn what you might unknowingly be doing to contribute to making combination-sensitive skin more of an issue.

As you might already have suspected, using products that contain harsh or skin-aggravating ingredients will inevitably dry out some areas of your face while stimulating oil production in other parts (especially around the t-zone) that were already oily.

If you’re using the wrong products, you might actually be causing your skin to breakout or flare up. If you use the right products, you may still have some amount of oily skin or redness, but at least you won’t have dry, rough skin underneath excess oil. Once you start using the right products, your skin can improve almost immediately, with the dry areas softened and smoothed and the oily areas less oily and red—plus minimized pores!

Which Products Work for Sensitive-Combination Skin?

The key thing to keep in mind with combination-sensitive skin?  There’s no one-size-fits all solution. It all depends on how dry your dry areas are naturally and how oily your oily areas are. You’ll have to divide and conquer by caring for different parts of your face differently (why don’t you look up the benefits of multi-masking alongside your new facial cleanser, too?).

You may find that the oil-absorbing or matte-finish ingredients that work exceptionally well on the oilier areas may cause problems on dry-prone areas or areas prone to irritation. All this means is that you will need to consider applying more moisturizer over the dry areas (anything with nourishing ingredients like shea butter are a good shout), but if you apply that all over your face, you risk making oily areas more oilier. That’s why it’s a good idea to divide these ingredients according to the areas of your face. The same goes for the products that absorb oil; keep them off the dry areas as much as possible.

For oilier areas, you’ll get your most effective results from using lightweight yet powerful formulas that work to remove debris and regulate sebum production. Concentrated doses of skin-balancing ingredients in products with a gel, thin texture, or liquid texture will work well over the entire complexion. You would then only need to use an emollient booster, serum, or moisturizer over the dry areas... The secret to balancing combination skin is knowing when and where to layer products!

No matter what, none of the products you use should contain any harsh or skin-annoying ingredients. Every part of your skincare routine needs to be as non-irritating and regulating as possible. Whenever you put products with sensitizing ingredients (especially fragrance, both synthetic and natural)  on your skin, you risk a flare up, while comedogenic ingredients risk congesting skin prone to breakouts. Don’t worry, though! If you bare all of this in mind when choosing your skincare regimen, we’re absolutely certain that you’ll have skin that looks and feels healthy and glowing.

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