One of the many myths about good skin care—thanks in large part to celebs touting hundreds of dollars worth of treatments and serums— is that more dollar signs equal better quality, and therefore glowier skin.
And while there certainly are pricey beauty products out there worth their weight in active ingredients or formula integrity (higher cost can sometimes equate to higher potency), there’s one item in your routine that dermatologists agree isn’t worth shelling out for: Your facial cleanser.
When you think about it, it actually makes sense. Out of all of your skin-care essentials, your face wash is the one that stays on your skin for the least amount of time. It’s on your face for, like, 30 seconds tops before it’s washed off and vanishes—essentially sending your money literally down the drain. Really, all that matters when it comes to selecting a cleanser is that you’re using something that does its job and won’t strip your skin. “A good cleanser will remove dirt, oil, makeup, and pollution without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. “True soaps have an alkaline pH that disrupts the naturally acidic pH of the skin, and harsh soaps and scrubs may strip the skin of essential oils, which leads to inflammation.”
So that means it’s key to avoid ingredients like sulfates, which can dry out the skin and possibly irritate your complexion. Instead, select a gentle cleansing agent like coco betaine—but besides that, you’re pretty much good to go with whatever you use. “There are many great cleanser options at your local drugstore and you don’t have to spend $100 for an effective one,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Look for sulfate-free products that tend to be less irritating and that contain hydrating ingredients.”
To keep that skin moisturized as you slough off all the combative pollutants/debris/makeup/etc, look for other ingredients in your cleanser like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides. Dr. Zeichner’s fave? Neutrogena’s Hydroboost Cleansing Gel ($9), which plumps while you wash via HA. So no—you don’t have to save up to buy the most prestigious cleanser out there (thank g).
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