Cleansers are often overlooked (especially in a world full of enticing retinol serums and brightening vitamin C treatments), but they’re actually the most vital step in looking after your skin. After all, every successful routine begins with a proper, thorough cleanse, leaving the skin perfectly prepped to absorb anything you apply to it afterwards.

The best cleansers and face washes on the shelves should do two things: leave your skin free from make-up, excess oil and damaging free radicals (especially in an age of damaging pollution levels), and keep it calm and balanced. The latter may sound like a given, but many alcohol and active-laden cleansers will upset the skin barrier, leading to redness, irritation or clogged pores.

Which cleanser texture is best?

Options abound when it comes to textures, and there is no one clear winner. For sensitive or acne-prone types, a milky lotion cleanser is the least likely to irritate your compromised skin barrier. An oil or balm will melt make-up best (and hydrate dry complexions), while jelly textures are an all-round crowd-pleaser.

For brightening, a cleanser containing glycolic acid will work double-duty to exfoliate and unify (and, as water instantly neutralises fruit acids, it's a good way to introduce them into your routine). If you can't live without a touch of lather, the good news is that not all foaming face washes are banned from your bathroom cabinet. Look for coconut-derived foaming agents such as sodium cocoyl isethionate, instead of sodium lauryl sulphate (which should always be avoided in skin products). As such naturally derived surfactants are closer to your skin's natural pH, they won't leave you feeling stripped and tight.

So, which one to choose? Here, we’ve rounded up the very best cleansers for every skin type, so you can set your skincare routine off on the right track...

The 12 best cleansers for every skin type

Thermal Cleansing Balm 100ml
The Thermal Cleansing Balm harnesses the power of transformative Hungarian Moor mud, rich in calcium and magnesium, to draw out impurities. This gentle black balm cleanses without stripping, removing all make-up, even waterproof mascara, to leave skin feeling soft and hydrated.
Exfoliating Cleanser 
ZO Skin Health
Gentle exfoliating cleanser for normal to oily skin that targets surface oil leaving the skin feeling clean, but not stripped and dry.