I distinctly remember the first skin-care product my mom ever introduced me to. I was maybe seven years old, and at the time Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser came in a frosted plastic bottle with a blue label. “It’s so gentle, you don’t even have to really rinse it off if you don’t want to,” she said. I stood on my little zebra step stool, carefully studying her method. She rinsed rather than tissued off, so of course, I rinsed.
The bottle may have changed its look several times since then, but it’s still the same multiple-award-winning, eight-ingredient formula inside. And all those awards keep rolling in for a reason. This face wash is crazy gentle. We mean dermatologist-gold-standard kind of gentle. (Derms recommend the stuff to patients who struggle with acne and sensitive skin and also to people who suffer from eczema and rosacea.)
And as one reader who took our Readers’ Choice Survey explains, it “doesn’t make my skin tight, and [it] leaves my skin feeling clean but not stripped.” That would be thanks to the fatty alcohols in the formula, “which coat the skin to prevent the detergents from drying it out,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson.
When I had an unfortunate incident with retinol (sensitivity, redness, burning), the Gentle Skin Cleanser was the only face wash I could tolerate. It actually felt soothing to coat my skin in the lotion-y formula. And because I’m a little nuts about skin care, I also keep a travel-size bottle at my desk for a gentle, pre-workout wash. I feel like it gets the daily grime off my face without drying it out, which is key since I don’t reapply moisturizer before hitting the treadmill.
The only downside to this beauty staple is that because it’s so gentle it doesn’t always cut through heavy makeup. I usually wipe products like waterproof mascara and liquid lipstick off with a cotton pad soaked in micellar water before reaching for the Cetaphil. And if your skin is aggressively oily, you might need something a little more foamy or gel-based to get rid of the grease. Cetaphil also makes a face wash for normal to oily types, but I’ll always be loyal to the skin-coddling gentle formula.