Skin Perception

Gel Cleanser Vs Foaming Cleanser: How To Choose?

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Skin cleansing has undergone significant transformation over the past few decades. In addition to good old soap, cleansing products are now available in the form of wipes, face washes, foaming cleansers, cleansing oils and many other types. But let’s see which type of cleanser will work the best for your skin type.

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Selecting a skin cleanser that is right for your skin type makes a tremendous difference in overall skin health. Not only is it one of the most important steps in your daily routine, but also it helps to keep skin barrier integrity. And with so many different types of cleansers on the market it might be confusing to navigate through available selections. That is to say, one of the most frequent inquiries is distinguishing between gel cleanser vs foaming cleanser. 

Gel Cleanser Vs Foaming Cleanser

Cleansing is one of the most important steps in your daily skincare routine as cleansers remove dirt, environmental pollutants, oils, sweat, and makeup residue allowing your skin to rest and regenerate. When it comes to gel cleanser vs foaming cleanser the main difference is in their consistency and penetration depth.

For example, gel cleanser is a gel-like clear substance that provides mild cleaning properties, and is best for normal or combination skin. This type of cleanser is usually water-based and it doesn’t foam. In general, it is a more gentle choice for cleaning your face on a daily basis, while also providing hydration to the skin.

On the other hand, foaming cleanser can be formulated in various consistencies (gel, cream, foam, oil, etc.), which turn into a bubbly foam. In comparison to gel or cream cleansers, this type of cleanser is stronger due to surfactants and its deep pore penetrating capabilities. And in addition to removing excess oil, it also deep cleans your pores. Often, this type of cleanser can strip skin of its natural oils, leaving it dry. Overall, it is more suitable for oily and acne prone skin and is not recommended for those with dry or sensitive skin.


Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Everyday Face Cleanser | Calms + Refreshes, Sensitive Skin Friendly
Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Everyday Face Cleanser | Calms + Refreshes, Sensitive Skin Friendly
Sensitive-skin friendly; EWG Certified; Dermatologist Tested; Cruelty Free; Made With: Chamomile + Calendula...
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foaming Facial Cleanser with Ceramide, Gentle Face Wash
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foaming Facial Cleanser with Ceramide, Gentle Face Wash
Removes makeup and impurities without irritating skin; Best for normal, combination, oily, dry skin types

How to choose the right cleanser for you?

Any skin cleansing whether it’s done with water, liquid cleanser or soap will affect skin barrier, skin pH and moisture levels. So ideally, a good cleanser will gently lift and remove skin debris and oils, and interact with skin at a minimal level without irritating or damaging the surface. That is to say, cleaning skin while also taking care of its health.

Acidity. According to the study ”Cleansing Without Compromise”, cleansers with neutral or acidic pH, close to skin’s normal pH 5.5, may be potentially less damaging to the skin. And soaps, beauty bars, and antibacterial washes are more likely to raise pH of skin.

Form. When choosing gel cleanser vs foaming cleanser, your skin type should be a determining factor. In general, liquid face cleanser is gentler, affecting less disruption of the barrier, with minimal change to skin pH (according to the research published at the Skin Therapy Letter. On the other hand, facial soap, face wash and foam cleansers are more harsh to skin’s natural barrier. These types of cleansers will work best for those with acne-prone and oily skin, or those living in humid areas. While cream and oil cleansers are best for dry, dehydrated and mature skin types.

Active ingredients in the cleanser play a major role regardless of the type of cleanser. For example, cleansers with BHA are specifically formulated for oily and acne prone skin, while AHA cleansers are great for combo, dull and aging skin. And those with dry and dehydrated skin can take advantage of cleansers with deeply hydrating and moisturizing agents like hyaluronic acid, squalane, niacinamide, ceramides, fatty and amino acids, and others.   

5 Best Gel Cleansers

Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser
  • Reveal a brighter, more refined looking complexion with this antioxidant rich face cleanser for...
  • The gentle face cleanser deelply purifies with coconut cleansers; exfoliates and visibly refines...
  • Cleanse morning and evening by massaging the facial cleanser for women onto face, neck and...
iS CLINICAL Cleansing Complex, 3in1 Gentle deep pore cleanser Face Wash and Makeup remover, Helps blemish-prone skin
  • All skin types, acne-prone skin, large or congested pores
  • Prepares skin for treatment products
  • Excellent for all skin types and ages
  • Smoothes and softens
  • Paraben-free
Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Everyday Face Cleanser | Calms + Refreshes, Sensitive Skin Friendly | Chamomile + Calendula Extracts | EWG Verified + Cruelty Free | 5 fl oz
  • Gentle, everyday cleanser infused with Chamomile + Calendula Extracts washes away dirt + impurities...
  • Hydrating formula protects and calms the skin with each cleanse, no more dryness or stripped skin
  • Sensitive-skin friendly; EWG Certified; Dermatologist Tested; Cruelty Free
  • Made With: Chamomile + Calendula Extracts to calm + refresh
  • Made Without: Parabens, Phthalates, SLS, Dyes, SLES, PEGs, Synthetic Fragrances
COSRX Advanced Snail Mucin Gel Cleanser, 5.07 Fl Oz / 150 mL | Rich Daily Deep Cleansing Gel for Dry & Sensitive Skin | Korean Skincare, Not Tested on Animals, No Parabens
  • Snail Mucin Gel Cleanser: Daily gel cleanser with a powerful regenerative and hydrating effects.
  • Gentle Gel-to-foam Type: Unique, dense texture helps reduce irritation and minimize stimulation for...
  • Youthful Radiant Skin: Mild foam cleanser to reveal your plump and bright skin. Cleanse your face...
  • Caution: Perform a patch test on your body before using it on the face to make sure you do not have...
  • COSRX Standards: All COSRX products are formulated with skin-friendly ingredients that alleviate...

5 Best Foaming Cleansers

Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel (1.7 Fl Oz) Gentle-Foaming Face Wash Gel for Women and Men - Leaves Skin Feeling Smooth And Clean
  • Super soothing facial cleansing gel that effectively removes dirt, impurities, and oil for a...
  • Achieve a dual action exfoliating cleanse by using it with our Exfoliating Face Brush, promoting a...
  • Gentle formula calms your skin without causing irritation or dryness, leaving it feeling balanced...
  • Effectively removes impurities from the skin while providing soothing relief to dry skin, restoring...
  • Enjoy a soap-free cleansing experience with no artificial fragrance or color, ensuring a pure and...
Eminence Organic Skincare Acne Advanced Cleansing Foam
This liquid-to-foam lightweight yet potent cleanser is formulated with time-releasing 1% encapsulated salicylic acid and botanical anti-acne ingredients. It’s ideal for acne-prone, congested and oily skin types. Since salicylic acid can be irritating to the skin, this organic cleanser also includes skin soothing ingredients like antiseptic herb blend, caffeine from green tea, basil oil and panthenol (provitamin B5). Key features: organic, 1% encapsulated salicylic acid, soothing agents.
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Foaming Facial Cleanser with Ceramide, Gentle Face Wash for Hydrating & Moisturizing
  • Cream-to-foam texture softly glides onto the skin to effectively remove dirt and makeup residue...
  • Removes makeup and impurities without irritating skin
  • Best for normal, combination, oily, dry skin types
  • Targets dull skin tone, rough texture
  • Dermatologically tested
Curel Japanese Skin Care Foaming Daily Face Wash for Sensitive Skin, Hydrating Facial Cleanser for Dry Skin, pH-Balanced and Fragrance-Free
  • GENTLE FOAMING FACE CLEANSER - Cleanses impurities on dry, sensitive skin ever-so-gently, leaving...
  • PROTECT CERAMIDES - Cleanses without stripping the skin's natural ceramides, a vital part of your...
  • FOR DRY, SENSITIVE SKIN - Daily face wash that gently cleanses with care for a soft and dewy...
  • FRAGRANCE FREE, pH BALANCED, COLORANT FREE - Curel foaming facial cleanser is specially formulated...
  • DOUBLE CLEANSING - Use with Curel Makeup Cleansing Gel or Curel Makeup Cleansing Oil for a Japanese...
Paula's Choice RESIST Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser, Hyaluronic Acid & Aloe, Anti-Aging Face Wash, Large Pores & Oily Skin
  • PERFECTLY BALANCED SKIN: This balancing face wash helps visibly reduce enlarged pores & leaves skin...
  • Paula's Choice RESIST Perfectly Balanced Anti-Aging Facial Cleanser is formulated to gently remove...
  • Use RESIST Perfectly Balanced Anti-Aging Facial Cleanser twice daily as part of your morning and...
  • Paula's Choice products are made with YOUR SKIN in mind. Whatever your skincare concern, whether...
  • Paula's Choice Skincare makes products that work. No fragrance, no parabens, no fluff. Just...

Related: Best anti aging cleanser for all budgets

Related: Is Korean oil based cleanser a good fit for you?

Ananthapadmanabhan K.P. et al. “Cleansing without compromise: the impact of cleansers on the skin barrier and the technology of mild cleansing.” Dermatologic Therapy, Jan. 2004, Vol. 17, Issue S1.

Ganceviciene, R. et al. “Skin anti-aging strategies.” Dermatoendocrinol. Jul. 2012, Vol. 4.

Howard D. “Is our skin dirtier than ever?” The International Dermal Institute, Apr. 2019.

Kuehl B.L. et al. “Cutaneous cleansers.” Skin Therapy Lett., Mar. 2003, Vol. 8, Issue 3.

Mukhopadhyay, P. “Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders.” Indian Journal of Dermatology vol. 56, Jan. – Feb. 2011.

Walters, R. et al. “Cleansing formulations that respect skin barrier integrity.” Dermatology Research And Practice, Vol. 2012, Aug. 2012.

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