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 the 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 cleanser, 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.


At a glance:

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 brightening anti aging cleanser
Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser

One of our absolute favorite gel cleansers! Since it’s formulated with fruit enzymes, AHA’s and malic acid, it gently exfoliates dead skin cells and reveals brighter and even-toned complexion. At the same time this gel cleanser has purifying and hydrating ingredients like algae, aloe, sage, lemon and other potent botanicals. And its light citrusy smell is quite pleasant. Overall, it will work well for all skin types, especially those with dull and aging skin.

Key features: organic, exfoliating, natural AHAs, brightening.     

Biossance Squalane + Elderberry Jelly Cleanser

If you are looking for an all-natural and all-in-one skincare product, then this is it! Not only this cleanser removes all pollutants and make-up (including eye make-up), but also it’s EWG Verified, fragrance free, and ophthalmologist tested. Even though it’s designed for all skin types, those with sensitive skin will appreciate it the most. It includes squalane, prebiotic complex, antioxidants and other calming ingredients that reduce skin redness and inflammation, while also cleanse and hydrate. 

Key features: EWG verified, safe for sensitive skin, all-in-one, antioxidants.  

Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser

This affordable and budget friendly cleansing gel is very gentle on skin’s natural barrier. Moreover, it’s hydrating and skin-friendly formula works well for all skin types including sensitive. And since it’s EWG verified, you can rest assured that it contains only clean non-toxic ingredients like calendula, camomile, lavender, and other soothing botanicals.

Key features: EWG verified, calming, budget-friendly.  

Derma-E-firming-and-lifting anti aging cleanser
Derma E Firm and Lift Cleanser

Packed with antioxidants like lipoic acid and vitamin C, this nutrient-rich gentle cleanser will leave your skin smoother, brighter and visibly firmer. To point out, the main active ingredient here is DMAE (deanol), which clinically has been proven to increase skin firmness. In addition, this cleanser also contains skin calming ingredients like chamomile and lemongrass as well as other natural ingredients. And its non-drying formula is suitable for all skin types including aging and sensitive skin.

Key features: DMAE, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C, antioxidants.  

Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel

This exfoliating cleanser is pretty strong as it contains both AHA and BHA like glycolic and salicylic acids. Even though it is considered safe for all skin types, those with dry, dehydrated or sensitive skin might find it too drying for daily use. That being said, this facial cleanser provides chemical exfoliation, minimizes wrinkles, clarifies imperfections, and improves skin tone and texture. In addition, it has a pleasant peachy scent, and if you can’t decide on gel cleanser vs foaming cleanser, this product has light gel-to-foam texture.

Key features: glycolic acid, salicylic acid, exfoliating.

5 Best Foaming Cleansers

Korres Foaming Cream Cleanser

You’ll love this gentle foaming cleanser if you prefer multi tasking products with great ingredient content. For example, some of the superfoods here include real greek yogurt, mineral-rich sea water, and amaranth seed extract that is naturally rich in fatty acids and antioxidants. Not only does it deeply cleans clogged pores and removes makeup, but also it reduces redness, soothes and hydrates. Moreover, it’s formulated for all skin types including stressed, irritated and dry skin.

Key features: probiotics, prebiotics, multi-tasker.         

Eminence 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.   

Burt's Bees Refreshing Foaming Cleanser

For those who are budget conscious, Burt’s Bees offers an affordable cleansing option. In addition to awakening senses, this gentle cleanser with cucumber, mint, and honeysuckle flower extract is also revitalizing. The formula is gentle enough to work for all skin types, but it will benefit the most those with normal and combination skin. 

Key features: budget friendly, invigorating.               

Paula’s Choice RESIST Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser

Excellent option for those with normal, combination and oily skin. This advanced anti aging cleanser reduces enlarged pores, hydrates and preserves skin’s protective barrier. As a matter of fact, this cleanser is infused with skin-restoring ingredients like ceramides, antioxidants, and amino acids. Also, it includes few moisture balancing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe, and lipids.

Key features: ceramides, antioxidants, aloe, hyaluronic acid.     

Tula probiotic cleanser
Tula Probiotic Purifying Gel Cleanser

This gel-based hydrating cleanser was designed for all skin types including blemish-prone, mature, oily, and dry skin. One of the main advantages of this skincare product is its balancing properties. For example, it does an excellent job removing impurities without overdrying skin, while also nourishing, purifying, and boosting radiance. In addition to probiotics, it’s packed with skin conditioning agents like turmeric, green tea extract, panthenol, and others.

Key features: probiotics, balancing, for all skin types.       

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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