'Hands down, here are 9 of the very best cleansers for every skin type.'

The other day, Facebook reminded me that it had been two years since I’d joined Mamamias You Beauty group. I came in 2019 a noob, a novice, an amateur... I left (well, I haven’t “left” - you’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming...) but now I’m a darn tootin’ beauty writer guys! Oh, how the times change.

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I went into that group two years ago with not a clue - and the face to prove it! I used wipes, routinely slept in my make-up, didn’t apply sunscreen because my cheap-ass foundation had “SPF in it” and never moisturised, reasoning my skin was “oily”. I cleansed and scrubbed until my face was dry and tight - then relied on my own sebaceous glands to grease me up again later.

Beauty crimes were committed, and I belonged in jail.

The You Beauty group was the rehabilitation I needed. I learnt many, many things. Mainly that make-up remover wipes are NOT akin to actually cleansing and that my skin probably wasn’t greasy, it was just pouring oil as a result of me traumatising it with overuse of St. Ives. I committed to not being such a trash bag all the time and started double cleansing, and I bought my first ever serums - hyaluronic acid and niacinamide.


I am all about the before, after, and the progress shots, so I trawled my phone and rustled up images from May 2019, 2020 and 2021. And honestly, I think I’m reformed!

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After posting these pics I had more than a couple of people ask for my routine - and I hate to disappoint... but I haven’t got one. 


I have to dabble in too many things for “work” these days, and also, I love beauty! Products are a playground and I want to go on ALL the rides! 

So while I can’t tell you exactly what I use AM and PM and guarantee that it will improve your skin, I can share a few 'beauty rules' (which are actually more like guidelines) that I truly believe allow me to play around with aaaaall of the things and still maintain good skin.

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So my few beauty rules are: double cleanse of an evening (more on that later), let serums do the heavy lifting (definitely deserving of another article), layer hydrating products onto damp skin, don’t be afraid of a chemical exfoliant, and NO FOAMING CLEANSER.

Every time I say that last one - no foamy cleansers - people act pretty shocked. I get it though, I do. I spent years thinking that if my face hadn’t been lathered in bubbles and foam it hadn’t actually been cleaned… but here’s the kicker - it may be clean, but it’s probably also been stripped. 

Yup. The sneaky ingredient that makes these bad boys go off is ‘SLS’ ... or ‘sodium lauryl sulphate’ ... there’s a bunch of other ones too - they might say SDS, SLES, ALS, ALES on an ingredients list... and to put it bluntly... nah thanks.


Sulfates can irritate, they can clog your pores, cause acne, dry your skin, strip your barrier... clean you up SO GOOD that you got nothing left to give... and your face doesn't like it! 

So for everyone who’s in the market for a good old sulfate-free cleanser - here are my top picks broken down by type, and then sorted into spendy / savey.

Because as Leigh Campbell always says - cleansers don’t need to be expensive, and while I love a high-end product, if I’m on a budget, cleanser (followed by moisturiser) would be the first thing I’d skimp on!

Best Oil Cleansers.

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Remember I spoke about double cleansing before? Here’s your first step! An oil, massaged straight into dry skin dissolves and removes make-up, SPF, and general day dirt. 

You can then go in with a warm, damp cloth to wipe it all off after and it’s such an enjoyable experience. It’s like those steamy hand towels you get at Japanese restaurants. Bliss. 

You can first cleanse with any cleanser, really - you can even use the same cleanser twice. It doesn’t have to be an oil, that’s just my personal preference! 

SPENDY: Emma Lewisham Illuminating Face Cleanser, $76.00, 115ml.

I just love this brand! 100 per cent natural, beautifully packaged, conscious and sustainable - all Emma Lewisham packaging can be returned, recycled and refilled. 

Before I go off on one about the environment, though, this oil cleanser uses Bulgarian Lavender, neroli absolute and Damask Rose flower enzymes to eliminate dead skin cells and dissolve dirt, while vitamin E rich chia, rosehip and macadamia oils keep skin plump, smooth and hydrated. 

SAVEY: Dear Klairs Black Deep Cleansing Oil, $33.00, 150ml.

A blend of blackcurrant seed oil and black soybean oil, this has been put through its paces by me as a gentle oil cleanser for sensitised skin. I mucked my barrier up pretty good recently using retinoids, and this was extremely gentle and effective. Surprisingly clear (not black!) and very lightly fragranced.


Best Gel Cleansers.

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A good gel cleanse is my preferred next step, but if you’re used to foaming up your face every time you wash it, these clear, slippery gels could take a bit of getting used to. 


A gel cleanser offers a good, deep, yet light feeling clean and suits all skin types but particularly so normal to oilier kinds - or more breakout prone skin. I like to splash a gel cleanser off with cool water, then apply serums immediately after while my face is still damp.

SPENDY: Lady Luxe Beauty Organic Aloe Vera Cleanser, $55.00, 250ml.

Containing lavender, jasmine and rosehip, this cleanser enzymatically deep cleans your skin while aloe vera leaf juice hydrates and soothes. What I love the MOST about this cleanser though, is that it can actually be used as a mask! So you do your first cleanse, then pop this baby on and set and forget. 

I like to take my make-up off as soon as I get in, so I do these two steps, go about my night, then rinse and follow up with serums and stuff before bed! Easy and very effective.

SAVEY: Sukin Brightening Radiance Gel Cleanser, $14.95, 125ml.

The English in me cannot get past the fact that this bottle kinda looks like Lee & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce. Keep clocking it out of the corner of my eye in the bathroom and thinking “what’s that doing there!?” 

This is a pretty epic little savey, a little goes a long way, and it smells AMAZING. Should have a label on it saying ‘do not drink’ because I swear it was some sort of tropical daiquiri in a past life. 

I do find this ever so slightly drying on my normal-type skin, so I would recommend following up with hydrators immediately after.


Best Cream Cleansers.

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Your cream cleansers are the one if you’ve got, well, any skin type, really, but particularly dry, sensitive, dehydrated, ageing or rosacea prone skin

I alternate between gel and cream as my second cleanse depending on what vibes my face is giving off. Sometimes a nice light gel is all I need, but other times I want something more luxe and nourishing and that’s when I reach for these!


SPENDY: Koko & Kush A Daze Work Cream Cleanser, $78.00, 130ml.

My best friend asked for a cleanser rec the other day, and this is it. Without making any huge calls this may just be the most perfectly balanced cleanser I’ve ever used. 

Containing hemp seed oil, mangosteen, blueberry, pineapple, and black and green tea extracts, this baby works best gently massaged into slightly damp skin, and removed with a warm cloth. The biggest take-away from using this is that my skin feels completely like itself, but better, immediately after. Zero tightness, zero dryness, no rushing to moisturise before air drying begins to crack my skin. It’s lovely!

SAVEY: Sukin Nourishing Cream Cleanser, $14.95, 125ml.

Yep, another Sukin savey! I love splashing cash on skincare but this is my go-to affordable brand. Containing rosehip, borage, evening primrose and camellia oils, along with shea butter and quandong extract, this is best massaged into dry or damp skin and gently removed with a warm, damp cloth. It has a touch of citrus essential oil that may irritate particularly sensitised skins but overall this is a nice cream cleanser. 

Ooh! Best Serum Cleansers.

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Biologi Bc - Refresh Cleanser, $62.00, 150ml

Look, I can’t do spendy / savey on this one because I don’t really think there’s anything else like it. Have you heard of a ‘serum cleanser’ before? I hadn’t! It took me almost an entire bottle to wrap my head around it but I’m now onto my third one! 

At first, I thought this cleanser was weird! I kept trying to use it like ‘other’ cleansers - and I think that was the problem. It’s honestly a league of its own. 

It has TWO ingredients: Soapberry Extract, and Sodium Benzoate 0.2 per cent. It’s a completely non-irritating, single plant extract product that’s 100 per cent active. I use this every morning when I want something quick yet powerful (and packed with antioxidants!)



If you just cannot, will not, don't want to wash your face without getting properly suds-ed up, there are a few cleansers out there that will give you your kicks AND without sulfates!

(Good) Foaming Cleansers.

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SPENDY: Quite Frankly Natural Daily Foaming Cleanser, $62.50, 100ml.

So this one has won a few bloody awards and damn, I get it. It is 100 per cent natural, contains superfine French clay and lactic acid to gently polish and refine your skin. It also has gotu kola extract - which is a herb used in Chinese and ayurvedic medicine, which when applied topically to skin can protect DNA from UV damage. 

It lathers up splendidly, and I immediately noticed I had brighter, smoother, clearer looking skin and VISIBLY (!!!) reduced forehead lines. Only thing I will say - because of the lactic acid it’s best to keep away from the lip and eye area, and would be better suited to normal, oily and mature skin types.

SAVEY: CeraVe Foaming Cleanser, $14.99, 236ml.

I had to buy this to see what all the fuss was about and this right here is a cracker of a no-bells and whistles cleanser. It’s good! 

There’s nothing to rave about - the packaging, scent, texture etc. are all completely plain but it does what it says it will and it does it well. It has hyaluronic acid to hydrate and three types of ceramides to help fortify your barrier and keep that moisture in. It’s exactly the sort of no BS efficiency that I can get down with!

Now, I’m going to go and dip my head into a bucket of oil and try to replenish myself after washing my face 500 times today! Don’t say I never do anything for you, and don’t say a word about how many cleansers I own, either! Delightfully and guiltily charged. 


See more from Carly on her Instagram.  

What's your favourite cleanser? Have you tried any of the above? Share with us in the comment section below.

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