16 Best Water-based Cleansers That Slough off Dead Skin Cells

Written by Anoushka Sinha, Skincare Coach & Writer
Updated on Feb 16, 2024
Water-based Cleansers to Get Rid of Dead Skin Cells
Water-based Cleansers to Get Rid of Dead Skin Cells
The products curated for this article are independently chosen by the editorial team. If you make a purchase through the links mentioned below, we may receive a commission. Check out our product research & curation process

To stroll out in the sun sounds fun, however, a lot of dirt, grime, and impurities cling to your skin and eventually cause skin damage. It is thus necessary to cleanse your skin thoroughly with the best water-based cleansers! Cleansers are a great alternative to soaps and face washes. They are available in a variety of forms and textures. For acne care, water-based cleansers are regarded as the OG of all skin cleansers. 

Stating the importance of cleansers, our contributor Dr. Jaishree Sharad, a renowned dermatologist says, “Cleansing is an essential step in skincare because it helps remove dirt, oil, makeup, and environmental pollutants from the skin's surface. This is important for several reasons, like preventing breakouts, removing makeup, improving absorption by the skin, and maintaining skin health.”

He further explains the difference between a face wash and cleanser to help you know what’s best for your skin. “A face wash is typically designed to be gentle on facial skin, which is more delicate than the skin on the rest of the body. It may have a milder pH to avoid drying or irritating the face. They contain ingredients which are capable of emulsifying water insoluble substances into finer particles and making these fat-soluble impurities water-soluble. Cleansers are usually more gentle and have a milder pH than face washes. It is a more general term that can refer to products designed for both face and body. While some cleansers can be used on the face, others may be too harsh or contain ingredients that are better suited for the body. It is important to choose a cleanser that matches your skin type and specific needs.”

Cleansers are formulated with active substances such as emulsifiers, surfactants, soaps, and detergents. These active substances lower the skin’s surface tension and thus aid in removing sebum, bacteria, microorganisms, oil, dirt, and grime. An ideal and effective cleanser scrapes away such skin-damaging and harmful pollutants without hampering your skin’s moisture barriers or irritating your skin (1). Dr. Surbhi Mahajan, an Aesthetic, and Paediatric Dermatologist says, “Skin hydration can be achieved by using a non-soap and non-foaming cleanser that does not remove natural moisturizing factors from your skin.” Hence, moisturizing is as important as cleansing. To get your hands on some high-grade cleansers for your skin type, here’s what more you need to know.

What Is a Water-based Cleanser?

A water-based cleanser is a gentle yet effective solution designed to remove impurities, makeup, and dirt from your skin. As the name suggests, this type of cleanser is formulated with water as its base, making it perfect for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

Water-based cleansers come in a variety of formulas, such as gels, foams, and liquids, to cater to the different needs of your skin. Most water-based cleansers are infused with natural ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, and cucumber, which work together to soothe, hydrate, and protect your skin.

Whether you have dry, oily, or sensitive skin, a water-based cleanser should be an essential part of your skincare routine. It not only helps to keep your skin clean and healthy but also helps to maintain a balanced and youthful complexion

What Does a Water-based Cleanser Do?

Water-based cleansers, also known as foaming cleansers, are specifically designed to effectively remove dirt, impurities, and excess sebum from your skin's surface. Unlike oil-based cleansers, these gentle yet powerful formulas rely on water to create a luscious foam that works wonders in deep-cleaning your pores without leaving any residue behind.

So, how exactly do water-based cleansers achieve such impressive results? Well, it all boils down to their unique ingredients and advanced cleansing technologies. Many water-based cleansers contain surfactants, which are substances that lower the surface tension of water and help break down dirt and oils present on your skin. By generating a rich lather, these cleansers are able to effortlessly lift away any impurities, revealing a fresher and healthier complexion.

Furthermore, water-based cleansers often incorporate botanical extracts, vitamins, and antioxidants into their formulations to provide an extra layer of care for your skin. These beneficial ingredients not only contribute to the cleansing process but also offer various skincare benefits, such as soothing, hydrating, and brightening effects. Imagine stepping out of your shower with skin that feels not only squeaky clean but also deeply nourished and revitalized!

16 Best Water-based Cleansers

This hydrating facial cleanser from CeraVe is beautifully crafted for normal to dry skin. It leaves your skin thoroughly hydrated and helps in restoring protective skin barriers. This cleanser is formulated with three essential ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid.  It is a non-foaming cleanser with a lotion-like texture that pulls out deep-seated impurities and dirt. Backed with MVE technology, this cleanser provides 24 hours of hydration. It is developed and recommended by dermatologists thus you can invest in this cleanser without any second thoughts.

  • Non-greasy
  • Paraben-free
  • Hygienic dispenser
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Safe for sensitive skin
  • Doesn’t tighten or dry your skin
  • Unpleasant scent
  • Best Foaming Cleanser

    Neutrogena Hydro Boost hydrating cleansing gel

    Neutrogena Hydro Boost hydrating cleansing gel
  • To gently and effectively cleanse your skin, this Neutrogena Hydro Boost cleanser is what you need to incorporate into your skincare regimen. It is a foaming cleanser that is loaded with the goodness of hyaluronic acid. This cleanser helps you take off your makeup and cleanse your pores deeply. It doesn’t make your skin overdry, rather it softens it to the maximum. This water-based gel cleanser is free from parabens, oils, and soap, and is non-comedogenic.

    • Easy to apply
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Lightweight formula
    • Ideal for at-home skincare
    • Recommended by dermatologists
    • Might not suit sensitive skin
  • Best for Sensitive Skin Type

    VANICREAM Gentle Facial Cleanser

    VANICREAM Gentle Facial Cleanser
  • Here comes one of the best water-based cleansers that is tested by board-certified dermatologists for sensitive skin. It is a non-comedogenic cleanser and does not contain any ordinary irritants or harsh toxins. It is extremely mild and ideal for everyday use. This water-based cleanser also acts as a makeup remover and erases excess oil from your skin. The dispenser also promises 100% hygiene and thus, this cleanser is a great alternative to face wash and soaps.

    • Sulfate-free
    • Cost-effective
    • Fragrance-free
    • Won’t clog pores
    • Fragile pump
  • Best Non-comedogenic

    Neutrogena ultra gentle daily cleanser

    Neutrogena ultra gentle daily cleanser
  • Cleanse away dirt, dust, impurities, and grime from your skin with this water-based cleanser for sensitive skin. It does not contain any irritating oils or phthalates and parabens. It is soap-free and features a gentle formula. It not only washes away makeup but also kills bacteria without hampering the quality of your skin’s moisture barrier. After usage, you will neither feel your skin too tight nor too dry. Plus, it also has a fragrance that makes you feel refreshed.

    • Clinically proven
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Good foaming action
    • Doesn’t leave residue behind
    • Overwhelming floral scent
  • Best Gentle Formula


  • Get squeaky clean skin in minutes with this foaming cleanser from The Face Shop. It is infused with one of the most skin-friendly ingredients — rice water. In addition to rice water, rice bran too pampers your skin a little more and reduces the signs of aging. Moreover, this cleanser effectively cleanses your skin by creating a creamy and rich lather. It doesn’t irritate your skin and gently removes impurities. Not just that, this cleanser also brightens your skin and makes it smooth and soft.

    • Mild formula
    • Restores moisture levels
    • Replenishes the skin
    • Free from mineral oil
    • Best for attaining glass skin
    • Might make your skin a little dry
  • Best Paraben-free

    BURT'S BEES Refining Cleanser

    BURT'S BEES Refining Cleanser
  • This refining cleanser introduced by Burt’s Bees comes with a natural retinol alternative that gently exfoliates and smooths your skin. With nutrient-rich botanicals, ceramides, squalene, and hyaluronic acid, this cleanser reduces dullness and improves your skin’s texture. It is a water-based cleanser that deeply cleanses the skin without stripping off natural moisture. Furthermore, it is enriched with bakuchiol which eases off the look of wrinkles and fine lines. To improve your radiance and brighten your skin, this has to be your go-to skincare buddy.

    • No parabens
    • Evens skin tone
    • Primes your skin
    • Safe for all skin types
    • Greasy
  • Most Travel-friendly

    SHISEIDO Refreshing Cleansing Water

    SHISEIDO Refreshing Cleansing Water
  • This water-based wipe-off cleanser from Shiseido comes in a convenient 180ml-sized bottle, and it effectively removes makeup, oil, and other impurities from the face, allowing you to feel fresh and clean. The pH-balanced formulation helps in preserving the skin's natural balance - it hydrates, minimizes pores, and fights oiliness and shine without leaving your complexion feeling deprived of moisture. Though it is gentle, it's still effective and is bound to become your go-to solution for refreshed and radiant skin. To use it, press the pump thrice, glide the saturated cotton pad over your face, and unveil a cleansed appearance.

    • Effortless makeup removal
    • Oil and alcohol-free
    • Non-irritating
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Travel-friendly
    • Soothing
    • Requires cotton pads
  • TULA Skin Care Supersize Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser

    TULA Skin Care Supersize Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser
  • This powerful formula not only eliminates impurities, but also ensures that your skin remains conditioned and hydrated, avoiding any stripping or over-drying. Formulated with TULA’s signature probiotics, this cleanser also nourishes and balances your complexion, providing the perfect touch of tender care. Addedly, it is suitable for all skin types and ages, making it the ideal choice for anyone in search of a gentle and effective solution for their skin woes. For those with dry skin, this product is an absolute must-have, ensuring that your skin is hydrated and rejuvenated like never before.

    • Gently exfoliates skin
    • Maintains moisture levels
    • Boosts radiance
    • Improves skin texture
    • Strong fragrance
  • Best Alcohol-free


  • To take off makeup, surface oils, dirt, and grime easily from your skin, vouch for this face cleanser from First Aid Beauty. This cleanser comes with glycerin, aloe vera, and an antioxidant booster that is safe for sensitive skin. It is a water-based cleanser that balances the pH levels of your skin and aids in maintaining your skin’s natural acidity. It is vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and dermatologically tested. With this cleanser, you are surely going to drool over your soft, smooth, and supple skin.

    • Alcohol-free
    • Reduces irritation
    • Combats inflammation
    • Available in different sizes
    • Runny consistency
  • Best Anti-aging

    PAULA'S CHOICE Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser

    PAULA'S CHOICE Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser
  • Get your hands on this foaming cleanser from Paula’s Choice and wash away makeup, dust, grime, and impurities clinging to your skin effortlessly. With aloe vera, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, this cleanser nourishes your skin, soothes irritation, and provides a vital moisture barrier. It is cruelty-free and paraben-free. Be it normal, combination, oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin, this cleanser suits them all. The best part — this cleanser targets redness and dullness too.

    • No strong scent
    • Recyclable packaging
    • Anti-aging facial cleanser
    • Visibly reduces enlarged pores
    • Prone to leakage
  • Best Hydrating


  • With an alluring green tea scent, this foam cleanser grabs all hearts. It is super effective and immediately leaves your skin smooth and soft. It is a 100% naturally brewed bio-cleanser that calms down stressed skin. Along with green tea leaves, this cleanser is also enriched with real fruit extracts and free from harmful ingredients. The cleanser moisturizes your skin and doesn’t strip off your skin's natural oils. Slide this product into your cart straight away and buckle up for a quick cleansing session.

    • Lathers well
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Easy-to-use dispenser
    • Hydrating foam cleanser
    • Not ideal for sensitive skin

  • This water-based cleanser is specially crafted for those with normal to dry skin type. It cleanses your skin by washing away impurities, oil, makeup, and grime. What more you will really love about the product is its fragrance! This cleanser smells heavenly as it has got notes of apricot, aloe vera, and sage. For a clean and refreshing feel, grab this gentle cleanser and add it to your skincare routine right away.

    • Brightens complexion
    • Improves skin’s texture
    • Best for AM & PM use
    • Minimizes the signs of aging
    • Extremely strong fragrance
  • ETUDE SOONJUNG pH 6.5 Whip Cleanser

    ETUDE SOONJUNG pH 6.5 Whip Cleanser
  • Here is a chance for you to indulge in flawless Korean beauty secrets! Check out this whip cleanser from Etude. It is a pure and mild cleanser formulated for sensitive skin. It features a bubble-like texture that soothes irritated skin. Since the cleanser possesses an ideal pH level that is similar to that of your skin, it paves way for healthy skin. This cream cleanser rejuvenates the skin and pampers it with great care.


    • Vegan
    • Fragrance-free
    • Hypoallergenic
    • Non-comedogenic
    • Heals damaged skin
    • Unsatisfactory packaging
  • NATURIUM Niacinamide Cleansing Gelée 3%

    NATURIUM Niacinamide Cleansing Gelée 3%
  • Three potent ingredients of this cleanser from Naturium work wonders — niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C. The formula of this cleanser targets uneven skin texture and diminishes the appearance of dark spots. To make your skin feel a lot more smooth, soft, and supple, try it out right away. It cleans your skin and unclogs the pores for utmost penetration of other skincare products. This product is non-toxic and free from fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and gluten.

    • Gentle
    • Gel-like texture
    • Ideal for AM & PM use
    • Sensitive skin friendly
    • Improves skin complexion
    • Fragile dispenser
  • CLEAN & CLEAR Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser

    CLEAN & CLEAR Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser
  • With powerful ingredients, including coconut extracts, this facial cleanser from Clean & Clear is apt for everyday use. This cleanser effectively cleanses your skin and washes away all the impurities. It features a gentle oil-free formula yet creates a rich lather. Plus, it leaves your skin thoroughly cleansed, refreshed, and hydrated. This hygiene of the product is also maintained since it has satisfactory packaging and a pump dispenser. Add this cleanser to your regime and take good care of your skin just by sitting at home.

    • Affordable
    • Easy to rinse
    • Improves skin quality
    • Safe for sensitive skin
    • Unpleasant smell
  • LOOKATME Bubble Purifying Foaming Cleanser

    LOOKATME Bubble Purifying Foaming Cleanser
  • Unlike other harsh and drying face washes, this oil-free cleanser is the perfect solution for all your skincare needs. If you suffer from dry skin, this cleansing foam will not only purify but also hydrate your epidermal layer. For those battling oily skin, it works wonders in unclogging pores and balancing oil production. And if you're searching for the fountain of youth, look no further! This anti-aging facial wash is also formulated for mature skin, gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. To top off, made with all natural ingredients from Korea, this aloe vera-infused face wash promises nothing but the best for your skin.

    • Deep pore cleansing formula
    • Brightening
    • Visibly clear skin
    • Sebum control
    • Hydrating
    • Pump breaks easily

    This was our comprehensive list of the best water-based face cleansers. Now, let us run you through the benefits, buying guide, and some steps to use it in the right way.

    What Are the Benefits of Water-based Cleansers?

    Following are the benefits of using good water-based cleansers on an everyday basis. 

    1. It evens out skin tone. 
    2. It enhances skin texture. 
    3. It brightens the complexion.
    4. It promotes healthy and youthful skin.
    5. It controls excessive sebum production.
    6. It makes the skin smooth, soft, supple, and clearer.
    7. It is best for those who possess oily and acne-prone skin.
    8. It facilitates deeper penetration of other skincare products. 
    9. It is one of the most gentle alternatives to taking off stubborn makeup.
    10. It washes away deeply-seated impurities, dust, dirt, and grime. 

    These were the benefits of water-based cleansers. Keep scrolling to know how to choose one. 

    How to Choose a Water-based Cleanser?

    Here are a few aspects to consider before splurging on some top-notch water-based skin cleansers. 

    Skin Type: Always analyze your skin thoroughly and then pick the most suitable water-based face cleanser. In the market, you will come across water-based cleansers for oily skin, combination skin, dry skin, and sensitive skin. Depending upon your skin type, texture, and conditions, finalize an appropriate one. Water-based cleansers are best suited for oily and acne-prone skin as they help to take off deep-seated impurities.  Do not choose a cleanser that is not meant for your skin type. Doing so can lead to adverse effects. 

    Ingredients: Make sure the cleanser contains niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, rice water, moringa oil, green tea, myristic acid, and vitamin C. These ingredients regulate sebum production, strengthen skin barriers, diminish the signs of aging, improve skin texture, and help you combat the majority of your skin concerns. Dr. Schwarzburg, a Dermatologist says, “There is no single ingredient that is “best” for deep cleansing as each individual has different needs. These needs are based on your general health, underlying medical conditions, lifestyle, hormones, and genetics, amongst others. The best way to find which ingredient is most suitable for you is to consult with a dermatologist with a deep understanding of the dermal layers and who can select the appropriate product to meet your needs.

    Formula: It is always a great idea to choose a gentle water-based cleanser that is free from harsh toxins, sulfates, parabens, silicones, and mineral oil. Some cleansers are backed with non-foaming technology. As per your liking, you may choose a foaming or non-foaming one. It is advisable to choose a cleanser infused with a skin-friendly formula that isn’t harsh nor takes off the natural skin moisture of your skin.

    These are the top 3 aspects that must be considered before investing in a good-quality water-based cleanser. Now, roll your eyes over to know the correct ways of using one.

    Right Ways to Use a Water-based Cleanser

    Following are the steps to use a cleanser in the right way. 

    Step 1: Splash some water on your face until it becomes fully wet. 

    Step 2: Pour a little amount of cleanser on your palms and apply it on your face using the dot technique. 

    Step 3: Begin to rub your face and create a lather or cream-like foam. Massage for 2 to 3 minutes or as advised. 

    Step 4: If you have applied makeup, double-cleanse your face using the same method. 

    Step 5: Rinse your face with water and pat dry. 

    Step 6: Apply a serum or a moisturizer to pamper your skin.

    Tada! Your skin is squeaky clean, all thanks to one of the best water-based cleansers. Cleansers are a must, especially if you spend the majority of your time outdoors. Pollutants, dust, and grime are the three factors that hamper your skin’s quality and give birth to ample skincare concerns. So, cleansing being the very first step in your CTM routine is vital and unignorable. For those who wish to indulge in a deep cleansing session in addition to water-based cleansers, here is a tip! Amber Johnson, an Esthetician, and Cosmetologist says, “Using the steamer is good for deep cleansing as it would soften the follicles and allow for easier removal of comedones.” Don’t wait for too long, go and grab the best cleanser today itself.


    1. Dr. Surbhi Mahajan, Aesthetic, and Pediatric Dermatologist 

    2. Dr. Schwarzburg, Dermatologist

    3. Amber Johnson, an Esthetician, and Cosmetologist

    4. Dr. Jaishree Sharad, Dermatologist, Medical Director - Skinfinitii Aesthetic & Laser Clinic


    What do water-based cleansers do?
    Water-based cleansers rinse away dirt, dust, grime, oil, and other impurities clinging to the skin.
    Are water-based cleansers good?
    Yes. Water-based cleansers are good; they neither strip off your skin’s natural moisture nor tighten it.
    How do you know if a cleanser is not suitable?
    If a cleanser strips off your skin’s natural moisture and overdries it, then it means that the cleanser is harsh and not suitable for your skin.
    What is a good water-based cleanser?
    A cleanser that cleanses your skin, creates adequate lather, and doesn’t strip off natural moisture is said to be a good water-based cleanser.
    Are water-based cleansers good for oily skin?
    Yes. Water-based cleansers remove excess oil and control sebum production.
    Are gel cleansers water-based?
    Yes. Gel cleansers can be water-based but not all of them have a similar formula. Some gel cleansers are mild and gentle whereas others are not.
    Can water-based cleansers remove sunscreen?
    Yes. Water-based cleansers can remove sunscreen as they contain surfactants to cleanse your skin deeply.
    Do water-based cleansers work on all skin types?
    Do water-based cleansers work on all skin types? Water-based cleaners suit acne-prone and oily skin the best but there are water-based cleansers, especially for dry, sensitive, normal, and combination skin types.
    What is the difference between micellar water and cleanser?
    Micellar water has a gentler formula than cleansers. Micellar water doesn’t create lather whereas a cleanser does.

    Why Trust Pinkvilla

    Anoushka, our skincare professional, says that water-based cleansers are a very important part of any skincare routine. They gently yet effectively get rid of dirt, impurities, and light makeup too. When Anoushka put all of them to the test, she really liked CeraVe's Hydrating Facial Cleanser. Its lotion-like texture thoroughly cleansed her face, eliminating deep-sealed impurities. Also, the cleanser offers 24-hour hydration benefits which make it ideal for individuals with dry skin.

    Our product experts study the specifications of every product we suggest and try them out to bring what’s proven to be worthy of your money, time, and energy. We also have subject matter experts from various fields like Fashion, Skincare, Haircare, Home Decor, and Health & Fitness onboard to make sure our suggestions are credible and trustworthy. You can trust Pinkvilla to be your faithful shopping guide for all the right reasons!



    Author BIO
    Anoushka Sinha
    Skincare Coach & Writer

    Anoushka is certified in Professional Skincare and is a Mass Media (Journalism) graduate from Mumbai University. As a More