For a gentle yet powerful way to rid surface oil and alleviate irritation, a gel cleanser is the way to go
There are seemingly endless options when it comes to cleanser formulas; foam cleansers , oil cleansers and cleansing balms to name but a few, but if you’ve got oily, sensitive or acne-prone skin, a gel cleanser could be the one for you.
Not to be confused with their wibblier sibling jelly cleansers , gel cleansers have the texture of hair gel and melt into the skin on contact, while jelly cleansers tend to have a firmer consistency. “Gel cleansers are lightweight in texture and are great for unclogging pores and removing any excess oil, bacteria, pollution and general gunk from the skin’s surface,” says facialist Shane Cooper whose clients include presenter Maya Jama and Lily Allen.
“A gel cleanser is the most powerful cleansing option for reducing surface oil and acne-causing bacteria, providing a deeper clean than other options,” adds dermatologist Dr Elif Benar of London's Dr Elif Clinic . “Gel cleansers also alleviate redness and irritation, which makes it perfect not only for fighting acne but preventing acne as well. The gel-based cleanser helps provide hydration while minimising excess oil production.”
Which skin types suit gel cleansers?
“Gel cleansers are suitable for all skin types but work particularly well for those with sensitive or oily acne-prone skin who are looking to cleanse in a gentle and hydrating way,” says Shane.
Here’s our edit of the best gel cleansers for every budget
For your portion of greens: Elemis Super Food Face Wash, £25 for 150ml
Like a green smoothie for your face, this concoction includes wheatgrass, kale and nettle combined with broccoli seed, avocado and pumpkin seed oils leaving the skin looking luminous and feeling fresh. After using you'll feel as virtuous as if you've just drunk a green juice post-workout.
For no-fuss cleansing: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin, £7.12 for 236ml
For a no-fuss gel cleanser, you can't go wrong with Cerave. Loved by beauty editors worldwide this is infused with hyaluronic acid to help the skin retain natural moisture. It's non-foaming so might feel like it's not doing much, but you'll notice it rids the skin of dirt and makeup without feeling tight. It's got more of a lotion texture than some of the gels in this edit, but Boots call it a gel...
For city skin: QMS Medicosmetics Epigen Pollution Detox Cleansing Gel, £39 for 150ml
This gel cleanser makes light work of pollution-plagued skin, purging pores of pollution particles with mandelic and lactobionic acids. Gentle botanical amino acid protect the skin against external aggressors, preserving the skin protective barrier which we all know is essential when it comes to keeping maskne at bay.
The award winner: Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel, £35 for 100ml
A finalist in our awards this year in the Cleaner Skin category if you're new to gel cleansers this is a great place to start. It melts away makeup in seconds and feels spa-like in its luxuriousness. A pleasure to use, it transforms effortlessly into oil on contact with the skin and then glides off along with your mascara and any dirt from the day.
For young skin: Simple Water Boost Micellar Facial Gel, £5.98 for 148ml
This lightweight drug-store favourite delivers hydration and impressive cleanse, drawing makeup and dirt from the skin. It doesn't have the high performing ingredients of some of other favourites but is a great option for teens and those with problem-free skin
The one for taking shelfies: Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser, £34 for 150ml
From the makers of the iconic Jet Leg mask, this combines amino acids with vitamin E and sunflowers oils to remove makeup and freshen up the skin. It has a light lather and a subtle pear scent and a little bit goes a long way so that pretty brushed glass bottle will sit on your shelf for a good amount of time.
For sensitive skin: Avène Cleanance Cleansing Gel, £12 for 200ml
This gel cleanser uses Avene's signature spring water ingredient to deliver a refreshing, purifying cleanse and regulate oil production. It's soap and paraben-free and if you love a multi-tasker, this one is for you because it can be used on the body too.
For a taste of the alps: Susanne Kaufmann Cleansing Gel, £32 for 100ml
No bath is complete without a dash of Susanne Kaufmann bath oil so we're happy to add her products into our cleansing regime too. Inspired by her upbringing in the alps this includes alpine herbs such as ribwort and masterwort known for their calming and antibacterial properties. A pump of this is enough to transport us far away to somewhere much more green and serene. It's gentle enough to use on eyes with zero stinging.
The acid one: Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel, £17 for 60ml
Alpha beta acids sweep away dead skin cells to reveal a healthy glow, with willow bark working to clean pores. This gel is weightless leaving no residue behind yet hydrating the face with a soap-free formula. Reviewers say it reduces the appearance of their pores without drying the skin.
The Gen Z one: Glow Hub Calming Hemp & Jojoba Gel To Oil Cleanser, £10 for 120ml
We all know about the anti-inflammatory powers of hemp seed and when it's combined with jojoba seed to nourish you're left with an ultra-soothing budget gel cleanser. Glow Hub makes high-performing products for purse-friendly prices and we fell for their easy to understand colour coded skincare earlier in the year.
The French-pharmacy one: Bioderma Sensibio Mild Cleansing Foaming Gel, £10.80 for 200ml
Bioderma are best known for their cult micellar water but we've been guilty of over-looking the rest of their range. Not anymore. In a big pink pump bottle that lasts and lasts, this gel cleanser helps to reinforce sensitive skin over time, foaming up without the use of soap for a soft cleanse the removes makeup and debris in one non-stinging formula. A staple, if you ask us.
The budget one: Garnier Micellar Gel Face Wash Sensitive Skin, £3.99 for 200ml
Another gel cleanser borne off the back of a popular micellar water, this is part of Garnier's much-loved Micellar range, providing an effective cleanse for a tiny price. It removes makeup easily, though if you have particularly sensitive skin we'd avoid this one as it can feel drying on very sensitive complexions. Otherwise, this delivers an impressive clean when you need to quickly grab something in Boots' aisles.
For speedy makeup removal: Perricone MD No Makeup Easy Rinse Makeup-Removing Cleanser, £32 for 177ml
This removes makeup in a flash with zero irritation to the eyes. Great for sensitive skin, the gel turns into a lightweight lather to rid mascara and eyeliner for a super-soft cleanse. It has turmeric in the mix too to help with the signs of ageing and deliver a more radiant complexion.