Cleanser & face wash: what's the difference & when to use what.

Difference between cleanser & face wash

Hi you,

"Is there a difference between a cleanser & a face wash?", "When should I use what?", "Should I use both?" - have these questions cropped up in your mind at some point? You're not alone! We get asked these questions a lot, and guess what, decided to bring the answer to Plum Blogs! Here are our easy answers to these and some other fundamental questions related to cleansing & cleansers. Let’s jump right in!

[1] What's the basic difference between a face wash & a cleansing lotion?

While both cleansers & face-washes do the basic common job of cleansing your face, a facewash is a foaming cleanser while a cleansing lotion/cleansing milk (or simply called "cleanser") is non-foaming in nature and doesn’t have to be washed off- and instead needs to be wiped off.

[2] Do they do the same thing or different things?

Both face washes & cleansers are used to rid your face of dirt, oil, pollution etc. A cleanser dissolves away excess oil, makeup and grime from your face. These are oil-soluble impurities. They can be removed by a face wash too, but that might be not be 100% effective.

A face wash's job is to remove deeper seated debris and also cleanse pores, thanks to its foaming action. If you're wearing a lot of makeup, or have been exposed to a lot of dust and pollution, it might be a good idea to use a cleanser first, before using a face wash.

[3] When should I use face wash & when should I use cleanser?

It depends on your daily routine. For example, you could use a foaming face wash in the morning and as soon as you get home from work. But if you’ve braved heavy traffic & pollution on your way home, consider using a cleanser first and then a face wash. Another popular way of using a cleansing lotion is later at night, just before going to bed so your face is "impurity-free" while you are asleep.

Cleansers can also be used as the first step while putting on makeup as it moisturizes the face along with gently cleansing it. 

[4] I have very sensitive skin. Can I skip face wash and use only a cleanser?

No that's not recommended. The foaming action and micro-level cleansing of a face wash cannot be substituted by a cleanser alone. Here's what you could do if you have sensitive skin:

  1. Use a gentle face wash just once a day. Morning or evening, depending on requirement. And avoid soap altogether.
  2. Use a gentle cleanser once or twice a day.

The basic idea is to cleanse your face in a balanced manner, without over-doing it. 

[5] I don't wear makeup. Do I need to use a cleansing lotion?

We recommend cleansing lotion to anyone who's exposed to a polluted atmosphere, and not just to those who wear makeup. And cleansers are especially good for dry or sensitive skin. 

If you have combination or oily skin, and don't wear makeup, you could skip using a cleanser altogether and just use a facewash.

[6] How do I pick the right face wash or cleanser?

Everyone needs a face wash - pick one that suits your skin type. And before buying one, take a look at the ingredients to get a sense of whether it might overly dry your skin, whether it is soap-free etc. - especially if you have sensitive skin.

The main considerations while picking a cleanser are: it should be gentle on your skin and not excessively oily either.

[7] Is there a "right" way to use face wash and cleansers?

Yes! Catch these 2-minute tutorials to get the most out of your cleansing and face wash routines! 

The right way to use a face wash 

The right way to get the perfect cleanse

And as always, feel free to write in if you have any more questions on anything skincare. You know where to reach us! Have a great day ahead & happy cleansing!

Related Posts:

DIY: Glowing skin in 4 easy steps

2-minute tutorials: Home facial with a clay mask

2-minute tutorials: Getting your face wash right

2-Minute Tutorials: How to Get a Perfect Cleanse

Related Products:

Hello Aloe Skin Loving Face Wash

Grape Seed & Sea Buckthorn Mild Foam Scrub

Green Tea Pore Cleansing Face Wash

Hello Aloe Gentle Cleansing Lotion

Choco-Latte Doubly Sinful Cleanser

About Plum

Plum GoodnessInspired by global best practices in safe natural cosmetics and beauty solutions, Plum is an exclusive, online-only beauty brand. At Plum, we bring together science and product expertise in a harmonious blend. And we give back to nature as much as we take. Designed in London and in the EU, all Plum products are 100% vegan and free of Parabens, DEP, DBP, Propylene Glycol, SLS, PABA, DEA and other harmful chemicals. Plum is available directly from Click here to explore our product range.


6 On-site Comments

September 12, 2016

Hii i m 16year old n i do not wear makeup can i use only facewash at morning n night instead of cleanser plz ans.


June 16, 2016

after cleansing do we need to use moisturizer cream????

Plum Goodness
Plum Goodness

January 28, 2016

Hello again Nieee, it’s best to apply moisturizer right after toning. Try to pick a light moisturizer that won’t cause oiliness through the evening. Do let us know if we can help with further information. Love, Plum People


January 25, 2016

Hi Plum Goodness! Thanks so much for the reply! I have another skincare question which is do i apply my moisturizer after bath with toner in the evening or do i apply it right before bed for better results? If i apply it during evening after bath, my face would feel quite oily in the night though.

Plum Goodness
Plum Goodness

January 25, 2016

Hello Nieee, we’d recommend using the toner in the evening once you’ve more thoroughly cleansed your face with a face wash. This would be preferable in the event that the makeup removal process in the afternoon is not fully complete. We hope we’ve been able to address your query. Please feel free to reach us any time if we can be of further assistance. Cheers!


January 23, 2016

Hi, i am wondering if i need to apply the toner after i removed my makeup and cleanse or after facial wash? Since i usually would removed my makeup in the middle of the day after school, and then have a nap. And would wash my face while bathing during the evening.

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