No-rinse Facial Cleansers

Woman using no rinse facial cloth.
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Let's face it -- between cleansing, toning, masking and moisturizing, your skin care routine can gobble up a good chunk of time. It can also take a bite out of your bank account, if you're using anything other than an ordinary bar of soap to keep your visage looking vital. And if you've got sensitive skin, then you know how tough it can be to find a cleansing regimen that removes dirt and oil without causing irritation or breakouts.

Finding the right cleanser is an important piece of the skincare puzzle. However, to get the best results, it's important to think carefully about both process and product. For example, taking shorter, cooler showers may also help preserve your skin's natural glow, since extremely hot water can strip the skin of its essential natural oils [source: Mayo Clinic]. Washing your face gently and in moderation (ideally, not more than a couple of times a day) is another way to limit the chance of a reaction.


If you're interested in shaving some time off of your skin care routine, or in eliminating the number of times you wet and dry your skin in a day, you might consider a no-rinse facial cleanser. There a number to choose from, and they come in foams, creams, lotions and even moist towelettes. Some of these products are for use in a pinch -- to remove makeup or to freshen up the skin quickly -- while others may take the place of your daily apply-and-rinse cleanser. The key is that many of them are soap-free, which is important because some strong soap formulas can be harsh and drying, and that's not the kind of product you would want to leave on your skin. But there are still questions to be had. Can no-rinse cleansers get your skin clean the same way regular cleansers do? And do they leave any kind of residue on your skin? Read on to find out whether no-rinse options raise the bar on facial cleansing.

Types of No-Rinse Cleansers

If you want to cut the "rinse" step right out of your daily skin care routine, there are a number of products to consider. Remember that just-cleansed skin should feel supple and moistened, never dry [source: Mayo Clinic]. Also, keep in mind that a healthy skin care regimen includes a moisturizing step -- preferably with a product that contains an SPF of 15 or higher. Here are a few types of no-rinse cleansers to consider.

Creams and lotions are usually soap-free, which is a plus for sensitive skin. Instead, they contain water and a cleansing ingredient. Massage a small amount over your face, then use a tissue or cloth to wipe away the excess. An added bonus: Skipping the rinse can leave a thin layer of moisturizer behind on your skin [source: Lefell].


Astringents usually contain certain alcohols and fragrance. Applied with a cotton ball or pad, they can leave your skin feeling cool and clean. However, some alcohol can be harsh and drying, and it should be used sparingly. Products made mainly of this ingredient -- or of similar ones, such as witch hazel -- can dry out even normal skin. Remember, the idea is to clean and soothe, not to strip and chap. Keep in mind, however, that not all alcohols are bad. Fatty alcohols such as cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol are actually used in many moisturizing skin care products.

Has your long day turned into a night on the town? If so, cleansing towelettes might be a refreshing -- albeit temporary -- solution for you. You probably wouldn't want to permanently swap your daily cleanser for a pack of cosmetic wet-naps, these towelettes can give your face (and spirits) a lift. As always, look for a product that doesn't contain irritating alcohols, fragrances or extracts.

If you think a no-rinse cleanser might be the right choice for you, keep reading to learn some of the pros and cons of this facial cleansing option.


Benefits of No-Rinse Cleansers

If you're feeling wary of a cleanser that doesn't rinse away, there may be a few good reasons to give the one-step wash a second look.

First off, one benefit of no-rinse cleansers might be their convenience. Who wouldn't like to cut a step out of his or her daily care routine? If you're on the go, the no-rinse option can be a time and energy saver. However, if you've already got multiple steps in your skin-care regimen, then knocking off the rinse step -- or replacing it with a wipe-off step -- might not save very much time after all.


Another advantage has to do with what's in your water. If you're in an area that has hard water -- which can keep traditional cleansers from working properly and leave behind a residue -- or if you're vacationing in a place where you think the water quality is questionable, no-rinse cleansers just might be for you. They allow you to limit your face time with the faucet and apply a cleanser that wipes off with a cotton pad or muslin cloth instead.

A benefit for all skin types is that many no-rinse products tend to both hydrate and protect, whereas the regular soap and water routine -- if you're using a harsh or strong soap -- can strip your skin of its moisture, leaving your skin prone to dryness and flaking. And since dry areas are more vulnerable to infection and other problems, it's important to keep skin supple. Another motivator to maintain your skin's moisture balance: Dry skin tends to age faster [source: Lefell].

Many no-rinse cleansers may especially be an advantage for people with sensitive skin. Because they don't usually involve an exfoliating component or the need for a washcloth, these products can help prevent irritation and are particularly well suited for sensitive skin. If your skin is oily or prone to breakouts from a buildup of dead skin cells, though, this might not be the option for you.

At the end (and the beginning) of the day, no matter how long your skin care routine takes you to complete, great skin requires TLC. And what works for one person might not work for all -- or all of the time. To find out more about which no-rinse cleansers might suit your skin best, visit some of the links and articles on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Consumer Search. "Facial Cleansers: Full Report." (Accessed Aug. 30, 2009)
  • Draelos, Zoe. "Skin and Hair Cleansers." eMedicine. May 14, 2009. (Accessed Sept. 17, 2009).
  • Lefell, David. "Dreams In a Bottle: Caring for Your Skin." Total Skin: The Definitive Guide to Whole Skin Care for Life. 2000. (Accessed Aug. 30, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Skin care: Top 5 Habits for Healthy Skin." Dec. 28, 2007. (Accessed Sept. 17, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Dry Skin." Nov. 26, 2008. (Accessed Aug. 30, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Skin Care Tips for Teens." Feb. 8, 2009. (Accessed Aug. 30, 2009)