What should men look for in an all-in-one cleanser?

All-in-one Cleanser Ingredients
What makes cleanser different from soap? It's all in the ingredients.
What makes cleanser different from soap? It's all in the ingredients.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

You may notice that in talking about all-in-one cleansers, the word "soap" is nowhere to be seen. There's a good reason for this: Most companies want to set their product apart from the basic, traditional soaps used to clean your body. The real difference, though, is in the ingredients. True soaps are made from a purified fat cooked with an alkali, which creates a chemical reaction resulting in a product that will remove dirt. Some alkalis used in soap-making are very strong, which can give you a harsh soap that dries out and irritates skin.

Many all-in-one cleansers use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or other similar synthetic surfactants to dissolve oil and dirt. However, if you would prefer natural, organic ingredients, there are also cleansers that use derivatives from plant material. Decyl glucoside, for example, is a surfactant made from sugar, corn starch and coconut. It's used in cleansers for people with very sensitive skin, so if this is a concern, you may want to avoid sulfates.

All-in-one cleansers with toners often contain astringents such as witch hazel, which is extracted from a shrub. Toners can also include alcohol. If you have oily skin, these can dry your skin. If you're concerned about dry skin, however, look for milder toning ingredients such as green tea or carrot extract. Acne-fighting cleansers may contain salicylic acid, which opens pores and works to keep them from clogging again. Exfoliating cleansers, which may also use the word "scrub" in the name, contain abrasives to remove dead skin. These may include anything from silica grains to ground walnut. Avoid these if you have sensitive skin because they'll only irritate it further.

Even if you do have oily skin, it can benefit from an all-in-one cleanser with a moisturizing ingredient. Look for words like "noncomodogenic" (nonclogging), "light" and "oil-free." Examples of oil-free moisturizers include those that contain propylene glycol and glycerin. For dry skin, look for ingredients like petroleum and lanolin. These retain moisture, while the other ingredients attract moisture to the skin.

Finding an all-in-one cleanser isn't complicated once you know what's available and which ingredients to look for based on your needs. Hopefully you'll soon find yourself with clean, soft and clear skin.

Related Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." Revised 2004. (Jan. 9, 2011) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/general_cosmeceutical.html
  • American Cleaning Institute. "Clean Living: Soaps & Detergent History." ACI. 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/clean_living/soaps__detergent_history.aspx
  • Baran, Robert. "Textbook of Cosmetic Dermatology." Taylor & Francis. 2005 (Jan. 9, 2011)
  • Beers, Mark H. and Jones, Thomas V. "The Merck Manual of Health & Aging." Random House, Inc. 2005.
  • Cetaphil. "Cleansers." Cetaphil. 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://www.cetaphil.com/Products/Cleansers.aspx
  • Cleveland Clinic. "Understanding the Ingredients in Skin Care Products." (June 12, 2007 (Jan. 9, 2011) http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/skin_care/hic_understanding_the_ingredients_in_skin_care_products.aspx
  • Dove. "Men Men+Care: Product Details." Unilever. 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://content.dove.us/mencare/Products.aspx
  • Jack Black. "Jack Black Cleansers." Jack Black. 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://www.getjackblack.com/jb/catalog.nsf/display!openagent&p=cleansers&loc=c
  • Jaret, Peter. "Lookin' Good: A Man's Guide." WebMD.com. 2010 (Jan 11, 2011)http://men.webmd.com/guide/lookin-good
  • National Skin Care Institute. "Skin Types." National Skin Care Institute. 2009. (Jan. 9, 2011)http://www.skincarenet.org/skin-types.html
  • Philosophy. "Purity Made Simple." 2010. (Jan. 11, 2011)http://www.philosophy.com/skincare-cleansers/purity-made-simple-product
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Salicylic acid." Household Products Database. June 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=2200&query=salicylic+acid&searchas=TblChemicals
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Sodium laureth sulfate." Household Products Database. June 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=134
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Witch hazel extract." Household Products Database. June 2010. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=chem&id=2258&query=witch+hazel&searchas=TblChemicals

More to Explore