Face Wash vs. Cleanser vs. Scrub: What’s the Difference?

Textures, scents, and choices, ooh, my!

We’ve all been there. What is the difference between a face wash, a face scrub and a face cleanser? Do you even need all of them?

Not to worry, we have you covered!

Face Cleanser or Face Wash…Which is Better?

Excellent question!

Face wash vs face cleanser #timetorumble.

For those with dry or sensitive skin, a milder wash is recommended – aka cleansers.

Cleansers are not only moisturizing, but they tend to be more gentle than traditional face washes. Meaning, these milky-like liquids remove makeup and dirt from your face just as effectively as a face wash, while leaving skin feeling silky and smooth.

Face washes, on the other hand, are very similar to soap (crisp and refreshing, zing!) and are perfect for those with combination or oily skin (as they also help to mattify.)

So, if they both clean skin, what is the difference?

The difference is that face washes foam upon application and need to be washed off, while on the other hand, cleansers have a lotion-like consistency, will not foam and often (but not always) need to be wiped off.

That said, at the end of the day, it really comes down to skin type and skincare needs.

If you tend to be more indoors and wear little-to-no makeup, a cleanser is the better choice.

If you tend to be more outdoors and enjoy the latest and greatest makeup face charts, a good face wash is highly suggested for a deeper clean.

And yes, for the record, you can use both in your skincare routine.

Can I use face cleanser as face wash?

Yes and no.

The better question to ask is, what type of skin do I have and what products are right for me?

Using the wrong product for your skin is a big no-no.

For example, if you have dry or sensitive skin and use a face wash, it will wash away impurities and dissolve oil … a little too much. Therefore, you might run the risk of removing all the natural good stuff, leaving your skin feeling dried out, tight and irritated.

Whereas, if you have oily or combination skin and use a cleanser, not specifically formulated for oily and combination skin, you might run the risk of not removing all the impurities and dirt from your face.

To find out what type of skin you have, stop by your local beauty counter or dermatologist.

Creams, Oils and Solids: What Are the Types of Skincare Formulas?

Skincare products come in a variety of different textures and consistencies.

For example, a face scrub can be cream-based or oil-based, liquid or solid.

Some cleansing sticks can be creamy, or sheer and oil-based.

As we chatted about above, oily or combination skin call for detoxifying formulas or face washes with rich foaming action, while sensitive and dry skin do well with creamy cleansers.

But, did you know that most skin types respond well to oil-based cleansing products?

FUN FACT: oil attracts oil.

So, strike gold with our Cactus Water & Hibiscus Cleansing Stick. #shinebright

Made from 100-percent natural coconut oil, makeup-melting, and efficient at massaging out clogged pores, twist and you glow, girl!

Face Scrub vs Face Wash: What is the Difference?

…and can they be used interchangeably?

Well, no a face scrub cleanses and removes dead skin cells, leaving skin smooth.

Scrubs can be oil-based, cream-based or clay-based, and include sand-like grains made of walnut shells, or sugar, for example, which act as an agent for exfoliation. Our Radiant Skin Pink Lemon & Mandarin Orange Scrub is a perfect example. The citrusy face scrub is infused with pink lemon and mandarin peel extracts which smoothes away rough skin.

Face washes, on the other hand, cleanse skin of dirt and oil and have a creamy or foamy texture.

A face scrub should never be used to substitute a face wash, never be used on or near the eyes, and most of all, face scrubs should never, ever be used if you have an acne breakout. Period.

If a face scrub is used on a breakout, then there is the risk of making the breakout worse by irritating skin that is already sensitive, exposed and inflamed.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you already use a face wash, a face scrub can be a nice compliment to your skincare regimen.

For example, St. Ives Gentle Smoothing Oatmeal Scrub & Mask is a two-in-one gem, gentle enough to be used three-to-four times a week as a scrub or as a mask.

Additionally, our St. Ives Acne Control Apricot Scrub is a great deep clean to help prevent breakouts and keep skin beautiful!

Bye, bye blemishes!

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Face CareFace Care

Let your face have a little good, clean fun. Our scrubs are made with 100% natural exfoliants and our cleansing sticks are made with 100% natural coconut oil. Leave your skin feeling alive, fresh, and glowing! CHECK IT OUT 


Body WashBody Wash

Suds up, recharge, and glow out! Made with 100% natural extracts & exfoliant, St. Ives body washes cleanse skin with a sudsy sumptuous lather.CHECK IT OUT 


Body LotionBody Lotion

Skin-smoothing lotions packed with 100% natural moisturizers (like soybean oil and plant based glycerin) soothes, smooths, and lets your skin live its softest life.CHECK IT OUT 

Hey! You made it! Welcome to the bottom of the page. Not everyone makes it down here, so we’re guessing you like us. Hooray!

We spend most of our time down here talking about what inspires our skincare. Oh, and how to get glowing skin—specifically, how to make your skin glow. So let’s get started, shall we?

Our products were all made to bring the joy of nature to your skin while making it glow—all without crossing into shiny skin territory (not cute). That’s why our entire lineup features 100% natural moisturizers, exfoliants, and extracts! We also just really, really love apricots.

Think of St. Ives as your go-to for great-smelling cleansers, lotions, masks, and body washes you can use on the daily to get glowing skin that feels super-hydrated and oh-so-silky smooth. Did we mention we’re America’s #1 Scrub brand*?

Thanks for stopping by. Keep on looking around!

St. Ives