The Best Powder Cleanser for Every Skin Type

The Best Powder Cleanser for Every Skin Type featured image

Powder cleansers are trending, not only because they of their eco-friendly, waterless formulas, but also their travel-friendly format. Some work better for dry skin; others suit oily types. Most offer mild exfoliating benefits that are gentle enough for sensitive skin. No matter which powder cleanser you choose, the end result is softer, cleaner skin.

What are powder cleansers?

“Powder cleansers are made mostly with surfactants in powder form, such as sodium cocoyl isethioate or sodium lauryl sulfoacetate,” explains cosmetic chemist Ginger King. “Starches from rice or tapioca can be added to these products as a filler. Powder cleansers are not that different from liquid cleansers, but you do need to use more water to create a good lather.”

When a cleanser is not in a liquid form, King says there are no water or water-soluble active ingredients used. “If any, they are at a very minimal level. There is also no use of gum for structural ingredients. Liquid cleansers can separate and often need a gum or polymer to hold them together. Also, the viscosity of the cleanser also provides a more concentrated feel.” Plus, many powder cleansers offer cleansing and exfoliation benefits in one step, and the exfoliation is generally gentle enough to do every day. Nearly all powder cleansers are fragrance-free as well. If they do contain a scent, it comes from the ingredients, not added synthetic fragrance.

How do you use a powder cleanser?

Mix the powder with water (or into wet hands) until you create a foamy lather. Then apply it to your skin, massaging away the day like you would with a liquid cleanser. You can adjust the amount of water you mix with the powder to create the perfect consistency you prefer. For some people, that’s more of a paste with a little more exfoliating power. For others, they like a lighter, creamy foam. If you like to double-cleanse, a powder cleanser would be the second step of the two. An oil or balm cleanser would be a great first step to help dissolve makeup.

Are powder cleansers more sustainable?

Yes and no. King says that one of the reasons powder cleansers are trending is because the formulas are waterless, and therefore conserve water. Water is the first ingredient listed on most traditional liquid cleansers, including gels, milks and micellar waters. Another benefit of being waterless is that powders are generally free of preservatives and have a more stable shelf-life.

However, King says that powder cleansers often require more water to create a good lather. “Surfactant powder is 100-percent active. Usually a liquid surfactant is 30-percent active, so when you use a liquid cleanser, there’s already water in the product. As a result, you only need a little water to give you a quick foam on your skin. When there is no water in the cleanser, like with powder, it takes more from your faucet. To me, it’s netting out the same. It’s worth noting, though, that foaming does not equate to cleansing power, but many people still like some foaming action.”

The Best Powder Cleansers for Every Skin Type

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Tatcha The Rice Polish: Classic ($68)

Inspired by Japanese beauty rituals, Tatcha founder Vicky Tsai created this non-abrasive exfoliator, made with finely ground rice bran and papaya enzymes. A key ingredient is Hadasei-3, the brand’s trio of fermented Japanese superfoods: green tea, rice and algae. The cleanser is ideal for combination or dry skin types who want effective cleansing. It turns into a creamy foam when mixed into a lather, but without stripping away natural moisture or compromising the skin barrier.

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JUNOCO Clarifying Cleansing Powder ($18)

You may have seen this brand on TikTok—the cleansing balm is also a fan favorite. With more than 1,500 five-star reviews and just 10 ingredients, this antioxidant-rich cleansing powder lives up the hype. It offers gentle exfoliation via papaya enzymes and rice powder, and hydration via hyaluronic acid. The brand says it’s great for sensitive skin, but all skin types can benefit (those who are acne-prone love it, too).

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Acure Brightening Cleansing Powder ($15)

Looking for an eco-friendly option? This vegan formula comes in recyclable and compostable cardboard packaging. Chock-full of vitamin-rich spirulina, kale and broccoli, the powder turns into a green lather, which puts a fun spin on the cleansing ritual. We love the lit-from-within glow it gives skin, and the way it smooths rough patches with ease.

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Dr. Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser ($80)

This vitamin C–infused, powder-to-foam cleanser has become a cult-favorite over the years, and it’s beloved by celebrities including Victoria Beckham and Oprah. Dr. Sturm recommends it for those with oily and combination skin, though anyone can benefit, even sensitive types. A blend of enzymes (lipase and subtilisin) break down dead skin cells and clear large pores to make skin look smooth and healthy.

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Sephora Collection Super Glow Cleansing Powder ($12)

Housed in a container made of 36-percent recycled plastic, this cleansing powder is formulated with 96-percent naturally derived ingredients, including cassava and corn starch, and sunflower extract. It also contains vitamins C and E. The brand recommends leaving it on your skin for one minute to get that coveted glow.

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Peach & Lily Glass Skin Face Polisher ($48)

Brand founder and aesthetician Alicia Yoon is all about the glass skin effect, and this micro-exfoliator can help us achieve that. The powder base is made of CrystalRice, a mix of microcrystalline cellulose, rice bran and corn starch. When that’s mixed with fruit extracts (apple, papaya, grape and plum), it’s a winning combo in the exfoliating department. It’s just enough to get that soft, clear skin (it also contains salicylic acid) without any irritation.

Though this product leans more toward an exfoliator than a cleanser, Yoon says you can use it in place of your morning cleanser.

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Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing & Polishing Powder Cleanser ($38)

This formula is a great option for those with oily skin (even if it’s also sensitive or acne-prone) because the key ingredient of Amazonian white clay helps sop up excess oil and make pores look smaller. Other notable ingredients include tartaric acid (an AHA) and micro-crystalline cellulose grains, which smooth rough spots and give the skin a refreshed look and feel.

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Kylie Skin by Kylie Jenner Glow Powder Cleanser ($32)

Kylie recommends this two-in-one cleanser and exfoliator for all skin types, including sensitive. It uses rice powder and natural fruit extracts to refine skin, and leaves it feeling baby-soft. It’s gentle enough to use every day (in the morning or at night), but if you prone to sensitivities, start with once or a twice a week and work your way up accordingly.

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Glo Skin Beauty Hydra-Bright Polishing Cleanser ($50)

This formula includes salicylic acid, making it a wonder worker for large pores and skin prone to breakouts. But, it also makes an impact in the brightening department. True to pretty much everything Glo Skin Beauty does (and it’s name), this cleansing powder leaves skin visibly radiant. If you need a little extra help in the excess oil department, you can use it every day; otherwise, two to three times a week is sufficient to see results (and feel the difference).

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Uncommon Beauty Enhanced Daily Foaming Powder Cleanser ($38)

Founder Kristin Cavallari always has glowing skin, so if this cleansing powder has anything to do with it, we’re sold. Bamboo extract and coconut fruit powder team up to exfoliate while also hydrating skin. Rice bran extract gives it that velvety-soft feeling.

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111SKIN Exfoliating Enzyme Cleanser ($80)

One of the key ingredients in this luxurious formula is enzymes from the brand’s proprietary NAC Y2 complex, which comprises vitamin C, escin and NAC to minimize dark spots and fine lines. Other enzymatic action comes from papaya and shikimic acid, a mild AHA. This powder cleanser is ideal for those with mature, oily or combination skin.

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Humanrace Skincare Rice Powder Cleanser ($36)

Not only do we love the refillable packaging—leave it to founder Pharrell Williams to bring us bright colors and aesthetically pleasing vibes—but the formula is noteworthy too. Detoxifying kaolin clay (51 percent) makes up the base, but it’s balanced by hydrating snow mushroom (often referred to as “nature’s hyaluronic acid”), so skin stays happy. (If you’re a Pharrell fan, you’ll see what I did there.)

BUY NOW – $36

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