11 award-winning cleansers & exfoliators, picked by our panel of judges

These products are the bedrock of beautiful skin. Our selection of cleansers & exfoliators will suit all skin types and budgets, and help you achieve your skin goals

an image of a woman with glowing healthy skin with a woman&home sknincare awards logo
(Image credit: Future/Iulia David)

Cleansers and exfoliators are both high-ranking bathroom essentials for many of us. These award-winning formulas will help you wash and buff your way to brighter, smoother skin and lose years in the process. 

We would argue that cleansing could be the most important step in your skincare regime. That’s because unless you thoroughly wash all the daily grime, pollution and makeup off your face with the best cleanser, your anti-ageing creams will simply lie on top of your skin, unable to penetrate properly and work the way they’re supposed to. This is also why a great facial exfoliator also happens to be indispensable, speeding up the skin-shedding process, and improving pigmentation and brightness in the process. 

The key is to find a cleanser and exfoliator to suit your skin type. There's something for every complexion and budget on our list of award-winning buys. 

11 award-winning cleansers & exfoliators, picked by our panel of judges

11 award-winning cleansers & exfoliators, picked by our panel of judges

Best balm cleanser

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

(Image credit: Elemis)

1. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

Best balm cleanser


RRP: £49

If you haven't been lucky enough to indulge in an Elemis facial, this cleanser is the next best thing, and about as luxurious as face-washing can get. The invigorating scent alone - a heavenly blend of nine essential oils - will immediately transport your mind somewhere far more tranquil. The buttery, silky formula is great for dry skin types. It's enriched with Rose and Mimosa waxes, Elderberry, Starflower and Optimega™ Oils, which help to nourish skin as the balm sweeps away traces of makeup, grime and pollution. Scoop out a pea-sized amount then massage over skin before rinsing. Skin is left softer, smoother and replete with moisture. 

"This balm was a joy to cleanse with," enthuses facialist Chelseé Lewis. "It left my skin feeling hydrated and looking bright. And the layers of scent that came through while cleansing were wonderful."

Best cream cleanser savvy shopper

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

(Image credit: Cetaphil)

2. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Best cream cleanser SAVVY SHOPPER


RRP: £11.50

Some cleansers can dry out the skin, which is why this dermatologist-tested, soap-free formula gets our vote as a great option for dry and sensitive skin types. The pump dispenser is a practical plus, making it easy to dispense just the right amount. As for the formula, it's enriched with niacinamide, panthenol and glycerin, all selected to preserve the moisture barrier and help make sensitised skin more resilient. 

Senior Beauty Editor, Rhiannon Derbyshire is having a renaissance with the cleanser since trialling it for the awards. "I haven’t used this for years and I’d forgotten how good it is," she says. "It did a brilliant job as a second cleanse in the evening, and a morning cleanse. My skin felt so soft after using it, I didn’t feel that I had to rush to put moisturiser on after using it - there wasn't a hint of dryness or tightness."

Best cream cleanser luxury

Sachi Saponins Cream Cleanser

(Image credit: Sachi)

3. Sachi Saponins Cream Cleanser

Best cream cleanser LUXURY


RRP: £42

For skin that feels off-kilter, this velvety cream cleanser will restore balance and comfort. It may be gentle in nature but it effectively removes makeup, grime and impurities without leaving skin feeling tight or stripped. Saponins is the hero ingredient, a plant surfactant that provides a gentle lather, supported by natural botanicals like Ayurvedic kokum butter, quinoa amino acids, prebiotics, apricot and oat oil to soothe stressed-out skin types. Our judges agreed that it was like a hug in a tube, making it a great choice for those with dry and sensitive complexions. 

"This is a gentle cleanser that leaves skin feeling soft and clean after use," says Dr. Elizabeth Hawkes, Consultant Oculoplastic Surgeon. "It's a progressive combination of Ayurvedic science, and a great option to combine with other active ingredients."

Best foam cleanser

Garnier Skin Active Hydrating Deep Cleanser

(Image credit: Garnier)

4. Garnier Skin Active Hydrating Deep Cleanser

Best foam cleanser


RRP: £9.99

Proof that you don't have to spend a lot of money to find a top-notch cleanser, Garnier's foam formula gives a deep clean and works for every skin type - even sensitive complexions. The formula is infused with clay to absorb oil and gently draw out impurities so that pores appear tighter. Clay is drying by its very nature, but the Garnier derms have balanced the formula with moisturising hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which look after the skin barrier so skin feels hydrated, not stripped. The pump bottle gets top marks from us, too.

Our Digital Beauty Editor, Aleesha Badkar was impressed with this high street hero. "It had a lovely texture and washed my face really nicely. My skin felt clarified without drying out and looked clear and healthy. For the price, I really rate this."

Best micellar cleanser

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water

(Image credit: Bioderma)

5. Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water

Best micellar cleanser


RRP: £13

There's a reason this regularly shows up on best micellar water lists. It has everything going for it: convenience, affordability and most importantly, effectiveness. The teeny micelles draw makeup and grime out of the skin like a magnet, leaving skin deeply cleansed and cushiony-soft. This micellar gets our vote because it's kind on sensitive skin, and doesn't make eyes water like others can.

"Great for on-the-go make-up removal," says Diane Ackers, Beauty Expert for Doctors Formula Skincare. "It was so easy to use, and removed make-up, dirt and debris from the skin really effortlessly. It felt comfortable on even sensitised skin, and tackled a thick layer of TV make-up really well!"

Diane's top tip would be to use it as a first cleanse. "I used this a pre-cleanse rather than a full cleansing product, as I like a cleanser that leaves my skin more conditioned and soft, plus I love the feel of water on the skin and like to rinse my skin."

Best oil cleanser savvy shopper

Super Facialist Vitamin C+ Brighten Cleansing Oil

(Image credit: Super Facialist)

6. Super Facialist Vitamin C+ Brighten Cleansing Oil

Best oil cleanser SAVVY SHOPPER


RRP: £12

One bottle of this award-winning facial oil sells every five minutes - and it's not hard to see why. This decadent cleanser works on all skin types to deliver clean skin that beams with radiance. It's powered by nourishing oils, including olive, cucumber and passionflower, as well as antioxidant vitamin E and brightening vitamin C. Once applied to the skin, the silky oil morphs into a milky texture, blasting through makeup and grime. It's a joy to cleanse with and lends itself well to an evening facial massage to remove tension and boost circulation. 

"I really loved this oil!" raves master facialist, Nicola Russell. "I tested it with both a light and a heavy coverage makeup, and it worked a treat. The price point is amazing - this is a great value-for-money cleansing oil. I'd definitely repurchase this!"

Best oil cleanser luxury

Flor y Amor Cleanser/Make-up Remover with Geranium and Papaya

(Image credit: Flor y Amor)

7. Flor y Amor Cleanser/Make-up Remover with Geranium and Papaya

Best oil cleanser LUXURY


RRP: £45

If 'clean' beauty is important to you, rest assured in the knowledge that this is a vegan, handmade and sustainably sourced product. It's more than just a cleanser. Jojoba oil helps regulate oil production. Papaya and pineapple extracts have a gentle exfoliating action, shifting dead skin cells to reveal a brighter complexion. Geranium essential oil is added to stimulate circulation but is also known to be effective at reducing anxiety. Basically, it's your cleanser, exfoliator, toner and aromatherapy tool. 

Massage it across the skin for a couple of minutes or use it as a five-minute mask. Take a few deep breaths to enjoy the uplifting geranium and sweet orange aroma, and reset your mind. 

"This cleanser leaves your skin feeling alive," says facialist, Chelseé Lewis. "My complexion looked fresh and bright, and my circulation felt like it was given a boost." 

Best gel cleanser

Dr. David Jack Supernova Antioxidant Cleansing Gel

(Image credit: Dr. David Jack)

8. Dr. David Jack Supernova Antioxidant Cleansing Gel

Best gel cleanser


RRP: £45

Created by leading London-based Aesthetic Doctor, David Jack, this namesake gel cleanser has been carefully formulated to suit all complexion types, making skin more resilient by supporting the moisture barrier. Antioxidant-rich oils and vitamin C help prime skin ready to face the day and protect it from ageing environmental stressors. At the end of the day, the light and gentle gel diligently lifts long-wear makeup, impurities and even SPF for a fresh, clean feeling. Our judges agreed it's a fantastic cleanser, especially for those suffering with redness, inflammation and sensitised skin.

"First of all, I loved the packaging," says Aesthetic Practitioner Shane Cooper. "I really enjoyed using the cleanser, as it was great to remove my SPF. I have very reactive skin but it did not irritate my skin at all. Instead, the cleanser left everything feeling very fresh and clean."

Best chemical exfoliator

Skin Rocks The Gentle Acid

(Image credit: Skin Rocks)

9. Skin Rocks The Gentle Acid

Best chemical exfoliator


RRP: £49

Some exfoliating acids are a little too harsh, leaving skin feeling depleted and crying out for moisture. Not this one, which has won over our judging panel with its powerful yet gentle formula that tackles pigmentation, dark spots, dullness and uneven texture. Alpha-hydroxy and polyhydroxy acids work in synergy with skin-conditioning ingredients that limit irritation and offer hydration. Sweep over a clean, dry face up to three times a week, and you can expect smoother skin, a brighter, more even tone and visibly minimised pores. 

"I like the packaging - it makes it very clear what the product does and who it is suitable for," says Dr. Elizabeth Hawkes. Our Digital Beauty Editor, Aleesha agrees, saying her skin looked, "fresh, bright and smooth, with no sting." 

Best facial peel

Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Micropeel Foam

(Image credit: Caudalie)

10. Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Micropeel Foam

Best facial peel


RRP: £25

Peels can sound scary. We all remember what happened to Samantha in Sex and the City! But this foam couldn't be friendlier, made with 97% natural origin ingredients including organic grape water, fruit acids and exfoliating AHA, mandelic acid. So gentle is the formula, it can be used daily to improve radiance and eliminate dead cells. In fact, 81% of testers saw a new skin effect after 30 seconds. Apply the frothy, bubbly mousse to dry skin and massage over the face in circular motions. After 30 seconds rinse off to reveal touchably-soft skin. 

"This product definitely delivered on its promise of smooth skin," says clinical facialist, Kate Kerr. "Its use of mandelic acid and papaya enzyme ensures a gentle at-home peel suitable for all skin types. Safe yet effective, it’s a promising option for those seeking a mild exfoliation experience."

Best facial scrub

Dr. Tatiana Generate Skin Fresh Start Exfoliator

(Image credit: Dr Tatiana)

11. Generate Skin by Dr. Tatiana Fresh Start Exfoliator

Best facial scrub


RRP: £70

Created by husband and wife duo, Dr. Tatiana and Dr. Rishi, this skin resurfacer works in two ways. First, volcanic stone particles provide a physical exfoliation, smoothing texture and improving congestion. Then there's the cocktail of Citric, Lactic, Salicylic and Mandelic acids, which deliver a chemical exfoliation to dissolve and loosen skin cells. You can use it as a regular exfoliator, or for a deeper, more intensive resurfacing treatment, treat it as a mask, leaving it on for 15 minutes. Used twice a week, the skin looks brighter and more even. 

"I loved the combination of physical and chemical exfoliation in this product," says Diane Ackers. "The volcanic particles gave your skin that fresh-facial feeling, really smooth and clean, while the acid mix left the skin super smooth, bright and feeling like you’d just had a microderm treatment"

Stephanie Maylor

Stephanie Maylor is a Beauty Editor working across five national magazine titles, with almost 15 years' experience in the industry.  She has written for many brands, including woman&home, Grazia, Now, More!, Fabulous, NW, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly, Essentials, Best, Chat, and OK! online. 

In 2010 she launched her own beauty blog, which was shortlisted for Best Beauty Blog in the 2011 and 2012 Johnson & Johnson Beauty Journalism Awards. She has interviewed many high profile industry experts and celebrities including Alesha Dixon, Twiggy and Christina Hendricks.