The Best Face Wash for African-American Skin

Not all African-American skin is the same, and different people need different face washes.

Photo: Ralf Nau/Lifesize/Getty Images

The old stereotype that all African-American skin is oily is just that -- a stereotype. The truth is African-American skin can be as dry as the Sahara, as oily as the wax paper under a basket of French fries, or a combination of the two. If all people of the same skin color could use one product, it would save everyone a lot of work. Unfortunately, it's much more nuanced than that. Your personal skin type, rather than your coloring, dictates which face wash is best for you.

Dry Skin

If you’ve got dry skin, you need a gentle face wash that doesn’t have any ingredients that will dry your face out. Steer clear of products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide unless they are prescribed by a dermatologist -- they are too drying and will leave your skin looking flaky. Instead, look for facial cleansers that contain ingredients like natural burdock root or neroli, which won’t strip your skin of the oils it needs to remain supple and hydrated.

Oily Skin

If you’ve got oil slicks on your face and you’ve tried everything to get rid of them, you probably aren’t using the right products. Oily skin typically responds well to antiseptic products that are cleansing but not so harsh they damage your skin. Look for products that contain tea tree oil, glycolic acid or hyaluronic acid. If you have mild to moderate acne, products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help, but they can be very drying.

Combination Skin

Combination skin is probably the hardest to deal with, and it may seem like you’ll never find the right product. One the one hand, you’ve got dry skin -- probably around your cheeks, chin and bottom of your nose -- and on the other, you’ve got oily skin – most likely on your forehead, top of your nose and under your eyes, which is commonly referred to as the T-zone. Look for products that contain rosemary essential oil or lemon verbena oil that will cleanse your skin and have mild to moderate antiseptic properties. Along with these ingredients, you need a moisturizing element like aloe vera or jojoba oil.


Not all skin is the same. Even if you fit into the dry skin category, your skin is going to have its own unique characteristics. Realistically, you’re going to have to try different products to see what works best for you. For the best results, always buy noncomedogenic products (these won’t clog your pores), and look for hypoallergenic products if you have sensitive skin.

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