Cleanser Vs. Moisturizer: The Key Differences in the Basics of Skincare

cleanser vs moisturizer
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a cleanser and a moisturizer? Check out this Key Differences

Cleansers and moisturizers are the most important parts of a daily routine. Cleanser vs. moisturizer adds nothing because they are entirely different terms. There are many things to consider when we include these two words here. For example, when does the cleanser enter the class? And how does a moisturizer work? Here we’ll be discussing everything regarding a cleanser and a moisturizer. So stay tuned until the end of the article.

Cleansers are not something that comes at the middle or end of skin care. But instead, this part comes at the beginning of the skincare routine. The cleansers are vital as they remove all the dirt and excess oil from the face. They also help with removing the day’s makeup. Cleansers are used first thing in the morning and before you go to sleep. They are also used in the shower. Cleansers are different types, but mostly they are oil-based or foam-based cleansers. We’ll circle back to these terms later in the article.

Moisturizers are made up of different ingredients, and they are mostly made up of emollients. They are primarily on the hydration side. They will be used on the face to give the inner protective layer and hydrate from the interior. Moisturizers are primarily available as creams, lotions, or ointments. Even the mists are now on hydration. They heal and rejuvenate the skin, which helps with a glowing face. Another essential part of moisturizers is that they are the last step in skincare.

What is a moisturizer?

What is a moisturizer

Because they hydrate the skin the most, moisturizers are essential in skin care products. The creams, lotions, and oil’s principal goal are to protect the skin from drying out. They have emollient and humectant properties. 

The moisturizers will be applied to the skin’s outer layer, where they will ultimately penetrate deeply to repair the skin properly. This will also assist in adequately sealing the moisture. Without adequate water, the outer layer becomes increasingly dry and irritable. And if they are not handled properly, they get irritated. Moisturizers are classified into three types:


These moisturizers are oil-based and aid in building and healing the skin’s outermost part. They will also replenish the lipids that have been lost along the road. They frequently reduce inflammation and safeguard the skin’s microbiome.


These tend to bind the skin’s water to itself since they are heavier than average. They are generally more severe and made of paraffin, oil, or polymer. They are used to treat eczema, and the majority of the time, occlusives are used with shea butter. They are applied to very dehydrated skin, and specific primers are an excellent example of this.


These moisturizers will act in conjunction with water, and they’re also liquid moisturizers. For instance, if your skin is feeling overly dehydrated, humectants will draw moisture from the environment and attach it to your skin. They will also combine with the water in your body and seal the product into the skin’s outer layer. Humectants include hyaluronic acid, amino acids, and glycerol.

These are just the basics of moisturizers, but the moisturizers can also be distinctive to the skin type. For example, you can look at moisturizers for oily, dry, and typical skin types.

What is a cleanser?

What is a cleanser

The cleanser is the first step in any skincare routine, and most people think of cleansers as simply face washes. Well, there are several kinds of cleansers, and they have different aspects to consider with their use. So how exactly does a cleanser work?

They tend to get dirt and day-long oils out of the skin and give a relatively clean surface that can be later used for different products and skin care. So the cleanser will get rid of pollution, makeup, and impurities.

They are used at least twice daily and are somewhat harsh on the skin. They keep the pores clean and prevent different skin problems like acne. Cleansers are something that you will start your skincare regime with. There are three different kinds of cleansers available on the market, and these are:

Foam cleanser

These are on the foaming side, and they can either be oil-based or cream-based. Foaming cleansers have a very bad reputation when it comes to the face. Most people claim that they will dehydrate the skin, and these cleansers will remove that extra dirt and oil. And that’s why they often feel pretty dehydrated.

Gel cleansers

They are mostly like gel moisturizers, and they are used to take off makeup, and they melt the makeup right off, and are designed for deep cleansing without the need for extra dehydration. This face wash or cleanser will be perfect if you’re struggling with severe acne. They do not clog the pores, making them perfect for acne-prone skin.

Cream cleansers

If you want something good for all, we suggest cream cleansers. These will suit you in every weather and every skin type. And like a cream moisturizer feels hydrated on the skin, this sort of moisturizer feels soft and smooth when the cream cleanser is washed off.

New type: oil-based cleanser

Though these are not your typical cleansers, they are used in the first part of the makeup removal process. “Double cleansing” is one of the most used terms nowadays. And for double cleansing, first, the oils are used, and then a regular cleanser is used after that. These aren’t your typical cleansers.

Some basic steps of skincare

We kept mentioning the cleanser and moisturizers as two of the most fundamental skin care components. But how come moisturizers and cleansers can be the most basic ones? For starters, if you’re entirely new to the skincare world, let us explain the skin care concept. You start with a cleanser and finish with the moisturizer. The SPF and the other products come late. So here we are, including a basic skincare routine with just the initial two products and also the optional ones.

  1. Cleanser
  2. A toner/serum/essence (optional)
  3. Moisturizer
  4. Sunscreen (optional)



It would be best if you washed your face with cleanser first thing in the morning. The debris and sebum that accumulated over the day will be removed, leaving you with a blank slate to start the process. Cleansers are mostly surfactants made up of different natural and chemical compounds that readily dissolve the oil and dirt from the skin, and they also do not let the dirt penetrate deep into the skin. Face cleansers are mostly associated with more hydrating and promising ingredients. But the central theme of a cleanser is to clean rather than provide any benefit to the skin. A cleanser that doesn’t dry the skin would be the best example.

A toner/serum/essence (optional)

Toner Serum Essence (Optional)

Because we’re opting for a simple skin care regimen, using a toner, serum, or essence is almost wholly unnecessary. For toners, for example, you’d want something moisturizing that won’t dry your skin. You may also add vitamin C to the serum, which will work nicely for sunscreen and will drive its effectiveness. Then, for the essence, you may skip the serum and toner and use an essence with consistency between a serum and a toner.



After that, the essential moisturizer is the next step. This is an important step because most cleansers dehydrate the skin. A moisturizer will repair it completely. A moisturizer might take the form of a lotion, cream, or oil. You can select either according to how much hydration you require. If you have generally dry skin, a cream or lotion will suffice. However, if your skin is dry, mix a face oil with a moisturizer to give it the ideal hydration boost.

Sunscreen (optional)


Finally, we recommend wearing sunscreen to complete our basic skin care regimen. Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or more are ideal when you reside in a topical zone. However, if you reside in a cloudy area with little sun exposure, an SPF of 20 or more is sufficient. 

Sunscreens are commonly considered summer items, but they must be used every time you leave the house or stand in front of a window. The primary purpose of sunscreen is to protect against UV radiation while also mending damage caused by the sun. It is never too late to begin using sunscreen. And you can also use sunscreen in the form of a moisturizer. And this is why this part is also an optional one.

The parts of sunscreens, toners, and serums can be skipped eventually, as they will not make a difference when the face is not cleaned or moisturized. But for the sunscreen, you can skip the part when you use a moisturizer with an SPF in it. So basically, the critical aspects of skin care are cleansers and moisturizers.

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Cleansers vs. moisturizers: dry skin version

When using a cleanser for dry skin, we suggest using a cream-based cleanser. They are the least likely to dry out the skin and have an elevated oil level to provide hydration. As for the moisturizer, go for a thicker one. Moisturizers containing shea or almost oil are perfect as they are extremely strong emollients.

Cleanser vs. moisturize: oily skin version 

The oily skins will produce their oil, which needs to be removed. But they shouldn’t be stripped. With extreme oil stripping, the skin gets dry, and then there is more oil. So try and find a foaming cleanser that is not wildly stripping. And lastly, there is the moisturizer part. We suggest a hydrating toner that will work as a humectant. But a lightweight lotion or cream will work as well.

Cleanser vs. moisturizer: sensitive skin version

These skin types are mostly fragile and tend to break out with the slightest changes in the routine. So the best solution for sensitive skin, in terms of cleanser and moisturizer, will be to choose a gel product. These are perfect for the skin. But do a patch test before doing a routine.

Cleanser vs. moisturizer: the key differences

Cleanser Vs. Moisturizer The Key Differences

The main difference between cleanser and moisturizers is that they work completely differently! A cleanser is meant to be washed after using it so that you get clearer skin while a moisturizer is meant to be absorbed into the skin and leave the skin feeling hydrated. Here are some of the other key differences between a cleanser and a moisturizer.

  1. The cleansers are used at the start of the skincare routine, and the moisturizers are used at the very last.
  2. Moisturizers are mostly oil and water-based, and they are the dispersion of water and fats. On the other hand, cleansers are surfactants made of soap and other ingredients.
  3. Moisturizers are used to give back the hydration stripped off by the cleaners. The cleansers will take off the makeup and everything that has been used before.
  4. Moisturizers work with healing and rejuvenating, and cleansers do the cleanup.
  5. Cleansers are mostly dehydrating, and moisturizers have the perfect amount of hydrating.

Some of the similarities between cleansers and moisturizers

A lot of people are curious about what differ between cleansers and moisturizers. Both are used to remove makeup, but they have different goals. A cleanser is designed to be gentle on the skin while a moisturizer helps keep the skin hydrated. There are some similarities between these two types of products.

  • Both are typically aqueous solutions
  • Both are designed to provide moisture to the skin
  • Both are designed to be used daily
  • Both are designed to replace lost water in the skin and to replenish the natural oils that protect the skin
  • Both are designed to keep the skin looking healthy, smooth, and radiant Although it is true that both cleansers and moisturizers perform the same function of keeping your skin hydrated, you can tell them apart by their textures


1. Can I just use cleanser and moisturizer?

Yes, you can only use the cleanser and moisturizer for starting skin care. But for a moisturizer, try and use something that has SPF in it.

2. Is cleanser necessary?

Yes, the cleanser is the first skincare step, and some will argue that this is the most important part of skincare.

3. What is the difference between cleanser and face wash?

Most face washes have a foamy texture and are only clean; a cleanser cleans while providing hydration and suppleness to the skin.

4. Are cleansers and moisturizers enough?

The cleanser and moisturizer are sufficient to begin a skincare routine. But with age, the environment, and skin problems, you might have to add more products in between these.

5. Cleanser or moisturizer first?

Use cleanser first, as it will clean up the skin and give a clean surface. Then comes the moisturizer, which will heal the skin and provide hydration.

Final Thoughts

We don’t believe there are any similarities between cleansers and moisturizers; they are opposite and do not even have the same output or characters. But still, these two ingredients are one of the most important parts of the skincare routines, and they tend to be very effective with long-term skincare routines.

Key Points

  1. Cleansers are vital because they remove all dirt and excess oil from the face. They also aid in the removal of the day’s makeup.
  2. Moisturizers will be applied to the face to provide an inner protective layer and moisturize from the inside.
  3. Moisturizers are mostly oil and water-based formulations that are a dispersion of water and fats. Cleansers, on the other hand, are surfactants composed of soap and other substances.
  4. The use of moisturizers restores the moisture that has been lost due to cleaning agents. The cleansers will remove all of the makeup and previous products.

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