1. Cleansing Oil

How it works: An oil-based cleanser attracts other oils—along with dirt and makeup—for easy removal, says Jeffrey Benabio, MD, a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

Why you might want it: Is your complexion dry or sensitive? This face wash doesn't strip the skin's natural oils. And it hydrates by creating an occlusive layer that prevents moisture from evaporating, says Randy Schueller, cosmetic chemist and cofounder of TheBeautyBrains.com. We like Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil, ($16; BurtsBees.com), Neutrogena Ultra-Light Cleansing Oil, ($8.99; Neutrogena.com) and Sephora Collection Cleansing Oil, ($14; Sephora.com).

Caveat emptor: If you have acne-prone skin, this may not be the option for you—oils can exacerbate breakouts, says Benabio.

2. Facial Essence

What it is: You probably think of an essence as a flower, fruit, or vegetable extract. But the word is also used as a marketing term for liquids that deliver treatment benefits, says Schueller.

Why you might want it: Some contain exfoliants, which may increase penetration of any product you layer on top. The super-lightweight formulas can also boost hydration instantly. Try Kiehl's Iris Extract Activating Treatment Essence, ($45; Kiehls.com) or SK-II Mid-Day Essence, ($80; SK-II.com).

Caveat emptor: Because "essence" is used loosely, check the label for active ingredients (such as exfoliating lipo hydroxy acid or moisturizing glycerin or sodium hyaluronate).

3. Micellar Water

What it is: Essentially, micellar water is a low-foaming cleanser. Micelles are clusters of cleansing molecules that attract dirt and oil, says Schueller.

Why you might want it: Micellar water is gentle and won't strip the skin, says Benabio. And you don't have to rinse it off, so you can't beat the convenience. We like Perricone MD Blue Plasma Cleansing Treatment, ($39; PerriconeMD.com) and Simple Cleansing Micellar Water, ($7; Target.com).

Caveat emptor: It probably won't remove heavy or waterproof makeup.


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