Best cleansing milks that are kinder to sensitive skin

Soothing, hydrating cleanser to counteract sensitivities, eczema or rosacea

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Ellie Davis27 July 2023
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Perhaps you’ve overloaded on harsh ingredients like retinol or glycolic acid, maybe a fabric has rubbed you up the wrong way or the ever-changing weather is wreaking havoc on your skin - no matter what is causing your red, stinging or swollen complexion, its appearance can be stressful, painful and knock your confidence.

You’re not alone. Far from it. Sensitive skin is becoming increasingly common - a study in the National Library of Medicine estimates that up to 70 per cent of people report some degree of sensitivity. Aveeno’s State of Skin Sensitivity Study revealed that this is up by 55 per cent, when compared to the results of the two previous decades and has been attributed to many causes including cosmetic intolerances and the stress of modern life. While there’s not much you can do about the latter (bar incorporate wellness practices), the former is very much in your control.

It’s important to have an arsenal of gentle skincare products ready to calm the complexion when irritation arises. A cleanser will mark the first step in most skincare rituals. It’s a basic product that is designed to remove makeup, pollution, dirt and grime from the day, declog pores and give you a blank canvas in which to follow up with the likes of toner, serum and moisturiser.

There are many different textures to choose from - gel, foaming, oils, balms, creams and milks - and it’s all about finding the one to best suit your skin type.

Cleansing milks are beloved by those with sensitive skin, but they can work for all skin types for a gentle way to dissolve impurities without stripping or exacerbating inflammation. Quite the opposite.

These formulas are packed with emollient ingredients that remove surface oils without stripping the skin’s natural moisture. They are free from harsh scrubs, actives or foaming actions and are instead enriched with nourishing oils to give a softening, soothing effect and leave your face feeling smooth and supple and your skin’s barrier supported.

You can apply these cleansing milks onto a cotton pad or instead layer directly onto the skin - yet for the latter, ensure you have clean hands. Massage the product into your face, treating yourself to a destressing experience as you take off your makeup. The creamy texture encourages a ritualistic practice and a luxury moment for yourself first thing in the morning and last thing at night to decompress after a long day.

If you find that these cleansers aren’t as effective as previous formulations and textures at removing stubborn makeup, but you still want to maximise the soothing, hydrating benefits, you can incorporate in the AM and then as the second part of a double cleanse in the PM.

Shop the best milk cleansers below

Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cleanser

Kate Somerville

This creamy milk cleanser is an ultra-gentle product that leaves skin soft and clean - but crucially without stripping natural oils or leaving that dreaded tight feel. The brand’s founder Kate Somerville recommends it as a first cleanse in the morning and evening, but in the PM, she suggests pairing it with another formula in order to fully ensure that each and every bit of dirt, makeup and grime is removed.

The Goat Milk Cleanser feels immediately soothing on redness and irritation, moisturising as it glides over your complexion. Goat milk is the main and named ingredient that is combined with the nourishing benefits of jojoba and avocado oil as well as manuka honey.

Buy now£58, Kate Somerville

Tula super calm gentle sensitive skin cleansing milk


This is an award-winning cleanser that is soothing for those prone to sensitivies. While doing its thing to dissolve pore-clogging elements, it also helps to balance out the complexion and leave healthier, brighter skin in its wake. The lightweight formula is made up of kind-to-skin ingredients including a cooling, calming cocktail of cucumber, ginger, colloidial oatmeal and aloe. This is set alongside the brand’s signature probiotic extracts component that is all about shielding against external free radical damage by feeding healthy bacteria to the complexion.

Buy now£30, Tula

REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk


So gentle and so calming is this formula that it can be used by the whole family, even during pregnancy. It is designed for sensitive, dry and irritated skin and as such includes only the most gentle ingredients, while still eliminating dirt, excess oil and the likes.

The microbiome-friendly composition includes blackcurrant and sea buckthorn oils that support the skin’s barrier and fennel seed extract, an antioxidant to give the face greater protection against pollutants that may cause premature ageing.

Buy now£25, Selfridges

Oskia Skincare Rest Day Cleansing Milk


If you’ve noticed your complexion is looking worse for wear - namely red and inflammed - this will be the reset that you need. While encouraging your stressed out skin to recover, it also provides the traditional cleansing effect. The multitasking product also supports barrier function and the microbiome with the likes of oat ceramides and probiotics that have nourishing and balancing benefits respecitively. This non-active formula is so gentle that it can be used by those of all ages, including young teens who are just starting to incorporate skincare into their hygeine practices.

Buy now£38, Oskia

Clarins Velvet Cleansing Milk


Not content on resting on its laurels, Clarins has reformulated its cleansing milk to be even kinder on the complexion as well as the planet. In terms of the latter, the brand is offering complete tracing on every ingredient so you can follow them from plant to production for total transparency.

The components in question for this cleansing milk are organic yellow gentian and organic lemon balm that are grown on the Clarins’ own farm and chosen for their ability to cleanse and care for the complexion at the same time. This means that while they remove the likes of makeup and pollution, they do so in such a way that they are not interferring with the skin’s microbiome.

Buy now£36, Clarins

Caudalíe Vinoclean cleansing almond milk


The beautiful aroma of the Caudalíe Vinoclean cleansing almond milk will be enough to have you promoting this to a cult product in your collection. Luckily enough, it’s as effective as it is sensorial with the luxe French label leaning on the nourishing benefits of jojoba and sweet almond oil with organic shea butter to ensure that your skin is nourishing, while unwanted bacteria is removed. The antioxidant-rich and soothing combination will become a cherished part of your routine where you’ll look forward to the luxury feel of the creamy milk lather.

Buy now£18, Selfridges

Biologique Recherche Lait U milk face wash

Biologique Recherche

Biologique Recherche is a name that luxury skincare lovers will be very familiar with. The brand is renowned for its Champs-Élysées-based townhouse where the trained therapists take a totally personalised appraoch to your skincare treatments. The high-end establishment offers efficacious and concentrated formulas that you can apply from the comfort of your own home too, which extends to this face wash.

While the range is defined by potent active products, this cleanser takes a different approach with a more gentle formulation that is made up of almond and hazelnut oils to support the skin’s barrier. It can be used by all skin types but is great for acne prone especially.

Buy now£60, Harrods

Sisley Lyslait Cleansing Milk


This cleanser from Sisley is every bit a luxury experience, from the creamy lightweight texture to the scent to the replenishing feel. The advanced formula uses a combination of natural, nourishing ingredients that includes sunflower oil, vitamin E and orange blossom. Massage into the skin using your fingertips to encourage a ritualistic practice and a moment of well-deserved self-care. The product glides onto the skin and leaves a healthy glow and a velvety-soft and smooth complexion.

Buy now£96, Space NK

Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Cleanser

Milk Makeup

For those who are following a plant-based lifesyle in their diet as well as their beauty routines, a cleansing milk may sound out of the realm of possibility. But fear not as Milk Makeup has got sensitive skin types covered with its vegan take on this product type so that you can still get the skin-loving, non-stripping benefits of the signature nourishing formulas, while remaining free from any animal derivatives.

The brand harnesses the power of Kalahari melon, baobab, jojoba and aloe vera, a hydrating concoction that is only enhanced by shea butter grapeseed oil and plant-derived squalane. The milky element comes from a vitamin-rich and unique fig milk as well as argan milk and oat milk.

Buy now£27, Space NK

Irene Forte Skincare Almond Cleansing Milk

Irene Forte

Irene Forte balances the sensorial experience, natural ingredients and scientific research to create her line of luxury skincare staples. The range is free from irritating ingredients and has undergone dermatological tests to ensure that they can be used by those with sensitive skin without worrying about flareups.

This includes the bestselling Almond Cleansing Milk, a hydrating formula that replenishes the complexion with a powerhouse mix of oils - sweet almond, olive, wild rose, jojoba and olive. The ingredients are sourced from the brand’s organic farm in Sicily and offer anti-ageing benefits too with the inclusion of a vegetable protein complex paired with soothing aloe and nourishing shea butter.

Buy now£85, Liberty