While face washes are made to, well, cleanse, they can sometimes wash away more than what you want them to. They can erase the hydration your skin needs along with the dirt, grime, and excess oils. And when the weather gets cold, it becomes even more crucial for those with dry skin to introduce a cleanser with the right stuff into their skin-care routines.
How to find the best face wash for dry skin
When shopping for the best face cleansers for dry skin, including sensitive skin, choose a formula by looking for the same hydrating ingredients you'd find in moisturizers, like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and botanical oils and butters. On product packaging, seek out key words such as moisturizing, moisture, hydrating, hydration, nourishing, softening, and for dry or dehydrated skin to find formulas that are tailored to dry skin types. And don't stop at face wash: "Dry facial skin will really require a moisturizer, since cleanser alone is not usually enough," Dr. McMichael explains. (Luckily, we've got you covered with the best face moisturizers.)
When picking out a face wash for dry skin, New York City-based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali suggests seeking out formulas that, of course, contain moisture-retaining ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, as well as chamomile and glycerin, which work to calm irritated skin. Bhanusali also suggests picking out a cleanser that scales back on the number of ingredients. He says less is more when it comes to this skin type.
Furthermore, those with dry skin should be wary of strong acids (think: alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids). "They can do more harm than good," Bhanusali says.
Whether you prefer a liquid, gel, foam, cream, or balm formula (or something in between!), we've got an option for you. These best face washes for dry skin tested by the scientists in the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab and recommended by dermatologists and shoppers will help hydrate, smooth, and nourish your complexion in no time through any season, from winter and beyond.
How to choose the best face wash for dry, sensitive skin
- Go creamy: Many people switch to a gel cleanser in the summer months to help control oil and shine in the humidity. But a creamy face wash is more beneficial if you have dry skin, says Dr. Alster. Look for labels that say “creamy” or “lotion,” appear white out of the bottle, or feel like a moisturizer when applied.
- Avoid fragrances: It’s especially important to choose unscented products, as fragrances can spur irritation, says Dr. Hooper. Look for unscented or fragrance-free on the label. Sensitive skin products are another good go-to.
- Look for moisturizing ingredients: Hyaluronic acid is a top-notch moisturizer because it attracts water to skin, says Dr. Alster. Glycerin and ceramides also deliver an extra boost of moisture, while aloe vera and soy can feel soothing.
- Watch the anti-agers: Ingredients like glycolic or lactic acids may help fight the signs of aging (and keep pesky blackheads at bay), but they will strip dry skin of the oil it needs. Keep these ingredients out of your face wash.
Best Dry Skin Kit For You
Once you find a face wash you like, be sure to cleanse only once a day before bed if you’re feeling extra dry, says Dr. Hooper. (You can supplement with a micellar water or hydrating toner in the morning.) Immediately after when skin is still damp, lock in hydration with a good moisturizer for sensitive skin, she says.
Under the guidance of a dermatologist , here are some of the best cleansers for dry skin — the ones that stunned us with how they left even our most parched patches feeling baby-soft yet successfully swept away makeup and grime.
Below, we rounded up a list of our favorites, so keep scrolling our picks of the best face washes for dry skin.
The best face wash for dry skin
Best Overall: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
Milky Jelly Cleanser
This is a top-rated product in the Glossier product portfolio and it lives up to its hype. Many people love the conditioning, ph-balanced formula that's gentle for even the most sensitive skin. It's made with five skin conditioners, so you can rest assured that your skin won't feel tight post-rinse. As a bonus, it doubles as a makeup remover for the face and eyes, since it's got the same cleansing agents in it that you'd find in contact lens solution.
Best Budget: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Lightweight Hydrating Facial Cleansing Gel
Hyaluronic acid is a top hydrating ingredient in moisturizers, so we're pleased to see it in this budget-friendly face wash as well. Its role here is the same—to add intense moisture to the skin (for up to 24 hours, no less) while cleansing agents bid adieu to dirt, oil, and impurities. Reviewers say that it racks up on moisture without sacrificing the clean, fresh feeling that we love and expect from a quality cleanser. It's got Rhue's seal of approval as well.
Best Balm: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
Then I Met You Cleansing Balm has a sorbet-like texture that is rich in nutrients, including persimmon extract, olive oil, and vitamin E. The star ingredient is seaberry oil, which is rich in fatty acid and antioxidants. Users rave that it removes all makeup residue and works even better as step one of two with the brand's Soothing Tea Gel Cleanser.
Best for Breakouts: True Botanicals Clear Nourishing Cleanser
True Botanicals Renew Nourishing Cleanser
Yes, it's possible to have dry skin that is also prone to breakouts. It's harder to address both concerns at once since common acne-fighting ingredients (think sal acid and benzoyl peroxide) are known to be drying. You could, however, use this hydrating cleanser that boasts anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea, white tea, and black willow bark extract (a natural source of salicylic acid) to tackle dry skin and acne concerns at the same time. This face wash has all of the antibacterial and antifungal properties you need for a healthier complexion.
Best Lotion Cleanser: Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost One Step Cleanser
With a name like Moisture Boost, it's pretty obvious what this cleanser does. Formulated with dry skin in mind, this milky lotion formula gently lifts makeup and surface dirt effectively while leaving your complexion soft to the touch and incredibly supple. You're in effect pampering your skin while washing it—score.
Best Gel: Beauty Strike Gel Cream Cleanser
Beauty Strike Gel Cream Cleanser
This cruelty-free face wash is full of ingredients that you can say 10 times fast. With avocado oil, jojoba oil, cucumber seed oil, lemon extract, and more, the list is almost good enough to eat. (But please, don’t eat it!)
Beauty Strike founder and esthetician, Emani Jeter, recommends using this gel-cream cleanser because it removes dirt while fortifying the skin barrier with vitamins and nutrients. Plus, this brand is committed to transparency and quality, so you can count on products without icky ingredients.
Best for Dull Skin: Rosen Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser
Rosen Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser
Like a smoothie, but for your face. This all-natural cleanser is packed with active fruit powders to help brighten and smooth your skin without stripping it, including raspberry, lemon, and strawberry. Users love how this cleanser leaves skin feeling moisturized, and even those with sensitive skin keep coming back for more. We especially love that Rosen Skincare is an independent, growing business that stands firm in transparent ingredients and never condones skin shaming.
Best Soothing Formula: Kate Somerville DeliKate Soothing Cleanser
Kate Somerville DeliKate Soothing Cleanser
If your skin is all sorts of stressed out or run down from too many months (years, even) of harsh face washes, this face wash can help calm things down. It's a nourishing formula that can soothe and calm redness and irritation, thanks to a ceramide complex, ginger root extract, and Tasmannia lanceolata fruit extract. Another favorite of Xue's, it's just what the doctor ordered to restore the skin's protective barrier.
Best for Hyperpigmentation: Urban Skin Rx Combination Skin Cleansing Bar
urban rx cleansing bar
This unique cleansing bar for dry and combination skin is a major routine upgrade for those who deal with hyperpigmentation. Created with women of color in mind, Urban Skin RX has melanin skin down to a science—literally. I can personally affirm its reputation for supporting an even tone and brighter skin. With consistent use, my skin has fewer breakouts and I’ve gone from wearing concealer almost daily to being virtually free of hyperpigmentation. So much, yes.
Best Splurge: Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser
Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser
Perfect for dry skin, this product will deliver a deep clean feeling without ever stripping your skin of its natural oils. It's also a great pick for sensitive skin because of its anti-inflammatory, healing, and calming properties. It's also lightly scented with citrus and bergamot for a spa-like bonus, so needless to say it's worth every penny.
Using a gentle cleanser on your face is a good idea for most people. But there are some things you should know when you use a facial cleanser:
- If you’re using a prescription or OTC anti-acne product, you might not want to use an acne-fighting cleanser, too. Overuse of acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can dry out your skin and hurt you in the long run.
- If you’re using a cleanser that contains retinols (vitamin A), be extra careful to apply sunscreen wherever you go outside. Retinols can make your skin more prone to sun damage.
- As we mentioned above, the AAD suggests that cleansing products do not contain alcohol. However, many of them do, even the cleansers made specifically for dry skin. Read ingredient labels carefully and look out for alcohol and other potential irritants.
- Figuring out a cleanser that works for you can take your beauty routine to the next level.
- Even if you have dry, sensitive skin, or skin that’s prone to acne breakouts, chances are there’s a cleanser for you.
- Be patient, as you might need to do some trial and error to find your perfect match.
- If you’re concerned with the way that your skin looks or if you have visibly dry skin, speak with a dermatologist.