12 Best Cleansers for Dry Skin, For Clean But Not Squeaky Clean Face

A girl washing her face with one of the best cleansers for dry skin

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What do the best face cleansers for dry skin contain, what to avoid, and which ones are worth checking out…

    • Best face washes for dry, sensitive skin are the ones that thoroughly cleanse grime but preserve the skin’s barrier.
    • Choose a gentle, creamy face wash that makes your skin feel clean, but not dry, thigh or itchy after the wash.
    • Great ingredients for dry skin: plant oils, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, niacinamide, antioxidants, oatmeal, soy, AHAs, etc.

Washing your face is an essential skin care step no matter your skin type. But if your skin is dry, things can quickly get tricky.

Because dry skin usually means the lipid barrier of your skin is compromised, so you need to focus on preserving as much of the moisture as you can. And many face cleansers strip too much of the necessary oils off your skin.

You still need to wash your face every evening to remove all the makeup, impurities and bacteria from your skin. But, if your cleanser is leaving your skin dry, tight and squeaky clean, you know you are on the wrong track.

That is how you tell a good from a bad face cleanser. The bad ones make dry skin even drier. While the best cleansers for dry skin are always gentle and soothing, leaving your face clean and fresh but without the dreaded tight sensation.

How to Choose the Best Face Cleansers for Dry Skin?

So, what does “the right cleanser for dry skin” even mean? What a face wash should be like to be considered suitable for dry skin type?

Well, first of all, the texture matters. Creamy, moisturizing and oil-based cleanses tend to work best for dry skin. Foaming and gel formulas are usually more suitable for oily skin, though there are exceptions to this.

Also, when choosing a face cleanser for dry skin, avoid those that contain drying and irritating components. Ideally, your cleanser should be alcohol-free, contain little to no fragrance and it shouldn’t be based on strong surfactants. Salicylic acid and clay are also better to be avoided when treating dry facial skin.

Instead, the best cleansers for dry skin contain moisture retaining ingredients, such as plant oils, ceramides and peptides. Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, attract water to the skin and keep it plump, supple and well hydrated.

Antioxidants are also more than desirable, to keep those fine lines at bay. As well as brightening ingredients, such as niacinamide, to add some dewy glow to the usually dull dry complexion.

If your skin also shows signs of sensitivity, try out a gentle formula that contains soothing ingredients, such as oatmeal, soy, chamomile or aloe. And if you are dealing with rough, flaky and dull skin, AHAs, and especially lactic acid, can gently exfoliate the dry skin cells. Be careful with acids, though, as they can dry out your skin even more if overused.

12 Best Cleansers for Dry Skin

*All prices mentioned are from September 2022.

1. First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser


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Price: $24.00/5 fl. Oz.

A sensitive skin friendly, dermatologist-tested, pH-balanced formula that leaves the skin clean and soft without over-stripping. It has a whipped texture that turns into a cream when applied.

This cleanser doesn’t contain alcohol, artificial color and fragrance, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, etc. What it does contain is a blend of soothing, nourishing and antioxidant-rich ingredients, such as glycerin, allantoin, aloe, vitamin E, licorice, feverfew and white tea extracts…

2. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser


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Price: $15.99/13.5 fl. Oz.

Another gentle, creamy formula that cleanses the skin without disturbing skin’s pH or compromising its lipid barrier. This cleanser is formulated for normal to dry skin.

La Roche-Posay’s core ingredient – prebiotic thermal water – soothes the skin and provides minerals. Some other ingredients in Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser that dry skin will love are moisture-retaining ceramides, brightening niacinamide and hydrating glycerin.

3. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser


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Price: $22.65/16 fl. Oz.

Micellar Technology that gently purifies the skin, plus a hydrating formula that was clinically proven to protect against dryness! It doesn’t get better than that, and it is no wonder this face wash is included in so many lists of the best cleansers for dry skin.

Gentle Skin Cleanser is perfect for dry, sensitive or normal skin types, as it removes makeup and impurities while protecting the skin’s barrier. It contains niacinamide, glycerin and an ingredient that is perfect for dry skin prone to sensitivities – panthenol.

4. Fresh Soy pH-Balanced Hydrating Face Wash


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Price: $38.00/5 fl. Oz.

Perfect for all skin types, including dry and sensitive skin. This is a non-stripping, pH-balanced facial cleanser that softens and hydrates the skin while deeply cleansing the pores and removing all the bacteria and grime of the day.

Soy pH-Balanced Hydrating Face Wash contains several soothing, replenishing and balancing components that make it perfect for your skin. Some of the best ones are aloe vera, cucumber extract, soy proteins, borage seed oil, cornflower and rose water, glycerin, vitamin E, etc.

5. Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

Price: $8.86/8 fl. Oz.

Formulated without common skin irritants such as sulfates, soap, parabens, color or fragrance, this face cleanser is suitable for dry skin, as well as for those with sensitive skin. The formula is non-comedogenic, gentle and soothing.

This product even has the National Eczema Association acceptance seal. It can be used daily to remove makeup and dirt without leaving the skin dry, tight, irritated and harsh.

6. EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser


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Price: $30.50/7 fl. Oz.

Don’t let the “foaming” in the title confuse you – this cleanser is actually quite gentle and non-irritating. It is suitable for all skin types and gentle enough so that you can safely use it once or twice a day.

This cleanser is based on pineapple enzymes, primarily bromelain, which is anti-inflammatory and it gently exfoliates the skin. Foaming Facial Cleanser is vegan, pH-balanced and oil and paraben-free.

7. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser


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Price: $12.00/12 fl. Oz.

Another face cleanser perfect for dry skin because it doesn’t strip necessary moisture but instead restores the skin’s barrier. It removes daily impurities and makeup and leaves the skin soft, smooth and fresh.

The moisture-retaining and replenishing ingredients, such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid, ensure that the skin is left clean but not dry or tight. The product is developed with dermatologists, and it is non-irritating and non-comedogenic.

8. Hada Labo Tokyo Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

Price: $13.37/5 fl. Oz.

Another great option for dry or sensitive skin. This face cleanser starts as a fluffy cream, then turns into a creamy lather once it comes in contact with water. It thoroughly cleanses but leaves the skin moisturized and smooth.

Hada Labo’s Gentle Hydrating Cleanser contains three types of hyaluronic acid, which helps to hydrate all layers of the skin. It is formulated without fragrance, alcohol, sulfate, dye, parabens, soap and mineral oil.

9. Curél Foaming Facial Wash


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Price: $13.26/5 fl. Oz.

Speaking of the best cleansers for dry skin, this one was created specifically with dry and sensitive skin in mind. Another foaming face wash whose foam is soft and gentle, cleansing but non-stripping.

This cleanser is pH balanced and it doesn’t contain irritating colors or fragrances. It protects the natural ceramides in the skin, preventing them being washed off and preserving hydration in the skin.

10. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser

Price: $29.00/16 fl. Oz.

If your skin is not only dry but reactive and prone to redness, you need a cleanser that is not only non-stripping, but also calming and replenishing. Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser is creamy and softening, and it preserves the skin’s barrier.

This cleanser softens dry patches, comforts the skin and leaves it soft and smooth. It contains soybean oil, which is an emollient, as well as skin soothing beta-glucan and chamomile flower extract.

11. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser


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Price: $19.90/5 fl. Oz.

We cannot talk about the best face cleansers for dry skin without mentioning another ingredient that is perfect for dry skin and compromised barrier – squalane. Squalane supports the skin’s lipid barrier, softens and smooths the skin and it soothes redness and irritation.

The Ordinary’s Squalane Cleanser is soap-free and non-comedogenic. Its balm-like texture turns into an oil-like consistency when you rub it between your palms for 10 – 30 seconds.

12. Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser


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Price: $23.00/5 fl. Oz.

This face cleanser is great for dry skin because it also contains squalane, as well as glycerin, vitamin E and sweet almond, apricot kernel and avocado oils. All moisturizing, all soothing and all great for most skin types, and definitely for dry skin.

You can also use this cleanser if your skin is sensitive, as the formula is gentle, pH-balanced and dermatologist-tested. You can use it every day but, like with any other facial cleanser, make sure to apply a moisturizer right after.

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