A Derm's Guide To The Best Moisturizing Soaps, From Shower Oils To Hand Soap


If you have naturally dry skin, whether it's genetic or influenced by environmental factors, you've got to be extra careful about the products you use on your face and in the shower. Because labels can be misleading and ingredients are tricky to decipher, Bustle turned to an expert to help narrow down the five best soaps for dry skin.

According to Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skin Care, there are a few crucial things to keep in mind when searching for a face or body soap that won't exacerbate dry skin. "It’s best to use a sulfate-free liquid cleanser," she says. "Moisture-trapping cleansers work well, and creamy milks are more moisture-trapping." She also recommends looking for cleansers that contain ceramides, which help reinforce your skin's barrier and prevent moisture loss.

As for which ingredients dry skin types should avoid? Most importantly, "Avoid sulfate-based foaming cleansers since they can dry and irritate skin. Look at the ingredients and don’t use anything with sodium-/ammonium-laurel or laureth sulfate." Additionally, try and avoid formulas that contain ethyl or denatured alcohol.

Dr. Loretta also has a few other tips for helping combat dry skin. "Bath with tepid (room temperature, not hot) water. Stay in the shower or tub until your fingertips wrinkle, a sign that you’ve loaded up your surface skin with water." After washing your body with a moisturizing soap or cleanser, "come out and pat dry. Then, apply a barrier cream, like Aveeno, Lubriderm, or CeraVe cream to trap in moisture."

Now that you know how to properly treat your dry skin, scroll on to discover five of the best moisturizing soaps on the market.

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Best Body Wash: CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

"CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash is a good drugstore brand that features moisture-trapping ceramides and is free of sulfates," Dr. Loretta says about her top pick. This is one of those creamy milks she talked about, which will prevent skin from feeling tight or dry. The formula is free of fragrance and soap, which can both cause irritation on reaction-prone skin, and is accepted by the National Eczema Association. Meanwhile, it contains those handy ceramides that will help strengthen your skin's natural barrier, which tends to be compromised in dry, sensitive skin types.

Fans say: "Literally the most moisturizing body wash I’ve ever used. I was afraid I wouldn’t feel clean and that definitely was not the case at all. A little goes a long way, I actually enjoy that it’s truly unscented, and my skin felt so soft after..."

Best Face Soap: Dove Beauty Bar

If you prefer to use bar soap, this is the one Dr. Loretta recommends. "Most bar soaps are very drying, so I recommend Dove for a bar. For budget-conscious consumers (as most of us are!) Dove's Beauty Bar is great since it’s a cold cream in a bar and not soap." Enriched with Dove's signature moisturizing cream, this bar leaves skin soft instead of feeling stripped. You can use it on your face, body, and hands — though note that this formula does contain parfum, if your skin tends to react negatively to added fragrance.

Fans say: "I love it, there’s nothing that smells cleaner or leaves my skin softer. I have super sensitive skin and it’s the only bar, soap, cleanser, etc. I can use on my face without major issues."

Best Shower Oil: Bioderma Ultra-Nourishing Shower Oil

Oil-based cleansers are another great choice for dry skin, since they're packed with nourishing, skin-softening oils — and this one from French pharmacy brand Bioderma is one of the best options out there. Packed with vegetal biolipids, which soothe and moisturize skin, and a patented Barrier Skin Therapy complex that helps prevent irritation, this shower oil provides 24 hour hydration and instantly relieves skin that's been feeling dry, itchy, or otherwise uncomfortable. The hypoallergenic formula is free of parabens, soap, and preservatives, and it's also noncomedogenic, making it a safe choice if you're prone to body acne. It can also be used to help relieve eczema symptoms like itching, irritation, and flaky skin.

What's more, it comes in a massive 33-ounce bottle, so you'll be stocked for ages. And though it's formulated for use on your body, some reviewers have had luck using it on their face.

Fans say: "My skin has been the driest ever this winter. After only one night, my skin already feels so much softer and more moisturized. I can imagine that a few weeks in to using this will make a huge difference! Definitely for you if you are dealing with itchy, flaky, dry winter skin."

Best Multi-Use Soap: Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Lavendar Soap

Made of USDA certified-organic ingredients — and just a handful at that — Dr. Bronner's multi-use soaps are a cult-favorite among clean beauty enthusiasts. The formula is packed with oils (like coconut, hemp, jojoba, and olive) that leave skin nourished and soft. Then, it contains an added dose of natural (not synthetic) fragrance that smells of relaxing lavender. Free of detergents, sulfates, preservatives, and other common irritants, you can use this soap as a body wash, shampoo, hand soap, and even as a general cleaning product.

Fans say: "I have never used Castile soap before I bought this. I love the versatility of the soap- a body wash, laundry detergent, dish soap, etc. This was perfect for a month long trip backpacking around Europe where saving on weight really matters. The lavender smell is lovely too!"

Best Face Wash: La Roche-Posay Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

For a face wash that will replenish moisture in dry skin, La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Cleanser is one of the best formulas you can buy. This French pharmacy pick, which was created with dry and/or sensitive skin in mind, is packed with skin-soothing prebiotic thermal spring water, barrier-strengthening ceramides, and glycerin, a humectant that attracts moisture. It also contains niacinamide, an ingredient that's become popular over the years for its ability to do everything from brighten and even out skin to soothe inflammation. The noncomedogenic formula is free of soap, sulfates, parabens, oil, and fragrance, making it a safe choice for just about every skin type, whether it's dry, sensitive, combination, or acne-prone

Fans say: "My skin was dry and flaking. Ugh. I use higher end products so I was blaming my swimming and looking for more hydration. I made a couple of product and process changes including this facial cleaner. Bam — flaking gone. Skin clean, not taut or dry."

This post was originally published by Ellie Nan Storck on 12/29/2017. It was updated and republished on 4/2/2020.

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