The 6 Best Cleansers For Dry, Sensitive Skin
My skin has always been on the dry side, but for years, I was in denial that it was sensitive, too. Because my primary hobby is testing out new skin care products, I refused to accept that I might need to lay off the nightly beauty experiments — until a bout of perioral dermatitis forced me to accept reality. One of my dermatologist's first recommendations was to switch to a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser, and since then, I haven't looked back. The good news is, if you're shopping for the best cleansers for dry, sensitive skin, there are tons of suitable formulas out there — you just need to know what to look for. Below, my handy guide to choosing the best face wash that will neither dry out nor irritate your delicate skin.
If you're not entirely sure that your dry skin is on the sensitive side, it's still always better to play it safe. In fact, even if your skin tolerates most beauty products well, why would you want to use a cleanser packed with synthetic fragrances, drying sulfates, and other questionable ingredients when there are so many cleaner formulas out there?
So whether you have dry, sensitive skin like me or you're just interested in transitioning to a gentler face wash, the six picks below are sure to keep any unwanted reactions at bay. None of them contain any sulfates, synthetic fragrances, or other known irritants, and they're all hydrating, so your dry skin will be left squeaky-clean and baby-soft. And of course, don't forget to follow your cleansing routine with an equally gentle moisturizer to prevent further dryness and dehydration.
1. The Overall Best Cleanser For Dry, Sensitive Skin
Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser For Sensitive Skin
Based on the formula, price, and effectiveness, Vanicream's facial cleanser is the best choice for most dry, sensitive skin types (and budgets). The ingredients list is nice and simple, with the first two ingredients being water and glycerin (a humectant that attracts moisture). Since it's so gentle and so hydrating, it's a great choice not only for sensitive skin, but also for relieving the symptoms of conditions like eczema and psoriasis, which include itching, severeness dryness, and flaking. Multiple reviewers said it helped with their baby's seborrheic dermatitis, while others with acne and rosacea say it's the only cleanser they can use without causing further breakouts and flare-ups. Plus, it removes makeup like a champ.
Doesn't contain: sulfates, soap, oil, gluten, betaine, amines, amides, dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, phosphates, formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasers.
2. Best Drugstore Cleanser For Dry, Sensitive Skin
Garnier SkinActive Gentle Sulfate-Free Foaming Face Wash
Another great, affordable option is this pick from Garnier, a drugstore brand who's been killing it with their product launches over the last couple of years. Like in Vanicream's formula, the first two ingredients are water and glycerin, but Garnier's list is much longer. Typically, the shorter the ingredients list, the better — but this isn't always the case, especially when Garnier has included ingredients like salicylic acid, a gentle exfoliator that unclogs pores and sheds dead skin cells to provide clearer, softer skin. Again, because of the high dose of glycerin, this formula will be nice and moisturizing on dry faces. That being said, it does contain propylene glycol, which some people are allergic to — so always do a precautionary spot test on the inside of your arm if you're unsure.
Doesn't contain: sulfates, alcohol, fragrance, parabens, oil, soap
3. Best French Pharmacy Cleanser For Dry, Sensitive Skin
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser
One of my personal favorite cleansers for dry, sensitive skin is this creamy, milky formula from French pharmacy favorite La Roche-Posay. Like the first two products, you'll find water and glycerin at the top of the ingredients list — but this formula takes things a step further in the hydration department by adding ceramides, which are lipids that help your skin retain moisture, and are therefore crucial to maintaining a healthy protective barrier. Also, La Roche-Posay's formula contains their signature prebiotic thermal water, as well as niacinamide, two soothing ingredients that help calm angry skin and soothe irritation. Out of all the products on this list, this bottle contains the most product — 13.5 ounces — which the brand says is enough for a three-month supply. However, this is another formula that contains propylene glycol, so avoid it if you have a known allergy (or again, precede with a spot test if you're not sure).
Doesn't contain: sulfates, soap, oil, fragrance, parabens
4. Best Micellar Water For Dry, Sensitive Skin
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water
Lucky for you, Bioderma's cult-favorite micellar water was formulated with sensitive skin in mind, so it's suitable for most delicate and reaction-prone skin types to use. In case you're a micellar water newbie, let me sum it up for you: it's a rinsing-optional makeup remover and cleanser that whisks away waterproof mascara and liquid lipstick with ease. It's lightly moisturizing, too, so instead of drying skin out (or making it feel super oily, like most makeup removers), it leaves your face smooth and soft. Yes, you'll find propylene glycol here, but since that's a fairly unique allergy, most sensitive-skin types should be able to use this without risk (I use it nightly and have never experienced any sort of irritation).
Doesn't contain: sulfates, fragrance, parabens, alcohol, silicones, oil, soap
5. Best Cleansing Oil For Dry, Sensitive Skin
Nmark Muji Sensitive Skin Oil Cleansing
Muji's cleansing oil for sensitive skin is a bit harder to find, but it's worth the hunt. Cleansing oils are especially great for dry skin and removing makeup, but they're also ideal for double-cleansing, which is the process of using an oil cleanser first, followed by a water-based cleanser, for a deeper clean. Muji's formula contains a host of plant-based ingredients, like olive oil, jojoba oil, apricot juice, peach leaf extract, and orange flower water (yum), as well as glycerin, that handy, moisture-attracting powerhouse that's essential in products for dry skin. This combo will leave skin moisturized, soft, and deeply cleansed of impurities like makeup, dirt, and oil. The only downside is that this formula contains parabens; however, there's no real research to suggest that parabens in skin care products are actually harmful, though since they're *technically* chemicals, some clean beauty devotees prefer to steer clear of them.
Doesn't contain: sulfates, fragrance, colorants, mineral oil, alcohol
6. Best High-End Cleanser For Dry, Sensitive Skin
Pai Organic Gentle Hydrating Camellia & Rose Cleanser for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, Pai is the brand worth splurging on. Their hydrating cleanser is the perfect luxe pick to treat your dry, sensitive skin to, and because this formula is free of any ingredients known to trigger redness, it's rosacea-friendly, to boot. Not only does it expertly remove makeup, but it also helps balance oil production and keep your skin's pH levels in check. The formula contains a host of sophisticated, plant-based ingredients like camellia oil, which is rich in vitamin E and the fatty acid, omega-9, as well as certified-organic glycerin and deeply nourishing shea butter, making this a most hydrating and moisturizing cleanser. Other key ingredients are rose oil, sweet almond oil, lavender oil, and may chang oil, which work to soothe and nourish irritated, stressed-out skin. Also, this cleanser is certified-organic by the Soil Association — think of it as the UK's USDA — and it comes with a dual-sided, reusable cloth so you can cleanse and exfoliate skin more deeply.
Doesn't contain: sulfates, detergents, paraffin oil, parabens, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, formaldehyde, alcohol
Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.