When you have dry skin, you have to be especially careful about which cleanser you use. Use the wrong one, and you can wind up stripping your skin of precious moisture, or if you have dry and sensitive skin — the two often go hand-in-hand — you may find yourself dealing with inflammation or irritation. But have no fear: I'm here to guide you through the best soothing and moisturizing cleansers on the market right now, from one dry-skinned person to another. I've tried dozens, maybe even hundreds, of cleansers over the years, and in my opinion, the ones featured below are the very best face washes for dry skin out there. They're all free of sulfates, which dry, sensitive skin types may find irritating, and they're all loaded with hydrating and barrier-repairing ingredients (like ceramides) to keep your skin moisturized and strong.
Some other tips for dealing with dry skin? Apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock in all that moisture, use cold or tepid water to wash your face, slather on a hydrating serum and nourishing moisturizer after cleansing, and consider investing in a humidifier for your home. And of course, use one of the best cleansers for dry skin, featured below.
1. Author's Pick
I use this Avène Gentle Milk Cleanser every morning and night; I like to apply it like a mask and leave it on for a few minutes before washing it off — the result is smooth, soft, comfortable-feeling skin. (Note that you don't have to wash it off — you could wipe it along your face with a cotton round like you would with micellar water). Infused with soothing thermal spring water, it has a delightfully creamy texture and removes makeup surprisingly well. Note that for people with extreme sensitivities, this cleanser does contain propylene glycol and fragrance, although the scent is really delicate — think subtle and fresh.
2. The Derm-Favorite
Almost every dermatologist I've interviewed over the years has mentioned this CeraVe cleanser as a favorite of theirs for their dry-skinned patients. It's extremely gentle, it's certified by the National Eczema Association, and it can be used on your face, body, and even hands — anywhere that could use some extra moisture. Key ingredients include hydrating hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which help promote a strong skin barrier, while you won't find any sulfates, fragrance, soap, or propylene glycol in the formula. Housed in a massive 19-ounce bottle, it's a great value for just under $20.
3. Another Excellent Choice
Another great, creamy, hydrating cleanser, this one combines the soothing thermal water of the Avène cleanser with the skin-strengthening ceramides of the CeraVe cleanser. It also contains niacinamide, an incredible ingredient that helps promote a clearer, more even-looking complexion, so this could be a particularly good choice for people with dry, acne-prone skin. It's free of sulfates, soap, and fragrance, and it comes in a generously sized 13.5-ounce bottle — for less than $15! Sensitive skin types should be able to use this extra-gentle cleanser without worry, though it does contain propylene glycol, to which some people are allergic.
4. Best For Very Sensitive Skin
For people with the most delicate, reaction-prone skin — think conditions like rosacea, dermatitis, and eczema — there's this ultra gentle cleanser from Vanicream. It contains just a handful of ingredients altogether, so you won't find any of the most common chemical irritants here: no sulfates, fragrance, propylene glycol, soap, masking fragrance, lanolin, formaldehyde, or even gluten (it's also certified by the National Eczema Association). I really like this cleanser — I use it when my skin is feeling particularly irritable — but I will say it's not as moisturizing as some of the others on this list, so you'll want to follow up with some nice, rich serums and creams.
5. Best Cleansing Oil
If you're all about double cleansing, make this Purito From Green Cleansing Oil the first step in your face-washing routine. Like the Vanicream cleanser, it contains just a handful of ingredients, most of them being plant-based oils. Despite this, it has a surprisingly lightweight texture and refreshing feel. Use it on its own when your skin is feeling particularly tight and dry, or pair it with a water-based cleanser to expertly remove heavy makeup.
6. Honorable Mention
One last moisturizing cleanser for your consideration: this First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser. It's kind of similar to the Vanicream cleanser in that it's free of most common chemical irritants (including fragrance, sulfates, and propylene glycol), but it steps things up a notch in the skin care department with an infusion of antioxidants, plus skin-soothers and hydrators like aloe, allantoin, and glycerin. That said, it's a tad pricey considering its small-ish size — perhaps this cleanser's only flaw!