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. Editor'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.
Relevant review: “This face wash is very gentle and moisturizing. I have dry sensitive skin and it never feel stripped after using this. It also does a nice job of removing eye make up. I rub it on my face dry, and then rinse with warm water.”
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 large 16-ounce bottle, it's a great value for just under $15.
Relevant review: “I love this cleanser so much I can't even describe how much in words really. It cleanses well while leaving my skin hydrated and refreshed. My skin barrier has never been more healthy. I love that it has no added fragrance. Amazing value and love the pump. Honestly I can't think of one thing I dislike about this product. Highly recommend”
3. Another Excellent Choice
Another great, creamy, hydrating cleanser, this one from La Roche-Posay 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 around $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.
Relevant review: “I have dry, sensitive skin, and i'm also on prescription tretinoin, and I absolutely love this cleanser! It's gentle enough not to irritate or cause any redness or that dry tight feeling while still cleansing enough for light makeup or even tinted waterproof sunscreen, it just leaves my skin feeling clean and hydrated. After trying lots of ‘gentle’ cleansers this is definitely a holy grail and a must-try if you have dry sensitive skin.”
4. Best For Very Sensitive Skin
- Also available on Walmart, $8
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 a nice, rich serum and cream.
Relevant review: “My skin is SUPER sensitive. If I use normal face wash my skin will crack and dry and I will be in so much pain. I really struggled to find a face wash good for me and my skin. Well I never have to look again. This is perfect it's so soft on my skin. I have 0 irritation after using it. My skin was a little spotty prior to using this but they have cleared up now. I use it twice a day (1 in morning 1 at night) my skin is so soft. Im a little annoyed I never found this sooner after wasting lots of money on very expensive high end brands that never worked. I never thought that I would get such a great reaction to this face wash. I would recommend it to everyone whether or not you have sensitive skin.”
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.
Relevant review: “Really good product. Left ( my sensitive) skin clean and contains a minimal amount of ingredients. No smell ( which i like) and foams lightly after mixing with water. My skin didn’t feel tight/ dry afterwards.”
6. Best Micellar Water
Though not a face wash in the traditional sense, if you’re looking for the best makeup remover for dry skin, this is it. All of Bioderma’s micellar waters are well up to the task of removing every last trace of residue (including waterproof mascara), but this one comes from the brand’s Hydrabio line, which was created specifically for dry skin. On days when you’ve been wearing makeup, follow up with a light rinse using any of the other cleansers on this list; on no makeup-days, feel free to follow up with just a few splashes of water. (Technically, you don’t need to rinse micellar water off, but it’s still a good idea to to ensure your face is really clean.)
Relevant review: “I bought the small one try it out. I was removing my makeup with wipes which were super harsh on my already dry skin. This product removes my makeup so well and it gives me that fresh after feeling. Best part is it doesn't dry my skin. I already bought the 16.7 fl oz one!”
7. Best Cleansing Jelly
If you love jelly-textured cleansers like Glossier Milky Jelly, you’ve got to try this deliciously hydrating cleanser from Belif’s Aqua Bomb line. Though it does lather up into a foam, it doesn’t contain any SLS or SLES, so it won’t leave your skin feeling stripped. Naturally then, this is a nice choice for people who do prefer the types of cleansers that leave their skin feeling squeaky clean.
Relevant review: “This jelly cleanser starts as a gel but becomes a slightly foamy wash when you add water and apply to your face. It smells like a lemon drop [...] It leaves my skin feeling clean without drying it out.”
8. Best Splurge
Even the Queen of the skin care world, Caroline Hirons, likes Kate Somerville’s Goat Milk Moisturizing Cleanser — and if it’s good enough for Hirons, it’s good enough for me. Though it’s pricey, the sulfate-free, non-foaming formula is totally worth it. The two key ingredients in here are goat’s milk and manuka honey, both of which are incredibly nourishing. The creamy cleanser leaves skin feeling comfortable and soft, and has a light, pleasant scent. If you have dry skin and like to splurge on a luxurious face wash, this is the pick for you.
Relevant review: “I love the moisturizing effect of this cleanser. I have dry, aging skin and this has proved to be very beneficial to the appearance and feel of my facial skin.”
9. Best Cleansing Balm
- Also available on Ulta Beauty, $24
Another great method for removing makeup is a cleansing balm, which works similarly to a cleansing oil. While cleansing oils are liquids, cleansing balms start off solid: As you rub a dime-sized amount onto your (dry) skin, it will melt down into an oil. Also like cleansing oils, cleansing balms are an ideal first step in a double-cleansing routine (whether you go with an oil or a balm is a simple matter of personal preference — they both work equally well at removing makeup). This is one of the most popular cleansing balms out there. It’s made by BANILA CO, best known for their original Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm, but this is the nourishing version, making it an even more suitable choice for dry skin.
Relevant review: “All i can say is i am a Fan for sure. Excellent formula for anyone with dry, dehydrated skin also if you live in a dry environment. The formula is rich and very very creamy. A little goes a long way. Excellent product, excellent formula.”
10. 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!
Relevant review: “This has been my go-to face cleanser for about 3 years now. I have combination skin & still break out although I'm in my 40's. :( This gets all my makeup off, really cleans, but doesn't leave my skin feeling dry & stripped, but soft, without feeling like there are extra oils on my face. The best!”
More of the best face washes for dry skin from around the web:
This article was originally published on