The 10 Best Soaps For Dry Skin

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by Ellie Nan Storck
Originally Published: 

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 best soaps for dry skin.

According to Dr. Loretta Ciraldo M.D., F.A.A.D., 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 to avoid formulas that contain ethyl or denatured alcohol.

Dr. Loretta has a few more 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 10 of the best moisturizing soaps on the market.


Best Body Wash For Dry Skin

"CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash is a good drugstore [product] 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.

Relevant review: “This is an awesome product! I have somewhat sensitive skin that was getting very dry in the winter weather. It’s not completely unscented but it’s very light and pleasant smelling. I have struggled with little bumps on my upper arms my whole life and they are practically gone after using this for a week. My skin feels smoother, more moisturized, and cleaner. Buy this!”


Best Body Wash For Dry, Sensitive Skin

If you have very sensitive, dry skin, you need a basic body wash like this one from Vanicream, aka the sensitive skin experts. It doesn’t contain anything that might set your skin off (like fragrance, sulfates, and other common allergens), but instead has a very simple formula that’s rich in gentle moisturizers, like glycerin and panthenol, which helps your skin retain moisture over time. It even boasts the seal of approval from the National Eczema Association.

Relevant review: “Great product! Doesn't irritate my sensitive skin, even when I use it on my face in the shower! Leaves my skin feeling smooth, soft, and clean. Clean scent, not too strong and tons of lather unlike most sensitive skin washes/cleaners. I highly recommend this.”


Best Body Wash For Itchy Or Eczema-Prone Skin

To help relieve the uncomfortable symptoms associated with dry skin, like itching, or if you’ve been diagnosed with eczema, try this Eucerin body wash. The star ingredient in here is colloidal oatmeal, which has long been used as a remedy to soothe and treat itchy, irritated skin, though it’s also made with ceramides to promote a strong skin barrier. It has a creamy, nourishing consistency, and doesn’t contain any fragrance or SLS.

Relevant review: “Okay, I don’t say this lightly. You need this if you have eczema. This stuff has CHANGED my life. [...] it took about 2 weeks to completely clear my eczema. I mean CLEAR it completely when I was suffering for MONTHS. [...] I’m telling you that this has been a God sent. Worth EVERY cent.”


Best Shower Oil For Dry Skin

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 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, many reviewers use it as a face wash, too.

Relevant review: “I have common Ichthyosis which is a skin disorder causing dry, scaly skin. [...] I just started using Bioderma Atoderm Shower Oil for a week and the results are just amazing. I have never experienced the softness and relief this product give to my skin. I even use it in my face. The smell is soft and relaxing. I also use Atoderm cream so the results are even better. I highly recommend this product to everybody who wants to treat their skin appropriately. I am very happy with this shower oil.”

Editor’s note: Shop for more nourishing shower oils here.


Best Hand Soap For Dry Skin

Hand soaps that don’t contain sulfates are a rare breed, which is what makes this soap from Tom’s of Maine such a unique find. The sulfate-free formula is rich in prebiotics, which can help keep your skin strong, healthy, and balanced, and it also contains glycerin and a couple of plant-derived oils to nourish and soften your skin. Choose from five scents: rose, peppermint, green apple, lavender, and orange.

Relevant review: “Best hand soap ever made. I get cracked knuckles from over washing whenever I use any other brand. This not only prevents that but also completely heals already cracked knuckles within 2 days. Absolutely the very best hand soap I’ve ever used.”


Best Face Soap For Dry Skin

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 — and this pack of 14 bars for under $20 is an unbeatable value, and will see you through the next year (if not more). 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.

Relevant review: “Dove bars Won't dry out your skin and you will smell so good. What a treat to not have to lather and slather heavy moisturizers after a shower.”


Best Face Wash For Dry Skin

For a creamy 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 recently 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.

Relevant review: “A beautiful gentle, non fragranced, non irritating, non foaming, non-stripping cleanser. It’s very mild and doesn’t leave skin tight or stripped. I recently abandoned cleansers with “soap” or SLS in the search for something more gentle. This cleanser fits the bill. It took me a while to make this leap because I couldn’t rationalize how something this gentle will clean my oily-congested-acne prone skin. I’ve always gravitate towards foaming cleansers that leave your skin squieaky clean. In hind sight, all that stripping probably only irritated and inflamed my skin further. I’m happy to report that making the switch did not make my skin break out. Actually it feels more balanced than ever. I have no need to reach for my other (harsher) cleansers.”


Best Facial Cleansing Oil For Dry Skin

If you love how effective oil-rich cleansers are at removing makeup, Olivarrier’s All Barrier Relief face wash is a great choice for dry skin. In addition to being packed with soothing rose water and nourishing, botanically derived oils (like avocado, olive, and jojoba), this K-beauty pick also contains ceramides to promote strong, healthy skin. It’s free of common irritants like sulfates, fragrance, and drying alcohols, so it’s a safe choice for people with sensitive skin.

Relevant review: “I really love this product. It's gentle and makes my skin feel soft and moisturized. Very soothing to sensitive skin.”

Editor’s note: In the market for oil cleansers? Find more here.


Best Face & Body Wash (For Babies, Too)

You — or your baby — can use this ultra-gentle gel cleanser from head to toe. It’s from Mustela’s Stelatopia line, which is made with eczema-prone skin in mind (it’s accepted by the National Eczema Association), so it’s naturally a great choice for anyone with dry, sensitive skin. The nourishing, non-lathering formula is made without sulfates, steroids, and fragrance, and instead, is rich in moisturizing avocado extract, sunflower oil, and shea butter.

Relevant review: “This is the ONLY line of products that has cleared my children’s skin issues. Even when they are broken out this product is gentle and cleans well. Both my children have relied on this to keep their skin smooth and without eczema bumps. I recommend it for anyone who has eczema or extremely sensitive skin.”


Best Multi-Use Soap For Dry Skin

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, and though it comes in lots of scented versions, this baby-safe formula has zero fragrance. 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.

Relevant review: “I live in a desert climate and have very dry skin. I'm also very concerned about the chemicals that are in the products on use on my body/skin. I find Dr. Bronners liquid soap meets the strict standards that I need in a beauty product. The smell is all natural and smells amazing! It also lasts a long time. I use it as a body wash and it lasts me approx 2-3 months. Lavender is my favorite scent.”


Dr. Loretta Ciraldo M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skin Care

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