Skincare Experts Agree: These Are the 10 Best Face Washes for Dry Skin


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While moisturizer or face serum might be the first thing you typically reach for to combat dry skin, you might be skipping a crucial step: your face wash. While it’s true that some face washes cleanse away more than just dirt and grime (like natural oils), a hydrating face wash for dry skin can play a key role in locking in moisture. In fact, many cleansers contain powerful hydrating ingredients, like squalane, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin, that work wonders on dry skin. We tapped the experts to give us insight on what to look for in a face wash for dry skin, and the best options on the market.ย  Scroll ahead to shop our best picks for a supple and revitalized complexion.


Experts In This Article


The Best Face Washes for Dry Skin, at a Glance:

What To Look For in a Face Wash for Dry Skin

Experts agree to look for moisturizing facial washes (and body washes) with ingredients that help draw and seal moisture into the skin, like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalane, and certain emollients, like jojoba seed oil. Ceramides, which are the fatty lipids that keep the skin barrier healthy and strong, are another important ingredient to look out for.ย  A good rule of thumb while shopping is to look for words like “hydrating” or “gentle” on product labels, as these typically indicate that they’re extra moisturizing and won’t strip your skin.

As for the formula, derms like Yeeta Gadav, MD, founder of Facet Dermatology, prefer cream-based cleansers for delivering mega moisture. “Dry skin needs as much moisture as it can get” she says. “Foaming and gel cleansers tend not to impart much nourishment and are ideal for cutting through excess sebum in those with oily skin, which is why it’s best to look for creamy formulas, oil-based cleansers, or cleansing balms.”

What to Avoid

“For my patients with dry skin, I always tell them that their barrier is sensitive, so they should avoid any washes that will strip the oil from their skin further,” explains dermatologist Noreen Galaria, MD, FAAD. “Washes that strip your natural oils and make the skin feel tingly or ‘squeaky clean’ are definite no-nos. This means you have removed the oil that your face needed to prevent dryness.”

She recommends generally avoiding products that are made for acne, oily skin, or that say they are “purifying” or “deep cleansing”, as these are going to likely contain drying active ingredients, like salicylic acid, alcohol, and benzoyl peroxide, that go the extra mile to suck moisture out of skin. This includes cleansing foams, due to sulfate that can be a bit irritating to the sensitive eye area.

Another tip? Avoid shelling out a ton of cash on a cleanserโ€”you don’t have to. “As the science of skin care improves, you can now find the formulation you like for the concerns that you have,” Dr. Galaria adds. “When it comes to washes remember that it will only be on your face for seconds,ย  so itโ€™s important not to spend too much money on them. You are literally washing that money down the drain.”

The 10 Best Face Washes for Dry Skin

Best Overall: Cerave, Hydrating Facial Cleanser โ€” $14.00

Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, ceramides

Many of the dermatologists we spoke to recommended Ceraveโ€™s Hydrating Facial Cleanser for its skin-quenching superpowers. Formulated with a burst of hyaluronic acid, it goes beyond the basics to remove impurities while replenishing your skinโ€™s moisture with essential ceramides. Designed for dry skin, it delivers a gentle yet effective cleanse, leaving your skin feeling soft and refreshed. Best of all, itโ€™s fragrance-free and sensitive-skin friendly, meaning itโ€™s suitable for all skin types.

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  • Affordable
  • Hydrating
  • Derm-approved
  • Gentle

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Runner Up: Cetaphil, Gentle Skin Cleanser โ€” $12.00

Key ingredients: glycerin, vitamin B5, vitamin B3

Cetaphil is another household name in skin care thanks to its affordable, derm-approved products that leave skin happy and healthy. Another highly recommended face wash for dry skin is the brandโ€™s Gentle Skin Cleanser, which nourishes while it cleanses. โ€œThis is an easy-to-find cleanser that can even be used without water in a pinch,โ€ says Dr. Galaria. โ€œWith moisturizers that include glycerin, panthenol, and niacinamide, it will remove impurities without drying.โ€

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  • Affordable
  • Hydrating
  • Derm-approved
  • Gentle
  • Not ideal for oily skin
  • Not as hydrating as others

Best Splurge: Elemis, Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm โ€” $68.00

Key ingredients: elderberry oil, starflower oil, padina pavonica

If you want to treat yourself, Dr. Yadav recommends Elemisโ€™ Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm. โ€œThis is a very rich and elegant cleansing balm that is formulated with many different plant oils and waxes to help break down dirt and oil while leaving skin very moisturized after you emulsify the formula and wash it away,โ€ she says. The luxurious texture and pretty aroma deliver a spa-like indulgence, turning your daily cleansing into a sensorial delight. Bonus: it doubles as a nourishing mask for an added boost of radiance when you need it most.

  • Hydrating
  • Anti-aging benefits
  • Derm-approved
  • Doubles as a mask
  • Not ideal for oily skin
  • Expensive

Best on Amazon: Aveeno, Calm + Restore Nourishing Oat Cleanser โ€” $9.00

Key ingredients: oat extract, feverfew extract

If youโ€™re shopping on Amazon, you canโ€™t go wrong with Aveeno, which makes products infused with oat and oat extract. โ€œOat is very gentle and remarkably nourishing to the skin, leaving it well moisturized and comfortable,โ€ says Dr. Yadav. The Calm + Restore Cleanser is also infused with feverfew extract, which is beloved for its inflammatory and calming properties. And thereโ€™s no parabens, no fragrances, no phthalatesโ€”just clean goodness for your sensitive skin.

  • Affordable
  • Gentle
  • Hydrating
  • Soothing
  • Derm-approved
  • Limited active ingredients compared to other cleansers

Best for Sensitive Skin: Vanicream, Liquid Face Cleanser โ€” $9.00

Key ingredients: water, glycerin

Searching for a no-frills, sensitive skin-friendly cleanser? Look no further than the Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser, which comes recommended by medical aesthetician Gendai Echezona, MD, for those with allergies or sensitivities. โ€œIt checks many boxes for those with dry skin as is soap-free, sulfate-free, fragrance-free and doesnโ€™t contain common skin irritants,โ€ she says. โ€œIt provides a clean feel without causing excessive dryness. This makes it a great, affordable choice for dry or sensitive skin.โ€ This versatile cleanser can be used on both the face and body, simplifying your routine and offering a cost-effective solution for an all-in-one cleanser.

  • Affordable
  • Gentle
  • Derm-approved
  • Hydrating
  • Multi-use
  • Contains less actives than other cleansers

Best for Pores: The Ordinary, Squalane Cleanser โ€” $11.00

Key ingredients: squalane, glycerin

A powerhouse designed to quench your skinโ€™s thirst while refining your pores, this cleanser boasts a luxurious blend of squalane, known for its moisturizing prowess, ensuring your skin is not just cleansed but deeply hydrated. Itโ€™s recommended by Austin-based medical aesthetician Kristin Gunn, CLT, LMA, who notes its gentle formula free from parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates, mineral oils, and more. While known for its effects on moisture retention, squalane also works synergistically to purify pores, reducing their appearance over time. And since itโ€™s noncomedogenic, you wonโ€™t have to worry about them getting clogged.

  • Affordable
  • Hydrating
  • Gentle
  • Non-comedogenic

Best for Redness: Paula’s Choice, Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser โ€” $23.00

Key ingredients: green tea, chamomile, glycerin

Dealing with dryness and redness? This soothing face wash from Paulaโ€™s Choice is made for you. โ€œWith a smooth and soft texture, this hydrating cleanser contains green tea and chamomile to reduce redness and calm irritated skin and glycerin to improve moisture,โ€ says board-certified dermatologist, Brendan Camp, MD.

Each batch is also infused with skin-loving ingredients like ceramides and antioxidants to not only clear away impurities but also replenish your moisture barrier. The gentle, airy foam embraces your skin, leaving it feeling refreshed, balanced, and deeply hydrated.

  • Affordable
  • Derm-approved
  • Hydrating
  • Soothing
  • Gentle

Best Foam: EltaMD, Foaming Facial Cleanser โ€” $33.00

Key ingredients: pineapple enzyme

While foam cleansers arenโ€™t the first choice for hydration from skincare experts, there are some that are better than others. Enter, EltaMDโ€™s foamy cleanser whichโ€”although itโ€™ll get you squeaky cleanโ€”wonโ€™t strip your skin of its natural oils in the process.

โ€œIt is surfactant-free and uses bromelain, an enzyme from pineapples, to create foam without causing dryness,โ€ says Dr. Echezona. โ€œThis enzyme and amino acid blend effectively removes makeup and impurities, reduces inflammation, and is gentle enough to be used twice a day.โ€

  • Gentle
  • Expert-approved
  • Hydrating
  • Surfactant-free
  • Pricey
  • Not fragrance-free

Best Milk Cleanser: Neutrogena, Hydro Boost Soothing Milk Facial Cleanser โ€” $12.00

Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin

A milk cleanser, also known as โ€œskin milkโ€, is a type of facial cleanser that is formulated with a milky, creamy consistency. This type of cleanser is known for its gentle and nourishing properties, making it suitable for various skin types, including sensitive and dry skin.

Neutrogenaโ€™s milky Hydro Boost cleanser comes recommended by Dr. Camp, thanks to the mild, fragrance-free formula. Enriched with Neutrogenaโ€™s renowned Hydro Boost technology, this milk cleanser quenches your skinโ€™s thirst, infusing it with a surge of hydrating ingredients, including hyaluronic acid. As you cleanse, it effortlessly replenishes moisture, leaving your skin feeling supple and revitalized.

  • Affordable
  • Soothing
  • Expert-approved
  • Hydrating

Best Cleansing Balm: Wander Beauty, B.O.M. Voyage Cleansing Balm โ€” $34.00

Key ingredients: primrose oil, jojoba seed oil, pear extract

Dr. Yadav loves this cleansing balm which skips the traditional jar for a convenient, travel-friendly tube. โ€œThe nourishing formula features moisturizing jojoba and evening primrose oils, and its texture transforms into an oil when massaged into the skin,โ€ she explains. โ€œIt then emulsifies into a milk once itโ€™s mixed with water, rinsing away to leave your skin feeling clean but soft.โ€

  • Derm-approved
  • Hydrating
  • Soothing
  • Convenient
  • Pricey
  • Not suitable for oily skin

FAQS

Can a face wash for dry skin also be effective for sensitive skin?

Absolutely! Many face washes for dry skin are also suitable for sensitive skin. Look for products with gentle and hypoallergenic ingredients to avoid irritation. Always perform a patch test before regular use to ensure compatibility with your skin type.

How often should people with dry skin wash their face?

“I would always recommend washing both morning and night daily,” says Colleen Carey, former makeup artist, aesthetician, and founder of Skin Rx. “For nighttime washing, I recommend double cleansing to remove all makeup, oil, and environmental elements for a fresh face to fall asleep on. Don’t forget to wash your pillowcase regularly to keep fresh skin clean as well!”

Are natural or organic face washes good for dry skin?

Natural and organic face washes often contain botanical extracts and essential oils that can provide excellent hydration for dry skin. However, always check with your dermatologist before adding in a new product into your rotation you might not be sure about.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.





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