The 11 Best Face Washes for Dry Skin of 2023 That Will Rehydrate and Soften Skin

Rife with powerful hydrating ingredients, these cleansers work wonders on dry skin

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Face Wash for Dry Skin

InStyle / Kevin Liang

So, unless you’re Cameron Diaz, washing your face is kind of a non-negotiable. The problem is, when you have dry skin, it can be so hard to find a face wash that doesn’t completely strip your skin of moisture and leave your face feeling taut and irritated. 

The trick is to pick a cleanser that contains moisturizing powerhouses, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides and squalane, and that doesn’t contain harsh chemicals like parabens, phthalates, or sulfates. And if the face wash removes dirt and makeup efficiently, even better.

Best Overall

The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Hyaluronic Acid Serum

Sephora

What We Love: It’s deeply hydrating and considerate of the planet.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not the most glamorous product.

The INKEY List is one of a few skincare brands that have gained in popularity over the past few years. The packaging is anything but glamorous, yet their products do exactly what they promise to do at really fair prices. “The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid Cleanser is great for dry skin as its main ingredients are hyaluronic acid and inulin,” says Dr. Salome Dharamshi, a dermatologist and founder of The Sky Clinic. “These two active ingredients are great for keeping skin moisturized and hydrated while regulating pH levels for a healthy complexion.” 

It also expertly removes makeup and SPF, and totally rescues dehydrated skin. This face wash is suitable for all skin types because it’s designed to deeply cleanse as well as restore moisture and protect the skin barrier, leaving the skin clean, smooth, soft and brightened. 

While the bottle is on the smaller side, it promises 200 uses (that’s 100 days if you’re using it twice a day). This product is vegan and pregnancy and breastfeeding-safe. Plus, The INKEY List is carbon net zero-certified and cruelty-free, and committed to reducing its supply chain impact by 50 percent by the end of 2024.

Price at time of publish: $11

Size: 5 oz | Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, inulin, sugar beet extract | Texture: Cream | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best Budget

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

4.7
Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

Amazon

What We Love: It doesn’t foam, making it ideal for sensitive or dry skin.

What We Don’t Love: It won’t completely remove makeup or SPF in one wash.

Face wash is an essential, basic product so, understandably, not everyone wants to spend a small fortune. Beloved by dermatologists, Neutrogena is generally a safe bet when you’re looking to pick up a more affordable option that still works really well. This gentle cleanser is a favorite for people with sensitive or dry skin because it doesn’t foam, which can strip the skin. That said, this also means it’s not amazing for removing makeup or SPF and you may need to double cleanse.

The Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser doesn’t contain any fancy ingredients, just hydrating glycerin, so it’s a lovely, gentle cleanser that leaves your skin clean and moisturized. “This drugstore favorite is recommended by the National Eczema Association because it is gentle on skin,” says board certified dermatologist Dr. Hope Mitchell. “This facial cleanser is gentle, works well, and doesn't contain soap, parabens, or dyes.” 

She also notes that “its unique formula has only a few ingredients, which helps to keep skin hydrated and protected while it works. Since it doesn't have a scent and is so gentle, it can be used on eczema, rosacea, and other types of sensitive skin.” 

Price at time of publish: $9

Size: 12 oz | Key Ingredients: Glycerin | Texture: Cream | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best Splurge

Macrene Actives High Performance Cleanser

Macrene Actives High Performance Cleanser

Nordstrom

What We Love: You’ll get a gentle but effective cleanse and many of the plant-derived ingredients — there are 20! — also offer anti-aging benefits. 

What We Don’t Love: It works best in tandem with other Macrene Actives products, which makes for a pricey routine.

Senior beauty commerce editor, Kaitlin Clark, swears by this milky cleanser to rebalance her super dry, yet still shiny, skin, earning a permanent spot on her skincare roster. This plant-derived cleanser dissolves stubborn makeup, oil, and other impurities with ease while preserving the skin’s natural moisture level. 

The nourishing formula is infused with hydrating niacinamide, antioxidant-rich green tea, pomegranate, olive leaf and 20 (!) more plant-derived extracts, many of which are harvested from the Hudson Valley organic farm of founder board certified dermatologist, Dr. Macrene Alexiades

Bonus: Its ingredients are USDA-certified organic, so you’ll be cleansing your skin with one of the cleanest options around.

Price at time of publish: $95

Size: 3.4 oz | Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, green tea, aloe, olive leaf, mint extracts | Texture: Cream | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best Balm

Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

4.5
elemis pro collagen cleansing balm

What We Love: It smells gorgeous without resorting to synthetic fragrance.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t remove heavier makeup.

“Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm is a rich and luxurious cleansing formula,” says cosmetic physician Dr. Usman Qureshi, founder of the Luxe Skin Clinic in Glasgow, UK, who recommends this product for anyone looking for something a little more indulgent. 

“You only need to use a small amount of this balm, which will melt into the skin and go a long way to successfully remove makeup and any environmental aggressors from the skin. The formula is super hydrating, as it contains nine essential oils that work to hydrate and soothe dry skin as you cleanse.” 

These essential oils also mean the balm smells delicious without resorting to synthetic fragrance, which makes it suitable for those with sensitive skin. While this Elemis cleanser removes light makeup well, it won’t work on heavier mascara or eyeliner. It does do a great job at ridding your skin of SPF and any dirt that’s accumulated on your face throughout the day, though, leaving your face beautifully cleansed, soft and glowy.

Price at time of publish: $66

Size: 3.5 oz | Key Ingredients: Elderberry oil, padina pavonica, starflower oil | Texture: Balm | Fragrance: Blend of eucalyptus, lavender, rose and chamomile

Best Drugstore

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

5
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Amazon

What We Love: Hyaluronic acid and ceramides leave your skin hydrated and glowy.

What We Don’t Love: Some people find they break out after using the cleanser.

CeraVe’s entire line is a dermatologist’s dream, thanks to their gentle formulas that keep sensitive skin types in mind. Dr. Mitchell loves this one for its hydrating properties: “Hyaluronic acid, which is found in this cleanser, is effective at keeping moisture within the skin,” she says, adding that the three essential ceramides in the formula are also great for repairing the skin barrier. “It is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't cause clogged pores, and it has no added fragrance.”

Formulated for normal to dry skin, this cleanser utilizes MVE Delivery Technology, the brand’s proprietary system. “MVE Technology encapsulates ceramides to enable their effective delivery within the skin's barrier and their gradual release over time, providing 24 hours of continuous hydration,” Dr. Mitchell explains. “In spite of the fact that you no longer have it on your skin, it is still helping to maintain your skin's natural defenses. Use of this non-comedogenic face cleanser is a great first step in any skincare routine.” 

It’s also accepted by the National Eczema Association, so you can be sure it’s suitable for sensitive skin. Plus, it’s great for melting makeup and helping to reduce fine lines, all while keeping your skin hydrated and glowy. 

Sadly, like with most products, it’s not for everyone, and some people find they break out after using it. It’s worth buying a sample size first if you’re concerned, but rest assured that most people have no trouble with it at all — quite the opposite, in fact.

Price at time of publish: $15

Size: 19 oz | Key Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin | Texture: Gel | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best for Sensitive Skin

REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk

REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk

Sephora

What We Love: It’s super gentle while still providing deep moisture.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it was fragrance-free.

“If you're suffering from dry skin, use a gentle milk-based cleanser or a gel wash with added skin-hydrating ingredients,” explains Dr. Qureshi. “Added ingredients such as oatmeal and vitamin E can help soothe the skin. I'd recommend REN's Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk as it works well with dry skin to cleanse, calm and restore rather than remove moisture.”

Although this cleanser contains fragrance and therefore may not be suitable for reactive skin, it is formulated specially for sensitive skin, yet those with dry or combination sensitive skin will likely also love how soothing it feels while calming irritation, reducing redness, and offering serious hydration.

Price at time of publish: $38

Size: 5.1 oz | Key Ingredients: Blackcurrant seed oil, omega 3, omega 6, vitamin E, fennel seed extract | Texture: Cream | Fragrance: Scented

Best for Combination

Alo Enzyme Facial Cleanser

Alo Enzyme Facial Cleanser

Bloomingdale's

What We Love: It’s a clean product that’s ideal for all skin types, especially post-workout.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not the most affordable, though it lasts forever.

From the makers of the best cool-girl athleisure comes a super clean skincare line that’s ticking all the boxes. Amla — a berry traditionally used in Ayurveda — is the star ingredient here, providing antioxidant and glow-boosting benefits. 

This cleanser also contains aloe for soothing sensitive skin and avocado oil for deep nourishment. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, vegan, cruelty-free and harsh chemical-free, ensuring it’s suitable for all skin types. This means that if you have both dry and oily areas, you can feel confident that it will gently remove dirt while also providing moisture.

Price at time of publish: $32

Size: 115ml | Key Ingredients: Amla, aloe, pineapple enzyme | Texture: Gel | Fragrance: Citrus, botanicals, vanilla

Best for Acne

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Walmart

What We Love: It restores moisture and helps keep breakouts in check.

What We Don’t Love: The texture is a little thin.

If you have acne despite also having dry skin, you might be a little confused as to what’s going on there, but don’t worry — it’s actually pretty common. “Usually, acne is associated with oily skin; however, when the skin is too dry, it compensates for dryness by producing more sebum, and then excess dead cells and build-up can cause congestion and breakouts,” explains Dr. Dharamshi. “So face cleansers that contain moisturizing and hydrating ingredients and balance pH are good for acneic skin too.”

Cetaphil’s gentle cleanser is a winner on all fronts. “This face wash wins for being both gentle and effective,” Dr. Mitchell says. “The low suds formula removes impurities without drying out the skin. Additionally, it is unscented and non-comedogenic, making it a particularly excellent face wash for skin that is prone to acne.” 

Also, all Cetaphil products are proven to maintain the skin’s pH, so that’s another box ticked. This cleanser is formulated with a trifecta of hydrating ingredients — niacinamide, panthenol and glycerin — which work together to restore moisture to the skin barrier, as well as soothe dry, irritated and rough skin. It also removes makeup really well. Some people find that the thinner texture makes it hard to get a good lather, though.

Price at time of publish: $32

Size: 20oz | Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, panthenol, glycerin | Texture: Gel | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best for Extremely Dry Skin

First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser

4.7
First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Face Cleanser

Amazon

What We Love: It’s formulated without all the most common irritants used in skincare.

What We Don’t Love: It can sting if it gets in your eye, so take extra care around that area. 

If you have extremely dry or dehydrated skin, it’s important that you look for a product that’s free of some of the irritants most commonly found in skincare products. “For extremely dry skin, I like First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser,” says Dr. Dharamshi. “Its main ingredients are an antioxidant blend, which is great for balancing the pH of the skin. This cleanser is also great for preserving natural oils, calming irritation and reducing redness.”

This product was developed with calming aloe, soothing allantoin and hydrating glycerin. The formula also skips artificial colorants or fragrance, lanolin, mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, sulfates and many more irritating ingredients, as well as without common allergens such as gluten, nuts and soy. It’s clean, vegan and cruelty-free. 

One slight hiccup is that it may sting your eyes if you get some in there by mistake, so just take extra care around the eye area.

Even though Dr. Dharamshi recommends this product for very dry skin specifically, it’s actually designed for all skin types, and is especially great for reducing redness and restoring moisture to the skin. 

Price at time of publish: $24

Size: 5 oz | Key Ingredients: Aloe, allantoin, glycerin | Texture: Cream | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best Exfoliating

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Sephora

What We Love: It’s a mild option that is effective for all skin types

What We Don’t Love: It’s not intended for daily use.

Yep, if you have dry skin, you need to be exfoliating your face. “It’s important to remove dead skin cells through gentle exfoliation — the key here is the word gentle,” says Dr. Qureshi. “Stay away from exfoliating face tools or harsh scrubs that could cause microtears to already dry and sensitive skin.” 

This offering from Murad, formulated with a combination of chemical and physical exfoliants, hits the spot: “The AHAs will work to dissolve dead skin cells and prevent build-up gently; the jojoba seed oil will help to hydrate; and the licorice extract will reduce any inflammation,” he says.

This cleanser is appropriate for all skin types, since it helps buff away dead skin but without stripping it of moisture or causing tightness, as well as helping to control breakouts and remove blackheads. It’s gentle enough for those with sensitive skin, and leaves your face clean, soft, even-toned, even-textured and glowy. 

While it’s on the more expensive side, the bottle will last months and months since you only need a tiny bit for each use (plus recommended usage is just two or three times a week).

Price at time of publish: $46

Size: 6.75 oz | Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, jojoba beads, licorice extract) | Texture: Cream Gel | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

Best for Removing Makeup

Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

4.4
Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser

Amazon

What We Love: It is so gentle, yet removes makeup perfectly.

What We Don’t Love: It’s recommended to only use it once a day.

Dr. Mitchell explains that this product is a “gentle cleanser designed specifically for daily facial use.” And if you wear makeup daily, you’ll love this one, since it “removes makeup and excess skin oils without drying out your skin,” she adds. Users say it removes their whole face of makeup without the need to follow up with a separate makeup remover.

Any product that’s designed to use every day should be extra gentle to avoid causing irritation, and this one very much fits the bill. “It has no fragrance and uses gentle surfactants [cleansing agents],” says Dr. Mitchell, adding that it leaves the skin clean and soft, and is especially great for dry skin types. It’s also formulated without a slew of harsh ingredients such as dye, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde and sulfates, and is non-comedogenic and accepted by the National Eczema Association. It helps with a range of skin conditions, too, including acne, blackheads, rosacea and eczema. 

While it’s not overly drying and contains hydrating glycerin, it’s still best to use it once — rather than twice — a day if you have particularly dry skin.

Price at time of publish: $12

Size: 8 oz | Key Ingredients: Glycerin | Texture: Cream | Fragrance: Fragrance-free

What to Keep in Mind

Ingredients

Choosing a great face wash actually involves a little science homework. It really helps to get familiar with ingredients that promote hydration, and on the other end of the spectrum, those that can strip the skin of moisture. 

Still, a lot of it will probably naturally make sense to you even if you don’t have an advanced physics degree: Among the most hydrating ingredients are plant oils, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin and niacinamides, while the ingredients you want to avoid are typically harsh chemicals like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, alcohol, or artificial fragrances and dyes. 

Texture

Cream cleansers in general are more likely to help your skin retain moisture and leave it feeling refreshed and soft. The Macrene Actives and First Aid Beauty products on this list are exhibit A. 

With that in mind, there are also plenty of gel cleansers that are formulated with hydrating ingredients and are, therefore, totally suitable for dry skin, like CeraVe or Elemis. While foaming cleansers can strip the skin if they contain SLS, you actually don’t need to steer completely clear of foamy face washes as long as they don’t contain strong ingredients. 

Your Questions, Answered

Is a foaming face wash bad for dry skin?

While foaming face wash isn’t necessarily bad for dry skin, it’s usually a good idea to avoid it to be on the safe side, unless the product is specifically formulated for dry skin. “If your skin is really dry or sensitive, a foaming cleanser may not be the first or best option (especially depending on the ingredients),” Dr. Mitchell says. “Despite the fact that certain foamy cleansers contain oils or emollients, it is recommended that you use a different type of cleanser.”

What ingredients should I look for in a face wash with dry skin?

When you’re shopping for a face wash that suits your dry skin, Dr. Dharamshi says to look for some of the following hydrating ingredients: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, antioxidants, ceramides, aloe vera or niacinamides. Other ingredients that make a great addition to a face wash for dry skin include lactic acid, allantoin, and plant oils. Meanwhile, the expert cautions against products that contain alcohol, parabens or fragrances, as these can be drying.

Why Shop With Us

Iris Goldsztajn is a Paris-born, London-based freelance writer with 10 years of experience covering fashion, beauty, wellness and lifestyle for the likes of InStyle, Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Refinery29 and many more. As the former associate editor for Her Campus, she was responsible for all style and beauty news coverage. In order to write this article, she researched the best face washes out there that leave the skin clean without stripping it of moisture, and spoke to various skincare experts who shared their recommendations: board certified dermatologist Dr. Hope Mitchell, UK-based dermatologist Dr. Salome Dharamshi and cosmetic physician Dr. Usman Qureshi.

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