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12 Best Face Washes for Dry, Sensitive Skin, According to Dermatologists

Shop these soothing, hydrating facial cleansers that won’t irritate your skin.

best face wash for dry skin

We updated this article in April 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on extensive research done by our team (and that of our sister team at the Good Housekeeping Institute).

Amid all the focus on face serums, moisturizers for dry skin, and anti-aging creams, you may forget about an important piece of the skincare puzzle: a good face wash—especially as dry skin becomes more prevalent as the weather changes. That’s where the best face wash for dry skin comes into play.

“Cleanser is a really big deal, especially during the extreme times of year, like winter,” says Tina Alster, M.D., director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and a clinical professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Why? Changes in temperature can zap moisture from your skin—so adding a harsh cleanser into the mix can spell trouble for your complexion. Your face wash is designed to clean the skin, so many are often packed with surfactants: soaps that draw dirt, oil, and grime from pores. This can strip even more moisture from the skin and lead to dry, flaky patches. It’s not just a matter of flakiness or that uncomfortable tight feeling—dry skin looks sallow, dull, and highlights lines and wrinkles.

Even if you’re dealing with acne, be careful about drying out your skin. “This causes micro-injuries to skin in which bacteria can enter and worsen acne. Even those with acne-prone skin need to be aware of how the dry, cold winter air impacts their complexion,” says Dr. Alster.

That’s where a gentle, hydrating face wash can work in your favor. “Cleansers are an incredibly powerful tool when dealing with dry skin,” adds Deirdre Hooper, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans. But how do you choose when there are dozens of options on the market? Here, dermatologists explain what to look for in an effective face wash for sensitive skin.

How we chose the best face wash for dry skin

We consulted skin professionals, the Good Housekeeping Institute, which tests countless products to ensure a fair and accurate representation of each item, and reviewers who have shared some of their own insights.

Our top picks

Best Overall
Hydrating Face Wash CeraVe Read More
Most Gentle
Gentle Skin Cleanser Cetaphil Read More
Best for Soothing Irritation
Face Cleanser First Aid Beauty Read More
Most Popular
Soy Face Cleanser Fresh Read More
Best Value
Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin Dove Read More
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      Best Overall
      Hydrating Face Wash
      Now 16% off

      • Dermatologist recommended
      • Suitable for acne-prone skin
      • Gently cleanses and moisturizes skin

      • Lotion consistency doesn’t always provide that “squeaky clean” feeling, like gel cleansers do

      Tara Rao, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City often recommends this fragrance-free, non comedogenic face wash to patients who are susceptible to dry, sensitive skin. The superstar ingredients in this cleanser offer hydration and prevent water loss.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid | Size: 16 fl. Oz., 19 fl. Oz.

      Most Gentle
      Gentle Skin Cleanser

      • Fragrance free
      • Non-stripping
      • Hydrates skin

      This face wash wins for how gentle it is while still being effective, according to Dr. Rao. The low suds formula washes away impurities without stripping moisture. It’s also unscented and non comedogenic (so it won’t clog your pores)—making this an especially great face wash for acne-prone skin, too.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: glycerin, niacinamide, and panthenol | Size: 16 fl. Oz.

      Best for Soothing Irritation
      Face Cleanser
      First Aid Beauty

      • Fragrance free
      • Cruelty free
      • pH-balanced formula

      • Some users report a poor smell

      While this fragrance-free face wash has a whipped texture out of the tube, it transforms into cream once it is massaged into your skin with water. As it lifts away grime, it also hydrates and soothes irritation, thanks to a pro blend of calming ingredients.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: glycerin, aloe, licorice root, and white tea extracts | Size: 2 fl. Oz.. 5 fl. Oz., 11 fl. Oz.

      Most Popular
      Soy Face Cleanser

      • Fragrance free
      • pH-balanced formula
      • Softens skin

      • A pricier pick

      This face wash from Fresh has somewhat of a cult following. Those with dry, sensitive skin will benefit from its list of A+ ingredients that reduce redness, soothe, hydrate, and prevent that tight feeling. Free of fragrances and soaps, this makeup-melting cleanser kind of does it all.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: soy, aloe, aloe vera, cucumber, glycerin, and sunflower and borage seed oils | Size: 1.7 fl. Oz., 5 fl. Oz., 8.5 fl. Oz., 13.5 fl. Oz.

      Best Value
      Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin

      • Fragrance free
      • Hypoallergenic
      • Can be used on face, body, and hands

      • May be difficult to use outside of the shower

      Most bar soaps are a disaster for dry skin, but this one from Dove will leave your dry face feeling soft and supple. In fact, one quarter of this unscented, hypoallergenic bar is packed with moisturizing cream. “It won’t strip skin of the oil it needs,” says Dr. Alster. Considering one pack contains six bars, this is also one of the most inexpensive ways to cleanse.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: glycerin | Size: 3.75 oz.

      Best Makeup-Removing
      Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser
      La Roche-Posay

      • Fragrance-, oil-, soap-free formula
      • Dermatologist and allergy tested
      • Non-comedogenic

      Free of soaps, parabens, oils, and fragrances, this creamy face wash from La-Roche-Posay gently buffs away makeup—even eye makeup!—and dirt while offering a boost of moisture.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: glycerin, thermal water, and ceramides | Size: 13.5 fl. Oz.

      Best Gel
      Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel

      • Dermatologist-recommended
      • Hypoallergenic
      • Non-comedogenic

      • Contains fragrance

      People rave about the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream—but the cleansing gel in this line should get just as much love. Packed with hydrating ingredients, just a little bit of this lightweight, soap-free face wash goes a long way. The gel turns into a smooth, creamy lather, easily washes off, and doesn’t leave the skin feeling tight.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: hyaluronic acid | Size: 6 fl. Oz.

      Best for Eczema
      Ultra Gentle Hydrating Daily Facial Cleanser

      • Dermatologist developed
      • Fragrance and essential oil free
      • Hypoallergenic

      Made especially for sensitive complexions, this creamy, soap-free formula washes away impurities without stripping skin of its natural moisture. It's a great pick for those with eczema or rosacea.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: glycerin | Size: 12 fl. Oz., 16 fl. Oz.

      Best Redness-Relief
      Antirougeurs CLEAN Redness-Relief Refreshing Cleansing Lotion

      • Fragrance free
      • Paraben free
      • Calms redness caused by heat, stress, weather, and more

      “This is one of the gentlest cleansers,” says Dr. Hooper. This cleanser calms any redness or tightness, while the soap-, fragrance-, and paraben-free formula cleans without irritating the skin or clogging pores.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: thermal spring water | Size: 13.5 fl. Oz.

      Best for Combination Skin
      Acne Facial Cleanser
      Mario Badescu
      Now 25% off

      • Helps clear breakouts
      • Removes oils and makeup

      • Contains fragrance

      Though this face wash is best left for those with combination skin—and those that can tolerate some scent—this face wash is a favorite among everyone from Martha Stewart to Amazon shoppers. “After two months my face has cleared up, redness gone. It also has prevented me from breakouts four months into using this product. It is the real Mario Badescu! Definitely recommend if you have problem skin with breakouts, redness, and my skin is dry,” wrote one satisfied customer.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: salicylic acid, aloe vera, chamomile, and thyme | Size: 6 fl. Oz.

      Best Luxe Option
      Gentle Cleanser

      • Fragrance Free
      • Paraben Free
      • Non comedogenic

      • A pricier pick

      Bring the spa home with this luxurious, gentle cleanser that nourishes and moisturizes the skin after lifting away dirt and oil. It's fragrance-, dye-, and sulfate-free, checking all of the required boxes for sensitive skin.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: allantoin, glycerin and orange oil | Size: 6.8 fl. Oz.

      Best Scent
      Special Cleansing Gel

      • Lightweight and mild
      • Softens skin

      • Essential oils may not suit all skin types

      Another gentle option, Dermalogica’s Special Cleansing Gel never leaves skin feeling dry or oily. Simply pump a small amount onto your hand and massage onto the skin, working into a soft, creamy lather. The result? A refreshed, hydrated complexion that’s perfectly prepared for a great moisturizer.

      Skin-soothing ingredients: mint, lavender, and glycerin | Size: 8.4 fl. Oz., 16.9 fl. Oz.

      13 How to choose the best face wash for dry, sensitive skin
      prevention line break

      ✔️ Go creamy: Many people switch to a gel cleanser in the summer months to help get oily skin under control and rein in shine in the humidity. But a creamy face wash is more beneficial if you have dry skin, says Dr. Alster. Look for labels that say “creamy” or “lotion,” appear white out of the bottle, or feel like a moisturizer when applied.

      ✔️ Avoid fragrances: It’s especially important to choose unscented products, as fragrances can spur irritation, says Dr. Hooper. Look for unscented or fragrance-free on the label. Sensitive skin products are another good go-to.

      ✔️ Look for moisturizing ingredients: Hyaluronic acid is a top-notch moisturizer because it attracts water to skin, says Dr. Alster. Glycerin and ceramides also deliver an extra boost of moisture, while aloe vera and soy can feel soothing.

      ✔️ Watch the anti-agers: Ingredients like glycolic acid or lactic acids may help fight the signs of aging (and keep pesky blackheads at bay), but they will strip dry skin of the oil it needs. Keep these ingredients out of your face wash.Once you find a face wash you like, be sure to cleanse only once a day before bed if you’re feeling extra dry, says Dr. Hooper. (You can supplement with a micellar water or hydrating toner for your face in the morning.) Immediately after when skin is still damp, lock in hydration with a moisturizer for sensitive skin, she says.

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