Cleanse, hydrate and moisturise your skin with the best cleansers for dry skin
People with dry skin often find that facial cleansers leave their skin feeling even drier – the best cleansers for dry skin prevent this stripped feeling. Many cleansers on the market, often touted to be the best, can strip the skin of these essential oils and, as a result, skin can become even more sensitive, dry and blotchy.
Dry skin is caused by a lack of naturally occurring essential oils for keeping skin soft and supple. Without moisture and oils, skin can become dry, flaky and irritated. In addition, factors such as age, working conditions, lifestyle and climate conditions can all exacerbate skin that is already prone to dryness.
All is not lost, however. A good cleanser for dry skin is formulated to treat even the driest skin types without removing the necessary moisture that keeps your skin plump and fresh. Rather than masking your dry skin with an excessive amount of moisturiser, it’s better to switch to a cleanser specifically tailored to dry skin.
We’ve found some of the best cleansers for dry skin on the market to suit all budgets, and also put together a buying guide to let you know what you should be looking for when shopping for the best cleanser for your needs.
Best cleansers for dry skin: At a glance
|Best overall cleanser for dry skin
|La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser (~£22)
|Check price at LookFantastic
|Best splurge cleanser for dry skin
|Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm (~£44)
|Check price at LookFantastic
|Best budget cleanser for dry skin
|The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser (~£8)
|Check price at LookFantastic
|Best cleanser for extra dry skin
|Bioderma Atoderm Ultra Nourishing Cleansing Oil (~£11)
|Check price at LookFantastic
How to choose the best cleanser for dry skin
If you’ve tried product after product to cleanse and combat your dry skin and still have dry and flaky patches, you can be forgiven for wanting to forgo the whole cleansing process altogether. However, this isn’t the best way forward.
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What should you look for in a good facial cleanser for dry skin?
A good facial cleanser for dry skin consists of mild, gentle ingredients that won’t deplete the skin of its natural oils. These include shea butter and glycerin that help replenish lost moisture within the skin, keeping it smooth and hydrated without leaving any oily residue or that “tight” dry feeling.
Another essential ingredient often found in good cleansers for dry skin is hyaluronic acid, which is naturally present in the skin and helps to lock in moisture. Vitamin E also helps create a barrier on the skin designed to retain moisture and stop it from drying out.
What should you avoid in a face cleanser for dry skin?
If you suffer from dry skin, certain ingredients should be completely avoided when shopping for a face cleanser. Sulphates, for example, are often included in cleansing products as they help create the lather and foam often associated with a more thorough clean. However, these can also disrupt the top layer of the skin and can strip away moisture. Avoiding sulphate products means that you may have a dry skin cleanser that won’t work up as much of a soapy lather, but this is a good thing for dry skin as it will prevent irritation.
As well as sulphates, you should steer clear of cleansers containing alcohol, salicylic acid, fragrances and preservatives, as these ingredients may be too harsh for your sensitive and dry skin, and could cause further irritation.
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Is cleansing good for dry skin?
The skin is the body’s first protective barrier to prevent harmful microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses from entering the body, so you must cleanse it thoroughly each day. When skin is dry and flaky, it can crack and peel, compromising the protective layer. A specialised cleanser for dry skin and a hydrating moisturiser to keep it supple are absolute musts.
Properly cleansing is the best thing you can do for any skin type or condition. Throughout a busy day, your skin may be exposed to bacteria, pollutants, dead skin cells, dirt and viruses. Whereas products formulated for oily or combination skin will strip away excess oil, cleansers designed for dry skin have a combination of ingredients designed to hydrate the skin while gently cleaning it.
How we test facial cleansers for dry skin
At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. As such, we test all the cleansers we review, using products on the appropriate skin type. We try out formulas that include various beneficial ingredients and note the effects on dry skin. Where cleansers are recommended for a particular type of usage, we test in those conditions to ensure we make an accurate recommendation.
When testing, we diligently follow the directions stated, and evaluate the overall quality of the product, its immediate feel on the skin, and the results following continued use. We also note how well oils and exfoliants work. Finally, we confirm the quantity of the product.
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The best facial cleansers for dry skin in 2024
1. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser: Best overall cleanser for dry skin
Price when reviewed: £22 | Check price at LookFantastic
Super-sensitive skins, rejoice. La Roche-Posay’s dermatologist and beauty editor-approved formulas are much loved for a very good reason, and this milky cleanser is no exception.
The silky fluid is designed to be applied with clean fingertips and wiped off (we recommend a gentle muslin cloth or reusable cotton pad for best results) without the need to rinse, leaving skin feeling clean, calm and balanced.
In testing, we found it to remove every scrap of makeup without over-drying, making it ideal for either a first or second cleanse – or both.
The formula is enriched with glycerin and the brand’s renowned Thermal Spring Water to effectively hydrate dry complexions, and the result is skin that feels nourished and comforted.
Reach for this as your everyday cleanser if your skin is prone to redness as well as feeling dry. A little of this creamy fluid goes a long way, too – it’ll take a while to even make a dent if you splash out on the 400ml bottle.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 400ml
2. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser: Best budget cleanser for dry skin
Price when reviewed: £8 | Check price at LookFantastic
As a brand renowned for its functional and no-frills yet highly effective formulations, it’s little wonder The Ordinary’s Squalane Cleanser is a regular sell-out.
It’s a brilliant budget cleanser that works well for a wide range of skin types, but it’s the addition of squalane – an anti-inflammatory emollient that helps to hydrate the skin and prevent over-drying and tightness – that makes this soap-free formula especially great for dry and sensitive skin types.
This cult product squeezes out as a balm and quickly warms into an oil-like texture as you massage into the skin. Our tester loved it for both removing makeup (after all, oil attracts oil) and as an everyday addition to their morning skincare routine.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 50ml
3. Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm: Best splurge cleanser for dry skin
Price when reviewed: £44 | Check price at LookFantastic
This award-winning cleansing balm by Emma Hardie is a gentle cleanser that removes makeup, dirt and impurities with therapeutic aromas that provide the perfect end to a long day. The essential oils included in this product, such as rose and mandarin oil, make this cleanser feel comforting and relaxing and smell amazing.
Other key ingredients, such as vitamin E, grape seed, and sweet almond oil, help the formula hydrate and purify the skin while leaving it feeling super soft and firm, but not dry or tight.
The product also comes with a microfibre cleansing cloth to be used along with the balm in your cleansing routine. To get the best out of this product, warm the balm up between your fingertips before massaging it thoroughly onto the face and neck. The microfibre cloth should be soaked in warm water and swept downwards over the face to remove the product and the impurities.
Although slightly on the pricier side, this cleansing balm feels like you’re getting a professional facial in the comfort of your own home.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 100g
4. Bioderma Atoderm Face and Body Cleanser: Best cleanser for extra dry skin
Price when reviewed: £11 | Check price at LookFantastic
If your skin is beyond dry and bordering on atopic, the Bioderma Atoderm two-in-one cleanser is an excellent option. It’s particularly beneficial for those who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema, and is suitable for use on both the face and body. The product caters specifically for those with very dry skin and contains a patented Barrier Skin Therapy, designed to prevent bacteria from aggravating and irritating the skin. It also includes vegetal biolipids that leave the skin feeling soft and hydrated immediately after use, with results lasting up to 24 hours.
The creamy and silky oil is to be applied on wet skin – perfect for use in the shower or bath – and it has an ultra-light foam that’s lightly scented and non-greasy. The product is also soap-free which, we were glad to note, doesn’t sting the eyes during use. It’s best to use this cleanser daily to see an improvement in your skin. Just a little of this cleansing product will go a long way, making it great value, too.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 200ml
5. First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser: Best foaming cleanser for dry skin
Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Sephora
Due to its PH-balanced and non-stripping foam formula that’s free from sulphates and fragrances, the First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser gently works to remove all makeup and dirt while preserving the skin’s natural oils. The combination of ingredients in this wonder product, such as Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, helps heal and soothe skin prone to redness and irritation. If used regularly, it will also help to prevent flare-ups.
Another key ingredient in this formula is glycerin, which moisturises the skin and creates a barrier of protection to help retain moisture.
To use the product, simply apply a small amount onto your damp face and gently massage it into the skin. It can then be removed with a soft, damp washcloth, taking any oil, dirt, grime, and makeup along with it. The result is a thoroughly clean face that doesn’t feel tight and is the perfect base for your serums and moisturiser.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 142g
6. REN Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk: Best dry-skin cleanser for city dwellers
Price when reviewed: £23 | Check price at Sephora
No need to let the daily grind show on your face: REN Clean Skincare’s barrier-friendly Evercalm range was created especially to treat irritated skin types. Its soothing formulations work particularly well for those in urban areas, having been designed to protect against environmental pollutants and boost the skin’s natural defences.
As well as skin-quenching shea butter and calendula oil, this hydrating formula also includes Omega 3 and 7 oils which help to nourish and promote cell turnover, while fennel seed extract actively reduces skin stress.
We found the consistency to feel more like a cream than a milk, but this only made it easier and more satisfying to apply. It definitely scores highly for its cooling and soothing properties and overall gentle cleanse, but it wasn’t quite as effective when it came to removing makeup, so be sure to follow up with a second cleanse.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 150ml
7. CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser: Best exfoliating cleanser for dry skin
Price when reviewed: £14 | Check price at LookFantastic
Is your dry skin also rough and bumpy? Then an exfoliant is in order. The CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser is a gentle exfoliating product without harsh beads that could worsen dry or sensitive skin.
The product is suitable for conditions such as keratosis pilaris, and contains salicylic acid to help smooth any roughness. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which works to retain the skin’s natural moisture.
The cleanser is fragrance-free and suitable for the face and body, leaving skin cleansed and moisturised. CeraVe has more or less taken over the budget skincare market, and for good reason.
This cleanser leaves skin feeling hydrated for up to 24 hours thanks to the formula’s MVE delivery technology, which slowly releases the hydrating ingredients onto the skin’s surface, enabling you to enjoy soft, hydrated skin all day.
Key specs – Formula: Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 236ml
8. Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Wash: Best cleanser for dry and sensitive skin
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Amazon
The Elemis Sensitive Cleansing Facial Wash has a gentle and natural blend of ingredients, including thyme, chamomile and lady’s mantle, that work together to cleanse the face while gently calming any irritation and redness.
This cleanser is like a soothing balm for constantly irritated skin and can also prevent breakouts. The velvety formula leaves the face feeling conditioned and soft. With a small amount of product, makeup and dirt wash away easily and efficiently. Lather this cleanser onto the face with warm water, then simply rinse off.
The product is not only a lifesaver for many with dry, sensitive skin, but it also has a therapeutic aroma that smells divine and will have you loving your new skincare routine.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: No; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 200ml
9. Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cleanser: Best calming cleanser for dry skin
Price when reviewed: £38 | Check price at LookFantastic
Packed with hero ingredients such as jojoba and avocado oil, vitamin-rich Manuka honey, and – you guessed it – goat’s milk proteins – this iconic creamy cleanser from Kate Somerville can be used daily without upsetting an impaired moisture barrier.
Thanks to its almost cream/oil hybrid consistency, we found this better to remove makeup than many of the other ‘milk’ or cream cleansers we tried. But you might, like us, still prefer it as a second cleanser. It’s foam-free, and effectively removes dirt, oil, and impurities for skin that feels refreshed, comfortable and super-soft.
Anyone who regularly experiences dry, tight patches or heightened sensitivity, particularly after exfoliating, will love this as a gentle everyday option, regardless of their usual skin type. It’s worth keeping in mind this does have a subtle scent of vanilla for those who are sensitive to fragrance, but it’s pleasant and not overpowering.
Key specs – Paraben-free: Yes; Sulphate-free: Yes; Glycolic-free: Yes; Size: 120ml