I’ve been a wellness editor for a decade, which means brands have been sending me new products to test out for the past 10 years. In that time, I’ve tried approximately 5,600 facial cleansers and roughly 99.5% of them have left my skin tight and dry. (This math may not check out literally, but it’s spiritually accurate, you know?) I’ve been let down by many a promise of a “non-stripping” or “moisturizing” formula. Even when I followed the advice of the dermatologists I interviewed and looked for words like gentle and creamy on the label and avoided potentially drying ingredients, more often than not my skin still felt at least a little parched—especially during the colder months.
Sometimes an allegedly moisturizing cleanser initially seemed to deliver on its promise, but when I gave it my 15-minute test—in which I wait about 15 minutes after cleansing before applying moisturizer to see if my face feels dry or tight—it failed me. (Note that it’s generally advisable to apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to help it seal in more water, but I figured the hydration hit was worth it in my pursuit of a truly non-stripping formula.)
But if you can relate to the experience of a dry, tight face and a series of disappointing cleansers too, I’ve got good news for you: All of my trial and (mostly) error resulted in a list of a few face washes for dry skin that actually work! To be honest, they require some compromise—most of them won’t fully remove my foundation, so on makeup days I have to use a gentle micellar water like my very favorite Drunk Elephant E-Rase Milki Micellar Water ($18, Sephora) first. (A non-drying makeup remover is another elusive find for me, but that’s a story for another post.)
They’re also not a substitute for moisturizer; whether your cleanser is non-drying or not, applying a face moisturizer is an important part of any skin care routine. And because I know everyone’s skin is different, I would never promise that these face washes will work for you just because they work for me. But since I also know how frustrating it is to feel that uncomfortable dryness after washing your face with—and spending your money on—a promising product, I thought it might be helpful to share my picks for the best face washes for dry skin. I really, really hope they help you too.
1. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Facial Cleanser
2. Ursa Major Making Moves Milky Cleanser
3. Tula Super Calm Gentle Sensitive Skin Cleansing Milk
4. Eight Saints Bright Side Cream Cleanser
5. Cocokind Oil To Milk Cleanser