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There's a big—and we mean big—misconception out there that face wash should make skin feel tight and dry in order to prove that it's working. Don't get us wrong, the basic premise of a face wash is to get your skin squeaky clean, but it's not supposed to do more harm than good—and it sure as heck isn't supposed to make your skin feel like it's about to crack open.
Now imagine if your skin is dry, to begin with. Cleansing with a too-harsh face wash that strips the little surface oils you do have (you want to keep those, obv) won't end well, so be mindful of choosing the right formula for parched skin. The best face washes for dry skin work in tandem to remove impurities and grime while also keeping the skin healthy and hydrated.
Below, we rounded up a list of our favorites, so keep scrolling our picks of the best face washes for dry skin.
Best Overall: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser
This is a top-rated product in the Glossier product portfolio and it lives up to its hype, says Byrdie's Associate Editor Holly Rhue. She, along with many others, love the conditioning, ph-balanced formula that's gentle for even the most sensitive skin. It's made with five skin conditioners, so you can rest assured that your skin won't feel tight post-rinse. As a bonus, it doubles as a makeup remover for the face and eyes, since it's got the same cleansing agents in it that you'd find in contact lens solution.
Best Budget: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Lightweight Hydrating Facial Cleansing Gel
Hyaluronic acid is a top hydrating ingredient in moisturizers, so we're pleased to see it in this budget-friendly face wash as well. Its role here is the same—to add intense moisture to the skin (for up to 24 hours, no less) while cleansing agents bid adieu to dirt, oil, and impurities. Reviewers say that it racks up on moisture without sacrificing the clean, fresh feeling that we love and expect from a quality cleanser. It's got Rhue's seal of approval as well.
Best Balm: Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm
Beauty editors are raving over this award-winning cleansing balm, including Byrdie's Editorial Director Faith Xue (read her review here!). The Then I Met You Cleansing Balm has a sorbet-like texture that is rich in nutrients, including persimmon extract, olive oil, and vitamin E. The star ingredient is seaberry oil, which is rich in fatty acid and antioxidants. Users rave that it removes all makeup residue and works even better as step one of two with the brand's Soothing Tea Gel Cleanser.
Your cleanser doesn’t have to lather in order to prove that it’s working! Many natural products purify and remove impurities without the suds.
Best for Breakouts: True Botanicals Clear Nourishing Cleanser
Yes, it's possible to have dry skin that is also prone to breakouts. It's harder to address both concerns at once since common acne-fighting ingredients (think sal acid and benzoyl peroxide) are known to be drying. You could, however, use this hydrating cleanser that boasts anti-inflammatory ingredients like green tea, white tea, and black willow bark extract (a natural source of salicylic acid) to tackle dry skin and acne concerns at the same time. A favorite of Byrdie's Email Editor Karli Bendlin, this face wash has all of the antibacterial and antifungal properties you need for a healthier complexion.
Best Lotion Cleanser: Paula’s Choice Moisture Boost One Step Cleanser
With a name like Moisture Boost, it's pretty obvious what this cleanser does. Formulated with dry skin in mind, this milky lotion formula gently lifts makeup and surface dirt effectively while leaving your complexion soft to the touch and incredibly supple. You're in effect pampering your skin while washing it—score.
Best Gel: Beauty Strike Gel Cream Cleanser
This cruelty-free face wash is full of ingredients that you can say 10 times fast. With avocado oil, jojoba oil, cucumber seed oil, lemon extract, and more, the list is almost good enough to eat. (But please, don’t eat it!)
Beauty Strike founder and esthetician, Emani Jeter, recommends using this gel-cream cleanser because it removes dirt while fortifying the skin barrier with vitamins and nutrients. Plus, this brand is committed to transparency and quality, so you can count on products without icky ingredients.
Best for Dull Skin: Rosen Skincare Super Smoothie Cleanser
Like a smoothie, but for your face. This all-natural cleanser is packed with active fruit powders to help brighten and smooth your skin without stripping it, including raspberry, lemon, and strawberry. Users love how this cleanser leaves skin feeling moisturized, and even those with sensitive skin keep coming back for more. We especially love that Rosen Skincare is an independent, growing business that stands firm in transparent ingredients and never condones skin shaming.
Best Soothing Formula: Kate Somerville DeliKate Soothing Cleanser
If your skin is all sorts of stressed out or run down from too many months (years, even) of harsh face washes, this face wash can help calm things down. It's a nourishing formula that can soothe and calm redness and irritation, thanks to a ceramide complex, ginger root extract, and Tasmania lanceolata fruit extract. Another favorite of Xue's, it's just what the doctor ordered to restore the skin's protective barrier.
Best for Hyperpigmentation: Urban Skin Rx Combination Skin Cleansing Bar
This unique cleansing bar for dry and combination skin is a major routine upgrade for those who deal with hyperpigmentation. Created with women of color in mind, Urban Skin RX has melanin skin down to a science—literally. I can personally affirm its reputation for supporting an even tone and brighter skin. With consistent use, my skin has fewer breakouts and I’ve gone from wearing concealer almost daily to being virtually free of hyperpigmentation. So much yes.
Best Splurge: Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser
Perfect for dry skin, this product will deliver a deep clean feeling without ever stripping your skin of its natural oils. It's also a great pick for sensitive skin because of its anti-inflammatory, healing, and calming properties. It's also lightly scented with citrus and bergamot for a spa-like bonus, so needless to say it's worth every penny.
While you might enjoy the clean and fresh scents that derive from the ingredients of your cleanser, dermatologists recommend avoiding products with added perfumes that irritate dry skin.