Face Wash, Cleansers and Cleansing Tips for Dry Skin

man washing his face with a face wash for dry skin

The best dry skin cleansers for the face and body should protect your skin barrier. Many face washes dry out the skin. You need to use barrier safe cleansers with soothing and hydrating fatty acid and lipids.

This is a guide to find dermatologist recommended cleansers for dry skin.

For personalized advice on Dry Skin Cleansers, Take the Quiz.


Many cleansers injure the skin barrier.  The way you cleanse for face and body can also affect the health and integrity of your skin barrier. If you have extremely dry skin, rinse your face with a thermal water instead of tap water- especially if you live in a city like New York City that has hard water with a lot of calcium an magnesium in it that can dry your skin.  You can use tap water to wash the skin, but use thermal water or micellular water to rinse off the cleanser.[i]

Can I use the same cleanser for my face and body?

The main difference between dry skin cleansers for the face and body is the size of the bottle, how it is marketed, and if it is acne safe. So - my advice for how to cleanse dry skin is the same for the face and body, but which face or body wash to use may be different.

You can use a face cleanser on your body.  However, I do not advise that you use a body cleanser on your face.  Body cleansers are more likely to have comedogenic ingredients in them that can lead to clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads and milia.

Why Do I Have Dry Skin After Washing Face?


Many people, even most oily skin types, feel dry for the first 15-20 minutes after washing the face.  You are feeling the tightness and skin roughness that occurs from lack of sebum (oil) on the skin’s surface. 15- 20 minutes is how long it takes for your sebaceous glands to begin replacing the sebum on your skin that you just washed off.  This is why when my research team is evaluating how dry the skin is, we wait 20 minutes before taking any measurements.  In my dermatology clinic, we also try to wash your face right when you arrive and do your intake interview before we take your photos with the Canfield Visia Camera System so we can more accurately assess oil production and skin texture measurements in the images. 

In many cases you are using the wrong cleanser that has too many surfactants and detergents and it is drying your face after washing. However, you need to wait about 15 minutes to assess if your cleanser is drying your skin. Chances are it is unless you are using a cleanser with a lot of fatty acid lipids in it.

How Often Should I Wash My Face If I Have Dry Skin?

When you have dry skin, you can skip washing your face in the morning.  However, in some skin care routines for dry skin we recommend using a hydroxyacid cleanser in the morning. So how many times you should wash you face really depends upon your Baumann Skin Type® and which barriers to skin health your skin has.

Baumann Skin Types Dry Skin.jpg


What Are The Best Cleansers And Face Washes And Soaps For Dry Skin?

First of all- never use soap on dry skin unless they are syndet bars which are specially made to be gentle.  I prefer creamy washes for dry skin.

The best dry skin cleansers have oils like sunflower seed oil, argan oil and almond oil that have a lot of hydrating and soothing fatty acids that nourish your skin barrier. When followed with a barrier repair moisturizer, these dry skin cleansers can help repair a damaged skin barrier.  These are some of our dermatologist’s favorite cleansers for dry skin:



The Best Cleansers for Dry Sensitive Skin:

The best cleansers for dry, sensitive skin will depend upon which type of sensitive skin you have.  Eczema and psoriasis have different cleansing needs than rosacea and acne and allergic skin. Regardless of the type of sensitive skin you have, dry, sensitive skin face washes and cleansers should prevent and treat skin inflammation with anti-inflammatory ingredients.

If you have dry, sensitive skin, we can give you much better advice if you take the skin type quiz and learn your Baumann Skin Type.

If you have super, very extremely dry skin, try one of these eczema safe cleansers:

Zerafite Creamy Cleanser- This dry skin cleanser deposits fatty acids on the skin leaving skin feeling hydrated.  This moisturizing cleanser works best when followed by a barrier repair moisturizer.  Can be used as a shaving cream in dry sensitive skin types.

VMV Hypoallergenics Superskin Moisture Rich Creammmy Cleansing Milk for Dry Skin- If you have skin allergies and often get a dry skin rash from skin care products, this hypoallergenic cleanser was designed for allergic dry skin.

PCA Skin Creamy Cleanser- This is more of a liquid cleanser with lipids in it than a cream cleanser.  It is light and soothing but does not remove makeup very well.  This is the perfect am dry skin cleanser to use when you don’t want the heaviness of a cream cleanser.

Should I Use Both A Face Wash And A Cleanser?

Face washes, soaps and cleansers are all words that mean similar things.  However, the word soap usually means a bar soap with a lot of detergents.  Avoid using soap on your face because it extremely damages the skin barrier. You can use the words face wash and cleanser interchangeably.

For personalized advice on Dry Skin Cleansers, Take the Quiz.


I hope this advice answered your questions about which dry skin cleanser to choose.  If not, come ask me on social media @SkinTypeSolutions.com or

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[i] L. Baumann Ch. 40 Cleansing Agents in Baumann’s Cosmetic Dermatology (McGraw Hill, 2022).

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