Best Cleansers for Dry Skin

The top cleansers for dry, dehydrated and aging skin

Dry, dehydrated and mature skin needs to be babied with the correct cleansers. A wrong cleanser can strip your skin of its natural oils, it can cause breakouts and flakiness and redness and a host of other sordid skin atrocities. 

The cleansers I've handpicked below have been extensively researched by me. They are all formulated for dry skin and get excellent reviews. These won't leave your skin feeling taut and robbed of its last drop of moisture. 

There are many options for dry skin from creams to oils to the very trendy micellar water. Not all products are great for removing heavy makeup, however, so you may want to switch between a light cleanser and a more powerful one, depending on your skincare needs. 

Splurge or Save?

Cleansers on your face typically for under a minute, so it's hard to justify spending a lot of money for something that is quickly washed down the drain. But this next generation of cleansers can do wonders for your skin in that minute or so that it is busy dissolving the dirt and grime off your day as well as your makeup. 

You can buy a decent cleanser at the drugstore (and I include a few options below), but a pricey cleanser is luxurious, decadent and can offer your skin much more than a rigorous cleansing. Some formulations include ingredients that attract free radicals and purge them from your skin (see the micellar water below), while others have antioxidants that are absorbed into the skin. 

Dry skin reacts beautifully to creamy cleansers and this is a wonderful product formulated for dry skin. From my research, I've learned that Elemis is a favored beauty brand on luxury cruise ships and women tend to learn about the brand while vacationing and then come home addicted to their newfound skincare regimen. Elemis, for the record, is a very well-respected skincare brand. 

The reviews for this product are excellent. 

 I'm a huge fan of oil cleansers because I find nothing works better to dissolve my makeup and the grit and grime (beauty industry keyword for this would be "free radicals") that comes from living in NYC. So when I learned some of my favorite beauty gurus swear by cleansing oils, I got onboard that train and I haven't stepped off. 

This is my current go-to cleansing oil. Two pumps massaged into the dry skin is all you need. Apparently, it's best to apply cleansing oils to dry skin and give them a minute to work their magic by dissolving the bad stuff before you rinse with a warm washcloth or a few splashes of water. 

See my list of the Best Cleansing Oils for the Face

The buzziest thing in cleansers these days (aside from oils) is micellar water. You buy this stuff, apply it and then wipe it -- and all your makeup and grime -- off with a cotton pad and your skin is supposed to look better than ever. 

But does it work? It does, for the most part. According to Beautypedia, which looks closely at the ingredients in products and the science behind them, micellar water is the real deal. It won't, however, remove the heaviest of makeup. You'll need an oil-based cleanser for that. 

How does it work? Micellar water is made up of micelles, which are electrically charged particles that are attracted to the bad stuff that clings to the skin including dead skin cells, makeup, dirt, and sebum. They attach and draw them out without drying out skin, making them perfect for dry skin. 

La Roche-Posay is my pick among the many micellar water options. But other great bets include:

 For those into natural, organic skincare, you can't go wrong with Dr. Hauschka products and this cleansing cream gets great reviews for dry skin. 

Reviewers love it because it leaves skin feeling cleansed and refreshed without drying out. This cream contains sweet almond meal, which makes it feel gritty, but this cleanser is actually not a scrub and should not be used as one. Instead of applying it in circular motions as you would a regular cleanser or scrub, you're meant to "pat it" into the face in a rolling motion. Turns out that meal contains granules that can tear at skin. 

Typically, I wouldn't recommend ever cleansing your skin with soap, which can strip skin of oils leaving it dry and taut, but Drunk Elephant's Pekee Bar is a well-regarded bar cleanser that's beloved for what it doesn't contain almost as much as for what it does (all natural ingredients, of course). 

You can read more about the Pekee Bar on the Drunk Elephant Website

 This is a super rich cleanser, so rich you only need a pea-sized amount to cleanse your face. It gets great reviews for having a low pH factor (you want a low ph factor to keep your skin in balance).

Hada Labo Tokyo sounds like a lovely little boutique skincare company from Japan, but the brand was created by Japan's 2nd largest healthcare products company. It's a brand that's marketed throughout the world. So if you're not into big corporate products, this cleanser isn't for you. 

 This is a great basic drugstore cleanser that won't strip your skin of oils, leaving it feeling taut and dehydrated. The only con with this cleanser (which is formulated for dry skin) is that it doesn't remove makeup well. It's that gentle. If you are the natural type who goes out in tinted sunscreen and that's about it, this is a great cleanser. But if you wear a face full of makeup, skip this for a stronger cleanser. 

I've used this exact version of Pond's cold cream for years, ever since I turned 35 and my skin turned dry seemingly overnight. I remembered that my grandmother swore by this and my friends swore by it, so I tried it and loved how greasy and moisturized it left my utterly dry skin. 

Yes, it's greasy. This means this cleanser -- which really does remove all impurities and signs of makeup -- is only for super dry skin. 

If you wear a lot of makeup, fair warning: you may have to use this a couple times on your face until your cotton pads come up clean.