If you have dry skin, you’re probably aware that harsh ingredients like acids and retinoids can irritate it and exacerbate dryness. But there are plenty of other factors that can contribute to dry, flaky skin, including weather, your lifestyle, and even how you wash your face. Tight, uncomfortable skin post-cleansing is a hallmark of dry skin, so much so that this response to washing your face is often used to determine whether you have dry skin in the first place. (If you aren’t sure if your skin is dry, here’s How To Determine Your Skin Type.)
What’s important to note is that the way you cleanse (and the product you use) could be responsible for the dry feeling and not vice versa. Over-cleansing, in particular, can strip the skin, worsening irritation and causing rough, dry patches. As such, knowing how to clean dry skin properly is crucial if you want your skin to look its best.
Admittedly, this can be a bit of a challenge—especially when there are so many different cleansers to choose from. Thankfully, you have us. We’ve been at this for nearly 170 years, and in that time, we’ve gained a pretty solid understanding of what dry skin needs and what it can do without. Read on to discover our best dry skin cleansers, plus a few expert tips for keeping your skin soft, smooth, and hydrated.
Find a Cleanser Formulated For Your Needs
One of the most impactful steps you can take to manage your dry skin is to pick a cleanser formulated to address your unique needs. The term “dry skin” describes a range of symptoms, not one specific quality. In other words, not all dry skin is the same, and it’s essential to understand your skin’s characteristics to care for it properly. Keep reading to discover Kiehl’s best facial cleansers for dry skin.
For All Types of Dry Skin:
Ultra Facial Cleanser
If you have normal-dry skin—that is, skin that occasionally gets dry—we recommend reaching for a moisturizing cleanser, like our cult-classic Ultra Facial Cleanser. This creamy formula contains olive-derived squalane and avocado oil to cleanse and soften the skin. It’s also ideal for exfoliating dry skin, as it has powdered apricot shells to gently remove dead skin cells, dirt, and other debris. This pH-balanced cleanser helps balance the skin’s natural moisture, and it’s suitable for all skin types, so you can use it even when you’re not feeling overly dry. We recommend using it day and night for balanced, clean skin.
For Combination Dry Skin:
Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash
Combination dry skin is normal in some areas and dry in others. Some parts of the face may also experience occasional oiliness. For this skin type, we recommend Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash. This mild foaming face wash for dry skin stars calendula extract and glycerin to remove dirt and impurities without stripping the skin. We recommend using it morning and night for refreshed, revitalized skin.
For Dry, Sensitive Skin:
Cucumber Herbal Conditioning Cleanser
Sensitive skin tends to be easily irritated and may react poorly to even mild skincare ingredients. If your skin is ultra reactive and sensitive, we recommend Cucumber Herbal Conditioning Cleanser. This top-rated cleanser is formulated with soothing cucumber extract and moisturizing glycerin. The light, velvety foam helps gently melt away dirt, excess oil, and impurities without drying out the skin. Use it daily and after sweating to cleanse and comfort your skin.
For Dry, Acne-Prone Skin:
Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser
It’s a common misconception that only oily skin can get acne. In reality, anyone—regardless of skin type—can suffer from persistent breakouts. Unfortunately, dry skin and acne can be a tough combination to treat since so many acne ingredients (like salicylic acid) are also pretty drying. To manage dry, acne-prone skin without worsening dryness, try Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser. This unique cleanser contains 96.7% naturally-derived ingredients, including Cannabis sativa seed oil and green oregano oil.* These powerful plant ingredients work together to cleanse problem skin while helping to minimize redness and discomfort for a healthier-looking appearance.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.
For Very Dry Skin:
Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
Though oil cleansing is typically used as part of a two-step cleansing routine to remove makeup, oil cleansers are also among the best skin cleansers for ultra-dry complexions. Our best-selling Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil contains a rich blend of squalane, evening primrose oil, and lavender essential oil to soothe and replenish skin. The unique, non-comedogenic formula effectively removes dirt and oil without clogging pores, leaving skin feeling soft, supple, and clean.
Make Sure To Cleanse Properly
We’re guessing you probably already know how to wash your face—after all, you’ve been doing it your entire life. But there are a few seemingly-innocuous habits that can cause or worsen dryness and irritation.
The most common mistake people make when cleansing is using hot water to rinse off their face wash. Hot water feels nice on the skin (especially in colder weather), but it can leech moisture from your skin and lead to dehydration. If your skin is sensitive, hot water can also worsen the symptoms of irritation, like redness. So, instead of hot water, use lukewarm or cool water to wash your face. Your skin will thank you.
As mentioned, another habit that can cause or worsen dryness is over-washing the skin. While it is crucial to cleanse daily, skincare products with harsh ingredients like chemical exfoliants should be used sparingly if you have dry or irritated skin. Similarly, you want to avoid combining multiple harsh ingredients, like a face scrub and an acid, within the same cleansing session. Space out treatments to give your skin time to replenish itself.
Finally, when exfoliating with a scrub, be gentle. Using too much pressure to rub an abrasive onto the skin can damage the skin barrier and worsen dryness and irritation. Use ultra-light pressure when using a face scrub, and avoid scrubs altogether if your skin is extremely irritated—at least until it heals.
Condition With Toner
Cleansing is a crucial step in your skincare routine for dry skin, but it’s by no means the only step. No matter what cleanser you use, it’s imperative to follow it up with a toner to soothe skin and remove any residue that may remain after rinsing off your face wash. Dry skin types should reach for Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner, which contains cooling cucumber extract and allantoin to tone and balance dry skin. It’s our mildest facial toner and is suitable for all skin types, including dry, irritated, and sensitive skin.
Don’t Skimp On Hydration
Don’t forget to not only moisturize but to also use face oils daily to keep your skin barrier hydrated and healthy. In the morning, use Daily Reviving Concentrate Face Oil. It offers antioxidant protection against free radicals and reduces the appearance of fatigue for radiant skin. At night, make the switch to Midnight Recovery Concentrate Face Oil. This nighttime pick boosts essential moisture and replenishes skin overnight, so it’s left soft, supple, and hydrated.
After applying your oil, follow with a face cream or lotion. For dry skin, we recommend a mild yet deeply hydrating moisturizer, like the iconic Ultra Facial Cream. This top-rated facial cream is formulated with olive-derived squalane and glacial glycoprotein, which provide 24-hour hydration for soft, smooth skin. Though it has a lightweight texture and absorbs easily into skin, it hydrates even the driest areas for a balanced and deeply-moisturized visage. It’s our best-selling facial cream for a reason and leaves skin visibly healthier with regular use.