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7 Hydrating Cleansers That Won’t Dry Out Your Skin

Plus the ingredients to watch out for in your existing products.

By: Hannah Baxter

The battle against dry skin is a never-ending one in winter. The corners of your nose, the delicate under-eye area, your wind-chapped cheeks—theyre all crying out for moisture. Every step of your skin-care routine should be adding a dose of hydration at this point—even your cleanser. It might seem counterintuitive to use a product you wash down the drain to moisturize your skin, but there is science that supports the use of hydrating cleanser, especially when it comes to keeping your pH in balance.

Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe stresses that the squeaky-clean feeling you might get from a stronger cleanser in the summer is actually disrupting the balance of healthy microorganisms that make up your microbiome. That can lead to irritation and dryness. “I cannot stress enough how important it is to maintain the health of your skin’s barrier by using gentle, pH-balanced products. Your skin should feel hydrated, smooth, and nourished after cleansing, not tight and dry. I like gentle, milky cleansers that include nourishing ingredients like prebiotics.”

To quickly check if a cleanser is going to keep your skin adequately hydrated or leave it stripped and dry, you can do a label check for sulfates, specifically SLS and SLES. Says Dr. Bowe, “[They] are a type of surfactant, which is basically a detergent [that] creates a rich, foamy lather.  Some come from petroleum, while others come from natural sources like palm oil or coconut oil, [but] no matter where they come from, in high enough concentrations, they can damage the outer layers of your skin, resulting in itchy, cracked, dry, or inflamed skin.”

To keep your skin supple and soft and avoid skin irritation and dryness, use one of our seven favorite hydrating cleansers.



CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin, $15

This CeraVe cleanser is a classic and has won numerous industry awards for the sheer reason that it works. It’s packed with ceramides and hyaluronic acid so your skin never feels stripped after cleansing, and the gel-ish consistency is ideal for massaging your skin to bring some circulation back into your face. Once you pat dry, there’s no urgent feeling to slather yourself in moisturizer. Plus, the price is super accessible and a great entry point if you’ve never tried a hydrating cleanser before.

Belif Aqua Bomb Jelly Cleanser, $28

If you want a cleanser that will keep you hydrated but will still remove all traces of pore-clogging oils, this gel-to-foam formula should be next on your rotation. Added Lady’s Mantle (a perennial plant) contains high amounts of tannin and salicylic acid to clear pores of debris (and thus make them appear smaller) and soothe irritation. It’s also paraben-free and uses a glycerin-based cleansing agent to gently remove makeup without drying out your skin.

Renée Rouleau Moisture Protecting Cleanser, $38

Esthetician Renée Rouleau makes one of the beauty industry’s favorite cleansers, especially when your skin is in need of some deep hydration. The gel-to-milk formula never disrupts your skin’s moisture barrier; instead, the barely-there lather gently cleanses to reveal dewy, bouncy skin. It’s packed with aloe vera extract to soothe as well as sweet almond seed extract and apricot seed extract to nourish even the most irritated skin.

Kinship Naked Papaya Gentle Enzyme Cleanser, $20

You still need to exfoliate your skin, even in the winter, if you want to prevent rough patches and congestion. This cleanser gently buffs your skin via papaya enzymes, while jojoba and sunflower oils provide much-needed moisture. Kinbiome, a plant-based probiotic, also strengthens your skin barrier to prevent hydration loss.

Holifrog Tashmoo Water Lily Nourishing Milky Wash, $38

This milky cleanser is one of our favorite new products from 2019. It has a pH of 5, which is almost identical to human skin, meaning it won’t disrupt the acid mantle and cause irritation. There’s a blend of 14 amino acids to help skin repair itself from lingering damage, as well as vitamin E, aloe vera, blue-green algae, and water lily root to lock in moisture. It packs a big punch for feeling like you’re basically cleansing with your favorite face lotion.

Josh Rosebrook Complete Moisture Cleanse, $55

If it feels like your skin is out of balance (a common struggle this time of year), then this herbal cleanser can get you back on track. A blend of aloe vera, African black soap, honey, avocado oil, sea buckthorn, Ashwagandha, and rose hip, among many other botanicals, cleanse this skin without ridding it of its natural moisture. Plus, you’re getting a potent dose of anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant ingredients.

Marie Veronique Gentle Gel Cleanser, $35

Sensitive-skin-havers, this one’s for you. Sugar-based surfactants are the star of this cleanser, which gently cleanses while simultaneously preventing water loss by allowing the water molecules to spread out and penetrate your pores. Calming green tea and licorice root extract douse your skin with protective antioxidants, while geranium essential oil keeps your acid mantle balanced.

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