Cleansers for dry, acne-prone skin need to strike a delicate balance between treating the blemishes and not drying out the surrounding skin. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't just people with oily skin who suffer with acne. When you have dry patches and flaking skin, you need a cleanser with the right combination of ingredients.
Cleanser Ingredients Are the Key
Cleansers for dry, acne-prone skin work best when they stick to cleansing alone. Try using products that contain little in the way of active ingredients. It is possible to dry skin out further by layering applications with too many medications. For example, if your dry skin cleanser contains medication and your moisturizer does too, you could over medicate the skin and exacerbate the problem.
Top Cleanser Products
The following cleansers are all used for dry, acne-prone skin. Each products has its pros and cons, but each also comes with recommendations.
Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser
Neutrogena routinely uses salicylic acid, but a few Neutrogena products contain mostly natural ingredients. Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Facial Cleanser was named the best "eco-friendly" cleanser by InStyle.com in 2012. It was also given a five-star expert rating at Beautypedia.
- Gentle, water-soluble formula doesn't strip skin
- Can remove most make up
- Not suitable for sensitive skin
- Contains some synthetic ingredients (fragrance)
- Contains salicylic acid (from Willow bark bionutrients) which may irritate some skin
Other Ingredients: Water, glycerin
Approximate cost: $6 - $8 for 6 ounces
Places to buy: Local drug stores, grocers, and online retailers
Other user comments: "It is clean and smooth and smells great, and it does not leave your skin dry." -- from Ulta.com. Several users on Amazon.com noted that "It has a very light and refreshing smell - more of a botanical green than anything flowery, which is nice." Other users on Amazon.com also noted that this product dried out their skin or caused irritation after continued use.
Summary: This appears to be a good, budget-priced product, but it may irritate some skin types.
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser has been rated highly by several different beauty magazines and websites, like InStyle 2013. RealSimple.com also notes the product's "gentle but deep" skin cleaning as well.
- Won't wreck your skin's pH balance or strip away oils
- Won't clog your pores
- Can be used to remove some makeup
- Recommended by many dermatologists
- Contains several cosmetic ingredients that some people feel should be avoided -- like parabens, propylene glycol, and sodium lauryl sulfate
- Does not contain any antioxidants, botanicals, or omega-rich plant oils
- May not be able to remove all makeup
Other ingredients: Water, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol
Approximate Cost: $10 - $11 for 8 ounces
Places to buy: Your local drugstore, grocery store, or online retailer. All drugstores or grocers may not carry the entire Cetaphil line, so you might want to check ahead to make sure this product is available.
Other user comments: This cleanser has won Best of Beauty and Readers' Choice awards from the Allure.com website; users also note that it leaves your skin soft and clean without stripping. Some users from Amazon.com note that this product is for sensitive skin but it may not clean your skin enough.
Summary: This appears to be a very mild cleanser that you can rinse or tissue off; however, it may not remove all makeup.
Vichy Pureté Thermale Purifying Foaming Water
- Water-soluble cleanser
- Rinses cleanly
- Removes most make up
- Contains Captelae™ which is a Shea plant extract that attracts impurities
- Vichy thermal water soothes skin
- Alcohol and soap-free
- Not a good option for sensitive skin because of the fragrance
- Can be challenging to purchase
Other ingredients: Water, Centaurea Cyanus Extract / Centaurea Cyanus Flower Extract
Approximate cost: $19.50 for 5.1 ounces
Places to buy: This is available online at Vichyusa.com.
Other user comments: Several users at Amazon.com note that this is a good foaming cleanser that leaves skin refreshed. Users at Escentual.com agree. The Corralista Makeup Blog gives this cleanser a 4.5/5, but does note that the smell may not work for everyone.
Summary: This product is a light, refreshing cleanser that can only be ordered online.
Bioelements Sensitive Skin Cleanser
- Olive oil-based cleanser helps protect skin's moisture
- Can remove most make up
- No artificial colors, synthetic fragrances, parabens, or other irritants
- Dermatologist-tested for sensitivity
- Some may notice an oily residue after washing
- May not foam enough for some users
Other ingredients: Safflower oil, hazelnut oil, jojoba oil, lavender oil, kissi seed oil, and rosemary
Approximate cost: $30.00 - $45.50 for 4 ounces
Other user comments: Reviewers at SkinStore.com commented that this cleanser removed all makeup, did not irritate their skin, and worked with acne-prone skin or mild rosacea. TotalBeauty.com users noted that it was great for dry and sensitive skin, especially during the winter months.
Summary: This is a mild, oil-based cleanser that may be considered somewhat pricey.
CeraVe Hydrating Skin Cleanser
CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser is a good option for dry skin, and it was named Best Cleanser for Dry Skin in 2017 by InStyle.com. This cleanser has also been rated five out of five stars by the experts at Beautypedia.
- Is soap-free and fragrance-free
- Can be used in conjunction with any prescription acne treatments
- Contains ceramides, which help repair and hydrate the skin
- Contains hyaluronic acid which attracts moisture to the skin
- Does not clog pores
- Dermatologist recommended
- Is not well-suited to remove make up
- Consistency is different than other cleansers
- May not like the fact that it does not lather up
Other ingredients: Water, glycerin, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol
Approximate Cost: $10 - 15 for 12 ounces
Where to Buy: Various drug stores, grocers, and online retailers.
Other user comments: Ulta Beauty users gave this cleanser a 4.5/5. Others on MakeupAlley.com note that it is a very gentle cleanser and not drying. One other common comment is that it does not remove makeup.
Summary: This is an inexpensive cleanser that works well for dry and sensitive skin, but it may not remove makeup.
Finish Your Skin Care
After using a cleanser, you should then continue your acne skin care routine. This might include applying a topical treatment. The last step is moisturizing. Adding moisture to your face is necessary for dry skin, even if you have acne. By following the appropriate regimen, you can ensure you are doing all you can to keep your skin looking its best.