Best Cream Cleansers for When Your Skin Is Feeling Dry or Sensitive

If you’ve got dry skin, sensitive skin, or skin that always feels tight after cleansing, then you may want to switch to a cream cleanser.

Also known as cleansing cream, this type of formula is both gentler and more hydrating than other kinds of face wash, like foams and gels. 

That’s because these cleansers have a creamy texture, which produces only a mild lather (or no lather at all). Not only do they clean the skin without throwing off its pH or stripping its protective barrier, but they also deposit moisturizing ingredients.

But not all cream cleansers are made equal! Here’s what I look for, plus the best products I’ve found to date.

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Aveeno Positively Radiant 60 Second Shower Facial, Soy Extract, 5 oz
A GH Beauty Award winner, Aveeno’s innovative face cleanser/mask hybrid is applied in the shower to work with the steam, exfoliating and purifying with glycolic acid and kaolin clay. A tester noted that her face "looked clearer and more vibrant" after use.
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oleriane Hydrating Gentle Face Cleanser
A favorite of Dr. Bowe's, this La Roche-Posay face wash is infused with prebiotic thermal water. “This soothing creamy cleanser is soap-free, sulfate-free, oil-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores,” she says. “A probiotic or prebiotic cleanser will also help to fortify the skin’s beneficial bacteria, keeping the natural barrier healthy.”
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Daily Facial Cleanser
The classic low-lather, powder-fresh-smelling Cetaphil liquid was the tester favorite in the GH Beauty Lab’s test, leaving skin clean yet supple thanks to moisturizing glycerin. It rated highest among testers, with 86% saying they’d continue to use it, and scored well for making skin feel soft and hydrated.
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SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser (5 fl. oz.)
With the highest level of lather of all the GH Beauty Lab test-winning cleansers, SkinCeuticals’ foam (with no obvious scent) rose to the top for washing away leftover makeup, impurities and excess oil.
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SkinCeuticals Soothing Cleanser (5 fl. oz.)
PROS:
  • Lush lather
  • Deeply cleanses
  • No residue
CONS:
  • Pricey

What to Look for in a Cream Cleanser 

When choosing a cream cleanser, scan the ingredients list for the following:

  • Sulfate-free: Sulfates are harsh detergents that can irritate your skin. Instead, choose cleansers with gentle surfactants, such as sodium cocoyl isethionate or cocamidopropyl betaine, or no surfactants at all.
  • Silicone-free: Silicones can leave behind a film on your skin surface, which can trap debris and congest your pores. 
  • Mineral oil-free: Petroleum derivatives can also coat you skin in an occlusive barrier. 
  • Hydrators: Rather than silicones and mineral oil, look for skin-friendly emollients and humectants such as squalane, glycerin, coconut oil, fatty alcohols and shea butter.
  • Low-PUFA: Oils with a polyunsaturated fatty acid profile are highly volatile and quick to oxidize (go rancid). Ideally, use cleansers with stable oils or that don’t have PUFAs in the first five ingredients. 
  • Low-fragrance: Although fragrance won’t be as irritating in a cleanser compared to a leave-on product (like moisturizer), it’s still best to limit wherever possible. 

Note: Some cream cleansers rinse clean with just water, while others require more careful removal. So make sure to check out my cleansing cream tutorial for tips on how to use them the right way!

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