It is important to recognise the difference between skin that is dry and skin that is dehydrated. The latter is far more common and results in a general dullness, loss of elasticity and is audibly papery-sounding under fingers; it is best treated with internal hydration (through water and diet) and hyaluronic acid. Dry skin is a surface-level problem that results in dry, flaky patches and is best treated with exfoliating acids.

Both types, however, benefit from a creamy, nourishing cleanser that removes grime and dead skin cells without further stripping moisture (foam cleansers, we’re looking at you) and exacerbating that tight post-shower feeling. All our favourites, listed below, can be used in the morning and as the second step in a two part cleanse in the evening: first, remove make-up with a cleansing oil or balm, then massage your chosen cleanser into wet skin and towel off.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser: £16.50, Kiehl’s 

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser is a perennial favourite for the fuss-free way it dissolves excess oil and dirt without stripping moisture. It has a light lather, and squalene, apricot oil, vitamin E and avocado oil keep dry skin comfortable and protected.

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Skin Laundry Skin Purifying Cream Cleanser: £20, Cult Beauty

If there’s anyone we trust to give us glowing, healthy skin, it’s a brand from California. Its cream cleanser is soap- and sulfate-free, ideal for sensitive skin, and uses a mix of aloe, meadowfoam seed oil, macadamia nut oil and panthentol (a provitamin of B5) to nourish while it lifts dirt from skin.

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Sisley Phyto-Blanc Lightening Cleansing Milk: £103, John Lewis

OK, this is a crazy amount of money to spend on a cleanser, but we wouldn’t even begin to suggest it if it wasn’t totally perfect. This creamy cleansing milk comes in chic (and unsmashable) matte plastic packaging and the combination of hydrating glycerin, nourishing sunflower oil, balancing lavender and protecting vitamin E leaves skin softer and brighter than any cleanser we’ve ever used. If you can afford it, more power to you. 

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Tata Harper Refreshing Cleanser: £71, Cult Beauty 

For sensitive skins, Tata Harper’s grapefruit-scented cleanser uses pink clay to draw out impurities, willow bark (a natural source of salicylic acid) to sweep away dead skin cells and aloe vera to soothe and repair. It left our skin feeling extremely soft, and clean from any of the dirt picked up throughout the day.

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Lixir Skin Electrogel Cleanser: £25, Liberty London

We are head over heels for the Instagram-friendly ‘millennial’ pink of minimalist brand (the range contains just six products) Lixir Skin. The thick, white Electrogel Cleanser gives a no-frills, highly effective clean that leaves skin feeling plump and nourished to the touch afterwards and went a long way to alleviate dry patches around the nose.

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La Roche-Posay Lipid-Replenishing Cream Wash: £8.50, Escentual

The glycerin and shea butter in La Roche-Posay’s cream wash nourish while niacinamide strengthens the skin’s barrier. It is also extremely gentle, being soap-, fragrance- and paraben-free. Our tester found it relieved tight, uncomfortable skin and didn’t irritate her usually sensitive and redness-prone cheeks.

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Sarah Chapman Skinesis Ultimate Cleanse: £44, Space.NK

There’s not a product by the facialist guru brand that we don’t love, including its Ultimate Cleanse. Really good on more mature skins, it is oil-based (including rosehip, jojoba and omega-rich baobab) to melt away dirt and excess sebum, and nourishes with antioxidant vitamins, collagen-boosting peptides and anti-ageing vitamin A.

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Zelens Z Pure Cleansing Liquid Balm: £50, Look Fantastic

Zelens’ milky cleanser has the same tea-like scent and leaves skin moisturised, plumped and radiant immediately after use. Our tester found her usually temperamental skin calm and clear after two weeks’ use.

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The Verdict: Cleansers for dry skin

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser is mid-price and top results mean it suits everyone; it’s cult for a reason.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.