Best Cleansers for Dry, Acne-prone Skin

These are some of the cleansers that Cassandra recommends most often for people who have dry skin, and some of these have truly transformed the skincare routine of people who struggle with this. So, if you’re constantly trying out acne cleansers, but they all make your skin dry, we want to help you work with your dry skin instead of against it.

There’s one benzoyl peroxide wash that Cassandra can recommend for dry skin and acne, 

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash Benzoyl Peroxide - $9.77 



This is the Panoxyl creamy wash. This is a benzoyl peroxide wash made for drier skin types. But, Cassandra wouldn’t necessarily say that this cleanser is great for dry, acne-prone skin. This will annihilate breakouts, but it can also really dry and irritate the face of someone who is dry. Dry skin often means a damaged skin barrier. Our skin is made of multiple layers, and on top of those layers sits an acid mantle. This acid mantle is composed of fats and oils that are supposed to keep hydration in our skin.  

Our skin barrier also has ceramides, cholesterol, and squalane. But for people who have dry skin, this barrier is normally damaged. Moreover, there’s normally an insufficiency of ceramides, squalane, and nourishing oils. So, if you go in with a cleanser that's strips the oils away even more, it's just going to make the problem even worse. Given this, Cassandra would recommend the following cleanser for the chest and back. For people who have dry skin, this is normally excellent for the body. They have a 4% and a 10% version. 

If you have dry skin, Cassandra would only recommend the 4%, and it’s a great choice. However, it's still not her favorite. The cleansers Cassandra actually recommends for dry, acne-prone skin are thePacifica Vegan Ceramide Face Washand the Three Ships Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser.  Whilethese are technically not labeled as acne treatments, we’re going to explain why they’re effective. 

Pacifica Vegan Ceramide Face Wash - $10 

There are no actives for acne in these. So, why would we use a cleanser that’s not labeled for acne?  Well, this is a fragrance-free ceramide cleanser, and you can use products that stay on the skin like serums to treat acne. But before serums, we want to make sure we cleanse the face without stripping the barrier. We want to build that barrier back, and that’s where this ceramide cleanser comes in. 

If you’re cleansing once or twice a day, the last thing you want is to destroy the skin barrier even more. You want to do the opposite, and this cleanser will help repair it. So, even though this cleanser doesn’t have actives for acne, it’s excellent for dry skin, and it will not irritate the acne. It’s going to help replenish some of those ceramides and moisture. Not to mention, it’s sensitive-skin approved and dermatologist-tested. So, hands-down, this is one of Cassandra’s favorite products from Pacifica. Especially for dry skin, this is going to be a lifesaver, and this is what Cassandra would recommend for day-to-day use. 

Three Ships Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser - $18.99

If you have dry skin but are looking to exfoliate, this is an amazing choice. This cleanser does have fragrance and bergamot in it which is why it’s not Cassandra’s top pick for an everyday cleanser. The Pacifica Ceramide Cleanser is still her first choice, but if you’re looking for something that is mildly exfoliating and dry-skin safe, this one from 3 Ships works incredibly. This formula specifically has ingredients like jojoba esters and green tea, and they are combined into a formula that is made for dry, dehydrated skin. The soothing ingredients can also help with inflammation.

When you have dry skin and acne, one of the main components of acne is the bacteria and inflammation that’s stuck under the skin. So, gentle exfoliation can help remove that top layer of skin and allow that bacteria to come into contact with air and break down. 

It’s a great cleanser, it is very gentle, and it’s acne friendly. 3 Ships also has an enzyme cleanser, and Cassandra would highly recommend an enzyme cleanser for acne. Enzyme cleansers are a little more gentle than something like an AHA or a BHA. When your skin is dry, you’ll want to take things slow and support the skin barrier while still trying to treat the acne bacteria - even when you’re exfoliating. 

Speaking of exfoliation, these are two exfoliants that are used in professional clinics that are a slam dunk. Both of these are from Dermalogica, and one of them is brand new. 

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant - $65 


This is the daily microfoliant, and although you could technically use this everyday, Cassandra doesn’t recommend doing so if you have dry skin. This is a rice exfoliant, but it also has some AHAs. A lot of people don’t use this correctly. They splash water onto their face and rub the powder in. You’re supposed to put the powder in a little cup with water, whip it, and it becomes very fluffy. It’s extremely gentle on the skin, but it does give a physical exfoliation feel. But, it’s more like a foam that helps to exfoliate without overly stripping.

Dermalogica Daily Milkfoliant - $65 


This is a calming version of the microfoliant, but Cassandra doesn’t think someone with dry skin should use this every day either. This has oat and coconut, and it is a vegan milkfoliant. This one is almost more viscous or slimy than the microfoliant. The texture comes from beta glucans and other hydrating ingredients that are nourishing to the skin. This is more calming than the microfoliant, and if you do have sensitized or drier skin, this is what you should absolutely go for. Keep in mind though, it does have a bit of fragrance, and you probably shouldn’t use it every day.

Remember, if you use this during the day, you’ll want to apply sunscreen afterward.

Let’s move on to toners. Toners can be a part of the cleansing process, and they are great for dry skin. Toners rebalance the skin after cleansing, and they are applied after cleansing. They allow moisturizers and actives to penetrate deeper. 

PYUNKANG YUL Facial Essence Toner -$16.14 

There’s something about the Pyunkang Yul that lends itself well to acne. It hydrates, provides antioxidants to protect the skin barrier, and it does not exacerbate acne.




Face Reality Moisture Balance Toner - $29 

This was actually made for dry skin and acne. The ingredients might be a little bit surprising because there is water, alcohol, and witch hazel. But, this is a wonderful toner, and it does help to rebalance the skin. This toner has sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid that binds to the water and holds it in the skin. It also has proline, antioxidants, and ferment filtrate.

This is extraordinarily gentle on the skin, and it’s a very beautiful formula. However, you don’t necessarily need a toner or an essence in a routine. All you need is a good cleanser, treatment, and sunscreen. But, if you’re going to use one, this is absolutely it. Plus, it compliments the Three Ships Purify Aloe Cleanser extremely well.

Dermalogica Precleanse -$49

This is more of a luxury, and it smells so lovely. This is basically a makeup-removing oil, and it works extremely well. Jojoba oil will also do the trick to remove oil, but this is a very unique formula that Cassandra thinks was worth adding to her routine even though it's expensive. As long as you’re not sensitive to some of the plant ingredients, this is beautiful. It doesn’t leave an oily film on the skin. It goes on like an oil, and it removes makeup, dirt, and sunscreen without having to tug on the skin. Then, it rinses off into a milky lather, coating and moisturizing the skin before you go in with an actual cleanser.