Sulfates are a type of surfactant, which is what make cleansers lather and foam, and help with removing dirt, oil, and debris from your skin when you wash your face. For some people, sulfates are totally fine, but that's not the case if your skin's dry. "Harsh cleansers disrupt your epidermal barrier which is the top layer of your skin, and it's the most important thing that's responsible for keeping water locked in and from evaporating out," says Dr. Gohara, explaining that sulfates are typically what make a cleanser considered harsh. "The moment that barrier is disrupted, it's game over for dry skin."
In addition to looking for the word "sulfate-free" on your cleanser (or, at the very least, making sure "sodium lauryl sulfate," the most common sulfate, is nowhere to be found on the ingredient list), Dr. Gohara suggests seeking out terms like "gentle," "hydrating," and "pH neutral" on your products. And one common misconception worth keeping in mind? Just because a cleanser foams and lathers doesn't necessarily mean it's a no-go for dry skin—new foaming technology and "foam stabilizers" have changed the game for those of us who want a good lather that won't strip our skin. Just be sure to read the labels to confirm there's no secret sulfate lurking in there.
For more intel on how to handle your dry skin (which, if you're anything like me, is seriously struggling right now), check out the video below, and subscribe to our Beauty Geek Facebook group where we'll be chatting about our favorite moisturizing products—and a whole lot more—all winter long.
These are the three ingredients derms want you to double down on for dry skin, plus the most hydrating foundations money can buy.
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