Winter Skin Care

A Dermatologist Is Begging You To Stay Away from This Ingredient if You’ve Got Dry Skin

Photo: Getty Images/ Yuricazac
When it comes to selecting products for a dry skin routine, I like to play ingredient bingo with the labels. "Hyaluronic acid," "ceramides," and "colloidal oatmeal" are all winning picks to use, plus bonus points for buzzwords like "cream," "milk," and "hydrating." But equally as important as the ingredients you're slathering onto your skin are the ones you're leaving off of it. One common culprit that board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, wants you to stay far, far away from if you've got dry skin? Sulfates.

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 is 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.

Need some recs? Keep scrolling.

Shop sulfate-free cleansers

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm — $34.00

If you’re looking for a face cleanser that won’t strip your skin, but will actually add hydration by way of oils and minerals, look no further than this best-selling cleansing balm. It removes dirt and grime from your complexion by binding oils to the oils in the formula, and when you wash it away, your skin feels clean—but never overly dry.

Youth To The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser — $36.00

If you like a gel cleanser that really is able to bust through all of the dirt and grime on your complexion, opt for this one which is packed with easy-on-the-skin ingredients like green tea. It’s also a best-seller at Sephora, and we like it because a little goes a long way.

EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser — $28.00

For those who can’t kick the suds, opt for this option from the dermatologist favorite EltaMD. It cleanses skin with an oil-free, pH balanced formula that packed with enzymes to help gently resurface and keep your skin glowing.

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