Can skin cleansers be moisturizing?

Bar of soap and water splash.
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You've probably heard people compare their dry skin to that of a reptile -- an alligator, snake or lizard, maybe. Dry, scaly skin can be a problem, especially in winter months, when you go from the frigid outdoors into overheated buildings, two environments that take a toll on your skin.

Moisturizing skin cleansers may sound like a too-good-to-be-true solution to shed your scales and molt into spring-fresh skin, but rest assured -- some skin cleansers do contain moisturizing elements. Some cosmetics and sunscreens include moisturizers, too.


When used properly, moisturizing skin cleansers can be a great addition to your skin-care regimen. However, keep in mind tht different types of skin need different types of care. The products you use -- and how often you use them -- depend on whether your skin is extra sensitive, extra dry or oily with frequent breakouts.

If your skin is excessively dry, a moisturizing cleanser is for you. Wash your face before bed to clear away the day's grime, and follow up with a moisturizing cream. You can skip a morning wash to avoid agitating your skin. However, if you have oily skin, you can wash your face up to three times a day. Be sure to use a cleanser that will fight breakouts.

No matter which facial cleanser you use, any cleanser formulated for faces is better than your run-of-the-mill soap. Soap can wash away the natural oils on your face, leaving skin clean but dried-out. To learn about the elements in skin cleansers that make them different from basic soap, read on.


Moisturizing Ingredients in Skin Cleansers

Reading the ingredients list on the back of a skin cleanser can be daunting if you don't know what to look for. Once you know about cleanser components, you can choose the one that's right for your skin type.

The most basic cleansers contain salt and fatty acids that come from animals or plants. These acids loosen dirt from your skin so water can easily rinse the dirt away.


A moisturizing cleanser should contain glycerin, petroleum jelly, vegetable oil or certain fats that act as moistening agents. These trap moisture in the skin to counteract the drying effects of other ingredients. You can also look for a moisturizing cleanser that contains green tea or aloe, which will help soothe your skin.

Now that you know what ingredients to seek out and what ingredients to avoid in moisturizing skin cleansers, you can select one that will benefit your skin. Read on for more information on what those benefits are, and what any potential drawbacks might be.


Pros and Cons of Moisturizing Skin Cleansers

No one wants to worry about dry skin flaking off and landing on a black shirt -- and we all know how uncomfortable scaly patches of skin can be. Moisturizing cleansers are one of the first steps in creating a healthy, non-flaky appearance, and they have few side effects. However, moisturizing cleansers are only one part of a healthy skin care routine, and you need to choose carefully if you have extremely sensitive skin or a preexisting skin condition.

Using the wrong skin care products could actually increase dryness. Avoid cleansers that have added fragrances -- they might smell nice, but scents can irritate sensitive skin. Stay away from cleansers that contain certain alcohols (fatty alcohols like cetyl and stearyl acohol are OK) if your skin is easily susceptible to irritation. The rule of thumb here is that the more nonessential ingredients there are in a cleanser, the more likely it is to cause irritation. If you have sensitive skin and are concerned about how a certain skin cleanser could affect you, discuss the cleanser's ingredients with your doctor.


Contact with water during washing actually dries out your skin, so don't prolong rinsing time too much, even though it may feel relaxing to run water over your face. Drying your face the wrong way could also have a negative effect on your skin. Be sure to pat your skin dry gently with a towel rather than rubbing vigorously. After drying, follow up with a moisturizing cream.

Cleansers and moisturizers can vary in price from a few dollars at the drugstore to around $40 at a special retailer [source: CNN]. Just make sure you pick one that is right for your skin type.

Moisturizers help skin protect itself, so using the right moisturizing cleanser should only enhance your skin. Just make sure you're using the proper technique when washing -- this is actually more important to your skin's health than the products you use. To learn more about moisturizing facial cleansers, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Baumann, Leslie S. "Cleansers." Skin and Allergy News. January 2009. (Accessed 9/2/2009).
  • Cosmetics and Toiletries Magazine. "Emollient with Water-Holding Capacity." April 9, 2008. (Accessed 9/2/2009).
  • Kiser, Sherry. "Soothe Your Dry Winter Skin." Prevention Magazine. Nov. 30, 2004. (Accessed 9/2/2009).
  • Prevention Magazine. "We Look 10 Years Younger." Nov. 15, 2008. (Accessed 9/2/2009).
  • CNN. "Take it easy on your skin." Real Simple Magazine Dec. 4, 2008. (Accessed 9/2/2009).
  • Skin Care Guide. "Skin Cleansers -- An Overview On Soap." April 1, 2008. (Accessed 9/2/2009)