How can I cleanse my skin without drying it out?

Watching out for Certain Cleanser Ingredients

Sometimes skin-product manufacturers make shopping easier by displaying whether a particular cleanser is mild or formulated for dry or oily skin right on the package. But that's not always the case. And even if it is, you still might want to verify those claims.

If you see any of the following types of ingredients in a cleanser, you'll probably want to avoid that product, as it may dry your skin:

  • Fragrances
  • Alcohol
  • Exfoliants, such as glycolic acid

When it comes to hand soaps, be aware that antibacterial formulas can be more drying than regular soaps. Excessive use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also damage your skin.

If you want to be sure the cleanser you're buying will help improve moisture retention and avoid drying, lean toward products that have synthetic ceramides in them. These ingredients mimic natural ceramides, which help keep moisture in the skin.

You might find that organic cleansers contain more of the ingredients you'd like -- or, at least, less of the ones you don't want. For instance, many of the organic products don't contain sulfates -- harsh, but effective, surface-tension-reducing surfactants found in most commercial skin and hair products. Just remember that many organic products aren't regulated by the federal government, and just because a company claims its cleanser is organic doesn't mean it is. If you want to ensure a skin care product you're buying is completely chemical-free, look for a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) logo on the label.

Keep reading for lots more information on skin care.

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  • Adams, Beth. "Body Lotion and Face Lotion?" Real Simple. (Dec. 23, 2010)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Cutting Through the Clutter: Making the Most of Your Facial Cleansing Routine." Feb. 21, 2005. (Dec. 23, 2010)
  • The Beauty Brains. "The Truth About Skin Toners." July 30, 2008. (Dec. 23, 2010)
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  • Cosmetics & Toiletries. "Study Finds Women Are Not Washing Face Properly." Jan. 2, 2008. (Dec. 23, 2010)
  • Curél® Skincare. "Fighting Back Against Dry Skin: How to Clean Dry Skin." WebMD. Sept. 9, 2010. (Dec. 23, 2010)
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  • Polis, Laurie J. "Dirty Secret: Do You Skip Washing Your Face at Night?" WebMD. July 27, 2010. (Dec. 23, 2010)
  • Valdesolo, Fiorella. "Are You Allergic to Your Beauty Products?" WebMD. March 10, 2010. (Dec. 23, 2010)
  • WebMD. "Skin Care for Dry Skin." Aug. 31, 2010. (Dec. 23, 2010)