There are tons of reasons why your skin might feel extra dry lately (think: excessive exfoliation, the weather, and wearing a face mask). While some people can blame genetics for their flakey skin, the environment you’re in (particularly cold weather) can dry out your skin, too. Another common cause? Age.
“Your outer skin layer is designed to maintain hydration, but in some people, this system is weaker than others,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City tells InStyle. “Skin barrier function weakens with age. Someone who did not need a moisturizer when she was young may find it is necessary as she gets older.” And if your skin’s barrier is defective, he says you might find super tiny cracks and increased inflammation. But the good news is that slathering on a good moisturizer can help restore dehydrated skin.
Since not all moisturizers are equally as hydrating, we got the lowdown on what ingredients look for from Dr. Zeichner and Dr. Sheila Farhang, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics. First up, you want to make sure you choose the right type of product. “For a good moisturizer, choose a cream over a lotion. Lotions are more water-based, so more lightweight but not as hydrating,” says Dr. Farhang. And to make sure your skin absorbs every drop, she recommends applying moisturizer within a minute of getting out of the shower every day.
As for ingredients, the most common types are occlusives, emollients, and humectants, and they all work in different ways. “Occlusives are ingredients that form a physical barrier over the skin to prevent loss of hydration,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Common occlusives used in skincare products are petrolatum or dimethicone.” And then there are emollients like natural oils and fatty alcohols, which he says “directly hydrate and soften rough cells on the outer skin layer.”
Humectants, like the popular hyaluronic acid, aren’t actually moisturizing on their own, which is why they need to be paired with an actual moisturizer to hydrate dry skin. Instead, these molecules “pull in water to hydrate and plump the skin,” according to Dr. Farhang.
With those dermatologists’ tips in mind, we scoured thousands of customer reviews to help you find the best-rated moisturizers for dry skin. And while this list is focused on face moisturizers, many of the products below can be used on your body, too.
These are the 15 best moisturizers for dry skin of 2020, according to reviews:
Keep reading to learn more about the best moisturizers for dry skin from brands like CeraVe, Drunk Elephant, Olay, and Charlotte Tilbury, including affordable drugstore options and celeb-approved options that are worth the splurge.
With an average of 4.7 stars from over 15,300 reviews, this CeraVe cream is perfect for people with dry skin on their face or body — and it’s really affordable, too. It contains powerhouse ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, the latter which Dr. Farhang says are “a lipid that helps with the integrity of the skin barrier.” The fragrance-free formula is gentle enough for sensitive skin, and even shoppers with eczema have found relief in this thick moisturizer. (It’s earned a National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.) “I have extremely sensitive skin. The past six months or so my skin has become very dry, likely due to my age,” wrote one customer. “I've tried so many different lotions, oils, even supplements. I finally came [across CeraVe] and I've only used it for two days and I cannot believe the difference in my skin!”
Shop now: $16 (Originally $19); amazon.com
EltaMD is the brand behind Amazon’s best-selling facial moisturizer, and this version is ideal for dry skin. It comes in tube and jar containers, and both boast a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ for sun protection and hyaluronic acid for moisture retention. “I have been using this product for several years as recommended by dermatologist for use as a moisturizing sunscreen for the face,” said one shopper. “It is very creamy, absorbs well, and wears well under any foundation makeup. It has a white, creamy texture but disappears quickly as you smooth on. It has never irritated my skin in any way and feels great on dry skin.”
Shop now: $30; amazon.com
Specially formulated to be safe for super sensitive skin, Avène’s moisturizer will reduce redness, calm irritation, and most importantly, hydrate. Compared to other moisturizers, it has very minimal ingredients — but that’s one reason why it’s a safer option for people with sensitive skin. “The very first time I applied this cream to my eczema-induced facial rash, my skin felt and looked hydrated,” one wrote. “The transformation from rough, scabby, raisin/prune like skin was immediate and amazing... It reduced the inflammation and redness and calmed my irritated facial skin.”
Shop now: $35; amazon.com
Not only is this moisturizer incredibly hydrating, it’s also a powerful anti-aging product that thousands of shoppers swear by. In addition to hyaluronic acid, the Olay moisturizer uses amino peptides to smooth and firm your skin and niacinamide (a.k.a. vitamin B3) to reduce the appearance of dark spots. “My skin was dull and dry and had a rough texture, [but] since using this product my skin has improved massively,” said one shopper. “I have seen a reduction in fine wrinkles, smoothness of skin texture, and my skin is holding moisture and is not dry anymore.” FYI: While some reviewers questioned the legitimacy of the cream, Olay confirmed to InStyle that Amazon is an authorized seller — just make sure the listing still says “ships from and sold by Amazon.com.”
Shop now: $23 (Originally $26); amazon.com
This top-rated moisturizer from Neutrogena uses hyaluronic acid to help draw water to your skin and dimethicone as a physical barrier so it stays hydrated. It absorbs quickly so your skin instantly feels quenched, but it also locks in the moisture for 48 hours, according to the brand. “I've never been more pleased with a facial moisturizer,” said one shopper. “I got it yesterday and used it right away. I was impressed with how smoothly it went on and was completely invisible. Even better, my skin didn't feel tight or coated. Then the miracle: A couple of hours later, I looked in the mirror, and surprise, no dry, flakey skin. I assumed it just hadn't had time to get back to its dry condition, but this morning it still looks as smooth as it does in the summertime.”
Shop now: $15 (Originally $19); amazon.com
If you’re going to splurge on a high-quality moisturizer, make it Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream. Shoppers call the product “luxurious,” and it even has celebrity fans. The cult-favorite cream uses a combination of peptides, vitamins C and E, and hyaluronic acid to smooth and plump your skin, making it the perfect hydrating base to wear under makeup. “I always walk out the door feeling glowy because of this. I get so many compliments on my skin and a lot of it is due to this moisturizer,” a customer wrote.
This protein-packed moisturizer from Drunk Elephant is one of the best-rated moisturizers from Sephora — and it has a whopping 272,900 ‘loves’ from people who say it makes their skin feel hydrated and smooth. The vegan and cruelty-free formula uses a combination of nine signal peptides, antioxidants, and folic acid to noticeably firm and plump your skin and improve its texture. Plus, the pump-style packaging dispenses the perfect amount of moisturizer (and means you don’t need to stick dirty fingers into the jar). “To be honest, I’ve tried hundreds of moisturizers and this is by far my favorite,” said one reviewer. “It goes on effortlessly, looks great under makeup, and has great ingredients.”
Shop now: $68; sephora.com
If you’re looking for a super lightweight moisturizer, then this Peter Thomas Roth Cloud Cream is it. Shoppers say it really lives up to the name, with many describing its texture as “soft,” “fluffy,” and “silky.” The moisturizer contains 30 percent hyaluronic acid and Pentavitin, which is an ingredient that claims to keep skin hydrated for up to 72 hours after washing. “This is the lightest, airiest, dewiest, non-greasy, nicest smelling moisturizer I have ever used,” wrote a customer. “As soon as I scooped a bit out of the jar, I could tell it was going to be different from most face creams.”
Shop now: $22–$52; amazon.com
This rich moisturizer from First Aid Beauty contains colloidal oatmeal to relieve itchiness and shea butter to hydrate and protect skin, so it’s ideal for healing flaky, irritated skin. Shoppers find it very soothing and say that it calms their rashes (even eczema). One wrote, “My skin gets very irritated and dry, so this little calming and extremely moisturizing product has been a savior of mine. It sinks right in and feels super smooth after.”
Plenty of celebrities like Julia Roberts swear by Weleda Skin Food for head-to-toe hydration, so of course Amazon shoppers love it now, too. Formulated with plant extracts like pansy, chamomile, and sunflower oil, the thick cream will seriously nourish anywhere on your body that’s feeling extra dry — and customers say it definitely lives up to the hype. “This is the best moisturizer I have ever used,” said one person. “I’m an esthetician/makeup artist and have spent so much money on skincare. This is by far my favorite product. I used it at night, and for me, my skin soaks it right up.”
Shop now: $19; amazon.com
Another lightweight option, this gel moisturizer from Korean beauty brand Belif is designed to feel like a "drink of water” for your skin. Instead of hyaluronic acid, it uses glycerin and ceramides to moisturize skin and help it retain water — and customers say it keeps their dry skin feeling hydrated. “I’ve always suffered from very dry skin, especially my nose,” said one person. “I've tried many many moisturizers/lotions and nothing has come close to this. Since I purchased this Aqua Bomb, my skin has drastically changed for the better.”
If you have extremely dry, cracked skin, then you need a heavy-duty moisturizer that can restore your skin without irritation, like Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment. Since it’s made of 41 percent petrolatum, the ointment creates a barrier over dry skin to prevent it from losing hydration. It’s great for chapped lips, and it’s gentle enough to help heal minor cuts and burns (that’s why it’s often recommended for tattoo aftercare). “I have had acne-prone skin my whole life,” said one customer. “I've often spread [this] on my face after chemical peels or when my skin is chapped from cold, or just when it is really dry, and I've never broken out from it. In fact, often the opposite occurs, and it leaves my skin supple and glowing in the morning.”
Shop now: $11 (Originally $17); amazon.com
Tons of customers with dry, acne-prone skin say that this Dr. Jart+ moisturizer doesn’t clog pores or cause pimples, and it even helps repair skin post-breakout. The moisturizer’s unique ceramide complex helps strengthen your skin’s barrier and prevent it from losing too much moisture. “After my first application I was sold,” said one reviewer. “My skin is so plump and smooth! It has evened out my skin texture, soothed the flaking/dryness and it seems to be plumping up my acne scarring so my face is a smooth surface vs. deep marks from scarring.”
Shop now: $48–$69; sephora.com
Some moisturizers use squalane as an emollient, and this popular Kiehl’s cream counts on plant-based squalane (derived from olives!) to hydrate the skin. You’ll also find Glacial Glycoprotein in its formula, which are protein and carbohydrate molecules sourced from Antarctica that are meant to protect skin from cold temperatures. Many customers say it’s hydrating enough for the fall and winter, but still say it feels lightweight enough on their skin. One reviewer said, “This is hands down my favorite moisturizer. I've been using for 8+ years now and I have yet to find something better.”
This Korres moisturizer proves that skincare can be cooling, too. Thanks to the Greek yogurt on its ingredient list (it’s full of prebiotics and probiotics), this cream will help promote a healthy microbiome, boost your skin’s collagen, and leave your face totally refreshed. “I absolutely love how this moisturizer makes my face feel like I dipped it in a cool glass of water on a hot summer day. It is not greasy, it absorbs quickly, and it’s lightweight,” said one shopper.
Shop now: $36; sephora.com