The Best Moisturizers to Deliver Hydration to Dry, Parched Skin
There are a variety of factors that could be contributing to your dry, flaky skin. Whether it be the weather, over exfoliation, genetics or a side effect of aging, dealing with dry skin is never fun. Luckily, there are tons of moisturizers for every skin type and budget that can add some much-needed hydration back to your skin.
With such a saturated market, though, where does one even start? To make it easier for you, we researched some of the best moisturizers, creams, and lotions on the market and evaluated each product based on its ingredients, texture, and moisturizing properties. We also asked Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and Sheila Farhang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics, to weigh in on the best moisturizers for dry skin. One product that stood out was the Cerave Moisturizing Cream for its gentle, ultra-hydrating formula and lightweight feel.
Ahead, find the best moisturizers for dry skin.
- Best Overall: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
- Best Value: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Gel-Cream
- Best Splurge: Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Eau Thermale Avène Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Cream
- Best Anti-Aging: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
- Best for Extremely Dry Skin: Aquaphor Healing Ointment
- Best with SPF: EltaMD UV Facial Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30+
- Best Lightweight: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
- Best Cooling: Korres Greek Yoghurt Nourishing Probiotic Gel-Cream
- Best for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Best Overall: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Best Value: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Best Splurge: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
Best for Sensitive Skin: Eau Thermale Avène Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Cream
Best Anti-Aging: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
Best for Extremely Dry Skin: Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Best With SPF: EltaMD UV Facial Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 30+
Best Lightweight: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
Best Cooling Option: Korres Greek Yoghurt Nourishing Probiotic Gel-Cream
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Best K-Beauty: Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb
Best With Ceramides: Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream
Best for Itchy Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration
Best Firming: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer
What to Keep in Mind
The most common types of ingredients in moisturizers 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, waxes or dimethicone." Like the slugging skincare trend.
Then, there are emollients like natural oils, ceramides, and shea butter, which he says "directly hydrate and soften rough cells on the outer skin layer." They can also be very nourishing and can fill in cracks in the skin barrier.
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.
You want to make sure you choose the right type of product when picking out a moisturizer. "For a good moisturizer, choose a cream over a lotion. Lotions are more water-based, so more lightweight but not as moisturizing," says Dr. Farhang. Next, you'll want to consider the thickness of the cream, which will depend on your personal preference, skin type, and when you plan on using your moisturizer. A thick cream works for nighttime use, but it may be too heavy for the day and hard to layer makeup over it. Heavier creams could also clog your pores more and may not be the best choice for acne-prone skin. They can be very nourishing, though, and feel luxurious and rich to apply.
Your Questions, Answered
How do moisturizers work?
The main function of a moisturizer is to repair your skin's natural moisture barrier. "Your outer skin layer is designed to maintain hydration, but in some people, this system is weaker than others," says Dr. Zeichner. "Skin barrier function also 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 that damaged, dehydrated skin.
When should you apply a moisturizer?
To make sure your skin absorbs every drop of moisturizer, Dr. Farhand recommends applying moisturizer within a minute of getting out of the shower or washing your face every day. It also helps to apply it when your skin is still a bit damp to help seal the moisture in. Since moisturizer has such a big job when it comes to your barrier and the health of your skin, apply a moisturizer a.m. and p.m. for best results. Make sure to top your morning routine with a sunscreen.