The 11 Best Drugstore Moisturizers for Every Skin Type in 2023

The dermatologist-approved La Roche-Posay hydrates even the driest skin without feeling heavy or clogging pores

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Best Drugstore Moisturizers for Every Skin Type

InStyle / Alli Waataja

Itchy, tight skin anywhere on the body is irritating, but especially on your face. On top of being uncomfortable, when your face flakes, makeup looks worse, and it could be preventing your other skincare products from doing their job. The solution? A really good moisturizer. And, while we know hydrating our skin below the neck is equally important, when it comes to our faces, there seems to be more to consider. Luckily, high price tags are one worry to remove from your quest, since many drugstore brands are proven to be just as effective as their more expensive counterparts.

First, we wanted to know why using a moisturizer is a crucial step in any skincare routine. According to Dr. Libby Rhee, a board-certified dermatologist and Ro's Dermatologist in Residence, dry skin is “much more susceptible to sensitivity, irritation, and even wrinkling,” which means that “having a healthy skin barrier is key to efficient and optimal skin cell turnover or renewal.” 

Moisturizers also seal in and improve water levels within the skin’s dermis, so applying one allows you to get the most out of pro-aging active ingredients, like acids, retinoids, and other exfoliants.

Best Overall

La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+M Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream

La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+M Triple Repair Moisturizing Cream

La Roche-Posay

What We Love: This moisturizer is very hydrating, won’t clog pores, and has skin barrier-restoring ingredients, like shea butter and niacinamide.

What We Don’t Love: It may cause those with very oily skin to feel somewhat greasy. 

La Roche-Posay is one of the rare instances where advice from medical professionals and tips from TikTok align. Influencers and dermatologists alike rave about the brand’s rockstar products, especially its sunscreen and this moisturizer. Case in point: It’s a favorite of Dr. Robert Finney, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology in New York City, because it won’t clog your pores and, he says, can be very helpful for tolerating retinol

Ceramides, shea butter, and La Roche-Posay’s signature Prebiotic Thermal Water (a mix of natural minerals and antioxidants), help restore the skin barrier. The formula also includes niacinamide to reduce inflammation. Despite being thick and creamy, it feels lightweight, so go ahead and slather it on from head to toe for soft skin everywhere. Since it’s fragrance-free (a win for sensitive skin users), you won’t have to worry about it competing with your perfumes. 

We did want to note that some reviewers with oilier complexions mentioned it made their faces feel a little greasy. If you think that could be the case, maybe opt for the Toleraine Double Repair Matte Face Moisturizer, one of La Roche-Posay’s lighter options.

Price at time of publish: $20

Key Ingredients: Ceramide-3, prebiotic thermal water, shea butter, niacinamide | Size: 400 mL | Skin Type: Dry, sensitive | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Budget

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA Daily Moisturizer

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA Daily Moisturizer

Ulta

What We Love: It hydrates using naturally occurring ingredients in your skin to provide lightweight, non-greasy coverage.

What We Don’t Love: Some customers with very dry skin say this isn’t moisturizing enough.

The Ordinary’s no-fuss branding extends beyond minimalist packaging and storefronts to its products, which use straightforward formulas beloved by the internet to deliver real results. Take this moisturizer, which rebuilds the skin barrier using naturally occurring ingredients found in your skin, like amino acids, triglycerides, and ceramides. It absorbs fully and sits well under makeup and sunscreen without pilling.

We’re big fans of the fact that this seemingly small bottle will last you a long time, making this pick a great value. What we can’t promise is that it’ll deliver life-changing results for super dry skin, but during cooler months, you can consider mixing it with one of The Ordinary’s other affordable products, like marula oil, for extra hydration. 

Price at time of publish: $6

Key Ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate, arginine, sodium PCA, PCA, lactic acid, and minerals | Size: 1 oz | Skin Type: All | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Gel

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Love: Ingredients like glycerin hydrate the skin while oat and panthenol soothe irritation.

What We Don’t Love: The packaging isn’t very hygienic. 

Having trouble finding a moisturizer that doesn’t increase the sheen in your t-zone, or everywhere else for that matter? You might want to try a gel, like this one from Aveeno, instead. Gels are water-based and tend to be more lightweight than traditional moisturizers. As a bonus, we think they feel similar to a cooling face mask on your skin. Our editors already found that Aveeno’s serum was a life-saver for their winter dry skin because, as with this gel, both products use oats to soothe irritation and moisturize skin.

That’s right — the ingredient you use to design your overnight breakfast recipes is actually a superstar when it comes to restoring normal pH in your skin. When processed for skincare, oats can contain proteins and lipids that moisturize and protect your skin. This gel also includes glycerin, another hydrating ingredient. There’s a lot to love about the gel but one thing we’d change is putting it into a more sanitary pump instead of a tub. 

Price at time of publish: $20

Key Ingredients: Prebiotic oat, glycerin, panthenol | Size: 1.7 oz | Skin Type: Sensitive | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Acne-Prone Skin

Vichy Normaderm PhytoAction Daily Deep Cleansing Gel

Vichy Normaderm Phytoaction Acne Control Daily Moisturizer With Salicylic Acid

Target

What We Love: Salicylic acid helps treat acne and its formula won’t feel greasy on oily skin.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not fragrance-free.

Whenever I break out, I’m hesitant to put anything on my skin, especially a moisturizer, for fear it’ll highlight my shine or irritate acne. Yet this lightweight formula from Vichy, which was recommended by Dr. Tiffany Clay, a dermatologist specializing in general practice and cosmetic treatments, is an exception. She says it saved her skin when she was suffering from acne during pregnancy, thanks to hydrating acids, like hyaluronic and acne-fighting ones, such as salicylic. You’ll also see vitamin C listed on the back of the bottle, which, according to Dr. Clay, helps with discoloration. 

Sensitive skin users may want to take a pass at this one, however, because it contains a fragrance that could be irritating. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Key Ingredients: Natural origin hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, 60% Vichy volcanic water  | Size: 1.69 oz | Skin Type: Sensitive | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for AM

Bolden SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer

5
Bolden SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Love: Bolden makes a skin-brightening sunscreen moisturizer using vitamin C and SPF 30 that won’t leave an off-white residue. 

What We Don’t Love: Many users found the pump’s design made the product difficult to dispense.

We’ll try anything that lets us collate products and save serums and moisturizers from competing for shelf space. This moisturizer not only makes derms happy by adhering to the mandatory SPF 30 sunscreen rule, but it also includes vitamin C, another staple ingredient that should be in everyone’s skincare routine. Even users prone to oily skin said it gave them a glow without the grease. Plus, since Bolden formulates all its products by keeping the concerns of darker-skinned customers at the forefront, you won’t find this moisturizer leaves behind a white cast. Our one strife is that it gets stuck in the pump — causing you to end up with either too little or too much, but it’s a small price to pay for this multi-tasking moisturizer. 

Price at time of publish: $28

Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, squalane, safflower oil | Size: | Skin Type: All | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Night

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

CeraVe 

What We Love: It’s a lightweight, hydrating moisturizer that will help repair the skin’s barrier overnight using ceramides. 

What We Don’t Love: If you’re prone to extremely dry skin, this might not provide enough coverage.

Unless you have something against waking up with glowy, plump skin, the last step before hitting the hay should be slathering on a moisturizer. 

CeraVe is non-comedogenic (a fun way to say it won’t clog pores), so you can rest easy without worrying it’ll be the culprit of an overnight pimple. The product uses hyaluronic acid to bring back moisture into dehydrated skin, ceramides to create a stronger skin barrier, and niacinamide to soothe inflammation.  

This moisturizer works across skin types, but since it is lightweight, Dr. Finney tells us it’s a particularly good option for oily-skinned users. One thing to keep in mind is a few reviewers with really dry skin said they had to combine it with another serum to achieve their desired level of hydration. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid | Size: 3 oz | Skin Type: Combination to oily skin | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Sensitive Skin

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

5
Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Love: Since Vanicream formulates this moisturizer without many allergens like lanolin and formaldehyde, it's safe for sensitive skin users.

What We Don’t Love: Several customers remarked it left a slight white cast.

Our editors love this gentle cleanser from Vanicream and it looks like the brand’s moisturizer is another hit, too. Dr. Clay recommends this brand to her patients with super sensitive skin because it leaves common allergens, like lanolin and formaldehyde, as well as fragrances, out of their formulas. Instead, it’s loaded up on all the good stuff for hydrating (hyaluronic acid and squalane) and supporting (ceramides) your skin barrier. 

Plus, the non-comedogenic moisturizer won’t clog pores or feel heavy on your skin, making it a nice base to wear during the daytime under makeup and sunscreen. That said, a few customers complained it left a white cast when they didn’t take their time rubbing it into the skin.

Price at time of publish: $14

Key Ingredients: Squalane, glycerin, hyaluronic acid | Size: 3 oz | Skin Type: All | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dry Skin

e.l.f. Happy Hydration Cream

e.l.f. Happy Hydration Cream

Amazon

What We Love: e.l.f. uses a vegan formula with ingredients like hemp seed oil to deliver a super-hydrating moisturizer. 

What We Don’t Love: The jar is unhygienic. 

From our beverages to our beauty products, hemp seed oil seems to be appearing everywhere, but in the case of this moisturizer, it’s more than a buzzword. Not to be confused with CBD, hemp seed is a botanical with benefits like vitamin E, amino acids, and antioxidants. It works well to relieve dry skin because it acts as a humectant, which is a hydrator that draws moisture into the skin. But, it doesn’t do it all on its own; e.l.f. includes several other hydrating ingredients to this formula, like glycerin, panthenol, and hyaluronic acid. 

Reviewers loved how it relieved flaky skin, played well with their makeup, and absorbed quickly. It also gave them a brightening complexion thanks in part to the niacinamide. We only wish it came with a vacuum pump rather than a jar for a more hygienic application. 

Price at time of publish: $12

Key Ingredients: Hemp seed oil, vitamin B5, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Size: 1.7 oz | Skin Type: Dry | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Oily Skin

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel

4.2
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Water Gel Face Moisturizer

Neutrogena

What We Love: Oily-skin users will love the lightweight formula that’s still very hydrating thanks to ingredients like hyaluronic acid.

What We Don’t Love: It has a fragrance that is unpleasant to some reviewers. 

We’d trust anything Jennifer Garner recommended, but we feel extra influenced to use this moisturizer knowing that it’s also dermatologist-approved. Dr. Finney explains that Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost gel contains hyaluronic acid and is very lightweight, making it ideal for those with oily and acne-prone skin, or for someone who doesn’t love the feel of a traditional creamy moisturizer. 

He also recommends it for those who don’t tolerate retinol very well. He suggests layering a small amount of the gel onto skin before applying your retinol and following with a thicker moisturizer. 

While it didn’t affect some reviewers, we wanted to mention that others complained about the fragrance, so maybe choose another option on the list if you’re sensitive to scents.

Price at time of publish: $23

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Size: 1.7 oz | Skin Type: Oily | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Primer

Good Molecules Silicone-Free Priming Moisturizer

Good Molecules Silicone-Free Priming Moisturizer

Ulta

What We Love: You can use it on its own as a moisturizer or ahead of makeup for a more even, oil-free finish.

What We Don’t Love: You may have to follow up with a heavier moisturizer or serum to lock in moisture.

Two-in-one formulas aren’t necessarily the best for beauty products like shampoos and body washes, but we love how this ultra-lightweight moisturizer pulls double duty by also acting as a primer. You can wear this moisturizer on its own, but using it before foundation and concealer helps the makeup glide on more evenly while smoothing out skin tone. 

I, like other reviewers, found that its slight mattifying effect created a less oily-looking appearance. The primer helps hydrate and reduce inflammation with ingredients like macadamia seed oil and shea butter. The cruelty-free and vegan formula also shuns silicones, which aren’t inherently bad, but their absence does help prevent pilling. 

Depending on your skin type, you might have to follow this one up with a thicker moisturizer to get a more hydrating finish. 

Price at time of publish: $12

Key Ingredients: Macadamia seed oil, shea butter  | Size: 1.7 oz | Skin Type: Combination | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Redness

Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 20

4.2
Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Love: The moisturizer soothes redness and provides sun protection.

What We Don’t Love: It’s only offered in one tint color.

Anyone who struggles with redness like me knows it looks a lot less like the adorable pink cheeks that spurred an entire makeup trend and more along the lines of blotchy, red spots. It makes sense that the brand revered by all (even Lizzo), for its gentle cleansers, would develop a moisturizer to calm sensitive skin, especially those who experience rosacea. This moisturizer harnesses licorice root extract, a brightening ingredient that treats hyperpigmentation, and caffeine to relieve irritated skin. 

While we love that it has sun protection, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, so it’s a good idea to apply a sunscreen with a higher SPF after. Let’s hope Cetaphil makes a version without a tint or extends its shade range as some customers weren’t fans of how it looked on their skin.

Price at time of publish: $16

Key Ingredients: Allantoin, licorice extract, caffeine, vitamin E | Size: 1.7 oz | Skin Type: Sensitive | Cruelty-Free: No

What to Keep in Mind

Skin Type

According to Dr. Clay, oily-prone skin should stick to matte or gel-based moisturizers because they’re lightweight and won’t feel greasy. She says for dry skin, ceramides, petrolatum, glycerin, shea butter, and niacinamide are most beneficial at hydrating the skin. Combination skin can use the same ones except, she adds, “the petrolatum, which may make them feel more oily in some areas.”

If you have sensitive skin, Dr. Clay tells us to look for products that are fragrance-free and contain ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help maintain a healthy skin barrier. 

Ingredients 

If you check the back of your favorite moisturizers’ bottles, you’re likely to see a common theme: Hydrating and skin-barrier-restoring ingredients, like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and niacinamide. These are the failsafe key words to look for.

Dr. Rhee says she also loves, “microbiome-balancing ingredients in moisturizers, which are usually labeled as 'prebiotic' because they promote a healthy skin barrier in addition to providing moisture.”

Feel

Again, how a moisturizer feels is going to come down to your skin type and preference — do you like the creamy texture of a traditional moisturizer or the soothing feel of a gel? Are you looking for a lightweight or matte finish? 

No matter which option you choose, Dr. Clay says that a good moisturizer will minimize the tight, dry sensation of parched skin. In turn, well-balanced hydration levels reduce the appearance of dull-looking skin and, she adds, will stop itching and the potential formation of a rash or eczema. 

Your Questions, Answered

How often should you apply moisturizer?

Both Dr. Clay and Dr. Rhee agree we should be slathering on a moisturizer at least twice a day. 

However, Dr. Rhee says that skincare is personal, so how often and when you apply can vary from person to person. Since your skin is affected by your genetics, overall health, outside environment (pollution, the weather, etc.), and whatever other skincare or makeup products you’re using, what your dermis needs to maintain moisture could be drastically different that what your friend needs. 

“Depending on how dry your skin is or how effective your moisturizer is, you may need to moisturize several times throughout the day to establish and then maintain moisture,” she says.

At what step does a moisturizer fall in your skincare routine?

The best time to apply in the morning is after any actives or serums, but before sunscreen, says Dr. Clay. In the evening, she tells us to wait until after you’ve applied serums and a retinol to then put on a moisturizer. 

Why Shop With Us

Irene Richardson is a writer with over five years of experience covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she spoke with three board-certified dermatologists—Dr. Tiffany Clay, Dr. Libby Rhee, and Dr. Robert Finney, personally tried several, and reads dozens of reviews. 

Sources
InStyle uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7891210/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885180/

  3. https://www.aad.org/media/stats-sunscreen#:~:text=Dermatologists%20recommend%20using%20a%20sunscreen,of%20the%20sun%27s%20UVB%20rays

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