The Best Facial Moisturizers for Nourishing Hydration

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. Learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

At the bare minimum, your moisturizer should hydrate your skin. It seems simple, but the benefits are plentiful: "This ensures that the skin looks more plump and smooth and supports skin barrier function—which, in turn, improves both the texture and overall appearance of your skin," explains New York City dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. "Supporting the skin barrier also keeps the skin healthier and more resilient, so it's less likely to become damaged or infected."

Final Verdict Overall, Tatcha’s The Water Cream is our top choice in facial moisturizers. This gentle cream not only provides refreshing and lightweight hydration, but it’s packed with innovative ingredients you’re not likely to find in other formulas. For a budget-friendly option, you can’t go wrong with the best-selling Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream; its hyaluronic-acid powered formula helps keep skin hydrated and plump.

While moisturizing sounds easy enough, shopping for the right product is anything but. Not only are there so many different kinds of lotions and creams on the market, but every person's skin is unique, making it that much harder to find the right match. Budget and top skin concerns also come into play, further complicating the search.

The good news? We're here to help. We went to work and tried a handful of top-rated moisturizers spanning a range of budgets, skin types, and concerns. After using them for weeks at a time, our testers rated each formula's texture and feel, how well it addressed their specific concerns, and, of course, how well it hydrated their skin. We then combined these results with Dr. King's recommendations and thorough research to compile a list of the best in show.

Without further ado, read on for the best facial moisturizers to keep your skin nourished and hydrated.

Face Moisturizers

Face Moisturizers at Walgreens

A complete daily skin care routine is essential to promoting a health complexion. While every person has their own unique needs when it comes to skin care, a complete facial skincare regimen should always include moisturizers. No matter your skin type and age, Walgreens can help you find the best moisturizer for your needs. We carry a vast selection of products with formulations for addressing every skin care concern. You can explore our entire selection online or limit your search to products of a certain type, price range or brand. Then, you can complete your purchase online or find out which of our stores have your preferred moisturizer in stock.

The Benefits of Moisturizing

Throughout the day, moisture evaporates from your skin. Over time, this process can leave the tissue parched and more prone to tightness, flakiness and irritation. Dry skin can also lose its natural luster. Moisturizers address these problems and reduce the risk of them occurring in the future. With each application, moisturizers provide hydration to replace what is naturally lost during the day. Typically, moisturizers are used twice daily as the last step of a skin care regimen after cleansing, toning and applying any treatments. Some people choose to use a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen in the morning and nighttime formulas in the evening. Others apply the same moisturizer morning and night.

Comparing Forms

Moisturizers are available in a wide range of forms.

Oils provide the most hydration benefits, as they contain very little water.

Moisturizing creams have a silkier consistency and also deeply hydrate skin. Lotions and balms are formulated with more water, making them lighter.

Serums are highly concentrated and have a lightweight texture that allows them to become absorbed rapidly by the skin.

Considering Your Skin Type

One of the most important considerations when selecting a facial moisturizer is your skin type.

If you have oily skin, look for lightweight moisturizers that are oil free or non-comedogenic.

Balms, gels and serums tend to be a good choice for oily complexions.

Dry skin requires more intensive hydration from heavier creams and oils, while sensitive skin can benefit from gentle hypoallergenic products.

For normal skin types, a lotion or lightweight cream is often a good choice.

You may find that you need a more intensive moisturizer in the winter when the air is drier and a lighter moisturizer during the humid summer months.

Factoring in Your Dermatological Concerns

If you're dealing with a skin care problem, you can find moisturizers to address your concerns while providing hydration.

To minimize fine lines and wrinkles, look for firming and anti-aging products.

Brightening moisturizers promote more luminous skin and minimize dark spots.

For controlling breakouts, you can choose an acne moisturizer that contains ingredients that promote clearer pores.

You can also find moisturizers for eczema, rosacea, scars, oversize pores and an array of other conditions.

To increase the effectiveness of these specialty moisturizers, you can try using them along with treatments. Many brands offer products that complement one another's actions, making it easy to create a complete regimen for specific dermatological issues.

10 best face moisturizers for dry skin, according to experts

Select is editorially independent. Our editors selected these deals and items because we think you will enjoy them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time.

Dry skin can be a constant battle — especially on the face where skin is more sensitive. But with the right skin care products that have the right ingredients, you can give your skin the moisture and protection it needs.

SKIP AHEAD How to shop for face moisturizers

To help you shop the vast market of facial moisturizers for dry skin, we spoke to dermatologists, aestheticians and estheticians about the ingredients that hydrate, and they also told us their favorite picks.

What is a moisturizer and how does it work?

Moisturizers bring moisture “into the skin, not just to its surfaces, said Dr. Annie Chiu, a board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute in California. They can be lotions or creams: Lotions are lighter and less greasy, making them better for normal to lightly dry skin, says Chiu; creams provide “a heavier barrier to keep your skin moisturized,” and are ideal for dry or sensitive skin.

The best face moisturizers for dry skin, according to experts

The experts we spoke to agreed that most effective face moisturizers for dry skin will be heavier and contain a combination of emollients (sealing agents to keep moisture in), occlusives (which create physical barriers to prevent dehydration) and humectants (which draw water to the skin to help it retain moisture). They also noted that the products should be free of ethyl alcohol, exfoliators and other drying or irritating ingredients. With that in mind, these are the facial moisturizers the dermatologists and estheticians we spoke to said were their favorites for dry skin. One expert also recommended trying a moisturizing face mask, which contains similar moisturizing ingredients in a different form.

Chiu recommended Neutrogena Hydro Boost for people with dry skin, as did Dr. Barry Goldman and licensed aesthetician Jean Dachnowicz, both of New York City's Goldman Dermatology, which Goldman founded. “[It] addresses the dryness and [helps] the face feel hydrated,” Goldman and Dachnowicz said. Notable ingredients include hyaluronic acid, dimethicone and glycerin.

Goldman and Dachnowicz called Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream the “best overall moisturizer for dry skin.” The cream, which can be used on your whole body, is formulated with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, petrolatum and vitamins B3 and B5.

Aquaphor is an occlusive moisturizer that can be helpful for “skin that tends to be flaky, cracked and/or scaly,” according to Goldman and Dachnowicz. The ointment, which can be used as a lip moisturizer, hand cream and more in addition to a face moisturizer, is fragrance-free and includes several occlusive ingredients, including mineral oil and glycerin.

Petroleum jelly is the occlusive moisturizer behind the popular skin care trend “slugging” — people put the product on their face after their skin care routine to lock in moisture. The American Academy of Dermatology says that petroleum jelly products have several skin care benefits, including helping dry skin.

This fragrance-free cream from First Aid Beauty is formulated with colloidal oatmeal, an emollient that “helps strengthen your skin barrier and adds moisture to it,” according to Goldman and Dachnowicz. Chiu said this is a great option for those suffering from dry skin in the wintertime, and the brand says it’s also helpful for those with redness and eczema.

According to Chiu, Tatcha’s The Dewy Skin Cream “couples antioxidant ingredients with deep moisture in an elegant, non-greasy formula.” According to the brand, the cream is formulated with a blend of Okinawa algae and hyaluronic acid to restore water levels to the skin. Other nourishing ingredients in the moisturizer include glycerin and dimethicone.

Goldman recommended Vanicream for dry skin. The brand’s facial moisturizer is made with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin and squalane, a popular emollient.

If you have a little bit more in your budget for skin care products, Chiu recommended Skinbetter’s Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment for dry skin repair. “[It] has urea and provides deep moisture without the heaviness,” she explained. According to the brand, it’s also formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and ceramides and squalane to lock in moisture.

For people who want a “quick absorbing moisturizer,” Chiu recommended this “unique gel formulation” from Biossance. It uses ingredients like squalane oil and probiotics to help hydrate skin, reduce redness and decrease pore size, according to the company.

When your skin is “ultra dry,” Chiu told us using a moisture mask a few times a week “can help dry, flaky, sensitive, or even more irritated skin calm down.” During sleep, our skin loses more moisture because our body temperature slowly increases throughout the night, Chiu said. This mask contains several moisturizing ingredients, including the humectant hyaluronic acid. It also has an “occlusive effect that still manages to feel light and soothing,” according to Chiu. Other ingredients included are black oat, lecithin and red seaweed.

How to shop for a moisturizer for dry skin

Most moisturizers formulated for dry skin have a similar thick texture to provide a heavy barrier on the skin. “Greasy creams and ointments work best for dry skin,” Goldman and Dachnowicz emphasized.

You should also pay close attention to the ingredients in each product you’re considering. Typically, these ingredients (and the products themselves) can fall into one of three categories, experts told us:

Humectants draw water to the skin’s surface and help the skin retain moisture. Emollients help soften the skin and lock in moisture. Occlusives create a physical barrier over the epidermis that prevents water loss.

Humectants, emollients and occlusives all work together to hydrate the skin and lock that moisture in.

Humectants

Humectants draw water to the skin’s surface and “break down dead skin cells, further improving moisture penetration,” according to Chiu. Hyaluronic acid is arguably the most common — and important — humectant: It “works by absorbing moisture like a sponge from the air and draws it into the skin,” Goldman and Dachnowicz explained. Other common humectants found in moisturizers include urea, glycerol, sorbitol, glycerin, aloe vera gel and lactic acid.

Emollients

Emollients, which can be found in creams, gels, ointments and lotions, “are beneficial to aging or dry skin when natural lipids have been depleted,” Chiu said. These ingredients trap in moisture and soothe and moisturize the skin, experts previously told us in our guide to SPF lip balms. Common emollients include shea butter, isopropyl palmitate and colloidal oatmeal.

Occlusives

Occlusives provide the skin with a physical barrier to help prevent water loss and shield the skin from potential irritants. (The popular “slugging” trend relies on occlusive products.) According to Chiu, they are a good option for those with dry skin “since they aid in moisture retention and skin barrier restoration.” However, if you have acne-prone skin, Goldman and Dachnowicz said occlusive ointments might clog your pores. Common occlusives include waxes like beeswax and silicone and oils like olive oil, lanolin, mineral oil and dimethicone.

What to avoid while shopping for moisturizers for dry skin

As you’re shopping for moisturizers to heal and revitalize your dry skin, you might notice that most of them are labeled as fragrance-free and alcohol-free. That’s because fragrances and denatured alcohols can dry out the skin, which is counterproductive when you’re trying to solve for dryness.

According to our skin care experts, here are some of the ingredients you should avoid while shopping for a face moisturizer for dry skin.

Denatured alcohols: On skin care labels, denatured alcohol will appear as ethyl alcohol or SD alcohol. These alcohols “will dry out skin even more and draw moisture out of the skin, which can affect the skin barrier function and cause sensitivity and redness,” according to Chiu. Not all alcohols are denatured alcohols, so don’t worry if you see “alcohol” on the label of a moisturizer advertised for dry skin. Fragrances: Chiu, Goldman and Dachnowicz all said they prefer unscented moisturizers, since fragrances can irritate the skin. Exfoliants: The experts we spoke to noted that exfoliants can irritate dry skin and potentially even make it worse. Common exfoliating ingredients to avoid include salicylic acid and glycolic acid.

How to apply a moisturizer to dry skin

When you’re trying to fortify your dry skin, experts told us you should apply moisturizer at least twice a day: once in the morning and once at night. The moisturizer should ideally be applied after you take a shower or wash your face so that it can lock in the moisture and do its job.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

Leave a Comment