Maintaining a supple complexion can be a challenge despite our best efforts (humidifiers, masks, more water, less wine). But finding the right moisturizer for your skin type makes a big difference. It’s also an essential part of any skin-care routine, as it balances your production of sebum, which is the natural oily substance produced by the skin, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman. “Sebum is essential because it helps lubricate the skin and protect its moisture barrier,” he says. “When skin is dry, the body ramps up the production of sebum, which can lead to an increase in acne.”
What Ingredients Should You Look for in a Moisturizer?
Dr. Hartman lists hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides as important ones. Hyaluronic acid increases the skin’s moisture level and traps water in the skin, plus it can help boost the skin’s elasticity. Glycerin is also a hydration booster, and ceramides protect your skin barrier from external pollutants or irritants.
What Step Is Moisturizing in a Skin-care Routine?
Dr. Hartman also insists that you should apply a moisturizer every day — once in the morning and once in the evening, especially during colder, dryer months. And if you like to incorporate a plethora of other products into your routine, you should apply your serum first, then your moisturizer, then an oil and your sunscreen in the morning. At night, it should go after a serum or a retinol.
What Else Should I Know?
Now that you have the lowdown on moisturizers straight from an expert source, we’ve looked at the ingredient list with these recommendations in mind and rounded up the 26 best face moisturizers for all skin types, including some of Dr. Hartman’s personal picks (none of which he’s affiliated with, by the way — he just happens to think they’re great). Read on to see which one is right for you.
The Best-Value Moisturizer
Ideal for those who want moisture yet worry about breaking out, this moisturizer absorbs almost instantly so that your skin feels softer, nourished, and not at all greasy. The gel-cream consistency spreads evenly, but feels more like a liquid once applied. It is also one of the least-expensive moisturizers on this list, and has close to 5,000 five-star Amazon reviews.
The Most Popular Moisturizer
This moisturizer has achieved cult status. It’s been mentioned many times on the Cut as a favorite of Julia Roberts, Victoria Beckham, makeup artists, models, authors, and more. People laud its thickness and the dewy sheen it leaves behind (some people even use it instead of highlighter). It’s primarily meant for the face and body, but it can also be used on the hands, hair, and anyplace else.
The Best Moisturizer for Really Dry Skin
This moisturizer is chock-full of ceramides, the good “fat” for your skin that helps strengthen the moisture barrier and keeps hydration from leaking out of your pores. It contains five different kinds and has nearly 900 five-star reviews, calling it “intense” and a “must-try for dry skin types.”
The Simplest Fragrance-Free Moisturizer
It’s not the flashiest of moisturizers, but this one has a long-standing reputation in the beauty world — it works really well and has zero scent. (It also has almost 9,000 four-star reviews on Amazon). One swipe of the hyaluronic acid and niacinamide-rich formula deeply moisturizes for supersoft complexion. Dr. Hartman stresses the importance of avoiding fragrances if you have sensitive skin.
The Best Grease-Free Gel Moisturizer
“Bio-Oil Dry Skin Gel has a unique feel when applied to the skin, which I love,” says Dr. Hartman. “It goes on as a gel, and as you rub it into the skin, it turns into an oil consistency without a greasy finish.” You’ll get a hit of intense moisture to the skin with shea butter, glycerin, and urea, while the vitamin B3 helps the skin retain the moisture added for a longer-term benefit, he says. The 300+ reviewers on Ulta would agree.
The Best Two-in-One Moisturizer
For those of you who like to do the bare minimum but still want to protect your skin, this is the option for you. Apply this before heading out the door and Dr. Hartman says you’ll get moisture from the ceramides along with essential sunscreen protection thanks to the SPF 30. It has a 4.5-star rating out of five, and thousands of reviewers say it’s long lasting and absorbs quickly.
The Best Mattifying Moisturizer
Another rec from Dr. Hartman is this lightweight formula that restores the skin’s barrier without increasing oiliness, leaving a nice finish. It reduces visible pores and leaves a soft matte look if you struggle with excess oil and shine. The pore-minimizing effect also makes it an excellent base for makeup. As for the customer feedback, one reviewer with acne-prone combination skin called it “unparalleled perfection” after giving it a whirl.
The Most Soothing Moisturizer
If your skin is flaky and irritated, you will love this rich, soothing moisturizer. It’s a little on the heavier side, so it’s a good pick for those going through the “Retinoid Uglies” (Sephora reviewers also note that it’s great for anyone using Accutane). It’s formulated with shea butter and colloidal oatmeal, which is known to relieve itching.
The Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin
Those with chronic eczema praise this cream for its ability to heal and soothe particularly stubborn patches. It is a French drugstore find that contains thermal spring water (known for its healing properties), but also has clinical results that back up its effectiveness at repairing the skin barrier. It’s so soothing that it’s even suitable to use on infants.
The ‘Natural’ One
It looks like shaving cream, but this thick, fluffy moisturizer is a powerhouse of moisturizing ingredients. First off, it’s fragrance-free (meaning it won’t irritate sensitive skin), and it contains good-for-you plant oils and vegetable-derived fatty acids to drench dry faces — without silicones and waxes. Rated one of the top facial moisturizers by cosmetic cop Paula Begoun, it rubs into skin with ease and will restore moisture to a flaky face.
The Moisturizer that Does It All
This moisturizer does everything. It has a very hydrating base of glycerin and shea butter. In addition, it contains SPF 50, a healthy dose of antioxidants from coffee seed and apples, and tone-boosting ingredients like niacinamide and licorice. Reviewers of all skin tones note that it blends in nicely, without any sort of gray cast. If you forget to apply sunscreen every day, this is a good pick.
The Best Seller
Over the summer, this cream quickly became Sephora’s best-selling moisturizer and sold out twice. It has a gel texture that instantly becomes a rich, silky moisturizer on skin contact, and it moisturizes without getting greasy.
The Luxury Moisturizer
The price tag is steep, but celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Nicole Kidman swear by this moisturizer (J.Lo was rumored to use it as a body moisturizer). Its origin story is legendary and involves psychics, a mystery NASA scientist, fake-death conspiracy theories, and more. La Mer’s proprietary “Miracle Broth” is made with seaweed and allegedly works to smooth fine lines, shrink pores, and restore radiance. Most effective on very, very dry skin, the dense cream melts when applied. Celebrity makeup artists like Hung Vanngo use this on their clients like Chrissy Teigen and Selena Gomez.
The Summertime Moisturizer
This weighty cream houses high-tech ingredients, including a 30 percent hyaluronic acid concentration. From the moment it’s applied you will feel a cooling sensation, and it leaves behind a dewy finish. Three different-sized molecules of hyaluronic acid work to maintain hydration in skin.
The K-Beauty One
The Fashion-Favorite Moisturizer
This velvety cream feels great and absorbs quickly to replenish very dry skin. It contains hyaluronic acid, peptides, and antioxidants that purportedly boost collagen and smooth fine lines when your skin is looking less than great. Celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury says she’s used this cream for years at fashion shows and on photo shoots with her loyal clients like Amal Clooney and Kate Moss.
The Best Postflight Moisturizer
You know the harsh dryness your complexion experiences after getting off a flight? This rich, antioxidant-packed cream intensely calms and nourishes skin without a greasy feeling, and it does it immediately, making it great for parched postflight skin. With ingredients like organic grape water and olive squalane, it has great plumping abilities.
The Shea-Butter-Infused Moisturizer
Buttah was created to treat melanin-rich skin and everyday skin issues like dryness and discoloration. This moisturizer is especially great for colder months because of its 100 percent-shea-butter base and ingredients like hyaluronic acid. It feels thick but deeply soothes and hydrates the skin. Shea butter is made of several types of fatty acids and is known to be anti-inflammatory, with studies showing it can also be beneficial in healing acne scars. This cream has a subtle yet pleasing natural shea-butter scent.
The Fancy New Moisturizer
Dubbed the “new La Mer” by some, this very fancy moisturizer is beloved by celebrities (like Melanie Griffith and Diane Kruger), fashion people, and beauty editors alike. It comes with its own mythical-sounding origin story, and no one is quite sure how it works — but lots of people swear by it for giving them better-looking, smoother, and what they describe as younger-looking skin.
The Next-Level Classic
If you grew up with Clinique’s three-step system, but need something richer, consider this souped-up version of the cult classic. The silky cream glides over rough patches. Loaded with antioxidants and emollients like glycerin and petrolatum, it leaves skin feeling comfortable and soft all day.
The Best Moisturizer for Oily Skin
If the phrase “oil free” is soothing to your heart, this moisturizer is for you. Despite not containing oil, it’s still extremely moisturizing, thanks to mix of four types of hyaluronic acid. It’s very positively reviewed on Sephora, with hundreds of people praising it as being the absolute best for oily skin. If you struggle with breakouts, Dr. Hartman also recommends gel moisturizers since they glide on easily and won’t irritate the acne on your face.
The Illuminating Moisturizer
This illuminating moisturizer has a very slight pigment with subtle pearl particles that instantly give the skin radiance. The illumination works well for all skin tones, including darker ones. With over 1,000 Sephora reviewers, this moisturizer is beloved for its luminosity and all-day hydration.
The Moisturizer With Sunscreen
It’s clever to combine sunscreen and moisturizer in one product. The bad news is that it often isn’t done well. That’s not the case with this moisturizer, which has an SPF of 40, but is supremely blendable, not greasy, and hydrating without giving any kind of white cast.
The Richest Moisturizer
Most rich creams come with a price tag over $100, but this one feels luxurious without being astoundingly expensive. Just a dollop of this cream works to soften dry skin. It also contains mukurossi (a fruit extract), which acts as a wrinkle enzyme inhibitor to prevent future lines from forming.
The CBD Moisturizer
CBD products are perceived to have anti-inflammatory benefits that soothe the skin, especially for sensitive types. If you overexfoliated and your skin needs some TLC, this moisturizer will not only eliminate the dryness but calm down your skin. The ingredients include 20 percent hempseed oil, which is paired with other oils like grape seed and sunflower seed to give plenty of hydration and even a bit of dewiness.
The Fancy Moisturizer for Darker Skin Tones
Dr. Barbara Sturm has a cult following, and you should believe the hype of the reviews flooding your Instagram feed from people such as Chrissy Rutherford and Danielle Prescod. Formulated specifically for darker skin tones and containing ingredients like African whitewood bark and magnolia to reduce excess oils, this face cream really hydrates the skin.
The Best Moisturizer for Almost Any Skin Type
If your skin type is normal, oily, or combination, this best-selling lightweight moisturizer is for you. It’s packed with glycerin, which was one of the must-have ingredients on Dr. Hartman’s list. Others include vitamin E and algae extracts to nourish, hydrate, and minimize pores. It has more than 500 five-star reviews, which claim it goes on smooth, doesn’t cause irritation, and isn’t greasy. Plus a little goes a long way with this one.