The 17 Best Face Creams for Dry Complexions of 2023

Our best overall pick is Drunk Elephant LaLa Retro Whipped Moisturizer

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17 Face Creams that will Quench Even the Driest of Complexions

SkinBetter / Amazon / Walmart

It might be great that the Backstreet Boys don’t care who you are or where you’re from, but, unfortunately, neither does epidermal water loss. We all lose water through our skin. Maybe you were born with chronic flaky skin, or maybe your skin is becoming dehydrated as a result of your current environment. At some point you’ve surely experienced the irritation that accompanies dry skin. Expert dermatologists agree, the best face creams for dry skin are those that feature plenty of occlusive, emollient, and humectant ingredients.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick for a face cream for dry skin is the Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer. Rich in ceramides, an occlusive ingredient that locks in moisture, it has a luxuriously thick consistency that still manages to absorb lightning-fast, leaving you with an impressive barrier of protection. On the budget-friendly side, we love drugstore favorite Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, which contains hyaluronic acid and absorbs easily into skin for a cushiony feel.  

We conducted hours of research on the best face creams for dry complexions, evaluating each on active ingredients, and in particular those that are hydrating and emollient. We also took into account what skin types each formula works best for as well as their benefits. After consulting with four board-certified dermatologists and considering dozens of options, we narrowed down our list to these best in show.

Read on for the best face creams for dry skin.

Best Overall

Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer

5
Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Quick absorption

  • Non-greasy

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

A go-to for Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue, this lusciously rich formula has a whipped texture that never feels thick or greasy. It contains six African oils and three plant-based ceramides and is formulated to both soothe dry skin and help bolster the skin barrier, ensuring moisture stays locked in. We also love the pump-top applicator, which makes it easy to dispense the perfect amount and keeps air and germs from getting into the jar.

Price at time of publish: $60

Active Ingredients: Ceramides, African Oils, Phytosphingosine | Skin Types: Normal, Dry, Combination, Oily | Size: 1.69 fl oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"I would recommend the Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer to anyone who is into simple skincare that works. It works so well for me that I’m committed for good." — Lisa Patulny, Product Tester

Best for Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich

Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Skullcap stimulates natural collagen production

  • Great for more mature skin

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

A top pick for Byrdie Senior Commerce Editor, Jill Di Donato, this cream relies on skullcap extract to help stimulate your skin’s own collagen production—meaning it can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It's also formulated to combat redness, plus it boasts a combination of hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin, shea butter, and dimethicone.

Price at time of publish: $240

Active Ingredients: Skullcap, Vitamin E, Avocadin | Skin Types: Normal, Dry, Combination | Size: 1.69 fl oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Night Cream

Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream

4.5
Cetaphil Hydrating Night Cream

Walmart

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Dermatologist recommended

  • Great for dry to normal skin

What We Don't Like
  • May feel heavy for those with combination skin

Rich but non-greasy, slather this cream on before bed and wake up to smoother, softer skin. Credit hyaluronic acid, a water-loving molecule that attracts moisture and can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, quickly hydrating and plumping skin. It’s why we think it’s one of the best drugstore night creams out there.

Price at time of publish: $17

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry, Normal | Size: 1.7 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No 

Best for Winter

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

4.6
SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Tons of occlusive ingredients

  • Great for overnight repair

What We Don't Like
  • Fragrance may not be best for sensitive noses

  • Expensive

The ratio in the name of this creamiest of creams refers to the amount of ceramides-to cholesterol-to fatty acids in the product. What do all three of those have in common? They’re the essential components that make up that oh-so-important skin barrier, making this a top pick for replenishing your skin during those brutal winter months when cold, dry weather is wreaking havoc on your complexion.

Price at time of publish: $136

Active Ingredients: Ceramides, Cholesterol, Fatty Acids | Skin Types: All | Size: 1.6 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"The formula didn’t feel heavy or look greasy at all yet felt extremely nourishing and hydrating." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Best for Summer

Korres Greek Yoghurt Nourishing Probiotic Gel-Cream

 KORRES Greek Yoghurt Nourishing Probiotic Gel-Cream

Sephora

What We Like
  • Natural ingredients

  • Time-released hydration

What We Don't Like
  • Not great for particularly sensitive skin

Summer and dry skin may not go hand-in-hand, but it can happen. Still, when you’re dealing with dry skin during the warmer months, you want something that’s going to pack a hefty dose of hydration, but with a light and non-greasy finish. Enter this gel-based cream, which magically offers both a featherweight texture and plenty of hydration. The namesake ingredient instantly soothes and cools the skin, a major plus on hot, summer days. It also delivers a dose of probiotics, helping to support your skin’s microbiome, a surefire way to help lock in hydration.

Price at time of publish: $39

Active Ingredients: Greek Yoghurt, Sea Water, Passion Flower | Skin Type: Normal, Dry, Combination, Oily | Size: 1.35 fl oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best for Sensitive Skin

BeautyStat Cosmetics Universal Pro-Bio Moisture Boost Cream

Beauty Stat Universal Pro-Bio Moisture Boost Cream
What We Like
  • Fragrance-free

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey for small container size

This newbie from a team Byrdie fan-favorite brand has everything that sensitive skin wants and needs—it helps to soothe, moisturize, and strengthen the skin barrier. Formulated with probiotics, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, it’s also dermatologist-tested and fragrance-free, two other very important criteria for those with sensitive skin.

Price at time of publish: $63

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides, Ganoderma, Bifida Extract | Skin Type: Sensitive | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Brightening

Epara Moisturizing Face Cream

Epara Moisturizing Face Cream

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Includes SPF 15 for sun protection

  • Packed with natural oils

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Skin that’s more hydrated and glowing? Sign us up. Here, it’s the dynamic duo of brightening licorice root extract and niacinamide that get the job done, helping to fade the appearance of discoloration. Also noteworthy is the super-important addition of SPF 15. And don’t worry, it’s still very moisturizing, thanks to the addition of sodium hyaluronate and a variety of natural oils. Although this cream is expensive, we think it's worth the spend due to the high concentration of natural oils.

Price at time of publish: $140

Ingredients: Shea butter, Marula Oil, Licorice Root Extract | Skin Type: All  | Size: 1.76 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Irritated Skin

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

4.9
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Colloidal oatmeal provides soothing relief

  • Shea butter and allantoin provide hydrating multi-tasking

What We Don't Like
  • Fragrance might bother some people

Whether it’s an eczema flare-up or just itchy flakiness, reach for this when your skin is already compromised. It contains colloidal oatmeal, an ingredient designated by the FDA as a skin protectant that can help soothe issues such as eczema, rashes, and more. The soothing and hydrating formula also contains skin-loving shea butter and allantoin, and it works equally well on both face and body, making it a great pick for anyone who loves multi-tasking products. Plus, it also comes in three different sizes.

Price at time of publish: $38

Ingredients: Colloidal Oatmeal | Skin Type: All | Size: 6.0 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best Natural

Alaffia Coconut Reishi Nourishing Day Créme

Alaffia Coconut Reishi Nourishing Day Créme

Walmart

What We Like
  • All natural ingredients

  • Lightweight and perfect for daily use

What We Don't Like
  • Coconut fragrance may not appeal to everyone

There are only natural, good-for-your-skin ingredients to be found in this face cream—coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, aloe, the list goes on and on. There are also plenty of protective antioxidants from ingredients, such as turmeric, and no chemicals whatsoever. The brand also boasts several certifications for fair trade manufacturing practices.

Price at time of publish: $19

Active Ingredients: Coconut, Turmeric, Reishi, Shea Butter | Skin Type: Combination, Sensitive, Normal | Size: 3 fl oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Day Cream

It Cosmetics Confidence In a Cream Anti-Aging Moisturizer

It Cosmetics Anti-Aging Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Packs in an all-star list of ingredients

  • Lightweight for all-day wear

What We Don't Like
  • Package is small for the price

Rhue also loves this best-selling formula. It packs plenty of hydration and contains a laundry list of superstar ingredients; think hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, shea butter, squalane, and more. Still, it’s shockingly fast-absorbing, the perfect makeup prep-step. Couple that with the fact that it helps reduces the look of lines, pores, and discoloration, and you’ve got yourself the perfect morning moisturizer. (Just don’t forget to top it with sunscreen.)

Price at time of publish: $52

Active Ingredients: | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best Budget

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

neutrogena-hydro-boost-water-gel

Amazon

What We Like
  • Dermatologist recommended

  • Oil free

What We Don't Like
  • Scent may be strong for some users

Neutrogena products are universally recommended by dermatologists–including Dr. Jennifer MacGregor– and this oil-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer will keep your face smooth and hydrated without breaking the bank. The oil-free formula allows you to wear it alone or even under makeup, delivering high-end performance without a high-end price tag. 

Price at time of publish: $19

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

4.8
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Versatile formula works as a face, body, and hand cream

  • #1 Dermatologist Recommended Skincare Brand

What We Don't Like
  • Unlike other CeraVe products this one does not contain SPF 

Tested extensively by our Byrdie colleague Jen Adkins, this derm-approved moisturizer is packed with ceramides that leave you with all day relief. It’s also ideal for sensitive skin–so gentle that doctors often recommend it for babies and children with eczema.

Price at time of publish: $19

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramides | Skin Type: Dry, Sensitive | Size: 16 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No  

Best for Acne Prone Skin

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer With SPF

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer With SPF

Walgreens

What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Budget friendly

What We Don't Like
  • Can pill when combined with other products

A top recommendation from Dr. Murphy-Rose and tested by our Byrdie colleague Ashley Rebecca, this is a lightweight yet potent moisturizer that improves water balance in dehydrated skin without clogging pores. It’s great for day or night use and the price point is budget-friendly.  

Price at time of publish: $21

Active Ingredients: Ceramide-3, Niacinamide, Glycerin | Skin Type: Sensitive, Normal, Combination, Dry | Size: 2.5 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge

skinbetter science Trio Rebalancing Moisture Treatment

Skinbetter Science Trio Rebalancing Moisturizer

Skinbetter 

What We Like
  • Air travel friendly packaging

  • Cholesterol helps to reinforce the skin barrier

  • Winner of tons of beauty awards

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

A favorite of New York dermatologist Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, this cream is packed with a huge range of ingredients that help to rejuvenate dry skin. Among them, we were surprised to find cholesterol, which, in this case, is actually beneficial to your health as it reinforces the skin barrier. The cream also features sodium lactate that promotes natural production of hyaluronic acid. Plus, the twist up pump helps prevent leakage making it one of the most travel-friendly containers around.

Price at time of publish: $145

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Cholesterol, Ceramides | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl oz.| Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry, Oily Skin

Yon-Ka Hydra No. 1 Fluid hydrating and Mattifying Fluid

Yon-Ka Hydra No. 1 Fluid hydrating and Mattifying Fluid

Yon-Ka

What We Like
  • Composed of 89% natural ingredients

  • Time released hydrating action gives you all day protection

  • Two forms of hyaluronic acid

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

A Favorite for Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, this ultra-light, quick-absorbing moisturizer is perfect for dry, sensitive and, especially, oily skin. It features 89% natural ingredients that include not one but two forms of hyaluronic acid, along with aloe vera and vegetal glycerin. The addition of silica also helps to mattify surface oils and control excess sebum. 

Price at time of publish: $88

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe Vera, Glycerin | Skin Type: Dry, Sensitive, Oily | Size: 1.69 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best for Anti-Aging

SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream

SkinBetter Science AlphRet Overnight Cream

SkinBetter 

What We Like
  • Retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids prevent and fight signs of aging

  • Works great overnight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Another favorite of Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, this cream blends a proprietary mix of a retinoid and alpha hydroxy acids with other skin renewing ingredients to prevent and fight signs of aging. She recommends using it while sleeping, starting with one pump every other night for one to two weeks and increasing to nightly use your skin will tolerate. And, like other SkinBetter products, the twist pump packaging helps prevent leaks and makes it extra travel friendly. It is pricier than other options on our list, but we think the formula is worth it.

Price at time of publish: $130

Active Ingredients: Retinoid, Alpha Hydroxy Acids| Skin Type: Dry, Sensitive, Mature | Size: 1 fl oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes  

Best Gel Cream

Bio-Oil Dry Skin Gel

Bio-oil Dry Skin Gel

Amazon

What We Like
  • 84% humectant/oil ingredients

  • No greasy finish

What We Don't Like
  • Lack of pump applicator can be a bit messy   

“It has a unique feel when applied to the skin, which I love,” extols Dr. Corey L. Hartman. Despite being a gel, this innovative product breaks down into oil as you rub it in delivering intensive moisture from ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, urea, and vitamin B3. All of that helps skin to retain moisture without leaving a greasy finish.

Price at time of publish: $10

Active Ingredients: Shea Butter, Glycerin, urea B3 | Skin Types: Normal, Dry | Size: 3.4 fl oz.| Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick for a face cream for dry skin is the Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer. We love its ceramide-rich formula that absorbs lightning-fast, leaving you with an impressive barrier of protection. For a more budget friendly pick,  we love drugstore favorite Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, which contains hyaluronic acid and is also quick to be absorbed by skin. 

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Corey L. Hartman, M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. 
  • Dr. Jennifer L. MacGregor, M.D. is a Board Certified dermatologist with fellowship training in cutaneous laser surgery and dermatologic procedures. She practices in Manhattan at UnionDerm.
  • Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, M.D. is a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist specializing in facial rejuvenation. She practices in Manhattan at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of NY and is a clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
  • Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Facet Dermatology in Toronto. She practices general, medical, and cosmetic dermatology.

What to Look For in a Face Cream for Dry Skin

Most dermatologists, including all the dermatologists we interviewed, agree that  the best face creams for dry skin will contain a combination of occlusives, emollients, and humectants. Yet those aren’t words you will commonly see on packaging or ingredient lists. Ahead we’ll help you decipher what each term means and apply a critical eye to ingredient lists.  

Occlusives

Occlusives add moisture to the skin by creating a physical barrier that helps reduce transepidermal water loss, thereby locking hydration into the skin, says Dr. Hartman. He recommends common ingredients including beeswax, agran oil, jojoba oil, and mineral oil. 

For Dr. Murphy-Rose, if she had to pick only one type of ingredient in a face cream for dry skin, she would prioritize occlusive ingredients. She says to look for products that contain petrolatum, butters, or waxes. 

Dr. MacGregor prefers to use the word protectant over occlusives, but agrees that ingredients that help create a barrier to lock moisture into your skin are vital in a face cream. She likes petrolatum and mineral oil as both tend not to cause breakouts on sensitive skin.

Dr. Yadav favors ceramides to quench dry skin. “Ceramides are fatty molecules, also known as lipids, that make up more than half of your skin,” she explains. “They are key to preventing moisture loss. However, age, sun damage, and stripping beauty products can cause deterioration of your own ceramides, so using a formula with ceramides will help restore that moisture for healthier, more hydrated skin.”

Emollients

Emollients are ingredients that moisturize and soften the skin while also adding moisture and share many of the same properties as occlusives, according to Dr. Murphy-Rose. They are applied to the skin to enhance the moisture barrier. Dr. Hartman prefers a list of ingredients that can also double as occlusives including petrolatum, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Dr. MacGregor recommends seeking out ingredient lists that include oils, fatty acids, and lipids. But, she especially likes colloidal oatmeal, which, in addition to nourishing the skin, is also anti-inflammatory and helps restore a healthy microbiome environment.   

Dr. Yadav is a particular fan of shea butter. “It’s an iconic ingredient and outstanding for sealing nourishing moisture into the skin,” she says. “It’s both an emollient and an occlusive, which means it helps smooth and soften skin while creating a protective layer on top of the skin, locking in all that moisture to truly hydrate the skin.”

Humectants

Humectants actively draw moisture from the surrounding environment to the skin, according to Dr. Murphy-Rose. Hyaluronic Acid is a common ingredient that Drs. Murphy-Rose, Hartman, and Yadav all rally alongside. “It’s a sugar molecule and one of the most popular humectants because it’s known for its ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water,” says Dr. Yadav. 

For those looking for an alternative to hyaluronic acid, Dr. Yadav recommends sodium hyaluronate, which is derived from hyaluronic acid but contains a smaller molecule size that can more effectively penetrate the skin. 

Glycerin is another common humectant recommended by Drs. Murphy-Rose and Hartman. 

Among natural ingredients, Dr. Murphy-Rose reminds us that aloe vera and honey both contain humectant properties.

Choose a Formula Based on Skin Type

Any type of skin–dry or otherwise–can become hydrated, Dr. Murphy-Rose reminds us. Which can make picking the right combination of ingredients for your skin type tricky. 

Even though the two terms are often used interchangeably, Dr. Hartman cautions us that, “skin that is dry is lacking oil, whereas dehydrated skin is lacking in water.” Dry skin is a skin type caused by a lack of sebum production, according to Dr. Murphy-Rose. 

“Not all ingredients are ideal for all skin types,” Dr. Murphy-Rose says. “For example, occlusives may exacerbate breakouts in acne-prone or oily skin that is dehydrated. I generally recommend avoiding ingredients like petrolatum and rich butters on acne-prone skin. A lighter moisturizer with humectants is best for that skin type.” 

Pay close attention to your skin type and how specific ingredients might affect you when you’re selecting your product to avoid adverse reactions. 

FAQ
  • What do dermatologists recommend for extremely dry skin?

    “The best way to increase the water content of skin is to use products that contain a combination of occlusive, emollient and humectant ingredients,” says Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose. The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology agrees that moisturizing creams are a good first course of action. Beyond product, using a humidifier in the dry winter months and always drinking plenty of fluid can help alleviate dry skin. And always avoid using harsh soaps of cleansing too vigorously–both are irritants that can make dry skin worse. 

  • How do you choose the best face cream for dry skin?

    “There is no ‘one’ product,” Dr. Murphy-Rose reminds us. It’s important to know your skin type and pay attention to the environment around you. “What works for one person might not be the best for another. And while one cream might be ideal for a particular season, it may not be the right fit at another time of the year. There are better ingredients to reach for depending on your skin and its current water status.” Experiment and find a range of products that work best for you depending on what your skin is doing on any given day.   

  • What ingredient is best for dry skin?

    Though she wouldn’t necessarily want to pick just one, Dr. Murphy-Rose would reach for the product that contains occlusive ingredients before any other. Why? “Dry skin benefits most by replenishing the naturally diminished skin barrier and occlusive ingredients help lock that in more than others.”

  • What should I avoid while shopping for face creams for dry skin?

    If the goal is to enhance your skin’s hydration, you’ll definitely want to avoid anything that would cause it to dry out. Alcohols and fragrances are primary perpetrators of this offense according to Dr. Murphy-Rose.  

  • When and how often should you apply a face cream for dry skin?

    Dr. Murphy-Rose recommends applying a face cream at least twice a day. You’ll probably reap greater benefits applying it  just after you get out of the shower to lock in some of that moisture, she says. After you’ve patted your skin dry, of course.

  • How do you hydrate skin overnight?

    It might come as a surprise, but, according to Dr. Murphy-Rose, we actually experience increased transepidermal water losses while we are sleeping. “Locking in moisture at night is really important and a heavier cream will help facilitate that better.”  Applying an especially occlusive rich moisturizer before bed can help you wake up with softer, more hydrated skin. Look for ingredients like petrolatum, butters and waxes and apply your night cream as the final step in your routine before bed.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Peter Tittiger is a research wonk. He thrives interviewing expert dermatologists and hearing and synthesizing a variety of viewpoints from across the field. He considered dozens of formulas for this story, carefully evaluating each on their active ingredients before landing on these best in show. 

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Chandra F, Sandiono D, Sugiri U, Suwarsa O, Gunawan H. Cutaneous Side Effects and Transepidermal Water Loss To Gefitinib: A Study of 11 Patients. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2017;7(1):133-141. doi:10.1007/s13555-016-0163-0 

  2. Cerio R, Dohil M, Jeanine D, Magina S, Mahé E, Stratigos AJ. Mechanism of action and clinical benefits of colloidal oatmeal for dermatologic practiceJ Drugs Dermatol. 2010;9(9):1116-1120.

  3. Fujii M. The Pathogenic and Therapeutic Implications of Ceramide Abnormalities in Atopic DermatitisCells. 2021;10(9):2386. Published 2021 Sep 10. doi:10.3390/cells10092386

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