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It’s a universally acknowledged skincare rule that everyone and their mother needs to use a moisturizer (yes, even those with oily or acne-prone skin). But whether you’ve simply been born with dry skin—thanks, genetics—or the outside environment has gotten the best of you, there are times when your standard hydrator just won’t cut it.
When your complexion is extra parched, it’s time to up the ante. Dry skin can really benefit from moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and ceramides. No time to dig through the options? We made it easy. Our favorites creams are formulated with all the heavy-hitting hydrating ingredients to quench skin without extra weight or greasy residue.
Read on for the best face creams for dry skin.
Best Overall: Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer
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.
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 Budget: Versed Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream
Thanks to a combination of squalane and vitamin E, this pick easily rivals its much pricier counterparts. The wallet-friendly find imparts plenty of moisture that melts into the skin beautifully, instantly making it look and feel, well, just better. Bonus points for the addition of temporarily firming algae extract, and the fact that the formula is both vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Splurge: Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream
Another Byrdie Skincare Award-winner, this cult favorite is loved by celebs, beauty editors, and dermatologists alike. It was developed by a German physician-scientist-researcher, and according to the brand, it works by triggering your own stem cells to boost the natural reparative process (thereby helping to improve the appearance of wrinkles). It’s pricey, yes, but the cost is offset by the fact that it's meant to be used on its own, without any additional serums or products.
Best for Fine Lines & Wrinkles: Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich
A go-to for one of our skincare-obsessed Byrdie editors, 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.
Best Drugstore: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
One of our best anti-aging creams of the year, this product earns big points for its combo of hyaluronic acid, amino-peptides, and niacinamide. This potent cream not only delivers immediate hydration while helping to plump up the skin, but it can also help smooth the look of lines over time. It’s no surprise that it’s an all-time cult-classic beloved by devoted users.
Best Day Cream: It Cosmetics Confidence In a Cream Anti-Aging Moisturizer
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.)
Best Night Cream: Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream with Hyaluronic Acid
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.
Best for Winter: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
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.
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
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.
Best for Sensitive Skin: BeautyStat Cosmetics Universal Pro-Bio Moisture Boost Cream
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.
Best Brightening: Epara Moisturizing Face Cream
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.
Best for Irritated Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration
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.
Best Natural: Alaffia Coconut Reishi Nourishing Day Créme
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.
A good moisturizer is a universal skincare essential but is even more imperative for those with dry skin. Seeking out thicker, richer formulas that rely on multiple different hydrating ingredients is your best bet. The Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer with Ceramides (at Sephora) is a team Byrdie favorite and absorbs lightning-fast, despite how moisturizing it is. There are plenty of wallet-friendly options that can get the job done, too, like the Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream (at Amazon) and Versed Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream (at Dermstore). And if your skin is not only dry but also sensitive and/or irritated, try either the Beauty Stat Universal Pro-Bio Moisture Boost Cream (at Nordstrom) or First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration (at Amazon).
What to Look For in a Face Cream for Dry Skin
If you have dry skin, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav says that nourishing, hydrating ingredients are essential to look for in a face cream. The first must-have on her list? Ceramides. “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.”
Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate
Another important ingredient Dr. Yadav recommends is hyaluronic acid. “This sugar molecule is one of the most popular humectants and is known for its ability to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water,” she says. “When you apply it to your skin, it helps draw in moisture.” Alternatively, she recommends sodium hyaluronate, a water-soluble salt that's derived from hyaluronic acid. “Sodium hyaluronate has a smaller molecule size than traditional HA, meaning it can more effectively penetrate the skin to pull in hydration. Just be sure to apply any HA-infused formula to damp skin or with damp fingertips to facilitate its natural humectant properties.”
Finally, Dr. Yadav says to reach for products with shea butter. “This iconic ingredient is 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.”
What do dermatologists recommend for extremely dry skin?
According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, aside from applying moisturizing creams, avoid using harsh soaps and cleansing too vigorously. Using a humidifier in dry, winter months and drinking plenty of fluids can also help alleviate dry skin.
How do you hydrate skin overnight?
Applying a rich moisturizer before bed can help you wake up with softer, more hydrated skin. Pick a rich, heavy cream or one that is specifically made for nighttime use, such as the Cetaphil's Rich Hydrating Cream with Hyaluronic Acid. You can apply a night cream as the last step in your skincare routine before bed.
Is petroleum jelly good for dry skin?
Petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, is typically used as a moisturizer in products made to address dryness and irritation. It forms a thick barrier and can help lock moisture into skin, making it a popular remedy for extremely dry skin. However, petrolatum does receive a "Fair" rating on EWG, flagging that it may be associated with potential health concerns depending on usage, which is worth noting if you're looking for a clean moisturizer.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Geeta Yadav is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skin Science Dermatology in Toronto. She practices general, medical, and cosmetic dermatology.