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The world of facial moisturizers is vast and full of promises. Moisturizer formulations nowadays sound equally surreal, in a deliciously farfetched way: infusions of 24k gold, pricey creams that “listen” to fermentation ASMR during the brewing process, concoctions of peat and leopard lily and even goat milk. Drugstore varieties are getting fancier, too, with more and more options featuring hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid and ceramides. But at the bare minimum, your moisturizer should hydrate. And with the countless powerhouse ingredients that are now readily available, you can even pick up a moisturizer that leaves your skin better than it was before. Here are the top picks in face moisturizers, from a reliable tinted moisturizer to a rich, soothing cream for dry skin.
Best Overall: CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30
You could opt for something fancier than this drugstore staple, but you’d also be passing on a solid ingredient list and excellent track record of soothing dry, irritated skin. Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid (basically a sponge for water), and ceramides in this CeraVe lotion help repair skin and seal in moisture, while the SPF provides sun protection. It’s simple, effective, cheap, and non-greasy. Reviewers also said it was non-irritating, a balm for dry, itchy skin, and didn’t clog pores. And if you’re picky about smell, the scent is that of a typical cold cream.
Best Tinted: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20
This tinted moisturizer from Laura Mercier has garnered nearly 4,000 reviews on Sephora alone, and for good reason. Sheer, buildable, and forgiving, this tinted moisturizer (with SPF) gives you the “your skin but better” look without the intense strategizing that usually entails. Smooth this on for dewy, healthy-looking coverage that gets better throughout the day.
The tinted moisturizer doesn’t settle into lines or emphasize texture, a good alternative to the powder and liquid foundations you’ll most likely ditch in the warmer months anyway. If you’re looking for a little more coverage, the Laura Mercier moisturizer plays nice with concealer and even accommodates foundation on top, according to one reviewer.
Best for Acne Prone Skin: Cosrx Oil Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion
Finding the right moisturizer for acne-prone skin can be tricky. Depending on your skin, anything too occlusive might clog your pores further, but moisturizing your skin is also essential to balancing it out. This moisturizer from Korean brand Cosrx might do the trick. The name is a bit of a misnomer: there are oils in the ingredients, but in trace amounts.
The lightweight consistency lies somewhere between a lotion and a gel and imparts a cooling sensation on stressed-out skin. And more good news: Birch sap, which has a helpful mix of antioxidants, amino acids, and enzymes, takes up a huge chunk of the formulation. Use this silky moisturizer in the summer or year-round if you want—the generously sized bottle won’t run out any time soon.
Best Drugstore Option: CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
This simple gel moisturizer contains three essential ceramides, which are highly beneficial for restoring the skin's natural barrier. What's more, it's also formulated with niacinamide to help calm skin.
Since this PM lotion is formulated for nighttime, it’s lighter in texture than the AM version and layers with the rest of your skincare without pilling. It cools as it absorbs, providing plenty of moisture, but might be too lightweight for those with dryer skin.
Best for Dry Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration
Sephora’s clientele is by no means an accurate cross-section of society, but based on the 4,449 five-star reviews this ultra-rich moisturizer has on the Sephora website, the people have spoken: this is probably the most moisturizing moisturizer in the world of moisturizers that you can acquire without spending upwards of $300.
Colloidal oatmeal, the stuff of rash-soothing baths you once soaked in as a child, lovingly smothers itchy, dry skin with its soothing properties. Ceramides swoop in to help repair the moisture barrier, while shea butter adds another wallop of moisture. Reviewers struggling with eczema and dry patches from Retin-A both love this product, and if you happen to over exfoliate, dab this on to soothe the healing process.
Best for Oily Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
If you have oily skin, your best bet is a moisturizer that’s lightweight but hydrating enough to balance your complexion. Peter Thomas Roth’s Water Drench moisturizer contains an impressive 30% hyaluronic acid as well as ceramides to smooth out and repair skin. While most moisturizers might be too emollient, this one comes in a whipped, cloudlike texture that feels like a smooth gel on the skin. Reviewers said it plumped up their skin without leaving a greasy residue (an enduring part of having oily skin), and that makeup glides over the moisturizer with no issue.
Best for Combination Skin: Dr. Jart + Ceramidin Liquid
With this moisturizer, a little goes a long way. The Ceramidin Liquid contains the same moisture-barrier-repairing ingredients as the cream moisturizer. With a few drops, the liquid sinks into skin for all-over hydration while reducing redness. It feels weightless on the skin, doesn’t exacerbate oily patches, plumps up skin and even layers well under makeup. The Ceramidin products are designed to layer with each other, but in the warmer months, you could wear this by itself with no issue.