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Whether it’s on your head, hands, face, or feet, there’s no denying that dealing with dry skin is no fun. And when you’re battling parched patches, it also means that you’re going to need to spend a little more time developing a proper moisturizing M.O. Put simply, you’ll want to seek out formulas that are thicker and contain more hydrating ingredients (like butters and oils) than water, suggests board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marie Hayag.
Speaking of ingredients, Hayag also advises making sure that the cream you pick contains all three of the major types of moisturizing ingredients: humectants, which attract water and trap it in the skin, emollients, which smooth and soften, and occlusives, which create a seal on top of the skin to help retain moisture. Of those three, occlusives are especially important for those with dry skin, much more so than for those with normal skin, she points out.
Long story short, you’ll need to put in a little more effort to find an appropriate moisturizer if you have dry skin.
The good news? We researched the best moisturizers for dry skin to make your life a little easier.
Best Overall: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration
One of First Aid Beauty's most beloved products, this is also a favorite of Hayag’s. “This cream contains a host of good ingredients including ceramides, glycerin, and dimethicone," she says. "Additionally, it has squalane, which acts as an occlusive agent, prevents trans-epidermal water loss, and leaves the skin feeling soft." It’s also ideal for those with sensitivity or dryness-related issues, such as eczema, thanks to the addition of soothing colloidal oats, and works equally well anywhere on the body or face. In short, it’s an absolute must-have for anyone with dry skin, hands down.
Best Budget: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
For those who want to hydrate their skin but don’t want to shell out the big bucks to do so, there’s no better option than this wallet-friendly standout (which, to be honest, is so good that it’s even better than many of its much pricier counterparts). The stars of the show are hyaluronic acid and three types of ceramides to help both impart and lock in moisture, all in a time-released formula to continuously ward off dryness. It’s another great pick for both face and body, too since it’s non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores.
Best Drugstore: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
This pick takes a two-fold approach to knock out dryness. One, it imparts hydration (with glycerin and niacinamide), and two, it locks in said moisture by bolstering the strength of the skin barrier. It does the latter, thanks to the addition of ceramides. Hayag, who’s a fan, notes that the niacinamide also helps promote ceramide synthesis to further bolster the skin barrier.
Best for Face: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
Arguably the thickest, most luxurious, delightfully rich face moisturizer we’ve ever used, even the most stubborn dry spots don’t stand a chance against this guy. The ratio refers to the carefully selected proportions of ceramide to cholesterol to fatty acids—all of which are imperative for maintaining a strong and healthy skin barrier. And yet somehow, despite the fact that it’s very creamy, it’s never the least bit greasy. Go figure.
What Our Testers Say
“I noticed right away that each time I apply the cream my pores look smaller and my skin looks smoother. It’s almost like I am applying a blurring primer or soft-focus filter to my face.” — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Best for Body: Mutha Body Butter
Byrdie editors are big fans of this brand, which offers a small selection of face and body products—all of which offer outstanding results. To combat dryness anywhere on the skin below your chin, this luscious butter can’t be beaten. Originally created by the founder as a way to help combat pregnancy-induced stretch marks (and yes, it can help with that), it’s also a top pick for dry skin. There’s a base of three different whipped butters—shea, cocoa, and mango—all combined with tons of fatty acids and oils. Not to mention that the ingredients are all 100% natural, too.
Best for All Over: Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion
For those looking for a simple and straightforward option that will work just as well for dry skin on the face as it does for dry skin on the feet, this is the way to go. Yes, generally speaking, it’s best to opt for lotions over more lightweight creams if you have super dry skin, but consider this the exception to the rule. It still imparts plenty of moisture, can be used on the face, hands, body, or feet, and is so gentle that it even boasts the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Approval.
Best Splurge: Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich
A team Byrdie staple, this pick is pricey but worth it. Along with a line-up of tried-and-true moisturizing ingredients (think: glycerin and shea butter), it also touts protective antioxidants and skullcap, an anti-aging ingredient that boosts collagen production (i.e. helps smooth out wrinkles). There’s a high concentration of urea in the formula, too, an ingredient Hayag says is worth seeking out both because of its hydrating properties and because it can help improve the skin barrier.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Avène Trixera Nutrition Nutri-Fluid Balm
Dryness and sensitivity go hand-in-hand—a compromised skin barrier is often the root cause of both issues. Happily, this addresses exactly that with a trio of ceramides, cholesterol, and sterols—all key components of said barrier. At the same time, it also has soothing ingredients (like the brand's patented thermal spring water) for some instant relief and is fragrance-free with no ingredients that could cause any further irritation.
Best Natural: Epara Moisturizing Face Cream
This one is a little splurgy, but if you’re seeking natural relief for a parched complexion, you can’t go wrong with this luxe moisturizer from Epara. Comforting shea butter pairs with a blend of soothing oils and plant extracts to deeply nourish the skin. Plus, thanks to niacinamide and licorice root extract, you can count on it to help even out skin tone.
Best Anti-Aging: Keys Soulcare Skin Transformation Cream
Look, keeping your complexion well-hydrated can go a long way towards making it appear more youthful in and of itself. But if you’re wanting a little bit of an extra anti-aging boost, Hayag recommends this cream. As far as hydration goes, she gives it big points for containing both ceramides (to help with skin barrier repair) and dimethicone, which creates a protective layer and makes it feel nice and soft. There’s bakuchiol in the mix, a retinol alternative with similar wrinkle-fighting effects but without the drying side effects that you'd sometimes get with retinol, says Hayag.
Best Radiance-Boosting: EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex
Dry skin and dull skin also go hand-in-hand; there’s no way that your skin is going to look glowing or radiant if it’s dehydrated. Enter this solution. First and foremost, it’s great for moisturization purposes, touting ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone, and more. Also noteworthy, though, is the addition of fruit enzymes. So it's also formulated to gently help dissolve dead skin while gradually boosting radiance. (The keyword here is "gently," since getting too overzealous with any type of exfoliation is a major no-no if you have dry skin, warns Hayag.)
Best Multi-Tasking: Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Body Cream
This veritable classic, a favorite among A-list celebs and beauty editors alike, has been around for decades. Its next-level hydrating power comes from its natural formula that combines sunflower and sweet almond oils with all kinds of plant-based extracts. It’s a saver for stubborn dry patches on areas like elbows or knees, but can also be used on the face, hands, and cuticles. Makeup artists even like using it as a primer or highlighter—it’s that versatile.
What Our Testers Say
“After waking up and doing a quick splash of cold water on my face, I dabbed it dry with a towel and rubbed in a dime-sized amount of Skin Food all over. It gave me an instantly dewy complexion in one quick swoop, highlighting my cheekbones, brows, and the cupid’s bow of my upper lip.” — Ashley Rubell, Product Tester
Best Balm: Hello Bello Everywhere Balm
There’s dry skin, and then there’s skin that’s so dry that it becomes raw, red, and cracked—so much so that it can even become painful. When that happens, reach for this protective balm. The plant-based balm veers on ointment territory but doesn’t contain any petrolatum; instead, it contains organic coconut, tamanu, and chamomile oils for the base, plus shea butter and more. It can be dabbed on all over to alleviate pretty much any type of dry skin-related issue and is safe to use on the entire fam, newborns included.
No matter whether your dry skin is on your face, your body, or both (as so often is the case), it’s important to pick a moisturizer that’s specially formulated to deliver the levels of hydration you need. You can’t go wrong with the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration, a surefire bet for both face and body that’s also gentle enough for those with sensitive skin. The CeraVe Moisturizing Cream (view at Ulta) is a similarly great pick for face and body, which happens to ring in at a very affordable price, as is the Vanicream Moisturizing Cream (view at Amazon) (we love this one for hands and feet, too). If you just need something for your face, try the SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2; if you just need something for your body, try the Mutha Body Butter (view at Mutha), a fave among Byrdie editors.
What to Look for in a Moisturizer for Dry Skin
According to Hayag, occlusives are the most important category of ingredients to look for (common ones include dimethicone and petrolatum). By forming a protective layer on the surface of the skin, they help to seal and lock in moisture. Some common occlusives to look for are petrolatum, waxes, or silicones.
Another type of hydrating ingredient, these work to smooth the skin, filling in cracks in the skin barrier. They’re also ideal for almost instantly making skin feel softer and more hydrated. Ceramides, shea butter, cocoa butter, and plant oils are some to look out for.
Lighter than the other two types of ingredients, humectants are still important to seek out, as they help attract water to and hold it in the skin—our best bet for scoring instantaneous hydrating effects. Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea are common humectants used in skincare.
When should you apply a moisturizer for dry skin?
You should always apply moisturizer when your skin is a bit damp. This will help seal the moisture on your skin and keep it hydrated. So use it after cleansing and serum application, washing your hands, and taking a shower.
How often should you use a moisturizer for dry skin?
This depends on the area you are moisturizing. Generally, it's recommended to moisturize your face twice a day to maintain hydration. For your body, it's as much as you need it. If you have dry hands, you can apply moisturizer after you wash them to keep them soft and hydrated.
Should a moisturizer for dry skin include SPF?
Not necessarily. If you already have an allocated sunscreen for your daily sun protection needs, then there's no reason to buy a moisturizer with SPF (unless you'd like to simplify your morning routine). Moisturizers for nighttime use do not need to have SPF in them.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has more than a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her skin is the driest of dry, so she’s spent the majority of her career focused on finding the best moisturizers out there.
Meet the Expert
Marie Hayag is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in New York City. She specializes in both cosmetic and medical dermatology and is also an Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough moisturizers for dry skin from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com, and we will evaluate the product ASAP.