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At the bare minimum, your moisturizer should hydrate your skin. It seems simple, but the benefits are plentiful: "This ensures that the skin looks more plump and smooth and supports skin barrier function—which, in turn, improves both the texture and overall appearance of your skin,” explains New York City dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. “Supporting the skin barrier also keeps the skin healthier and more resilient, so it’s less likely to become damaged or infected."
Meet the Expert
Hadley King, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology. She is also a Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. You can find her research in a variety of medical journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While moisturizing sounds easy enough, actually shopping for a new moisturizer is anything but. Not only are there so many different kinds of lotions and creams on the market, but every person's skin is unique, making it that much harder to find the right match. Skin type, budget, and top skin concerns matter too, only adding more pressure to an already stressful situation. The good news? We're here to help.
Read on for the best facial moisturizers to keep your skin healthy and hydrated.
Best Overall: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
Active Ingredients: Niacinamide | Skin Type: Dry, combo, mature | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Once you try this anti-aging drugstore face cream, it'll be hard to go back to using anything else. And that's simply because it works really, really well—addressing the appearance of wrinkles from day one, and we're not kidding around about that. Thank the hyaluronic acid-, amino-peptide complex II- and niacinamide- rich formula for that, which corrects signs of aging and reveals a more youthful-looking complexion. When Byrdie contributing writer Bianca Lambert tried this product, she was impressed with how soft and hydrated her skin felt.
Best Splurge: La Mer Crème de la Mer
Skin Type: Dry, mature | Size: 0.5, 1, 2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
People often ask, "Does La Mer really work?" and the answer is yes, absolutely, it does. Creme de La Mer is the brand's hero product, and it's the product fans of the brand just keep going back to time and time again.
Most beauty editors keep a jar on hand and supplement it with another moisturizer because Creme de La Mer isn't cheap. But few formulas stand up to their beloved "Miracle Broth," the signature ingredient in all of their products, which is brought to life through a bio-fermentation that combines vitamins, oils, and minerals.
Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 6.6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Packed with powerhouse hydrator hyaluronic acid, this moisturizer is beloved by high-end beauty aficionados and drugstore dwellers alike. “The lightweight moisturizer is rich in hyaluronic acid and is non-comedogenic, a particularly great pick for oily skin,” says Dr. King, who also adds that it’s oil- and alcohol-free. If you're a fan of the cooling benefit of gel moisturizers, this lightweight formula should be front and center on your vanity.
What Our Editors Say
"I’m always wary that new products will break me out—especially with a fragrance as strong as this one—but even after a week of use, I didn’t have any new out of the ordinary acne." — Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
"I've used this moisturizer since before my beauty editor days. It's one of the best bang-for-your-buck drugstore products, competing with creams a fraction of the price. The gel-cream formula is a favorite for summer nights and winter days on my oily skin, when I need something that packs a hydrating punch, but isn't too heavy." — Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best for Oily Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry, mature | Size: 1.08 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
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, cloud-like 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.
What Our Editors Say
"This is the moisturizer I always go back to, especially in the summer when my skin tends to be on the oilier side. This absorbs into the skin so quickly, layers well under sunscreen (no pilling), and leaves my skin feeling dewy, plump, and non-greasy." — Holly Rhue, Editor
Best for Oily Skin, Runner-Up: Shani Darden Skin Care Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Oily, combo, normal | Size: 2.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
If you have combination or oily skin, this oil-free moisturizer goes on weightless and hydrates skin without a greasy residue. It's full of hyaluronic acid to help skin retain moisture, and contains collagen to restore suppleness.
Brand founder Shani Darden, also known as Hollywood's favorite esthetician, says, “If you’re breaking out, your moisturizer might be to blame...I often see my clients using heavy, oil-based moisturizers and then wondering why they have pimples and congestion.”
Users rave that this moisturizer is light enough to use as a precursor to SPF on even the warmest days.
Best Innovation: Augustinus Bader The Cream
Active Ingredients: Squalane, citric acid, sodium hydroxide | Skin Type: Dry, combo | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
If you're really into the science behind what makes a product work the way it does, prepare to be blown away by this revolutionary formula—and no, we're not using the word revolutionary lightly. Professor Augustinus Bader has created a cream with technology so unique, it'll make the beauty nerd in you geek out.
It's a cream, so you can already guess that this formula doesn't skimp on hydration. It features a Trigger Factor Complex which is essentially a combo of natural amino acids, vitamins, and molecules that encourages the regeneration of the body's own stem cells.
Not surprisingly, it has the seal of approval of celebrities, editors and Hollywood's elite. We'll just go ahead and confirm that the hype is very real; your skin will be left feeling luxuriously soft and supple.
What Our Editors Say
"I’ll be honest with you, I discovered this moisturizer because Victoria Beckham cited it as her favorite skincare product. (If it’s good enough for Posh Spice, it’s good enough for me, right?) My initial buy was admittedly more out of curiosity than need. But, after a few weeks, it was like a lightbulb had been turned on underneath my epidermis. All this radiance from a moisturizer? I was floored. The Cream, as it’s aptly named, contains a proprietary blend of retinol, aloe vera, antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins A, B, C, and E to give you a healthy glow. If you’re a skincare minimalist like me, this all-in-one product is a true game-changer that will save you time and money in the end, despite the high price point." — Madeline Hirsch, Sr. News Editor
Best for Hyperpigmentation: ROSEN Skincare Tropics Moisturizer
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
This fruity, hydrating moisturizer is formulated to fade dark marks and improve skin texture. With hyaluronic and kojic acid working together to calm breakouts and brighten the complexion, users report skin that looks noticeably smoother. We especially love the pineapple extract that provides vitamin C and a natural tropical scent.
Best for Very Dry Skin: Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich
Active Ingredients: Citric acid, ascorbic acid | Skin Type: Normal, dry, combo | Size: 1.69 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Byrdie senior editor Hallie Gould calls this one her "most treasured moisturizer." She uses it twice a day religiously and loves that it results in youthful-looking skin by morning. As for what's inside, it's a hard-hitting mix of antioxidants like vitamin E and purslane, skullcap extract to promote cell renewal and rich oils that ensure long-lasting hydration.
Best for Mature Skin: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
Active Ingredients: Vitamin E | Skin Type: Normal, mature, dry | Size: 1.6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
The numbers in the name correspond to an optimal lipid ratio—2% pure ceramides, 4% natural cholesterol, and 2% fatty acids—responsible for making this anti-aging cream one of the best out there. You can bet that all those essential skin lipids lost from natural aging or environmental aggressors (or a combo of the two) make their way back onto the skin and support restoration and self-repair. The result is skin that feels softer and looks more radiant, smooth, and full.
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 Mature Skin, Runner-Up: Lancôme Absolue Premium Bx Cream
Skin Type: Dry, mature | Size: 2.6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
This heavy-duty moisturizer contains glycerin, which is a great humectant. The wild yam extract, sea algae and soy in it work to restore moisture overnight. Yes, it's a pricey moisturizer, but like all good products, it's luxurious and almost addictive. Once you start on it, you may never go back to your old mainstays.
Best for Sensitive Skin: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Moisturizing Cream
Active Ingredients: Squalane | Skin Type: Combo, sensitive, normal | Size: 1.35 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
La Roche-Posay tested this moisturizer on people with skin allergies, just to make sure they got the formula right. It provides the right amount of hydration without irritating sensitive skin. Dr. King agrees, noting that it’s free of parabens, fragrance, preservatives, and alcohol, all potential irritants, especially for those with sensitive skin. (In fact, the entire Toleriane line is suited for sensitive-skinned folk.) If your skin is easily freaked out and you don't want to take any chances, this is absolutely a lifesaver.
Best Rich Cream: Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Body Cream
Active Ingredients: Zinc | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
If your complexion is prone to dryness and flaking, this moisturizer will be your new skin savior. Celebrities, editors, and skin experts alike are obsessed with it because it truly does what it promises. “ It’s definitely a cult favorite, I have so many patients who swear by it, “ says Dr. King. With essential fatty acids, bee wax, lanolin, sweet almond oil, cholesterol and vitamin E, it does a great job of moisturizing dry skin, she says, and also leave it looking healthy and glowy. Pro tip: Dab a bit of this cream on the high points of your face to replace a highlighter when you're in a pinch. It's also worth noting that this rich cream pulls double-duty as a body lotion on rough, dry areas like elbows, hands, and feet.
What Our Editors & Testers Say
"I used a pinch of this product to cover the driest, most cracked areas of my skin, which at the moment happens to be around my feet and ankles, and felt the immediate relief of deeply nourishing hydration that lasts all day long." — Ashley Rubell, Product Tester
"There’s a reason this product is beloved by practically every beauty editor, makeup artist, and dermatologist—it’s just one of the best moisturizers out there. I’ve tried fancier formulas, but I always find myself going back to Skin Food, especially when my skin is being extra sensitive. It never irritates and leaves behind soft, hydrated, and happy skin." — Karli Bendlin, Senior Editor
Best Night Cream: Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Dream Night Cream
Active Ingredients: Sodium hydroxide | Skin Type: Dry, combo, normal, mature | Size: 1.6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
This night cream is a dream, and not just because it's in the name. It has the perfect consistency for a night cream: thick enough that it'll keep hydrating your skin while you're asleep, but thin enough that it won't rub off on your pillow when you finally lay your head down. The best part about this cream is, of course, what it does overnight. Even if you're not looking for an anti-aging effect, this cream utilizes lotus and peach to make skin brighter and more even. This means it's just as good for tired skin as it is for aging skin. It also smells phenomenal.
Best Natural Formula: Farmacy Beauty Honey Drop Lightweight Moisturizer
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Oily, combo, normal, dry | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Farmacy is one of the most beloved non-toxic brands out there, and for good reason. Their moisturizer, made with their trademarked Echinacea GreenEnvy Complex, works for all skin types—a rare quality in a moisturizer.
Honey Drop is perfect to pat on under foundation primer, or when you want a lightweight moisturizer that absorbs quickly but won't require reapplication. It's also super useful for days you're just spending at home when your skin isn't at its driest but you don't intend on putting on much more than a moisturizer.
Best for Winter: Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream
Active Ingredients: Squalane | Skin Type: Dry, combo, normal | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
This is the bestselling facial cream for Kiehl's and one we at Byrdie HQ can't get enough of, especially during winter weather. A potent hydrator, this formula boasts a glacial glycoprotein to deeply hydrate and prevent water loss from the skin, as well as squalane to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier. All of that translates to 24-hour hydration and softer, smoother skin.
What Our Testers Say
"But my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided not to wash my face for 24 hours after applying the cream. To my surprise, I woke up the next day with flawlessly plump, moisturized skin." — Nicole Pulyado, Product Tester
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: A-DERMA Compensating Cream
Active Ingredients: Citric acid | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 1.35 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Quick disclaimer from the jump: This is not an acne-fighting cream. It's an uber-soothing formula that can help combat the dryness and irritation that often results from continued use of powerful acne treatments and products. Use this in conjunction with your acne treatment to quell some of those awful side effects by calming and soothing your fragile skin. After all, treating acne is hard enough, you shouldn't have to deal with even more irritation. Amen to that.
Best for Combination Skin: Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid
Active Ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate | Skin Type: Dry, combo, normal, sensitive | Size: 5.07 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
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 the skin for all-over hydration while reducing redness. It feels weightless on the skin, doesn’t exacerbate oily patches, plumps up the skin, and even layers well under makeup.
Best for Wrinkle Prevention: Moon Juice Cosmic Cream
Active Ingredients: Citric acid, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Normal, dry, combo, oily | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
As you age, collagen and elastin production slows, which results in more visible lines, wrinkles, and overall dullness. And while you can't pause time, or even slow it down, you can protect your skin against premature collagen loss with this moisturizer. It features two adaptogens—ashwagandha and schisandra plant extracts—to help support natural collagen and protect against the environmental aggressors that can cause it to break down.
Best K-Beauty: Make P:rem Micro Tension Cream
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry, sensitive | Size: 2.19 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Bring your glowing "glass skin" dreams to life with this K-beauty favorite. The gel-like texture lends itself to quick and easy absorption without leaving behind a greasy or thick residue. It immediately plumps the skin with hydration and imparts a dewy glow that'll turn heads. And thanks to the affordable price tag, you can apply this baby with a heavy hand and not worry too much about the cost.
Best Non-Comedogenic: Tatcha The Water Cream
Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide | Skin Type: Oily, combo | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Finding a non-comedogenic moisturizer that is also suitably hydrating is hard. Often, people with combination or acne-prone skin have to settle for something that either gives them acne or doesn't properly moisturize their face. Tatcha has solved this problem with their Water Cream.
The brand makes a point to have clean ingredients, so it's no shock that this formula is free of irritants, including parabens and synthetic fragrances. The Water Cream specifically uses ingredients you likely won't find in other brands—like Japanese leopard lily and Japanese wild rose—to keep skin hydrated without leaving excess oil behind. For a bonus shine, there's a little bit of 24k gold in the formulation as well.
What Our Testers Say
"After each application, my face felt really hydrated but light at the same time. There is a freshness you feel upon applying The Water Cream, almost like a cooling sensation in a way. I continued to enjoy how it felt on my skin during the day and at night." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Best for Itchy Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration
Active Ingredients: Squalane, sodium hydroxide | Skin Type: All skin types | Size: 6 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
As if parched skin weren't already bad enough, it usually accompanies itchiness and flaking. Thankfully, this intensely moisturizing cream can come to your skin's rescue. Colloidal oatmeal lovingly smothers itchy, dry skin with its soothing properties. Ceramides swoop in to help repair the moisture barrier, while shea butter adds another surge of moisture. People struggling with eczema and dry patches alike can use this cream, and if you happen to over-exfoliate, dab this on to soothe the healing process.
Best During Pregnancy: Matrescence Skin Rose Glow Brilliance Protection Soufflé
Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Many of our favorite skincare ingredients for treating hyperpigmentation and providing plump skin aren't always the best options for pregnancy. That's why this emollient soufflé is a prime investment. If your skin is dull or distressed, it will love the hydrating results of sunflower seed oil, cucumber extract, carrot root, and other yummy ingredients.
Best PH-Balancing: Base Butter Radiate Face Jelly
Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Whether you have dry skin or oily skin, this best-selling aloe vera gel moisturizer is a fan favorite for moisture that lasts all day long. The natural formula balances your skin's pH levels between 4.2 to 5.8, leaving your skin rejuvenated, restored, and protected. This product gets extra brownie points for lavender that works to regulate sebum production and evening primrose to boost skin elasticity.
We're giving top honors to Olay's Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream; the pretty red jar sells every 20 minutes worldwide—no joke. It's hydrating (thanks to hyaluronic acid) and really helps put wrinkles in their place, and the affordable price sure doesn't hurt. Looking to splurge? You can't go wrong with La Mer's Crème de la Mer, a cult classic, or Dr. Barbara Sturm's Face Cream Rich. Both are dry skin heroes and offer long-lasting hydration that justifies their price points.
What to Look for In a Facial Moisturizer
Humectants are ingredients that work by attracting water to and holding it in the skin; common examples include hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
Emollients soften and smooth the surface of the skin. Ingredients such as oils, fatty acids, and ceramides are all good emollients to look for in a formula.
This category of ingredients forms a seal on the surface of the skin, helping to lock in moisture that way. Petrolatum, mineral oil, and silicones are all considered occlusives.
How often should you moisturize your face?
According to Dr. King, this will vary depending on how dry or oily your skin is and the dryness or humidity of your environment. Other products you’re using that can affect your skin barrier—retinoids or salicylic acid, for example—can also play a role in how often you’ll need to moisturize. That being said, in most cases, moisturizing twice daily after cleansing will suffice, she says.
How do you use a face serum with moisturizer?
Simply put, serums always go first. The general skincare rule is to apply products from lightest to heaviest; serums are innately more lightweight than any type of moisturizer, so if you are using one, apply it first. Give it a little time to soak into your skin completely, then follow with your moisturizer of choice.
How much moisturizer should you use?
Again, this also varies, depending not only on how dry your skin is but also on the particular moisturizer you’re using. As a general rule of thumb, Dr. King says approximately a nickel-size amount is a good guideline.