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- Whether your dry skin is seasonal or not, treating it can often seem impossible.
- We consulted two dermatologists and our team to learn about dry skin and which products to buy.
- If you have a different skin type or are unsure, see the best moisturizers for every skin type.
Tight, red, itchy, rough – these are all descriptors of dry skin. And while dry skin on its own is tough, peeling or flaking can also appear, especially during the transition from the summer season to fall and winter, no matter your skin type.
If you notice your skin experiencing dryness, you likely also notice that not all facial moisturizers can get the job done in curing it. The most important things to keep in mind when buying a moisturizer are the ingredients and consistencies of the lotion itself. We spoke with Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, board-certified dermatologist of Mariwalla Dermatology, and Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, to break down these details, and help guide us toward the best moisturizer for dry skin.
Click to jump to the best face moisturizers for dry skin that you can buy:
- Best face moisturizers for dry, sensitive skin
- Best face moisturizers for dry, acne-prone skin
- Best face moisturizers for dry, mature skin
- Best face moisturizers for extremely dry skin
- Frequently-asked questions about moisturizers for dry skin
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
This cream has a thick consistency, so you’ll never have that tight, still-dry feeling. But it’s non-comedogenic, so it doesn’t clog pores or leave you feeling greasy, either. It’s free of fragrance and other common irritants, which is why it’s a great choice for sensitive skin types. — Kyle Kerchaert, senior video producer, beauty and style
Once I reached my mid-30s, it felt like all the moisture had been sucked from my skin. The CeraVe Moisturizing Cream was the only thing that calmed and hydrated my face. And though I was originally worried that it would be too thick, it absorbs quickly and leaves your skin feeling soft, not greasy. — Jamie Feller, account executive
I grew up with severe eczema on my face, and this moisturizer was the only thing that was gentle enough to be used on my sensitive skin. While it may seem too thick at first, it absorbs very quickly, leaving your face soft and dewy. — Grace Wade, associate health reference editor
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
I have recommended First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream time and time again because it’s just that good. It’s unscented and has a creamy consistency. I apply it every night to my face and neck, and it has never led to breakouts on my sensitive skin. — Victoria Giardina, buying guides fellow
Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion
The Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion is ideal for dry, sensitive skin. It contains no fragrance, dye, formaldehyde, or lanolin. It contains both humectants and emollients to provide a mix of hydration and moisturization. — Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology
Clinique Moisture Surge 100-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator
I have dry, sensitive skin as well as rosacea, and this has been my year-round lifesaver. It’s a gel-cream so I initially had my doubts, but whenever I even think of trying another moisturizer, I come back to this. This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free, and oil-free, and also has hyaluronic acid and aloe water. — Magenta Ranero, senior chart editor, Insider Intelligence
The best face moisturizers for dry, acne-prone skin
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream with Hyaluronic Acid for Extra-Dry Skin
My skin feels soft, hydrated, and supple when I use this gel cream, especially during the cold winter months. I appreciate that it’s non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog my pores, as I have acne-prone skin. It’s also fragrance-free. This moisturizer contains humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, along with emollients like olive extract — all of which help to pack quite the punch in the best and most hydrating way possible. — Katie Decker-Jacoby, style & beauty reviews fellow
Hada Labo Skin Plumping Gel Cream
I discovered this moisturizer on a desperate Reddit search for an oil-free formula that wouldn’t irritate the seborrheic dermatitis that sometimes pops up on my face. This gel formula is gentle and non-irritating, and it feels like a glass of water for your skin. It also cleared up the minimal flaking I was experiencing from my AHA serums. It does leave a bit of a dewy finish, so I prefer it at night or with some extra setting powder under makeup. — Kyle Kerchaert, senior video producer, beauty and style
C’est Moi Gentle Moisture Lotion
C’est Moi is better known for their colorful makeup, but I picked up this moisturizer on its website on a whim and have loved it. My skin gets very dry in the winter, and so I’m always on the lookout for products that deliver a lot of moisture for a budget price. This one isn’t greasy or oily at all, and I was shocked at how moisturizing even a small amount of product felt. — Allison Jiang, story production fellow
Lotus Moon Vitamin B Hydrating Gel
I have dry, sensitive, and acne-prone skin and this plant-based moisturizer is a champion at hydration. It has a gel formula, so it’s lightweight, absorbent, and doesn’t make me sweat on hot days. It also smells lovely and helps keep my breakouts at bay. — Stephanie Hallett, senior personal finance editor
The best face moisturizers for dry, mature skin
SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter
The A.G.E. Interrupter is an advanced wrinkle treatment that combats the visible signs of aging caused by glycation, which is a major factor of the natural aging process. — Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, board-certified dermatologist of Mariwalla Dermatology
SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
The Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 contains free fatty acids to replace cellular lipids and nourish dry skin. This is a crowd favorite for those with extremely dry skin that is worth the splurge. — Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology
fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Dream Night Cream
This is actually a night cream I use as a regular moisturizer in the winter when my skin is its driest for a big hydration boost. It works great under makeup, helping to impart a dewy look that I generally have trouble achieving due to my skin’s aforementioned dryness. It’s essentially an amped-up version of my other favorite Fresh moisturizer. — Ellen Hoffman, executive editor
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer
This moisturizer is probably my most-recommended skincare product ever. I generally have really dry skin, but you’d never know it when I’m using this gel-like formula from Peter Thomas Roth. It makes my skin soft and plump, but never leaves behind a sticky residue. The best part about it, though, is that its effects last all day (and I’m not just regurgitating brand copy here — this is literally one of the only moisturizers I truly feel this way about). — Sally Kaplan, deputy editor
The best moisturizers for extremely dry skin
SkinFix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream
The Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream is a deeply hydrating face cream with active lipids, peptides, small particle hyaluronic acid and rich shea butter for brightening, firming, and plumping. — Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, board-certified dermatologist of Mariwalla Dermatology
Nourish Organic Lightweight Moisturizing Face Lotion
The Lightweight Moisturizing Face Lotion contains argan oil to replenish moisture and rosewater to improve tone, hydration, and elasticity. Shea butter acts as a seal to lock in the moisture and repair the barrier. — Dr. Corey L. Hartman, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
My eczema reacts so badly around my eyes that even the best eye creams and the best moisturizers cannot bail me out. In times of distress, I smear just a small amount of Aquaphor onto my under eyes to restore moisture. I apply it as needed, but most typically before bedtime to lock in moisture and before I apply makeup so my eyelids can soak it up and prevent my concealer from looking cakey. — Jacqueline Saguin, style & beauty reviews fellow
Which ingredients should you look out for when buying moisturizer for dry skin?
To start, it’s helpful to know the three categories of moisturizing ingredients: occlusive, emollient, and humectant. An occlusive forms a barrier to retain moisture, an emollient traps water, and a humectant brings water to the top layer of the skin. Dr. Mariwalla and Dr. Hartman recommend ingredients that fall under these groups, including ones like ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, squalene, petrolatum, shea butter, and lactic acid.
On the flip side, there are of course ingredients that could further irritate your dry skin, such as fragrance, retinoids, glycolic acid, alcohol, sodium lauryl sulfate, and salicylic acid, according to both dermatologists.
What are the differences between creams, lotions, and gels?
The key differences are their ratios between water and oil. According to Dr. Hartman, creams are composed of half water and half oil, lotions contain mostly water and less oil, and gels are water-based and lack any trace of oil. This matters because, according to Dr. Mariwalla, thicker creams typically deliver more moisture than thinner lotions and watery gels. For example, extra dry skin might require a heavy cream, while dry, acne-prone skin might benefit from a lightweight, oil-free gel.
Is there anything else I can do for my skin before applying my moisturizer?
Face moisturizers alone likely won’t relieve your dry skin. Dr. Hartman recommends washing your face with a cream or oil-based cleanser and staying away from foamy ones. For good measure, Dr. Hartman adds, “Avoid hot water, use less soap or cleanser, and wash for shorter periods of time. Moisturizer works to strengthen the skin barrier and to trap in water, so apply the moisturizer immediately after washing.” After applying moisturizer in the morning, Dr. Mariwalla advises layering on sunscreen to block harmful UV rays, which is a step all skin types should take.
Rest assured, if you consistently experience dry skin, seeing your dermatologist is a good idea. Your dermatologist can help uncover the reason for your dry skin and if you perhaps need stronger prescription treatments.