Best Face Moisturizers for Every Skin Type — Our Top 11 Picks

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01.24.22 AD DISCLOSURE

Our favorite moisturizer is Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer.

If you had to whittle down all of your skincare products to just one, which would you choose? For most people, it would be a moisturizer. But best face moisturizers have several benefits beyond promoting soft, supple skin and a glowing complexion.

Best facial moisturizer traits? A good cream should also address other issues such as signs of aging, oiliness, acne, and sensitivity. With that said, everyone needs to moisturize, whether their skin is dry, oily, young, or mature. The key is choosing the best face lotion for your skin type and age and using it accordingly.

Woman applying moisturizer on face

Are you ready to find the best hydrating moisturizer, but not sure where to look? No worries. Here at the Derm Review, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare regimen that’s safe and effective. Ahead, 11 best face moisturizers to help promote a healthy, balanced complexion.

Best Face Moisturizer: The List

Best moisturizer for the face? We’ve got 11 top picks.

Best Value: Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $60

Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer: Formulyst Anti-Aging Night Cream With Retinol, $59

Best Moisturizer for Dehydrated Skin: Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance, $44

Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $58

Best Moisturizer for Oily Skin: Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, $56

Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin: La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light, $36

Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer, $38

Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $36

Best Moisturizer with SPF: Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, $19

Best Tinted Moisturizer with SPF: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $47

Best Drugstore Moisturizer: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $11.62

How to Choose the Best Facial Moisturizer

The best face moisturizers come in many formulations including gels, creams, lotions, ointments, and foams. They are all effective but the right one depends on your skin type and concerns. 

The weather is also a factor. During the depths of winter, your skin may need a more decadent cream, but when it’s hot and humid, a lighter gel moisturizer that hydrates without feeling heavy. The same rule applies if you live in a dry, cold climate versus a warm, humid one. Remember, a thicker cream doesn’t always equate to a better cream — excess moisturizer can actually backfire by blocking skin from breathing or making it too dependent on it.


Determine Your Skin Type

Before investing in the best facial moisturizer, you have to understand how to determine your skin type and consider additional factors such as sensitivity, acne, age, dehydration, etc.

There are four basic types of healthy skin: normal, dry, oily, and combination skin. Understanding your skin type is an integral part of any beauty routine. Not only does this intel help you choose the right products (including a moisturizer) to address your specific needs, but it’s also a snapshot of how your skin will age. 

  • Normal Skin: Normal skin can be classified as having an even skin tone, radiant complexion, fine (almost non-visible) pores, is neither too oily nor too dry and is free from blemishes. Sure, normal skin may seem as though it’s the easiest skin type to take care of, and that may be true to a certain degree.However, the reality is, normal skin can’t escape the aging process. Like all other skin types, the skin will become dryer and less elastic with age, so wrinkles are imminent and anti-aging cream is something to consider. A lighter, water-based formula is typically sufficient.
  • Dry Skin: Those with a dry skin type produce less sebum (oil) than usual, resulting in a deficiency of hydrating and protective lipids that protect against external stressors such as air pollution, UV radiation, climate changes, etc. Dry skin typically feels tight, itchy, and rough to the touch.Redness can even be present if it becomes sensitized. With age, oil and lipid levels deplete even further, making dry skin even more apparent. On top of collagen loss, fine lines, wrinkles, and dry patches can be more evident than other skin types. Go for a heavier, oil-based formula.
  • Oily Skin: The antithesis of dry skin, oily skin produces more sebum than usual. A telltale sign of oily skin is a greasy shine that shows up mid-way through the day — if not 20-30 minutes after washing your face depending on how active the sebaceous glands are.Other characteristics include enlarged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. It’s also typically difficult to keep makeup on. As with a normal skin type, oilier individuals won’t get away with an utterly wrinkle-free complexion just because their skin is more lubricated. A lighter, water-based moisturizer is best.
  • Combination Skin: Combination skin can be frustrating to treat because the T-zone (forehead and nose region) is oily, but the rest of the face looks and feels dry or normal.Those with this skin type often have to execute a little trial and error when adopting a skincare routine that effectively targets both skin types. Future wrinkle formation may be similar to those of an oily skin type.A water-based formula or a light lotion is desirable in this case.


Avoid Potentially Harmful Ingredients

Ideally, the best moisturizer for face will be void of potentially harmful ingredients like the “Suspicious 6″ — essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical screens, fragrance/dyes, and SLS. 

However, not all of the Suspicious 6 are offensive — some, like essential oils and silicones — are actually clean. But popular beauty brand Drunk Elephant’s founder Tiffany Masterson told L’Officiel Baltic magazine she skips them all together because she doesn’t “believe that they allow your skin to function and thrive the way it could.” Elle, our in-house biochemist at The Derm Review, also believes in this philosophy. 

More likely than not, these ingredients are used to make the look and feel of a product more appealing, but they don’t actually help our skin. In fact, they can sometimes cause an adverse reaction or damage.

However, things become a bit muddled when a brand uses industry trade secrets that are kept from the consumer, making it more difficult to make a fully informed decision about a product.

What the Best Facial Moisturizers Have in Common

As mentioned, the best face lotion provides more benefits than just giving moisture. Depending on your skin type, look for formulas that: 

  • Treat and Prevent Dryness: Be it climate changes, indoor heat, air conditioning, certain medications, sun exposure, or using the wrong facial products, the skin can be depleted of vital moisture. Not only will the best hydrating moisturizer replace lost moisture, but it will also prevent further loss. 
  • Provide Anti-Aging Benefits: No miracle cream’s going to erase all of your fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots. Still, the sooner you start using a moisturizer, the more of a chance you have of slowing down the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. This is especially true if you’re using a formula made with anti-aging ingredients like retinol (a vitamin A derivative), vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid, to name a few. 
  • Soothe Sensitive Skin: Those with sensitive skin need a little extra TLC because there tends to be dry patches, itchiness, redness, and irritation. The best facial moisturizer for this skin type should contain skin-soothing ingredients like oatmeal, chamomile, aloe vera, azulene, etc., all of which can substantially reduce these symptoms. There are even moisturizers that target those with specific acute skin conditions like eczema and rosacea. 
  • Help Battle Oil and Acne: A moisturizer may be the last product one with oily, acne-prone skin would reach for (even if it’s the best face lotion), but the reality is, when the skin is dry or becomes stripped of its natural oils due to over-cleansing or the use of harsh products, it only produces more oil to compensate for the loss — it’s a self-defense mechanism. The right moisturizer will balance oil production and help keep clogged pores and breakouts at bay. 

Best Face Moisturizers

Best Value: Carrot & Stick: The Moisturizer, $60
This lightweight antioxidant formula is a hydrating powerhouse that leaves skin feeling remarkably smooth and radiant. Overflowing with potent plant proteins, vitamins, peptides, and amino-collagen, plus a stem cell extract from hardy alpine roses delivers multi-level hydration. 

Carrot & Stick’s active complex of three natural bio-ferments supports greater nutrient density and more efficient absorption. Caffeine adds an energy boost that revitalizes the skin, while five distinct coconut elements promote overall conditioning. This formula is suitable for normal, dry, oily, and combination skin.

Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer: Formulyst Anti-Aging Night Cream With Retinol, $59
Specifically formulated to target the visual signs of aging, Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream profoundly moisturizes and visibly transforms your skin while you sleep.

An advanced overnight formula penetrating deep below the surface, innovative Encapsulated Retinol Technology delivers a higher concentrate of the essential vitamin retinol to your skin for intense rejuvenation while naturally nourishing jojoba and safflower seed oil lock in long-lasting hydration. So you can wake up to skin that looks and feels beautifully renewed.

Best Moisturizer for Dehydrated Skin: Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance, $44
Best moisturizer for dehydrated skin? We’ve got you. Dermalogica has specifically developed a nourishing facial moisturizer to restore lipid balance to dry, dehydrated, depleted skin for optimal barrier performance. The formula contains a BioReplenish Complex that delivers a combination of crucial barrier lipids to help enhance the skin’s natural resilience and support barrier recovery. 

This formula also contains two forms of hyaluronic acid — sodium hyaluronate and hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate — to help enhance the skin’s moisture content and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $58
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream is the brand’s number one moisturizing cream for dry skin that provides ultra-lightweight 24-hour hydration. It’s recommended for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin. 

This cream contains a high concentration of squalane, which is found in the skin lipid barrier of humans and animals, therefore playing an essential role in skin lubrication and protection. However, the amount made and retained in the skin decreases over time. Topical application of squalane helps replenish the skin’s lipid barrier, resulting in softer, smoother skin.

Best Moisturizer for Oily Skin: Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, $56
An upgrade to fan-favorite, best-seller, Clinique’s Moisture Surge Intense, Moisture Surge 100H provides moisture for an additional 28 hours longer than the brand’s original formula — even after you’ve washed your face. 

This oil-free, gel-cream is ideally suited for oily skin due to its lightweight texture and non-pore-clogging ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and aloe bio-ferment. The brand’s proprietary auto-replenishing technology —  activated aloe water and caffeine — triggers the skin’s rehydration system. You won’t find parabens, phthalates, or fragrances.

Take a look at these other moisturizers that are great for oily skin.

Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin: La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light, $36
Due to its lightweight texture, this is an excellent moisturizer for combination skin — even those who are sensitive. It delivers long-lasting hydration for 24-hours, thanks to hyaluronic acid and La Roche-Posay thermal spring water. Oily areas will never feel greasy and dry, or dehydrated patches disappear.

Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer, $38
Formulated with 1% salicylic acid, a powerful beta hydroxy acid that has incredible pore declogging properties, this popular moisturizer from Origins helps prevent breakouts before they occur. It’s also formulated with bamboo charcoal, a highly absorbent ingredient that helps keep the pores clear. 

Read about other top moisturizers for acne-prone skin.

Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $36
This head-to-toe moisturizer by First Aid Beauty can be used as a daily moisturizer to prevent dry skin and help alleviate dry, itchy, and red skin. The skin is said to be left feeling smooth, hydrated, and comfortable after just a single-use. 

The main active ingredient in First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration is 0.5% colloidal oatmeal, a skin protectant that has been used for centuries to soothe and heal the skin and reduce inflammation and redness. There are also several emollients in the Ultra Repair Cream, including shea butter and squalane. 

Check out these other top moisturizer picks for those with sensitive skin

Best Moisturizer with SPF: Dr. Jart Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, $19
This popular green-to-beige color-correcting cream from Dr. Jart banishes redness and helps protect skin from environmental aggressors. It provides SPF 30 protection from UV light, and it even forms a dust barrier to protect the skin from the environment while enhancing the skin’s viability.

Take a look at these other great moisturizers with SPF.

Best Tinted Moisturizer with SPF: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30, $47
Beauty editors love Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer as it provides just the right amount of coverage to even out skin tones while leaving the face feeling soft and hydrated – and natural. The moisturizer comes in oil-free and hydrating formulas.

Read about the rest of our top tinted moisturizer picks.

Best Drugstore Moisturizer: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $11.62
Don’t be fooled by the plain packaging and low price point. Nearly 40,000 five-star reviews will tell you that this moisturizer packs a punch. Dermatologists developed this profoundly hydrating cream for the face, but one can also use it on the body. 

Non-greasy, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream boasts a patented MVE Delivery Technology to release a steady stream of hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides throughout the day and night.

Take a look at the rest of our favorite drugstore moisturizers.

Best Face Moisturizers: The Bottom Line

What’s the best face moisturizer? 

Overall, the best facial moisturizer is Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, a lightweight antioxidant-rich formula that delivers multi-level hydration, thanks to a proprietary active complex of three natural bio-ferments. 

The best hydrating moisturizer will treat and prevent dryness, provide anti-aging benefits, soothe sensitive skin, and help battle oil and acne. Try to find a formula void of the “suspicious six” and well-formulated with evidence-based ingredients like retinol, antioxidants, salicylic acid, and nourishing plant oils — their concentration and how the moisturizer is packaged is also essential. 

What’s the best moisturizer, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

FAQs
Clinically speaking, creams are the most common delivery systems used for moisturizers. Creams are a two-phase system (emulsion) containing two immiscible liquids — oil and water, one of which is dispersed in the other in the form of microscopic or submicroscopic droplets. To be effective, the ratio between oil and water is essential, as well as the type of oil and the amount and type of other ingredients.

Always start with clean hands. A moisturizer should be applied two to three minutes after your serum. Lightly rub the product between your clean fingertips. Then gently dab the moisturizer onto the different areas of your face — forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin — to ensure that the product is distributed evenly all over your face.

Massage approximately a nickel-sized amount on your face (more product is not practical) using upwards and outwards strokes. You can use gentle circular motions, but don’t rub or tug too hard.

The best face moisturizer can be anything from a drugstore buy to a luxurious splurge in our book. More important than price is how well the moisturizer is formulated, including whether or not it contains evidence-based ingredients (and at what strength) and whether or not the packaging protects these vital components.

If not, you’re just wasting money because the product will oxidize more quickly, thus losing its potency.

Moisturizing and hydrating are two different things, even though the terms are sometimes (mistakenly) interchanged. A hydrator, such as hyaluronic acid, draws water to the skin using humectants, which plump, hydrate, and enhance its ability to absorb moisture and vital nutrients.

Moisturizing is about locking in hydration and moisture to protect your skin’s natural barrier. With that said, you typically want to use a hydrator like hyaluronic acid with a moisturizer suitable for your skin type.

If you have acne or oily skin, you may think you can skip the moisturizer, but the opposite is true. Overly dry skin can make acne worse, leading to inflammation and acne flare-ups. If you’re prone to breakouts, stock up on oil-free and non-comedogenic products, meaning it won’t clog pores.

The right moisturizer can help keep excess oil and shine in check; some formulas have micro-fine powders to absorb oils and blur the appearance of enlarged pores. Adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid are all acne and oil-fighting powerhouses.

Anyone with dry, flaky skin should look for ultra-hydrating products containing hyaluronic acid, amino acids, glycerin, and ceramides. Think of these ingredients as moisture magnets that draw and retain water to the skin. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water, which has a plumping effect on the skin.
Ceramides are like the building blocks of cells- they are oils that support the skin barrier. Speaking of oils, it can be tempting to reach for oil for maximum hydration. While they are deeply hydrating, they’re not meant to replace an actual moisturizer. Instead, think of them as a supplement. Add a drop or two to your cream, or add a layer on top of the moisturizer.
As we get older, the skin develops fine lines and brown spots. A moisturizer containing retinol and peptides can help fight the signs of aging and smooth out the skin’s texture. Other ingredients to look out for are antioxidants, such as vitamin C, green tea, and fruit extracts to help fight the damaging effects of free radicals. Antioxidants also help to nourish and calm skin and leave it looking glowing.
Got normal skin? You’re in luck. If you don’t have any skin concerns or patches of dry/oily skin, reach for a cream with an SPF and just the right amount of hydration. Go with what feels good on your skin. Some people like a creamy texture, while others might prefer a lighter gel-like feel. The goal here is to keep the skin feeling smooth and supple.

But moisturizing does more for your skin than just making it feel soft and supple. For example, if you don’t have time to apply a separate sunscreen, choose a daytime cream with an SPF, a foolproof way to protect your skin.

Another bonus? A layer of moisturizer creates a smooth base for applying makeup. Otherwise, foundation and powder can sink into fine lines and emphasize creases. Even the act of applying moisturizer can do a world of good — massaging it into your skin helps blood circulation and stimulate new cell generation.

Sources:
The Clinical Benefit of Moisturizers,” ResearchGate, December 2005.
Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin,” Mayo Clinic.
Chemical Exposures: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry,” US National Library of Medicine National Center for Biology.