Best Moisturizers

The 21 Best Moisturizers to Try in 2021

ARTICLE

04.06.21 AD DISCLOSURE

A moisturizer is one of the core components of a skincare routine, regardless of skin type. But before we go into more detail, it’s first important to explain that 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 plumps, hydrates, and enhances 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.

Best Face Moisturizer Overall: Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $50

Best for Loss of Elasticity: Formulyst Lifting and Wrinkle Smoothing Cream, $80

Best Face Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: Dr. Sturm the Face Cream, $215

Best for Softening Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream Moisturizer, $100

Best Non-Greasy Moisturizer: CeraVe The Moisturizing Cream for Normal to Dry Skin, $11.62

Best for Long-Lasting Moisture: Dr. Brandt Hyaluronic Facial Cream, $72

Best for Deep Moisture: Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream, $190

Best for Acneic Skin: GLAMGLOW’s SUPERWATERGEL, $56

Best Moisturizer for Dehydrated Skin: belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb, $38

Best for Controlling Shine: La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Anti-Shine Face Moisturizer for Oily Skin, $32

Best for Redness and Irritation: Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream, $39

Best for Moisture: Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion, $60

Best for Minimizing Pores: Tatcha The Water Cream, $68

Best for Mature Skin: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, $128

Best Drugstore Buy: Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer, $28.94

Best Balm-Like Formula: U.SK Under Skin Young Glow Balm, $119

Best Makeup Primer: Isla Face Base Primer, $46

Best for Balancing: Saffron & Sage Restore Balancing Moisturizer, $68

Best With SPF: Skin Authority SkinSuit Face, $59

Best Needle-Free Skin Plumper: KORRES Golden Krocus Hydra-Filler Plumping Cream, $76

Best for Brightening: Mikel Kristi C Radiance Moisturizer, $120

Best Tinted Moisturizer: Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30, $4

Benefits of Using a Moisturizer

When it comes to the importance of using a moisturizer, consumers are catching on. Statistics show that 25.54 million Americans used facial moisturizers 14 or more times within a one week period in 2020, which suggests that this is a skincare product that’s a part of their morning and evening routine. The frequency has increased substantially since 2011.

What is a moisturizer? 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 important, as well as the type of oil and the amount and type of other ingredients. A good moisturizer will:

  • 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. A good moisturizer will not only replace lost moisture but 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. A moisturizer formulated with skin-soothing ingredients like oatmeal, chamomile, aloe vera, azulene, etc., 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, 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.

Determining Your Skin Type

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 into 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. The skin will become dryer and less elastic with age, just like all other skin types, so wrinkles are imminent.
  • 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.
  • 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 a wrinkle-free complexion just because their skin is more lubricated. While they may have fewer forehead lines because the dermis is thicker and has more oil glands, fine lines and wrinkles tend to be more conspicuous in the lower segment of the face due to the inevitable loss of collagen and elasticity.
  • 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 it comes to adopting a skincare routine that effectively targets both skin types. Future wrinkle formation may be similar to those of an oily skin type.

The 21 Best Face Moisturizers to Try in 2021

Best Face Moisturizer Overall: Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $50
This supercharged 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, it delivers multi-level hydration. Our active complex of three natural bio-ferments supports greater nutrient density and more efficient absorption. Caffeine adds an energy boost that revitalizes dull, mature skin, while five distinct coconut elements promote overall conditioning. 

Best for Loss of Elasticity: Formulyst Lifting and Wrinkle Smoothing Cream, $80
This velvety smooth formula contains a powerful blend of lipids and botanicals that help lift, smooth, and refine the skin’s appearance. Moringa seed oil provides intense moisturization, evodia rutaecarpa fruit extract helps to visibly brighten and refine, and peony extract improves skin density. In the short term, skin appears smoother and healthier looking, while over time, your complexion feels firmer and visually lifts with a radiance that imparts a beautiful, youthful glow.

Best Face Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: Dr. Sturm the Face Cream, $215
Just because the skin is considered “normal” doesn’t mean it can’t be sensitive, too. While it’s a bit on the expensive side, this lightweight gel-cream harnesses the power of lady’s mantle, ceramide 3, and glycerin to promote a healthy, glowing complexion (it’s like a drink of water for the skin). At the same time, skullcap and purslane help calm and reduce visible signs of irritation.

Best for Softening Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream Moisturizer, $100
This cult anti-aging moisturizer was created by Tilbury to instantly transform the look of celebrities’ and models’ skin. It truly does immediately improve the look and feel of the skin, thanks to a bionymph peptide complex, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins C and E. The skin looks more hydrated and visibly plump after just one use, but the look of fine lines and wrinkles diminish over time — bonus points for being an excellent makeup base.

Best Non-Greasy Moisturizer: CeraVe The Moisturizing Cream for Normal to Dry Skin, $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 use it on the body as well. 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.

Best for Long-Lasting Moisture: Dr. Brandt Hyaluronic Facial Cream, $72
Anyone with dry skin knows that if they skimp out on moisturizer just once, their parched facial features pay the price. While we don’t want to give you an excuse to become lazy with your skincare routine, this peptide-packed moisturizer keeps the skin moist and supple for an impressive 72 hours while targeting loss of tone in the process. As the product’s name implies, hyaluronic acid works to hydrate and plump the skin, reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

Best for Deep Moisture: Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream, $190
This is the moisturizer that started the whole La Mer following all over the world. Luxurious and in texture as it is in price point, this moisturizer leaves skin instantly soft to the touch while softening fine lines and wrinkles with regular use. As with all La Mer products, the core ingredient is the brand’s proprietary Miracle Broth, a mixture of fermented sea kelp, vitamins and minerals, citrus oil, eucalyptus, sunflower, wheat germ, and alfalfa.

Best for Acneic Skin: GLAMGLOW’s SUPERWATERGEL, $56
You love GLAMGLOW for their incredible results-driven masks, so get ready to become impressed by the latest moisturizer to join their lineup. The brand-new SUPERWATERGEL is the moisturizer every person with oily skin who is also experiencing acne breakouts needs. The formula releases the brand’s signature blend of salicylic, glycolic, and pyruvic acids to effectively control oil and fight breakouts throughout the day but without any irritation. The addition of hyaluronic and acid helps hydrate and balance the skin’s natural oils without the risk of clogging pores.

Best Moisturizer for Dehydrated Skin: belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb, $38
This light, oil-free gel moisturizer cools and refreshes skin on contact while providing a serious surge of hydration. Also, it evens out the skin tone, minimizes pore size, and neutralizes free radicals, thanks to lady’s mantle and malachite. Best of all, it doesn’t feel greasy on the skin.

Best for Controlling Shine: La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Anti-Shine Face Moisturizer for Oily Skin, $32
The most appealing aspect of this oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer is that perlite and silica leave a light matte finish, banishing that mid-day T-zone shine. The brand’s Sebulyse Technology (said to be more potent than zinc) is responsible for mattifying excess oil while visibly reducing large pores’ appearance. Lipo-hydroxy acid, a gentle derivative of salicylic acid that helps treat acne while preventing further breakouts.

Best for Redness and Irritation: Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream, $39
This soothing, lightweight moisturizer provides lasting hydration without clogging pores. Since combination can also be sensitive due to inflamed acne lesions or dry, irritated patches on the cheeks, banana, chia seed, magnesium, turmeric, and cica help calm any redness irritation. It’s genuinely a moisturizer that’s suitable for all skin types, though it’s a relief for those struggling to treat oiliness and dryness simultaneously.

Best for Moisture: Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion, $60
Feel as though you’ve tried every moisturizer for combination skin under the sun? This one’s for you. As with many other moisturizers, this one also contains hyaluronic acid, which delivers moisture without heaviness. However, the pièce de résistance is Japanese marine algae harvested from the Blue Zone of Okinawa. Otherwise known as “sea grapes” or “green caviar,” you’ll feel the texture of this moisturizer break away into your skin as it turns into a water-like gel-cream. The results? Moisture minus the shine, improved elasticity, and a reduced appearance of fine lines over time.

Best for Minimizing Pores: Tatcha The Water Cream, $68
Stunning packaging aside, the Tatcha brand is known worldwide for its results-driven skincare based on centuries-old Japanese beauty secrets. This oil-free moisturizer continues to be one of the brand’s best-sellers. It’s formulated with Tatcha’s proprietary Hadasei-3 blend of algae, green tea, and fermented rice to hydrate, nourish, soothe, and refine pores.

Best for Mature Skin: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, $128
Typical characteristics of a mature skin type include uneven texture, fine lines, wrinkles, and a loss of fullness. This rich yet fast-absorbing cream helps combat all of these issues by restoring essential skin lipids (fatty acids, natural cholesterol, and ceramides) lost with age. The result? Improved moisture levels, tone, texture, and luminosity.

Best Drugstore Buy: Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer, $28.94
This popular drugstore buy penetrates moisture deep into the skin’s surface layers as you sleep, keeping it supple and hydrated for an impressive 24 hours. As if that wasn’t enough, Olay’s proprietary blend of vitamin B3 and a retinol complex works to soften fine lines and wrinkles, firm, lighten dark spots, refine pores, and improve radiance.

Best Balm-Like Formula: U.SK Under Skin Young Glow Balm, $119
While you’ll need to get this potent balm from a physician, it’s worth the extra effort due to the impressive results. Omega-rich wheat byproducts and colloidal oat work synergistically to lessen the deterioration of collagen and elastin fibers that are responsible for giving the skin elasticity and tone. Also, hexa-peptides stimulate the production of proteins responsible for the integrity of the skin. The balm is lightweight, not sticky, and absorbs quickly into the skin. As it’s hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, it’s suitable for all skin types.

Best Makeup Primer: Isla Face Base Primer, $46
The reality is, some moisturizers work better with makeup than others — you know, when your a.m. application of foundation has disappeared by noon. This lightweight moisturizer kills not two but three birds with one stone by plumping and hydrating the skin, protecting against damaging light waves from computer screens and the sun (though it’s not a replacement for an SPF), and providing the perfect canvas for makeup application. However, it can also be used at night because hyaluronic acid, rose water, and glycerin are ingredients that need not be reserved for daytime use alone.

Best for Balancing: Saffron & Sage Restore Balancing Moisturizer, $68
Not only does this doctor-formulated moisturizer balance sebum (oil) production, but also it ensures that the skin has a healthy, balanced pH. This is important because when pH is off, the skin can react by breaking out or becoming irritated. Along with hyaluronic acid, a proprietary blend of vitamins and minerals softens fine lines, reduces redness, and improves overall skin tone and texture. The formula is a concentrated ceramide and oil blend, but rest assured it won’t leave you feeling greasy — bonus points for the sea buckthorn and rosehip oil that give the skin a from within glow.

Best With SPF: Skin Authority SkinSuit Face, $59
There are moisturizers with SPF, and then there’s this super formula from Skin Authority. For starters, it has a broad spectrum SPF of 50, which can be hard to come by. But it’s also a high-performing moisturizer that protects against blue light, infrared radiation, activity-induced heat, and pollution. We can’t forget to add that the formula contains retinol (an anti-aging powerhouse) and vitamins C and E — up to 200%. Even though this moisturizer seems to do pretty much everything, it’s void of parabens and fragrance.

Best Needle-Free Skin Plumper: KORRES Golden Krocus Hydra-Filler Plumping Cream, $76
Love a product with an interesting back story? Us, too. This needle-free plumping cream is formulated with the Crocus flower, which only blossoms once a year for two weeks in the northern part of Kozani, Greece. The flowers are literally hand-picked by villagers, which is something to think about as the product melts into your skin. Along with addressing the signs of aging, this moisturizer provides time-released hydration for a remarkable 48 hours.

Best for Brightening: Mikel Kristi C Radiance Moisturizer, $120
Vitamin C is fantastic for brightening the skin, and this formula contains three forms of stabilized C, the kind needed to make any noticeable improvements while providing optimal antioxidant protection. Additionally, it boosts collagen, evens out the skin tone, improves texture, and of course, provides moisture, resulting in a rejuvenated, glowing complexion.

Best Tinted Moisturizer: Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30, $4
Not only does this tinted moisturizer provide you with a pop of color to get you through your next Zoom meeting, but it also works to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots in just four weeks while protecting you from the sun’s rays. Even though the formula is oil-free, mineral-rich seawater and Kopara from French Polynesia hydrate and perk up an otherwise lackluster complexion.

The Final Word

A moisturizer is one of the core components of a skincare routine, regardless of skin type. While a hydrator, such as hyaluronic acid, draws water to the skin using humectants, moisturizing is about locking in hydration and moisture to protect your skin’s natural barrier. A good moisturizer will treat and prevent dryness, have anti-aging benefits, help control acne and oil, and calm inflammation. Before choosing a moisturizer, you must determine whether your skin is normal, dry, oily, or combination. You also have to consider additional factors such as sensitivity, acne, dehydration, etc. If your skin continues to be extremely dry or scaly despite faithfully using a moisturizer combined with a solid skincare routine, speak to a dermatologist or medical professional as an underlying health issue or medication may cause your dryness.

Sources
U.S. population: Number of uses of facial moisturizers / creams / lotions within 7 days from 2011 to 2020,” November 2020.
The Clinical Benefit of Moisturizers,” ResearchGate, December 2005.