On the Hunt for the Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin? We Have 20 Top Picks

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

11.19.21DISCLAIMER

As if flakiness, dry patches, and tightness weren’t enough to contend with when dealing with dry skin, it ages easier — and more rapidly. Simply put, dry skin is more likely to show wrinkling and rough skin texture since it doesn’t have the natural moisture necessary to “smooth out” those telltale lines and cracks. 

Perhaps the most vital part of a skincare routine for thirsty skin is a dry skin moisturizer. However, it can be complicated — if not wholly overwhelming — to find one that actually works. The best moisturizer for dry skin can be elusive if you haven’t done your homework. 

Not sure where to start? 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, 20 of the best facial moisturizers for dry skin to help you promote a healthy, glowing complexion.

Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: The List 

Formulyst Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer, $29

Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $50

Cosmedix Phytoharmony Balancing Skin Moisturizer, $60

SK II Essential Power Rich Cream, $235

La Solution 10 de Chanel, $110

Dr. Brandt Hyaluronic Facial Cream, $72

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, $12.99

Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer, $28.94

Exuviance Age Reverse Hydrafirm, $79

Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, $265

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Hydrating Cream $29.99

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $36

Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance, $44

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $14.99

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $58

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Cream, $32.50

Skinceuticals Emollience, $64

Perricone MD High Potency Classics Hyaluronic Intensive Moisturizer $75

Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Rich Cream, $49

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, $19.80

How to Choose the Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin

There’s no one-size-fits-all face moisturizer for dry skin. While evidence-based ingredients are essential (more on that in a bit), consider the following factors when choosing a dry skin moisturizer.

 

Your Skin Type

Sure, you’re on the market for a good moisturizer for dry skin — but what else is going on with your skin? Is dryness accompanied by acne and oily, flaky patches? Or perhaps you have dry, sensitive skin, and every product you apply stings. 

If you’re dealing with more than one skin type or condition, you have to pay extra close attention to the ingredients and product consistency. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the best face moisturizer for your skin, so if you continue to struggle, seek the advice of a dermatologist or other skincare professional.

 

Skin Conditions

If your dry skin is associated with a condition such as eczema or psoriasis, you may need treatment under a physician’s care — maybe even a prescription dry skin cream.

 

The Climate

Although humid locations have plenty of water in the air, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to moisturize. So whether you live in sunny Florida or you’re taking a tropical vacation, moisturizer is still essential. Moisturizers that contain humectants work best in humid areas because they absorb water from the air and require a high humidity level to be effective. Look for formulas with urea, hyaluronic acid — more on those in a bit.

On the flip side, living in a dry climate can take its toll on your skin — especially if it’s already dry. When choosing a moisturizer for dry skin, consider using an oil-based formula to help retain more water in your skin’s outer layers.

 

Consider Your Age

Skin changes as we age, and oil production slows down, leading to additional dryness. With that said, you may find you need to change up your moisturizer from time to time — different ingredients, a thicker texture, etc. If you’re going through hormonal changes (menopause, pregnancy), your skin will also experience changes.

Dry Skin Moisturizer Ingredients

Studies have found that how often you moisturize is more important than the ingredients it’s formulated with. However, there’s no denying that some elements work better to relieve dry skin (and dry skin patches) better than others. 

When it comes to finding the best moisturizer for dry skin, check the ingredient label for the following ingredients: hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate, squalane, tocopherol (a.k.a. vitamin E), and glycerin — frequently the second or third ingredient in a dry skin moisturizer. 

The most important thing is that the product is well-formulated, using quality ingredients that address your specific skin concerns. Avoid alcohols, fragrances, dyes, and other ingredients that can harm dry skin and exasperate dryness. Look for these hero ingredients instead.

  • Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid is an incredibly beneficial dry skin moisturizer ingredient. As it’s a humectant, it can hold over 1,000 times its weight in water, so it’s safe to say it’s a super-hydrator of epic proportions. 
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is the salt of hyaluronic acid. It also retains water to a remarkable degree and plumps up your skin but has a smaller molecular weight to allow for deeper penetration. 
  • Squalane: Squalane, a substance that mimics a naturally occurring lipid found in human sebum, prevents moisture loss and softens skin.
  • Urea: Urea is used in a variety of moisturizers for dry skin to target skin dryness accompanied by itchiness. Urea can also help exfoliate dead skin buildup.
  • Ceramides: Ceramides help create a barrier to prevent permeability. This locks moisture into your skin, which helps prevent dryness and irritation.
  • Tocopherol: The term “tocopherol” encompasses various vitamin E derivatives. It contains powerful antioxidants and protects cells. Additionally, tocopherol binds moisture in the outer layer of the skin. It affects cell renewal and has anti-inflammatory properties, and reduces skin damage caused by UV radiation. The skin texture is also much smoother.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin is another humectant that effectively locks in moisture to keep skin supple and smooth.

Dry Skin Tips 

Achieving healthy, hydrated skin is about more than simply applying the best facial moisturizer for dry skin. Here are some go-to tips to help you battle dryness for the long term.

  • Always conduct a patch test before trying a new dry skin moisturizer. Otherwise, you run the risk of making dryness worse should you react to the product.
  • If your skin is dry and sensitive, choose a moisturizer or lotion for dry skin that’s void of acids, dyes, and fragrances.
  • Avoid using hot water when washing your face, showering, and bathing — tepid water is best.
  • Apply moisturizer when your skin is still a little damp after you shower or bathe — but always after your serum, another fantastic skincare product to help fight dryness. 
  • Never sleep with your makeup on. The ingredients in cosmetics can dry out the skin — especially when left on overnight when your skin goes into repair mode. 
  • Moisturize day and night, more frequently if your skin is extra thirsty. 
  • Consider layering a face oil on top of your moisturizer for additional moisture, along with other benefits such as antioxidant protection and a vibrant, glowing complexion.
  • Keep your skin — and body, for that matter — hydrated by drinking a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Adjust according to the climate you live in, exercise habits, diet (heavy hand on the salt shaker?), etc.
  • Consider using a humidifier at night when you’re sleeping. If it’s the air in the office that’s drying you out, invest in a portable model for your workspace, too.

Does dry skin cause acne? 

Although dry skin is not a direct cause of acne, it can trigger the production of more sebum or oil in your skin due to an imbalance — this likely means you have to switch up your moisturizer. Oil mixed with dry, flaky skin cells and bacteria can lead to a continuous dry skin and acne cycle.

Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin

Formulyst Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer, $29
Enriched with jojoba seed oil and apricot kernel oil, Formulyst’s Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer is formulated with the brand’s innovative Hyaluronic Acid Technology, which helps boost your skin’s natural nourishing powers by attracting atmospheric moisture and transforming it into intense hydration for your skin.

Packed with Hyaluronic Acid that delivers moisture to every layer of the skin, this lightweight formula locks in essential nourishment, beautifying skin and reducing the visible signs of aging. So skin feels softer and smoother and has a healthier, more youthful appearance.

Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer, $50
This lightweight antioxidant dry skin moisturizer 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. 

The brand’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. 

Cosmedix Phytoharmony Balancing Skin Moisturizer, $60
A sure bet for mature, postmenopausal dry skin, this antiaging moisturizer nourishes and hydrates the face with the help of phytohormones —  or phytoestrogens — which are plant hormones that are critical components of plant growth.

In human skin, they have estrogen-like effects. Isoflavones are one of the three categories of phytohormones and have been shown in studies to “significantly” improve skin roughness and dryness, reduce facial wrinkles and improve skin laxity. 

SK II Essential Power Rich Cream, $235
This face moisturizer for dry skin features the brand’s signature trademarked ingredient called Pitera, a substance found in sake (the alcoholic beverage) chock full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and organic acids. Pitera was supposedly discovered when it was noticed sake brewery workers had extraordinarily youthful hands.

Another critical ingredient is panthenol, which is both a humectant and emollient. As a humectant, it helps skin retain water, absorbing moisture from the air and deeper in the skin to bring it up to the surface to hydrate dry skin effectively. 

La Solution 10 de Chanel, $110
Many consider this face lotion the best moisturizer for dry, sensitive skin — whether it’s naturally sensitive or has been temporarily sensitized by overuse of harsh products. It’s only formulated with ten ingredients (hence the name.) 

Highlights include nourishing shea butter, vegetal squalane, and antioxidant-rich needle ta extract, which has lovely soothing properties. This lotion for dry skin is alcohol-free, fragrance-free, oil-free, non-comedogenic, anti-pollution, and dermatologist-tested.

Dr. Brandt Hyaluronic Facial Cream, $72
Anyone with dry, mature 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.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, $12.99
This lightweight, oil-free moisturizer by CeraVe is an excellent option for those with dry skin and eczema because it helps to improve the skin’s hydration by restoring its natural barrier. The formula is non-comedogenic (it won’t clog pores), which means you can use this CeraVe lotion on both your face and body. 

A few of the key ingredients in the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion include glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.

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 — basically everything dry skin needs. 

Exuviance Age Reverse Hydrafirm, $79
This face moisturizer for dry skin promises to hydrate, lift, firm, and plump up the skin. With time skin tends to become lax, develop fine lines and deep folds, and overall roughen in texture. It also becomes dryer and decreases in oil production. Once again, hyaluronic acid is one of the top ingredients, helping to retain as much moisture as possible to achieve that desirable, highly sought-after plumpness. 

Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, $265
The Cream is by far the brand’s most popular product. However, it can be too lightweight for those with dry skin, so the brand formulated The Rich Cream. This moisturizer for dry skin is ideal for normal to dry skin, more mature skin types, and colder, drier climates. It’s formulated with the brand’s pantentedTFC8 (Trigger Factor Complex) technology and emollients like coco-caprylate/caprate, sunflower seed oil, squalane, and argan oil, avocado oil, evening primrose oil, and shea butter.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Hydrating Cream $29.99
This face moisturizer for dry skin is also great for those who experience sensitivity too. It’s been shown to be effective against extreme dryness that includes symptoms like flakiness. Key ingredients include shea butter and squalane. 

Shea butter is a well-known moisturizer that can be used on all skin types. It’s incredibly hydrating, and long-term use can show such benefits as wrinkle reduction and overall softening and smoothing of the skin. Squalane lubricates and protects, improving skin roughness and dryness. It can even prevent loss of hydration, which will only help the skin remain moisturized for longer.  

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. 

Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance, $44
Dermalogica has specifically developed a nourishing facial moisturizer to restore lipid balance to dry, 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 dry skin moisturizer also includes 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.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $14.99
One brand that truly knows how to alleviate dry skin is CeraVe. One of their best moisturizers is the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. This dry skin moisturizer is designed to reinforce the skin barrier by hydrating it with key ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, and petrolatum. 

The texture of the cream is formulated to be rich and deeply hydrating without being too greasy – it’s also formulated to absorb quickly. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is meant for “dry and very skin,” According to the company, the patented delivery system continually releases moisturizing ingredients for 24-hour hydration.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $58
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.

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Cream, $32.50
One of the most famous moisturizers on the market, this lotion for dry certainly lives up to the hype. This is a dermatologist-developed formulation that keeps skin strong and is equipped to withstand even the driest conditions. 

Glycerin and sodium hyaluronate are among the key ingredients, though it also contains cucumber fruit and barley extracts to work as antioxidants. It’s safe to say this is both a moisturizer for dry skin and an anti-ager that can address various skin types and skin concerns. 

Skinceuticals Emollience, $64
This dry skin moisturizer is formulated with three types of algae extracts that help bind water to the skin while providing antioxidant benefits. Further hydration comes from plant oils derived from grape seed, rosehip, and macadamia nut. 

While this is a popular moisturizer for dry skin, note that it contains essential oils (rosemary, lavender, and peppermint), which could cause sensitivity — or worsen an existing sensitive skin type. Conduct a patch test first to ensure this moisturizer for dry skin is right for you. 

Perricone MD High Potency Classics Hyaluronic Intensive Moisturizer $75
This gel-cream moisturizer for dry skin is formulated with three different forms of hyaluronic acid to moisturize and nourish and revive the skin’s appearance deeply. Micro hyaluronic acid plumps the skin, cross-linked hyaluronic acid delivers continuous hydration to reduce the appearance of fine lines, and barrier HA helps prevent vital moisture loss. Additionally, DMAE helps address the loss of tone over time. 

Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Rich Cream, $49
Best moisturizer for dry skin in winter? This is an excellent moisturizer for very dry skin that will also help combat pollutants, environmental exposure (ski trip anyone?), and severe weather or sudden temperature changes. 

The key ingredient is the organic leaf of life — or kalanchoe extract — which helps the skin retain moisture, ensuring suppleness, softness, and plumpness. Moreover, the leaf of life extract also helps to soothe any tightening effect that so often accompanies dry skin and any symptoms of irritation like redness and flakiness. 

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, $19.80
Are you looking for the best drugstore moisturizer for dry skin? One of the most affordable lotions on this list is nonetheless one of the best. Don’t be fooled by its meager price tag — Cetaphil is a cult favorite for a reason. Suitable for all skin types, this moisturizer for dry skin is packed with highly hydrating humectants and emollients to lock in moisture. Key ingredients include glycerin, glyceryl stearate, sweet almond oil, and vitamin E. 

Best Facial Moisturizer for Dry Skin: The Bottom Line

In addition to symptoms like tightness, flakes, and sensitivity, dry skin is more likely to show wrinkling and rough skin texture since it doesn’t have the natural moisture necessary to “smooth out” those telltale lines and cracks. With that said, perhaps the most vital part of a skincare routine for thirsty skin is a dry skin moisturizer. 

When choosing the best moisturizer for dry skin, consider your skin type (as in, do you also have other issues like acne and sensitivity), climate, and age, as the skin produces less sebum (oil) with age. 

Look for formulas with dry skin-friendly ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, urea, vitamin E, sodium hyaluronate, and glycerin, to name a few.

What’s the best face moisturizer for dry skin, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.

 

FAQs
In most cases, dry skin is caused by factors like hot or cold weather, low moisture in the air, using products with harsh ingredients, allergies, and soaking in hot water — but genetics and age also play a significant role.
In most cases, dry skin responds well to lifestyle measures, as listed above, in conjunction with a good moisturizer for dry skin that’s well-formulated. However, if you have dehydrated and scaly skin, your doctor may recommend you use an over-the-counter (nonprescription) cream that contains lactic acid or lactic acid and urea.
The surface of your skin contains oil and natural moisturizing factors that help protect your skin’s natural moisture barrier. Overwashing can strip your skin of this vital moisture, leading to dryness. Alternatively, you may not be using the best face lotion for dry skin.
While dry skin is a common skin condition, it can also result from a Vitamin D deficiency. If you’ve tried several different moisturizers for dry skin and nothing seems to be working, speak to your doctor to see if you’re deficient in D. Dietary changes and/or supplements can help reverse dryness, along with the best moisturizer for dry skin.
Although dry skin is not a direct cause of acne, it can trigger the production of more sebum or oil in your skin due to an imbalance —this likely means you have to switch up your moisturizer. Oil mixed with dry, flaky skin cells and bacteria can lead to a continuous dry skin and acne cycle.
Vaseline is safe and can be used on dry skin. Because of its occlusive properties, it can help soothe skin that’s chafed, cracked, and dry. However, it’s not recommended for those dealing with dryness and acne.

If you speak to a dermatologist about a moisturizer for dry skin, they will likely suggest a formula with ingredients such as ceramides, lactic acid, or urea. In more severe cases of dryness, a prescription dry skin moisturizer is needed.

Continued Reading 

Best Face Moisturizers

Sources:
Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin,” Mayo Clinic.
Assessing the Relationship between Vitamin D3 and Stratum Corneum Hydration for the Treatment of Xerotic Skin,” US National Library of Medicine National Center for Biology.

  • TDR Original review: Jul 31, 2020. Reply

    To soothe the delicate eye area, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Apply a rich formula at night when the skin is damp. Depending on the severity of the dry skin, you may need to apply a gentle eye cream during the day too. To avoid pulling on the skin and irritating the eye area, dab the cream gently- don’t rub. Or use a cotton bud to apply the eye cream. Some people swear by petroleum based products such as Vaseline or an ointment such as Aquaphor which create a thick layer, and lock in moisture. Otherwise look for a product that is designed for sensitive skin and is labeled as hypo-allergenic. Before applying moisturizer, do a patch test to rule out any sensitivity to the product.

  • TDR Original review: Jul 30, 2020. Reply

    What Causes Dry Skin
    At some stage in our lives, we all experience dry skin, regardless of which part of the world we live in. The weather, our food and daily activities play an important role in determining how dry our skin becomes. When the weather is too hot or humid, our skin tends to get dry and will need proper hydration. On the contrary, in extremely cold weather, when the heaters are turned up and the air becomes dry, skin tends to lose its moisture. And in today’s busy world, stress is also known to contribute to dry, neglected and flaky skin. Often moisturizer ingredients can also cause dry skin.

  • TDR Original review: Jul 29, 2020. Reply

    Why Dry Skin Needs Moisturizers
    Here’s the thing, when it comes to skin moisture, your skin does not provide an immediate response to anything that you may be doing wrong in your skin care regimen. Skin moisture is a tricky thing. Once your skin is moisturized, it can stay looking healthy until the next wash Therefore, many people look in the mirror every morning, see that their skin looks fine and put off using a moisturizing cream until another day. Then, when dry skin on face and arms seems to appear almost out of nowhere, and they remember that, yes, indeed everyone does need to moisturize, and proceed to slather a heavy layer of face cream to repair dry skin.

    However, when it comes to keeping healthy skin, using the best face moisturizer should be a proactive daily step, rather than a reactive response. To do this, it’s important to look at moisturizing as a preventative tool, not just a treatment to a problem.

  • TDR Original review: Jul 29, 2020. Reply

    People with this skin type usually have a dull complexion with pores that are nearly invisible. Dry skin tends to be less supple and elastic than other skin types and you’ll often find red, dry patches of skin discoloration. If dry skin is not moisturized, lines and under eye wrinkles become more pronounced because the skin lacks moisture to plum up. For dry skin, the best face moisturizer will contain humectants to draw in moisture from the environment.

    Here’s another thing about dry skin. When you’re suffering from this problem, your biggest concern is not seal moisture in with an emollient face cream, but to first add as much moisture to your dehydrated cells as possible. Then, it’s about locking in the moisture so that it stays in your skin cells longer. People with dry skin often need to use a good face moisturizer at least twice a day to keep skin supple. If you have dry skin on face or arms, choose an oil-based face moisturizer that is thick and heavy. This will create a thick layer of moisture and other anti aging skin care ingredients to nourish the skin on your face continuously throughout the day.

  • User Original review: Jul 27, 2020. Reply

    Best Ingredients for Dry Skin
    These are tried and true ingredients that will both moisturize and soothe dry skin.
    Look for these ingredients when searching for a moisturizer for dry skin.

    Shea butter – Shea butter is all-natural, highly moisturizing, increasingly popular and very gentle for dry skin.
    Hyaluronic acid – Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring ingredient that retains 1,000 times its weight in water and is very hydrating and will give skin a beautifully plump look.
    Glycerin – Glycerin is a humectant that draws moisture from the environment to hydrate skin. You can find it as a top ingredient in pretty much any moisturizer because it works so well.
    Aloe vera – Aloe vera is both hydrating and soothing, often used as an after-sun lotion to replenish moisture and calm redness.
    Allantoin – Allantoin is great at hydrating and is also very gentle and calming for when your dry skin acts up.
    Worst Ingredients for Dry Skin
    Here are some common skin care ingredients that you should try to avoid in your face wash if you don’t want to worsen the symptoms of your dry skin. Many cleansers formulated specifically for dry skin will take care not to include these ingredients.

    Physical and chemical exfoliants – Chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid and physical exfoliants like walnut powder can be very abrasive and harsh on dry skin, making it worse and causing further symptoms like redness and flakiness.
    Sulfates – Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are ingredients that give liquid soaps and shampoos their foaming action, but they can be very drying. It’s best to avoid them if you can. Many new products on the market are actually formulated without them and they’re easy to find.
    Fragrances – Fragrances can be very drying because they contain alcohol. A fragrance-free moisturizer would be your best bet.
    Preservatives – Preservatives keep skin care products from going bad, but they can be detrimental to dry skin. Parabens can even go so far as to cause an allergic reaction in some people.

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