We've tested dozens of moisturizers for dry skin — these are the 15 best

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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.

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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

Updated on 03/03/2021 by Katie Decker-Jacoby: We reformatted this guide to add more product recommendations from the Insider Reviews Team, and categorized them for easier identification. We also added answers to frequently asked questions in a new FAQs section that features expert advice from two dermatologists.

The best face moisturizers for dry, sensitive skin

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream with Hyaluronic Acid for Extra-Dry Skin

SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter

SkinFix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream

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

FAQs

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. 

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

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