There’s a lot more that goes into hydrating your skin than slapping on a cream after cleansing. To get the most out of this crucial step in your routine, you've got to make sure you're using the right product for your skin's unique needs. The best daily moisturizers are formulated to address specific needs that target oil, sensitivity, dryness, and everything in between — because moisturizer is definitely not a one-size-fits-all kind of product.
Of course, in order to choose the best moisturizer for your skin type, you’ve got to have a clear understanding of what skin type you have. If your skin usually feels dry by mid-day, it's a pretty clear indicator that you have dry skin. On the other hand, if your skin is oily by noon and you have enlarged pores on your t-zone, you likely have oily skin. Combination skin tends to be drier on the cheeks and oilier on the t-zone — that's why this skin type can be a puzzle to please. And any of these skin types can also be sensitive or acne-prone, both of which require gentle products free of common irritants. Keep in mind that your skin type can change throughout your life, and even from season to season.
No matter what skin type you have, sun protection is always a good idea. Just about every dermatologist out there recommends an SPF of 30 or higher on a daily basis to protect your skin against damaging UV rays. So, if you don't enjoy topping off your moisturizer with a sunscreen, it's a good idea to choose a moisturizer with SPF in it.
Consider this your guide to finding a daily moisturizer you can rely on.
Dry Skin Types Need A Moisturizer That Loads The Skin With Hydration & Seals It In
Dry skin can feel tight throughout the day, and you might even experience scaly patches and flakes, too. While genetics play a role in a perpetually-parched complexion, so do environmental factors (think extreme temperatures), hormones, and even the amount of sleep you get.
The best moisturizers for dry skin are loaded with super-hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides that help your skin retain moisture longer — and many even improve your skin's own moisture barrier over time.
An Ultra-Rich Cream That Absorbs Quickly — Best For Dry Skin
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
This ultra-rich cream is comprised of a slew of ingredients that cater to parched, sensitized skin. Colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, and eucalyptus oil heal and soothe, ceramides and glycerin hydrate, and a proprietary blend of antioxidants guards against free radical damage. Despite its thickness, reviewers love how it absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue.
A Weightless Daytime Moisturizer That Protects Against Sun Damage — Best For Dry Skin
Paula's Choice Moisture Boost Daily Restoring Complex
This weightless daytime moisturizer and sunscreen protects the skin from sun damage. Along with an SPF of 30, this impressive formula contains a blend of antioxidants to further boost your skin’s defenses when spending time in the great outdoors — for up to 80 minutes if you’re sweating or decide to take a dip. The lightweight formula absorbs quickly, leaving the skin feeling moist but never greasy.
A French Pharmacy Favorite Loved By Editors & Beauty Gurus Alike — Best For Dry Skin
Embryolisse Concentrated Lait Cream
This popular French pharmacy favorite is touted as a miracle cream because it keeps dry skin hydrated for a full 24 hours. The formula won't disrupt the skin’s natural pH balance and even helps to strengthen the skin's own moisture barrier. More than just a moisturizer, this dream cream also works as a makeup remover and overnight mask.
Oily Skin Types Fare Best With Water-Based Products & Those That Absorb Excess Oil
If you have oily skin, the last product you may be thinking about is a moisturizer — but believe it or not, keeping your skin properly hydrated can help regulate how much oil it produces. When skin is dehydrated, it will often overcompensate by producing even more oil. Excess oil can leave pores clogged, so look for a moisturizer with keywords like water-based, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), non-acnegenic (won’t cause acne) and/or oil-free.
A Unique Water Gel Moisturizer With SPF 15 — Best For Oily Skin
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel SPF 15
Don’t be deceived by the lightweight formula of this gel moisturizer. It’s packed with hyaluronic acid — a substance that’s naturally found in the skin that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water — meaning it has the long-lasting hydration power of a cream but without the weight or the clogged pores. It's super rare to find a gel moisturizer with SPF, but this trailblazing moisturizer has an SPF of 15.
A Mattifying Moisturizer That'll Help Your Makeup Last Longer — Best For Oily Skin
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat
Without getting overly technical, this oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer utilizes something called Sebulyse Technology — but all you need to know is that it helps to mattify your skin and minimize the appearance of pores while providing just the right amount of hydration for your skin type. And, because the product actually absorbs excess oil, it makes a stellar makeup base that'll help prevent your foundation from melting off.
A Gel Cream That Seals In Moisture Without Feeling Greasy — Best For Oily Skin
Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream
If you're up for trying something a bit different, this super cool Korean moisturizer nourishes and hydrates the skin with Polynesian lagoon water that’s rich in over 30 types of marine plant extracts. The formula creates a non-sticky protective film to seal in vital moisture without adding any greasiness. The price is reasonable and reviewers love the lightweight texture.
Those With Combination Skin Should Opt For Balancing Oil-Free & Gel Moisturizers
People with combination skin often experience dryness on the cheeks and oiliness in t-zone — so it's important to use a moisturizer that's not too heavy but is still substantial enough to help your skin retain moisture where it needs it. That's why light oil-free moisturizers, especially those with a gel-like texture, are ideal for combination skin. For best results, use more moisturizer where you have dry skin and less in areas that are oily.
An Oil-Free Moisturizer With SPF 30 — Best For Combination Skin
Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer SPF 30
This lightweight, oil-free moisturizer and SPF contains green tea extract to guard against free radical damage that can cause skin damager. The green tea extracts, along with aloe vera and St. John’s Wort, also provides soothing benefits that leave skin calm and balanced.
A Cult Favorite Water-Based Moisturizer — Best For Combination Skin
Belif Korean Cosmetics The True Cream Moisturizing Bomb
This long-lasting water cream promises 26 hours of moisture due to the addition of comfrey leaf — a popular source of allantoin, a natural compound known for its moisturizing and softening abilities. Reviewers love how it's water-weight texture deeply hydrates the skin without feeling heavy or sticky.
A Skin-Plumping Gel Cream Packed With Hyaluronic Acid — Best For Combination Skin
Hada Labo Tokyo Skin Plumping Gel Cream
This silky gel cream combines the concentrated skin-perfecting power of a serum with the intense hydration of a moisturizer. A high concentration of the brand’s proprietary “super hyaluronic acid” saturates skin with rich, long-lasting moisture. The gel creates a thin barrier on the skin, locking in hydration without feeling wet to the touch. The texture is slightly richer than Belif's Aqua Bomb, but far lighter than your average moisturizer.
Acne-Prone Skin Still Needs Moisture, But Keep It Light & Oil-Free
The rules for a skin prone to acne, whiteheads, and clogged pores are simpler than you'd think. It's key that you don't skip out on moisturizing since drying out your skin can lead to further breakouts. Lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic are words to live by. And steer clear of alcohol and added fragrances, which are likely to cause irritation.
An Oil-Free Lotion That Plays Well With Acne Products — Best For Acne-Prone Skin
Cosrx Oil-Free Ultra-Moisturizing Lotion
Sometimes you need something gentle if you’ve been using acne treatment products with alpha or beta hydroxy acids, such as this soothing formula that calms and provides hydration on contact. It’s made with birch sap, an all-natural ingredient known for its ability to hydrate all skin types without irritation.
An SPF 30 Moisturizer With A Matte Finish — Best For Acne-Prone Skin
Paula's Choice Hydralight Shine-Free Mineral Complex SPF 30
Thanks to mineral content, this fragrance and color-free SPF moisturizer won’t irritate sensitive or blemish-prone skin. Protecting acne-prone skin from the sun is incredibly important because unprotected sun exposure makes post-acne marks darker and take longer to fade. The formula has a powder-like finish that controls oil and serves as an excellent makeup base — even around the delicate eye area. Licorice root extract, chamomile flower, and aloe soothe any redness or irritation that comes with a breakout.
Sensitive Skin Types Need Ultra-Soothing Products That Are Free Of Common Irritants
Managing sensitive skin can be challenging since it can take a while to figure out which ingredients can cause a flare-up. But as a starting point, look for labels that identify formulas as non-irritating and non-sensitizing and that are free of parabens, synthetic fragrances, alcohol, and mineral oil — these ingredients can result in redness, bumps, and itchiness.
A Hypoallergenic, Fragrance-Free Formula That Fights Irritation — Best For Sensitive Skin
Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream
Any time of the year can be tricky for someone with sensitive skin — winter winds, air conditioner, and heating are all major culprits behind irritation and dryness. This patented formula works to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory molecules so the skin is less likely to be irritated by environmental factors. The hypoallergenic formula is fragrance-free and serves as an excellent makeup base to boot.
A Soothing Daily Moisturizer With Non-Irritating Mineral Sunscreen — Best For Sensitive Skin
Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer
The addition of certified organic grape and pomegranate, aloe vera, vitamins, antioxidants, and sea algae give this SPF moisturizer a unique boost as they work in tandem to give the skin a radiant glow while protecting it from becoming sensitized. The SPF is derived from all-natural mineral zinc so it’s not irritating.
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