It’s easy to be mesmerized by a buzzy new
beauty brand or an exclusive celebrity-backed product. I mean, even Brad Pitt makes skin care now. Still, sometimes it’s appropriate to shout out the OG drugstore beauty products that paved the way — those budget-friendly and fuss-free essentials that can always be relied upon, year after year. In that spirit, and with colder, drier temps settling in, Bustle pinged a handful of board-certified derms for their picks of the best drugstore moisturizers under $30.
Before you add a bunch to your cart, it’s important to know what makes a good moisturizer in the first place. Moisturizers can be water-based, oil-based (aka occlusive), or emollient (thick creams and balms). Your
skin type can tell you which formula suits you best. Oily and acneic complexions, for instance, are often better suited to water-based moisturizers (think gel creams) while dry skin types do best with occlusive or emollient formulas.
As for the best ingredients to look for? Experts recommend reaching for moisturizers packed with skin-hydrating staples — these include
hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and glycerin, to name just a few examples. It also helps if the formula contains ingredients that support the skin barrier, aka your complexion’s all-important protective layer that keeps external pollutants from penetrating beneath the skin’s surface and causing damage as it helps keep hydration in. Think: ceramides, probiotics, and squalane.
Now for the fun part: Keep scrolling to see if your favorite drugstore moisturizer made the dermatologist-approved list.
We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. The Experts Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist specializing in general medical dermatology, surgical dermatology, cosmetics, and pediatric dermatology. Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Dr. Heather Woolery-LLoyd, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Dr. Mona Gohara, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist who serves as vice president of the Women’s Dermatologic Society. Dr. Papri Sarkar. M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery and American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Ryan Turner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology, general dermatology, surgical dermatology, and laser surgery. Dr. Morgan Rabach, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of Dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. 1 The Ultra-Rich Cream
This do-it-all moisturizer comes recommended by a few of the derms Bustle spoke with. Board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Jenny Liu, M.D., says it’s perfect for winter and lauds its ability to tackle extremely dry skin and even eczema on both your face and body. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ryan Turner, M.D. likes that, despite containing intense hydrators like shea butter and glycerin, it won’t clog your pores and is suited for most people — including babies, adults, and those with sensitive skin.
As board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Mona Gohara, M.D. says, “This barrier repair cream is the perfect blend of light enough for the day but heavy enough for my skin.” It delivers immediate softness and powerful hydration. Active ingredients: shea butter, glycerin, prebiotic thermal water, niacinamide, ceramides 2 The Nighttime Moisturizer
This nighttime moisturizer is an undercover powerhouse with its blend of intense hydrators, including
hyaluronic acid and glycerin, in a concoction that still manages to be lightweight. It also contains niacinamide, which has been shown to help improve skin tone, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Papri Sarkar, M.D. notes. Liu adds that the oil-free formula makes it ideal for acne-prone and oily skin types. And, as board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love, M.D., puts it: “It provides deep hydration without clogging pores.” Active ingredients: sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides 3 The Sensitive Skin-Friendly Moisturizer
Liu points to this no-nonsense yet effective moisturizer as a perfect choice for your morning and nighttime routines. “Vanicream is a line I really like for those with sensitive skin and are more prone to irritation, or have a history of contact dermatitis,” she says. Board-certified dermatologists
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., and Dr. Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., also recommend this cream, which features hyaluronic acid and ceramides, for its gentleness. “It’s even safe for those with eczema or rosacea,” Zubritsky notes. Active ingredients: hyaluronic acid, ceramides 4 The Fan-Fave Gel-Cream
You might think that gel-creams aren’t mighty enough to use during the colder months, but this moisturizer packs a slew of powerhouse hydrators — including hyaluronic acid,
beeswax, glycerin, and sodium hyaluronate (a derivative of hyaluronic acid). That’s why it’s a drugstore go-to for derms. “This moisturizer is meant for skin that is especially dry,” says Turner. “It’s oil-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic.” Woolery-Lloyd adds that the formula absorbs quickly and wears well under makeup. As an added bonus, she notes that it delivers hydration that’s light enough for oily skin types. Active ingredients: hyaluronic acid, synthetic beeswax, sodium hyaluronate 5 The SPF-Infused Moisturizer
If you want to streamline your routine, a two-in-one
sunscreen moisturizer is a great way to go, and this elixir comes highly recommended by Liu. As the Minneapolis-based derm says, “The addition of zinc in the formulation helps with inflammation, which is ideal for oily and acne-prone skin.” It also contains ceramides, glycerin, and allantoin to keep your complexion calm and protected. Active ingredients: Avobenzone 3%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 7% 6 The Lightweight Gel-Cream
Liu dubs this gel-cream moisturizer a must-snag for anyone who wants to properly hydrate oily skin without spending a ton. It boasts sodium hyaluronate to draw in moisture, green tea extract for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and
aloe vera juice to hydrate and soothe. Active ingredients: sodium hyaluronate, green tea extract, aloe vera juice 7 The Plumping Moisturizer
This moisturizer packs a slew of skin-nourishing ingredients and vitamins designed to hydrate and improve elasticity, including
vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and squalane, a soothing and hydrating additive that mimic’s your skin’s natural oils. Apply it and soak up that immediate plumping effect. Active ingredients: niacinamide, centella asiatica, vitamin E, squalane, snow mushroom 8 The Everyday Body Lotion
According to Gohara, this versatile all-over body lotion is an OG moisturizing staple for good reason. With pure oat extract to soothe and Vaseline Jelly micro-droplets to heal, protect, and hydrate, Gohara says it’s also great for elbows, knees,
cuticles, and even lips. Basically, it’s an overachiever of a moisturizer. Active ingredients: Vaseline Jelly micro-droplets, pure oat extract 9 The Soothing Moisturizer
For especially parched and finicky skin, board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Morgan Rabach, M.D. adds this creamy concoction to her list of favorites. “This stuff is so thick and moisturizing, especially for extremely dry hands,” Rabach notes. The colloidal oatmeal is added to soothe cracked skin (looking at you, winter months) and the ceramides “help glue flaky skin together.” Active ingredients: colloidal oatmeal, ceramides 10 The OG Face Cream
face cream-slash-makeup primer features a super rich blend of glycerin, petrolatum, and glycolic acid in its formula to hydrate, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and speed up cell turnover. Miami-based Woolery-Lloyd says, “This has been used for decades and is ideal for people who want intense moisture at a great price.” Sold. Active ingredients: petrolatum, glycolic acid, glycerin
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