Moisturizers are essential to your skincare routine as they help to maintain hydrated skin. While all skin types can benefit from using a moisturizer, they are particularly useful if you have dry skin. "Moisturizers are typically oil-based and work by creating a seal on the skin's top layer, preventing water from escaping," says board-certified dermatologist Aanand Geria, MD, based in Verona, NJ. "If you have dry skin, look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and dimethicone to keep your skin hydrated, and lock in moisture with lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum," he says.
Moisturizers can be found in different forms, such as lotions, creams, or ointments. While the formulations can be different, they can provide the hydration that different skin types need. "Some may also contain additional ingredients, such as sunscreen or anti-aging compounds, to provide additional benefits," says board-certified dermatologist Kristin M. Baird, MD, FAAD. "Be sure to consider moisturizers that are free of harsh ingredients such as alcohol and fragrances, as those can be irritating to the skin," she says. This is particularly important if you have sensitive skin.
Furthermore, Dr. Geria cautions that even the best moisturizers will have minimal effect if your skin or body is exposed to certain elements. "Some things that will counteract the benefits of using moisturizers include drinking alcohol excessively, smoking, sun exposure without UV protection, consistently sleeping with makeup on, over exfoliating, or not drinking sufficient water," he says. Additionally, for best results, you should apply a moisturizer in the morning and at night.
These are Dr. Baird’s tips for picking the right moisturizer for your skin type.
- Lotions: These are typically composed of water-based ingredients and usually have the lightest consistency, ideal for people with oily to normal skin.
- Creams: This type tends to be thicker than lotions but has a smooth, spreadable consistency. They can be ideal for people with dry or sensitive skin.
- Ointments: These are the thickest and most substantial of the three, with a balm-like consistency. They are ideal for people with extremely dry or damaged skin, as they provide a heavy barrier of protection and hydration.
Here are our top picks for hydrating moisturizers for dry skin.
Kora Organics Active Algae Lightweight Moisturizer
If you were a fan of Victoria's Secret's runway shows between 2006 and 2012, then you probably know former model Miranda Kerr, founder of KORA Organics. The brand's lightweight gel moisturizer contains ingredients such as Swiss glacier water, green tea, and green algae—composed of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, amino acids, minerals, and flavonoids. Green algae's properties can help protect skin by keeping it hydrated and reducing inflammation.
Versed Skin Soak Rich Moisture Cream
It's hard not to love this accessible moisture cream. In fact, the next time you are at Target, you can add it to your cart while stocking up on household supplies. With a look and feel that’s more similar to a prestige product than to a drugstore brand, it goes on light and leaves a dewy appearance. The cream is non-sticky and vegan, and combats dryness with red algae extract and squalane, which can increase hydration and reduce inflammation.
Olay Regenerist Niacinamide +Peptide 24
Free of parabens, phthalates, and synthetic dyes, this lovely scented hydrating moisturizer from Olay contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid for moisture and niacinamide (vitamin B3), which can help boost hydration and improve hyperpigmentation and skin tone. Apply to your face and neck after cleansing.
Cerave Moisturizing Cream
While CeraVe’s face moisturizers typically come in regular-size containers, the big tub is a great buy because it allows you to slather the cream all over your entire body. This editor's favorite helps calm skin that is itchy and irritated from conditions such as perioral dermatitis and contains three ceramides. "These are naturally present in the skin and help to maintain and strengthen the skin barrier," says Dr. Baird. Apply this moisturizing cream liberally to your elbows, heels, and knees.
JLO Beauty That Blockbuster
It is hard to deny that singer, dancer, and actress Jennifer Lopez's face glows. And though we can't promise that this cream will give you the same results, it does contain a mix of hyaluronic acid, peptides, niacinamide, and carnosine. Some clinical studies have found that skin treated with creams featuring carnosine can become more elastic, less dry, and visibly tightened. Additionally, the product melts into the skin without leaving a greasy residue, making it an excellent primer for applying makeup.
DefenAge Barrier Balance Cream
This fragrance-free cream is packed with moisturizers such as shea butter, macadamia nut and sunflower oils, vitamin E, and niacinamide for hydration. "I use and recommend the 24/7 Barrier Balance Anti-Aging Cream from DefenAge for daily use," says Dr. Baird. "It helps to replenish and balance the skin's natural barrier, making it safe for all skin types," she says.
Made for normal to dry skin, this formula from SkinCeuticals contains algae extracts and grape-seed and macadamia nut oils to boost hydration and moisture. Although this cream has a thick, custard-like appearance, it goes on light, leaving behind a smooth, nongreasy feel.
Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream
Formulated with 4.5% olive-derived squalane, this paraben- and fragrance-free cream is like a tall glass of water for the skin. Although it may appear thick at first glance, the product is lightweight and melts into the skin, making it an excellent option for daytime wear.
This article was fact checked by Morgan Mullings.