These Are the Best Facial Moisturizers For Your Skin Type
Follow these dermatologist-approved tips to find the best moisturizer for your skin type, from normal to mature skin.
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Whether your skin is oily, overly dry, sensitive, acne-prone, all of the above, or even none of the above, choosing the best facial moisturizer for your complexion can make a big difference in the look and feel of your skin. That is, as long as you moisturize the right way. A moisturizer’s main task is to hold water in the skin’s outermost layer. Many moisturizers contain some combination of humectants (such as glycerin, urea, and hyaluronic acid) to attract water; emollients (including lipids, ceramides, mineral oil, and lanolin) to soften skin, and occlusives (such as petroleum jelly and cocoa butter) to create a protective layer that locks the moisture in—here’s exactly how all those ingredients work. Some formulas also have sunscreen or tinting agents. They can come as creams, lotions, gels, ointments, oils and/or serums, all available at drug stores, department stores, and doctors’ offices. When paired with the correct skin type, moisturizers can prevent and treat dry skin, protect sensitive skin, and possibly even improve skin texture and tone. Here’s how to find the right product for you.
Best moisturizer for normal skin
If you have normal skin, or skin that’s not too dry or oily, you’re in luck when it comes to finding a moisturizer. Almost any product can be used on your face, according to Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. In fact, your skin is so easy to care for, that you can likely get away with borrowing your body moisturizer out of the shower, he says. For example, Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion is “strong enough for your body, but gentle enough for your face.” For extra care, add these skincare tips dermatologists follow themselves to your moisturizing routine.
Best moisturizer for oily skin
Here’s a beauty secret for women with oily skin: There may not be a “best” moisturizer for you, since “people with oily skin don’t always need or want to use a moisturizer,” says Cheryl M. Burgess, MD, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery in Washington, DC. “Oil traps moisture in your skin, while moisturizers replenish it.” If your typically oily complexion appears to be dry and flaky, the culprit may be your cleanser. “If you use a stripping cleanser, your oily skin may dry out and then you overcompensate with a moisturizer that is heavy, which leads to clogging of pores and acne,” she says. “It’s a vicious cycle.”
Stripping ingredients that tend to over-dry oily skin often include alcohol and witch hazel. If you do want a moisturizer and have oily skin, try this: “Open the jar and turn it over. Does the moisturizer stay in the container? If so, it is too heavy for oily skin,” she says. Dr. Zeichner advises steering clear of facial moisturizers that contain petrolatum, which can be heavy and weigh you down. Instead, look for moisturizers that contain lightweight dimethicone. Some examples include EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer and SkinMedica’s Rejuvenative Moisturizer. Other formulas, such as Cetaphil DermaControl Moisturizer SPF 30, add starches that help absorb oil for a mattifying effect.
Best moisturizer for combination skin
In classic combination skin, some areas are dry (i.e. your cheeks) and others are oily (usually your forehead, nose and chin). In fact, these common culprits could be the cause of your oily skin. “It’s a challenge,” Dr. Zeichner says. “Using a heavy product will weigh down the oily areas, so err on the side of a light moisturizer,” he says. Some facial moisturizers for combination skin include Julius Few MD Sheer Moisturizer, Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture—Combination Skin, and Tata Harper Rebuilding Moisturizer.
Best moisturizer for dry skin
If you’re guilty of the everyday habits that cause dry skin, it’s time to look for a product that will solve your condition once and for all. “Look for super hydraters such as hyaluronic acid (HA), which acts like a sponge to draw hydration into the skin’s outer skin layer,” Dr. Zeichner says. HA is one of the hottest ingredients in skincare products today, featured in moisturizers like Skinmedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, L’oreal Hydragenius, and Skinceuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier. “We stop producing HA at age 40, and it is considered a super humectant because it holds 100 times its weight in water,” adds Maritza I. Perez, MD, a dermatologist based in New Canaan, Connecticut. “People with dry skin don’t have a good barrier function,” she says. “The skin’s barrier is tasked with protecting the skin from stressors, which is why many people with dry skin are more likely to have itchy and inflamed skin, which are hallmarks of atopic dermatitis.” Some moisturizers are specifically designed to help restore barrier function, including Epionce Medical Barrier Cream, Eucerin Advanced Repair, CeraVe Healing Ointment, and CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.
Best moisturizer for sensitive skin
If you have sensitive skin, you should follow the 11 rules of sensitive skin care. Stick to natural products that contain ingredients such as oils, which are soothing and usually not irritating, Dr. Zeichner suggests. Some product picks for sensitive skin include Skin Fix Nourishing Cream, Olay Complete Cream All Day Moisturizer with SPF 15 for Sensitive Skin, and Cetaphil Fagrance Free Daily Facial Moisturizer. “Avoid any product with potential allergens, such as fragrances or dyes, as well as acids, which can irritate sensitive skin,” says Dr. Perez.
Best moisturizer for acne-prone skin
Adult acne can be stubborn, annoying, and can make you feel embarrassed if you have it. Luckily, there are surefire ways to get rid of acne for good. “If you are acne-prone, consider a moisturizer that contains salicylic acid, which can help remove excess oil from the skin and exfoliate away dead cells,” says Dr. Zeichner. He suggests Aveeno Clear Complexion Moisturizer. Other wallet-friendly moisturizers with salicylic acid are Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer Correct & Cover Pink Grapefruit and Clean & Clear Dual Action Oil-Free Moisturizer.
Best moisturizer for mature skin
Skin tends to grow dryer with age due to decreased oil production and some hormonal changes. But these game-changing anti-aging ingredients are being added to products. To the rescue: Oil-based moisturizers that contain petrolatum plus anti-aging ingredients such as antioxidants and alpha-hydroxy acids. Exuviance Age Reverse HydarFirm fits this bill, as do ALASTIN Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer with TriHex Technology and Glytone Rejuvenating Lotion 20.
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City
- Cheryl M. Burgess, MD, medical director at the Center for Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Washington, DC
- Maritza I. Perez, MD, dermatologist, New Canaan, Connecticut