Whether you’re a skin care novice or someone who touts an expansive daily routine, you likely reach for a face moisturizer to keep your skin looking and feeling good. And if you don’t, you should definitely start using one.
With this in mind, we brought in a panel of reviewers with different skin types to test 18 top-rated moisturizers in order to find the best ones for you, whatever your skin care needs. Keep reading to see which face moisturizers stood out against the rest.
Best overall face moisturizer: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($28.99; ulta.com or $23.44; amazon.com)
Why you should buy it: Through our tests, we found that the best face moisturizer overall is dermatologist favorite Olay Regenerist. The brand describes it as “an anti-aging moisturizer that hydrates skin and helps retain skin’s youthful surface contours.” Essentially, it’s meant to diminish the look of fine lines while improving skin’s elasticity and firmness. What sets it apart is the formula.
About the formula: According to New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, this “provides the ideal combination of humectants like hyaluronic acid, emollients like triglycerides and occlusives to hydrate, support the skin barrier and lock in moisture. It also includes niacinamide, which is helpful for tone and texture, and anti-aging peptides as well. It’s fragrance-free and suitable for sensitive skin too.”
What we like: This is an all-around reliable moisturizer if you’re looking for a product to have in your vanity year-round or want to test a low-risk option. One of our testers, who describes their skin type as “normal” with a bit of dryness in the winter, said that they “like the weight of this formula. It looks creamy, but blends in immediately and you don’t feel it on your face at all.” The lightweight, but creamy texture allows it to sink right into the skin as opposed to simply sitting on top of it. None of our testers experienced any skin sensitivities or irritations while using it — obviously a plus.
What we don’t like: There’s not much not to like about Olay Regenerist. The moisturizer is available in both a scented and fragrance-free formula. The scented version smells rather citrus-y, which is a relevant caution for people with sensitive skin. And while this is available at your local drugstore, it’s not the most cost-effective moisturizer out there. If you’re on a really strict budget, this might be a bit of a splurge.
Best face moisturizer for dry skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream ($36; sephora.com and ulta.com)
Why you should buy it: If you have dry skin, look no further than the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. The brand itself is known for its efficacious skin care products to solve various skin concerns, formulated to be suitable for sensitive skin. The ingredients and the texture make it an excellent moisturizer to quench dry skin.
About the formula: “This facial cream combines ultra-hydrating shea butter with soothing colloidal oatmeal to provide moisture and relief to those with dry skin,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elyse Love. According to King, colloidal oatmeal, partnered with allantoin, works to soothe and calm the skin — particularly dry, flaky or itchy patches. She says that the cream “provides the ideal combination of humectants like glycerin, emollients like ceramides and occlusives to hydrate, support the skin barrier and lock in moisture.”
What we like: One of our testers called this moisturizer basic, but we mean that in the most positive way. A reliable moisturizer that performs well doesn’t need bells and whistles to be appreciated. They wrote that “it comes in a pretty large container, and is rich and creamy, but has no scent. It goes on pretty thick and works well on dry spots. This is usually my go-to winter moisturizer.” Despite the thickness, it blends seamlessly into the skin without the feeling of weighing it down. We found that the Ultra Repair Cream stood up to the brand’s “fast-absorbing” and “long-term hydration” claims. None of our testers experienced any skin sensitivities or irritations while using it.
What we don’t like: But because it is so thick, it may not be the best option for a summer moisturizer — unless your skin is truly in need of intense moisture while the temperatures are high. Also, ringing in at just under $40 for the standard size tub, this isn’t necessarily the most affordable face moisturizer.
Best face moisturizer for sensitive skin: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68; sephora.com, ulta.com and amazon.com)
Why you should buy it: Drunk Elephant’s Protini Polypeptide Cream is formulated to “restore younger, revived-looking skin” — targeting everything from wrinkles to signs of sun damage. And in our test, we found that it’s the best face moisturizer for those with sensitive skin because it works really well leaving us with zero irritation.
About the formula: First things first, this cream is vegan and free of essential oils, silicones and fragrance. Packed with peptides, growth factors, amino acids and pygmy water lily, it’s formulated to quench thirsty skin and leave you with a smooth, plump, bouncy complexion. Basically a recipe for youthful-looking skin.
What we like: Both testers of this moisturizer ranked it the best of all the ones they tried. While both describe their skin as combination with an oily T-zone, one remarked about having super sensitive and acne-prone skin. According to one tester, “it’s scentless, the texture is lightweight, doubles as a primer for makeup, absorbs quickly and leaves my skin looking supple and glowy, and feeling super hydrated.” Overall, this cream is for someone who wants lightweight, gel-cream consistency that will leave your skin feeling hydrated throughout the day.
What we don’t like: While one tester thought the pump applicator on the tub was an added bonus to quickly, easily release the product, another believed it made it hard to control how much product you release — especially for a pricey product like this one. We found that if you end up with too much product, you can spend a while rubbing it into the skin. A little goes a long way.
Best face moisturizer for combination skin: Tatcha Dewy Skin Cream ($68; sephora.com, tatcha.com and amazon.com)
Why you should buy it: It goes without saying that Tatcha offers some of our favorite skin care products, period — so we weren’t surprised one of its moisturizers topped our list. The brand’s Dewy Skin Cream “feeds skin with plumping hydration and antioxidant-packed Japanese purple rice for a dewy, healthy glow.” It’s heavy enough to quell dry patches, but light enough to not make you overly oily.
About the formula: Japanese purple rice, Okinawa algae blend, hyaluronic acid and botanical extracts are the stars of this formula. These ingredients come together to protect the skin barrier against pollution and stress, soften and nourish the skin, as well as help the skin retain moisture. We thought the formula was “rich and creamy with a gel-like consistency,” meaning it’ll work to combat dryness without weighing the skin down or making it overly oily — especially someone with combination skin. New York-based licensed esthetician and skin care expert Sean Garrette says he “loves this one. It’s very nourishing and makes the skin supple and moisturized.”
What we like: We found that this purple-hued moisturizer “sinks into skin beautifully” and “feels refreshing” leaving us with a radiant dolphin-skin finish. The Dewy Skin Cream is a well-balanced option, with a fresh scent that’s not overwhelming at all.
What we don’t like: Although fragrance is not necessarily a bad thing, this is scented so it may not be a safe bet for those with sensitive skin. “Those with sensitive skin should approach scent with caution,” says Love. “Test the product on the lateral face right in front of the ear before using it on the entire face.” Additionally, one of our testers found that this left her skin feeling sticky — a feeling that went away over time, but made it difficult to layer on primers or makeup in the morning. Because of this, she preferred to use it exclusively during her at night skin care routine. Again, the price of this moisturizer is concerning.
Best face moisturizer for oily skin: Belif True Cream Aqua Bomb ($38; sephora.com and ulta.com)
Why you should buy it: With a name like Aqua Bomb, you surely expect this moisturizer by Belif to quench your skin’s thirst — and luckily, it does not disappoint. According to the brand, it’s formulated to provide a 70% increase in your skin’s hydration level, leaving you with smooth and supple skin. This kind of lightweight nourishment makes it ideal for oily skin.
About the formula: Belif’s True Cream Aqua Bomb is practically weightless, described as a water-based gel-cream. “This formula delivers hydrating glycerin and hyaluronic acid in a lightweight gel formula that will not weigh down skin,” says Love. Garrette agrees, and says that he recommends this a lot to his oily-skin clients.
What we like: “Loved the texture of this one, and it also felt cool to the touch when you put it on,” says one of our testers who thought it “left [her] skin feeling moisturized and nourished 12 hours later.” Although it is rather thick, we found it absorbed pretty quickly. Better yet: While testing the Aqua Bomb, one tester saw a noticeable difference in skin texture after just a few uses.
What we don’t like: The scent of this moisturizer might be a deterrent, for sure. We thought the scent was strong, but not in an overwhelming way. Even though it did not cause irritation for our testers, we caution against this one if you have sensitive skin.
Best face moisturizer for acne-prone skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer ($52; sephora.com, ulta.com and dermstore.com)
Why you should buy it: There are few moisturizers in the beauty industry as acclaimed as the Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench moisturizer. It’s that good at nourishing the skin with the hydration it needs without weighing it down (leading to more breakouts), and according to the brand, designed to leave “a silky, hydrated and more youthful-looking appearance.”
About the formula: “I actually think this is a great moisturizer not only for acne prone skin, but also oily and combination. This has a great balance of ceramides, fatty acids, and hydrating ingredients,” says Garrette. The texture is arguably the star here, a fabulous whipped, fluffy, cloud-like formula. It contains concentrated 30% hyaluronic acid complex to help your skin draw in the moisture it needs.
What we like: One of our testers with sensitive, oily-combination skin said her skin felt drenched, like she splashed her face with water, after using Water Drench. “Absolutely loved the texture of this moisturizer, and felt a genuine difference in my skin’s plumpness and moisture level after using it, even hours later. It’s unscented too, which is key for my more acne-prone skin,” says one of our testers. We also found that a little goes a long way, so the tub will last you a while.
What we don’t like: Although it is rather lightweight, sometimes we experienced pilling when layered on top of other products, specifically retinols, AHAs or BHAs. To avoid this, we found ourselves reaching for it more at night.
Best face moisturizer with SPF: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer With SPF ($19.99; amazon.com and ulta.com)
Why you should buy it: Because dermatologists say you should wear sunscreen every day, having a moisturizer with built-in UV protection makes applying it every day that much easier. That’s why we love La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Moisturizer — a supreme moisturizer that’s formulated with SPF 30. In fact, it’s one of Love’s most recommended products.
About the formula: According to King, this “provides the ideal combination of humectants like glycerin, emollients like ceramides, and occlusives. It also contains niacinamide, which helps with tone and texture, as well as SPF 30, and it’s suitable for sensitive skin.” Better yet: the moisturizer is non-comedogenic, oil- and paraben-free — sporting a rich, creamy texture.
What we like: We were fans of the rich, creamy texture and that it has built-in sun protection. The application process feels nourishing — cooling almost — and layers well with other products in your routine. After hours of wear, our skin still felt moisturized even under makeup.
What we don’t like: Toleriane Double Repair does have a noticeable sunscreen scent that isn’t inherently bad, but worth noting if you want a truly fragrance-free moisturizer. We found that it also took rather long to rub in completely, leaving you with a sort of dewy, slightly greasy finish immediately after applying.
Best drugstore face moisturizer: Cetaphil Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion ($12.18; amazon.com or $17.99; ulta.com)
Why you should buy it: You’ve likely given the Cetaphil Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion a try at some point in your life, or have vague memories of spotting it on the shelves of your nearest drugstore. It’s a no-fuss, reliable drugstore moisturizer that won’t disappoint — and what our testers would reach for in a pinch or on a quick errand run.
About the formula: According to King, this lotion is “non-comedogenic and packed with both hydrating humectants and emollients to lock in moisture, this is a great cream for both face and body.” She says that the key ingredients — glycerin, glyceryl stearate, sweet almond oil and vitamin E — work together to draw in moisture, soften the skin and help protect against UV damage. Garrette and Love, who says this is “light-weight, easy to apply, hydrating and oil-free,” are fans of this drugstore staple.
What we like: Despite being packed with an assortment of hydrating ingredients, it’s noticeably light. In fact, one of our testers said that it took the shortest amount of time to rub in — leaving the skin nourished for hours after application, even on dry patches. “The texture is lightweight and hydrating, it doesn’t clog my pores,” says one of our testers. “It’s fragrance-free, it absorbed instantly, the bottle is the perfect size for traveling and storing in my cabinet and it’s only $12!”
What we don’t like: There isn’t much we don’t like about the Cetaphil Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion. In comparison, we found that it didn’t leave our skin quite as moisturized as other options, nor did it deliver that glowy look.
Best splurge face moisturizer: Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream (starting at $85; sephora.com and augustinusbader.com)
Why you should buy it: For a truly luxurious moisturizer experience, look no further than Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream — a product that blew us away with how pleasant it is. According to the brand, this cream is designed to “support cellular renewal to dramatically improve the complexion’s appearance” — specifically the signs of aging like fine lines, skin elasticity and hyperpigmentation.
About the formula: “This is a personal luxury splurge for me. I have pretty dry skin that can easily become dehydrated in the winter. This moisturizer has been a savior for my dry skin. Incredibly nourishing, plumping and makes my skin feel so supple,” says Garrette. Ideal for normal to dry skin, or those in dry climates, this fragrance-free, vegan option utilizes the brand’s TFC8 cellular renewal complex as well as nourishing ingredients like evening primrose oil, squalene, vitamin E and avocado oil.
What we like: We particularly loved the rich, creamy texture and the way it absorbed easily into the skin. Testers shared that it made them feel hydrated, glowy and even healing on their problem areas. In fact, one tester said that it cleared some of her acne on her chin — leaving her with a more even complexion. She says that she had a “noticeably more even skin tone after using this for just a few days. When I’d put this on at night I’d wake up with skin that I didn’t even have to cover with makeup.” None of our testers experienced any skin sensitivities while testing it, either.
What we don’t like: Simply put, the biggest con of The Rich Cream is the price tag. But it surely might be worth the investment if you’re okay with the splurge or want a moisturizer so good, you don’t even need foundation.
How to pick the right moisturizer
“Moisturizers hydrate, support the skin barrier and lock in moisture,” says King. “These qualities are important for keeping the skin healthy and plump. An impaired skin barrier will leave the skin more vulnerable to damage, dryness, irritation, inflammation and infection.”
But how do you choose a moisturizer that’s good for you? According to King, “all skin types should look for a moisturizer that contains humectants, emollients and occlusives.” If your moisturizer includes a combination of ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, squalene and thicker oils or waxes like beeswax — you’re on the right track.
“Those with normal skin will likely find a daily lightweight lotion to be moisturizing enough,” explains Love. “Those with drier skin may require a thicker cream, particularly in the fall and winter, to maintain moisture balance. For those with extremely dry skin and/or a defective skin barrier (for example, those with eczema), combining a moisturizing cream with an occlusive ointment may be necessary — especially in the fall and winter.”
At the end of the day, the right moisturizer for you should leave your skin feeling undoubtedly nourished — not dry, itchy or irritated. Because there are so many moisturizers in the market, we sought out to test them ourselves.
How we tested
We tasked nine Underscored staff members with various different skin types and skin care routines to find moisturizers that really work. We settled on a testing pool of 18 top-rated moisturizers based on expert recommendations, editorial reviews and customer ratings. Over the course of more than a month, each of our staffers tested a moisturizer for at least a week to determine the overall efficacy when put to the test with their everyday skin care routine.
At the end of the trial period, we asked each of the moisturizer testers to complete a detailed survey. Testers were asked to rate the quality and effectiveness of each moisturizer across the following categories beyond pros and cons: scent, application, formula, price and how it left their skin feeling overall. Testers were also asked to provide further notes and commentary on each of the variables listed above, as well as decide if they’d be likely to purchase it again.
Other moisturizers we tested
Youth To The People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream ($48; sephora.com)
This is another excellent moisturizer choice, especially if you’re looking for a vegan, clean beauty option. Packed with kale, green tea and hyaluronic acid, this is formulated to balance the skin and pack it with moisture — making it a favorite of Garrette’s. We particularly loved the light, air-whip texture, but one of our testers experienced breakouts while using it. She has acne-prone skin, so her flare-ups could be due to the light scent or the richness of the texture.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturizer ($19.79; target.com)
Although it did not make our top picks, we were still huge fans of the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturizer — particularly the gel-like texture. It’s recommended by King too. She says, “my patients with oilier skin tend to particularly love Neutrogena’s Water Boost Gel Moisturizer. It’s non-comedogenic and has a gel base with light occlusives — well-suited for oily skin.” However, it lost points for us because of its light scent.
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion ($15.39; target.com)
King says this is a great moisturizer choice. “It contains hyaluronic acid, which is a powerful humectant for hydrating the skin, as well as ceramides to lock in that moisture and restore and protect the skin barrier,” she says. “It’s non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores and contribute to acne, and its skin-barrier- nourishing ingredients help to protect the skin from the potentially irritating effects of anti-acne medications.” While we liked this moisturizer, we didn’t love it. It absorbed seamlessly into the skin, but didn’t provide intense moisture or show any prominent skin improvements over time. One of our testers even described it as a “middle of the road lotion.” It’s really a no-frills option that worked well for us even with prescription skin care products.
Tatcha Water Cream ($68; sephora.com)
Described as “lightweight, pore-refining hydration,” Tatcha’s Water Cream is formulated with Japanese botanicals to improve the look of pores and support balanced skin. We found that the Water Cream left our skin feeling hydrated and silky, making it better suited for summer or fall for lasting nourishment. However, it is scented, and left one of our testers with breakouts at the beginning of her testing. This is a solid option if you want an ultra-light moisturizer, perhaps to wear under makeup.
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion With Sunscreen ($16.99; target.com)
Packed with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, this is described as a “morning skin care multitasker” to moisturize the skin, restore the skin barrier and protect the skin from UV damage. However, we found that the featured sunscreen overpowered the formula. We felt it was like applying a traditional sunscreen, in both the scent and texture — not leaving us with the glowy hydration we were looking for.
La Mer Crème De La Mer ($190; sephora.com)
Although this is a luxury pick for celebrities, influencers and the beauty set alike, we didn’t fall in love with La Mer’s Crème De La Mer — especially to justify the hefty price tag. While the formula is impeccably rich, we felt it was too heavy to wear realistically because it takes a long time to completely sink into the skin. Perhaps better for someone with truly dry skin, this moisturizer features the brand’s Miracle Broth and lime tea to visibly improve signs of aging and leave you with a rejuvenated complexion over time.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Daily Moisturizer ($12.69; target.com)
We’ve long used Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Daily Moisturizer — an option that’s lined our beauty cabinets since it’s been available at our local drugstore. The non-comedogenic, fragrance-free water-based formula is meant to be sensitive-skin safe. While we didn’t experience any skin irritations, we found that it didn’t quite live up to its oil-free claim because it left our skin feeling oily, and at times slightly sticky, after use.
Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich ($35; glossier.com)
Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer is described as “a rich, deeply moisturizing yet fast-absorbing face cream for day or night.” It’s full of ceramides and fatty acids to lock in moisture, and even technology designed to soothe skin, combat redness and improve skin texture. Although we like the texture, we didn’t think it left us with long-lasting moisture or noticeable skin changes over time — essentially, it didn’t particularly stand out amongst the rest.
Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer, SPF 15 ($16.89; target.com)
This moisturizer is formulated with a soy complex, natural light diffusers, and SPF to even skin tone, protect against sun damage and combat signs of aging — leaving you with a radiant complexion. While we were fans of the lightweight creamy texture and sun protection, we didn’t like the sunscreen scent and found that it wasn’t rich enough to quench dry spots on the scene. One tester did experience irritation while testing it.