The Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Almost all the experts we spoke to also said that your moisturizer should ideally contain a mixture of emollients (like ceramides), which repair your skin barrier, and humectants (like glycerin and hyaluronic acid), which draw and seal moisture into the skin. Here, four derms on the hydrating moisturizers that would be on their short list for dry skin, plus some Strategist favorites. (Note that we're primarily referring to the skin on your face if you have dry skin on your body, consult our guide to body lotions. )

Best overall moisturizer for dry skin

Yes, this is technically branded as a body cream, but Dr. Hadley King, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, says this is a great cream for both face and body. Because it's packed with hydrating humectants like glycerin and skin-softening emollients like glyceryl stearate and sweet almond oil, it's highly effective for treating dry skin. Two more dermatologists also recommend this cream. Dr. Rachel Nazarian points out that it's incredibly lightweight and comfortable for daily use throughout the year. She recommends that patients with year-round dry skin (not just in the winter) stick to this cream because it contains all the basics needed for healthy skin without irritating fragrances or perfumes. Plus, Cetaphil is definitely a budget-friendly pick. The price point on this line of moisturizers makes it a no-brainer, says Linker. She recommends transitioning to Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion in the summer because it's much lighter than the cream for those months when your sebum levels (your skin's natural lubrication) have balanced out.

Runner-up best moisturizer for dry skin

Four of our dermatologists also love this Neutrogena gel cream formulated for extra-dry skin, which has popped up on our best sellers lists a handful of times. And, clearly, so do our readers; it has been on our best-seller list ten times. While we don't usually think of gel textures as dry-skin-friendly (they're typically targeted toward normal or oily skin), Dr. Hope Mitchell, a board-certified dermatologist in Perrysburg, Ohio, says this cream is actually perfect for dry skin, and it works pretty quickly. Give it a week. The hyaluronic acid and glycerin will quench the dryness and deliver soft, smooth, and hydrated skin, says Dr. Mitchell. Gonzalez has used it and says, It gives immediate relief to dry skin. But, according to Dr. Ife Rodney, founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics, the best part about it (aside from its deeply hydrating qualities) is that it smoothly disappears into the skin, so it can be worn alone or under makeup. We've also recommended this product for mature skin, sunburned skin, Accutane users, even for pregnant women, thanks to its super-hydrating but gentle properties.

Best moisturizer for extremely dry skin

There are those with skin that tends to get parched and flaky, particularly in the winter months, and then there are those whose skin is so dry it can actually look scaly and, as a result, is exceptionally hard to nourish. If you're in the latter category, Dr. Susan Binder and Dr. Katelyn Woolridge of Westlake Dermatology recommend Aquaphor. Ointments are the best at fortifying the skin barrier and locking in moisture, says Woolridge. It's an emollient that can help repair a damaged skin barrier, a common culprit for a lack of moisture, and that is easily accessible at any drugstore. Binder warns that it can be a bit greasy but thinks it's great when used immediately after the shower or bath to lock in moisture and help heal dry, cracked skin. It's also fragrance free, making it a good option for those with sensitive skin as well.

Best creamy moisturizers for dry skin

Two out of seven dermatologists recommend this drugstore favorite for treating dry skin. It has a high lipid content, which really helps repair dry, cracked skin, says Binder, who notes that this is one of her preferred moisturizers. Binder suggests patients look for a cream, which has a higher lipid content than lotions. Nazarian likes CeraVe because it's a barrier-repair cream and contains ceramides. Dry skin requires both humectants and emollients that draw in moisture and lock in moisture, respectively, she says. She also suggests using a serum with hyaluronic acid first and following up with this CeraVe cream to help decrease loss of moisture into the environment over time. And finally, Binder adds, no matter the reason for your dry skin whether it's dry in winter, dry all year round, or dry because of aging this is a universally good choice.

This French pharmacy brand is another favorite among dermatologists for its low- price, high-quality formulas. Rodney recommends their Lipikar Balm, which he calls a top moisturizer for dry skin, because it hydrates with a non-greasy feel. When it comes to applying, she suggests using it as soon as you finish showering, when your skin is still moist, so it can better penetrate the skin and seal in hydration. It contains good stuff like glycerin and niacinamide, but Rodney specifically mentions the shea butter in the formula because it's rich in stearic acid and reinforces the protective skin barrier.

King likes this Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream for dry skin, which has a thicker, creamier consistency and contains hyaluronic acid a powerful humectant that can hold over a thousand times its weight in water to help hydrate and plump the skin, she says as well as emollients like shea butter. She notes that this cream does have a light fragrance, though, which may be something to keep in mind if you have sensitivities.

Best moisturizer for sensitive dry skin

We've recommended Vanicream body cream as a solution for the extremely dry skin before, but it's just as effective and gentle for your face. Rodney calls Vanicream ideal because it's formulated specifically for sensitive skin, so it's free of lanolin, formaldehyde, parabens, and fragrances that commonly irritate dry, sensitive skin. That said, she notes that it's loaded with ceramides, which reinforce the skin barrier and seal in moisture.

Best moisturizer for acne-prone skin impacted by drying ingredients

Mitchell also highly recommends La Roche-Posay for those with dry skin and gravitates specifically towards their Toleriane line because with dimethicone, soothing niacinamide, water-attracting glycerin, and hydrating ceramides, it's perfect for hydrating dry skin associated with redness. She suggests the moisturizer for those with acne-prone skin, and while, yes, acne-prone skin typically is more oily, when you're using very drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, sometimes the skin can dry out too much. This will help restore the skin, and it's non-greasy.

Best night creams for dry skin

Mitchell appreciates that this Aveeno night cream is fragrance- and oil-free, so anyone can use it, even those with sensitive skin or even those with red, itchy, or tight skin. And thanks to its soothing colloidal oatmeal and fever few extract, which can reduce facial redness and skin irritation typically associated with dry skin, it actually works. It's only intended for nightly use since it's quite heavy and is formulated to repair the skin overnight.

We named this our best overall drugstore moisturizer once before because it's chock full of the ingredients needed to soothe dry, irritated skin, such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide these ingredients hold cells together and strengthen the skin's barrier, protecting it from water loss and influx of irritants as well as offer continuous 24 hour maximum hydration while soothing the skin, says Mitchell. But on top of healing the skin, it's also lightweight, non-comedogenic, so it won't clog pores, and oil-free, which Mitchell calls a triple bang for your buck. You don't necessarily have to just use it at night, but that's when you'll probably see the most results from this formula.

Best splurgy moisturizer for dry skin

Nussbaum likes this rebalancing moisturizer for dry skin because it contains emollients and ceramides that support the skin barrier and help with skin's plumpness. Binder agrees that this is a great facial moisturizer because it targets dry skin from many angles with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, cholesterol, and linoleic acid to help restore and hydrate damaged, flaky skin. At $135, it may seem steep for a bottle that's not even two ounces, but a little goes a long way and this moisturizer is beloved by beauty editors and celebrities alike. Beyond the brand's website, this stuff is sold exclusively at dermatologists' offices, which is a good sign that there's some clinical science behind it.

Best anti-aging moisturizer for dry skin

Recommended by Dr. Deanne Mraz Robinson, a partner at Modern Dermatology and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital, this moisturizer is said to specifically target the signs of aging because it is infused with certain lipids, like natural cholesterol, pure ceramides, and fatty acids, which are naturally depleted in the skin over time. Whether you're using it to combat aging or not, Robinson notes that such lipids help reinforce the skin's barrier and help the skin retain moisture. Also on the subject of SkinCeuticals, the brand's LHA cleanser happens to be another favorite of Robinson's for those with dry skin because it will slough off dead skin cells at the surface without dehydrating the skin and stripping it of its natural oils.

Best moisturizer for eczema

The Aveeno eczema line came recommended to us earlier by multiple dermatologists for body lotions and eczema-specific treatments, especially this itch- relief balm. Rather than just hydrating, I recommend people with eczema also use calming and anti-inflammatory ingredients, says Nazarian. A core characteristic of eczema is skin inflammation, she notes, so this Aveeno cream with colloidal oatmeal, which is naturally anti-inflammatory, will help soothe any flare-ups. It also contains ceramides to improve the quality of skin with continued use, she adds.

Best moisturizers for facial psoriasis

Robinson notes that treating psoriasis requires a trip to the dermatologist's office because patients will oftentimes need a prescription and a personalized regimen. Three other dermatologists agree because, as Nazarian notes, psoriasis is a very unique skin condition that actually has nothing to do with dryness and has everything to do with an irregular cell cycle. You can't really moisturize psoriasis away, but there are over-the-counter creams that help remove the excess skin, which causes the scaly appearance of psoriatic plaques, she adds, which often look like excessive dryness. For facial psoriasis that appears along the hairline and sometimes the scalp and ears, Binder recommends a lactic acid because it softens and smooths rough, bumpy areas. She notes that it has even been shown to counter the effects of long-term cortisone use. Nazarian, meanwhile, recommends finding a moisturizer that contains salicylic acid to resurface the scale and smooth out psoriasis plaques, like CeraVe SA. Of course, to further hone in on which one would be best for you, consult your dermatologist.

Other forms of psoriasis also called sebopsoriasis, which involves the central face, or seborrheic dermatitis, which is flaking and itching along the sides of the nose and eyebrows require a medicated cleanser. But a moisturizer containing niacinamide, which is related to vitamin B3 and is anti- inflammatory, according to Binder, can help with inflammatory conditions. This Nia 24 cream fits the bill, and Binder recommends patients follow up their medicated cleanser with this moisturizer daily.

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