- Everyone wants healthy, smooth, and soft skin. Dry skin not only looks dull and flaky, but it also feels tight and itchy.
- The solution? Use a good moisturizer.
- Our favorite moisturizer for both face and body is the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, but we’ve also chosen our best picks for different budgets, skin types, and needs.
As we enter the cooler months, one issue our bodies’ skin will face is dryness. Even if you have extremely oily skin, you need a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated, healthy, and balanced.
Moisturizers help skin retain its moisture barrier, which is the outer layer of the skin called the stratum corneum. When viewed through a microscope, it looks somewhat like a brick wall, with dead cells making up the bricks and lipids – the primary three naturally found in skin are fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides – making up the mortar. Skin that is excessively dry loses these lipids, weakening the skin’s defense mechanisms and opening it up to irritation, damage, and a flaky, dull appearance.
On the most basic level, moisturizers help heal dry skin by attracting and sealing in water, thus replenishing what is lost to the atmosphere. Choosing the right moisturizer, though, can be an exercise in frustration. The typical drugstore has hundreds of moisturizing products on the shelves, all claiming to improve your skin.
Luckily, we’re here to help. We sorted through the seemingly endless drugstore moisturizers, tested them ourselves, and found the ones most recommended for a wide range of skin types, budgets, and needs.
Here are the top moisturizers you can buy:
- Best moisturizer overall: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
- Best facial moisturizer for under $25: Neutrogena Hydro Boost
- Best drugstore facial moisturizer for oily skin: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat
- Best inexpensive organic facial moisturizer: Pacifica Coconut Probiotic Water Rehab Cream
- Best drugstore body moisturizer for very dry skin: Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion
- Best inexpensive moisturizer for very sensitive skin: Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream
- Best moisturizer with clean ingredients: Nécessaire Body Lotion
- Best antiaging facial moisturizer for less than $25: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
- Best drugstore hand cream: Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Hand Cream
Updated 10/2/2019 by Caitlin Petreycik: Updated formatting, prices, copy, and links. We are currently testing and researching new options and will be updating this guide again.
The best moisturizer overall
The CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a dermatologist favorite that soothes, pampers, and restores skin at a price that’s also nice on your wallet.
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream contains three essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid to restore skin moisture, and time-release technology to help keep your skin moisturized for 24 hours. It doesn’t have any fragrance or oil, and won’t clog pores either.
This thick cream glides on smoothly but absorbs fully without leaving you greasy or sticky. It’s excellent for normal to dry skin and is even safe to use on sensitive skin, eczema, and babies’ extra-delicate skin.
Self chose this as one of the top drugstore moisturizers.
Pros: Suitable for use on both face and body, safe for sensitive skin, large container
Cons: If applied too thickly, it can be hard to layer foundation makeup
The best for under $25
Neutrogena Hydro Boost gives your face every bit as much moisture as more expensive creams for a fraction of the price.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost moisturizes like a cream but absorbs as quickly and completely as a gel. The result? A healthy, moisturized, and comfortable complexion.
Although the gel moisturizer is geared towards normal-to-dry complexions, it’s remarkably well-suited for slightly oily faces as well. It contains no oils, won’t make you break out, and soaks in quickly, making it an excellent choice for use under makeup.
The water-based gel is a favorite of Byrdie because it’s oil-free and made with hyaluronic acid to leave your skin moisturized and glowing without feeling oily.
Pros: Lightweight, soaks in quickly with no greasy feel, suitable for most skin types, good under makeup
Cons: If you have very dry skin, this might not be moisturizing enough for you
The best for oily skin
- La Roche-Posay
With La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat’s mattifying moisture, your oily skin will look and feel great.
Oily skin can be a conundrum – too much moisture and it looks greasy, too little moisture and it can also look greasy to overcompensate for moisture imbalance. It’s like the story of Goldilocks, and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat is the one that makes everything just right. It absorbs excess oil by providing the light hydration oily skin craves and leaves behind a soft matte finish.
Byrdie praised La Roche-Posay not only for producing a moisturizer that effectively reduces shine while improving skin texture, but also for supporting its claims with scientific research.
One Amazon reviewer said, “I have oily acne skin, and this moisturizer does not clog pores (it’s oil free) and really helps to keep the problems under control, while keeping the skin hydrated.”
Pros: Helps reduce shine, absorbs well, good under makeup
Cons: Tube is small, expensive
The best inexpensive organic moisturizer
Want to keep potentially harmful ingredients off your skin while treating it to a healthy glow? Then try Pacifica Coconut Probiotic Water Rehab Cream.
I made the switch to organic facial-care products a few years ago when I realized that the silicones found in many traditional formulas made me break out like I was back in my teenage years. To further complicate the matter, my skin is oily, maturing, and sometimes gets flaky, tight, or dull.
After much trial and error – and many wasted dollars – I discovered Pacifica Coconut Probiotic Water Rehab Cream, and I’m not looking back. No silicones, no oils, no fragrances, no parabens, no comedogenic troublemakers. Just 100% vegan ingredients including aloe vera, coconut water, vitamin E, and plant-derived amino acids to soothe away dryness without any greasiness, shine, or breakouts.
It feels a bit thick when it first goes on, but dries quickly to provide an excellent makeup base for my pressed powder mineral foundation. It also keeps shine under control for at least a few hours.
Pros: All natural ingredients, no silicone, suitable for just about every skin type
Cons: Small size
The best for very dry skin
Kiss itchy, flaky, dull skin goodbye after smoothing on Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion.
If you suffer from the maddening itch of dry skin on your legs or body, you know how frustrating it can be to find a product that stops the itch without further irritating your skin. Luckily, Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Unscented Lotion is rich enough to conquer even the driest knees or elbows, and it doesn’t contain fragrance or other sensitive skin-aggravating ingredients.
Pros: Very inexpensive, safe for sensitive skin or skin with eczema, very rich and nourishing
Cons: Might be too thick for some
The best for very sensitive skin
If you have extremely sensitive skin or suffer from eczema or psoriasis, you need the dermatologist-created Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream.
Developed for those with the most sensitive skin, Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream is notable for the many things it does not contain – like dyes, fragrance, lanolin, phosphates, parabens, formaldehyde, and other common skin irritants. What it does contain is soothing, rich, moisturizing ingredients that settle down even the most irritable skin on your body or face. It’s also been given a seal of approval from the National Eczema Association.
Self included Vanicream in a list of the best drugstore moisturizers. The site’s medical reviewer highly recommends it.
While the cream is thick, it does absorb fairly quick and won’t leave you feeling too greasy or sticky. Some buyers complain that the pump dispenser does not work well, however.
Pros: Suitable for very sensitive skin, safe for body and face, non-comedogenic, okay for use on eczema or similar conditions, very large container for a low price, convenient pump
Cons: Some complaints about the pump on the container
The best with clean ingredients
Nécessaire Body Lotion is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids to nourish your body as well as you’d normally do with your face.
We’re probably more careful with the skin on our faces than on our legs most days, but Nécessaire’s Body Lotion aims to balance that out with its vitamin and antioxidant-packed formula. It includes niacinamide, vitamins A, B, C, E, two types of omega fatty acids, and shea butter, as well as marula, cacay oil, and meadowfoam oils. The lotion is also considered clean, as it’s made without questionable ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and fragrance.
Despite the rich and nourishing formula, the lotion itself is lightweight and fast-absorbing, a few passes left my skin hydrated, gleaming, and protected from the elements. Here’s our full review of the lotion.
Pros: Skin-care-level ingredients, lightweight, absorbs quickly, clean formula
Cons: Expensive compared to others on this list
The best budget antiaging moisturizer
If you want to keep fine lines at bay a little longer, try Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream.
Although no moisturizer can perform miracles, plumping, firming, and moisturizing ingredients in Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, like niacinamide, amino peptides, and hyaluronic acid, can help give your skin a boost. You’ll see immediate plumping and smoothing of fine lines, and subtle reduction of deeper creases over time.
Good Housekeeping gave the cream its seal of approval, and wrote, “This 24/7 cream outperformed 10 competitors – even a prestige brand that costs $440 – in our Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab’s clinical and blinded consumer studies.”
Target reviewers praised the quick results, improvements in fine lines and skin texture, and lack of fragrance or other sensitive-skin triggers.
Pros: Effective ingredients, safe for sensitive skin, absorbs well, good under makeup, reasonable price
Cons: Not suitable for very oily skin
The best hand cream
Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Hand Cream keeps your hands soft and smooth for hours without any greasy feel.
Although I struggle with oily skin on my face, my hands have the opposite problem: they’re dry and tend to crack and bleed. Any hint of fragrance or other irritating ingredients makes the problem even worse. The skin over my knuckles turns flame-red and burns like fire. To add to the problem, I can’t stand any slippery, greasy, or tacky feeling on my skin.
Thankfully, I discovered Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Hand Cream several years ago, and I hope the company never discontinues this wonderfully soothing, fragrance-free, and intensely moisturizing hand cream because it fulfills all of my requirements.
It isn’t greasy or sticky feeling and only requires a couple of applications each day. There’s no burning, stinging, cracks, or parched skin. And best of all, the Aveeno cream is very inexpensive. The only downside to the product is that it isn’t a very large tube.
Pros: Suitable for sensitive skin, not greasy or sticky, very soothing to extra-dry skin, concentrated so only a little is needed
Cons: Tube is not very large
Check out our other great skin-care guides
Regular exfoliation sloughs off dead skin cells, revealing brighter, more refreshed skin underneath, and helps to keep your pores clear. While exfoliators have a reputation for being harsh and abrasive, the latest crop delivers gentler sloughing and smoothing. Glossier’s Solution is our top pick, thanks to its powerful mix of acids that leave skin glowing. But, it may not be the product for you, depending on your skin’s needs. Check out our list below to find your perfect exfoliator match.
Here are the best exfoliators to buy in 2019:
- Best exfoliator overall: Glossier Solution
- Best drugstore exfoliator: Simple Kind to Skin Smoothing Facial Scrub
- Best exfoliator for daily use: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant
- Best exfoliator for sensitive skin: Juara Radiance Enzyme Scrub
- Best exfoliator for uneven skin tone: Ole Henriksen Transforming Walnut Scrub
Clay masks are an easy and cost-effective way to give your skin a boost without hitting the spa. Our top pick is the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask because it’s super affordable, all-natural, and deep cleans your pores. But if you’re looking for something more particular – maybe a mask that hydrates, exfoliates, or brightens – check out the rest of our list.
Here are the best clay masks to buy in 2019:
- The best clay mask overall: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask
- The best detoxifying clay mask: Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack Mask
- The best brightening clay mask: Tarte Tight & Bright Clay Multi-Mask
- The best exfoliating clay mask: L’Oréal Paris Pure Clay Exfoliate & Refine Mask
- The best hydrating clay mask: Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask
If you’re one of those people whose face feels flaky whether it’s December or August, finding the right face cream can be difficult. But if full-on hydration and protection are what you’re after, Dr. Jart+ Ceramindin Cream is your best bet. In addition, we have four other face cream we would recommend that you check out.
Here are the best face creams to buy in 2019:
- Best face cream for dry skin overall: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
- Best lightweight face cream for dry skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
- Best drugstore face cream for dry skin: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
- Best pro-approved face cream for dry skin: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
- Best plant-based face cream for dry skin: Youth To The People Age Prevention Superfood Cream