Applying a face moisturizer daily is one of the number one keys to healthy, glowing skin no matter what the season, your age, or skin type. Moisturizers are emulsions of oil and water (plus other ingredients for nourishing, treatment, and preserving) that help replenish hydration, keeping moisture in skin and dryness out.
Experts say that hydrating is crucial for keeping skin youthful and healthy, even if you don’t have dry skin. “Moisturizing protects the skin barrier," explains Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. The healthier your barrier, the better your skin’s defense against inflammation and damage, which can protect skin from signs of dehydration, irritation, redness, and even hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles over time.
For best benefits, moisturize your clean face daily (morning and/or evening as needed for your skin type), massaging it in as you apply it. “This will increase its absorption and effectiveness, and improve circulation,” Dr. Engelman advises.
Benefits of Using a Moisturizer
When it comes to the importance of using a moisturizer, consumers are catching on. Statistics show that 25.54 million Americans used facial moisturizers 14 or more times within a one week period in 2020, which suggests that this is a skincare product that’s a part of their morning and evening routine. The frequency has increased substantially since 2011.
What is a moisturizer? Clinically speaking, creams are the most common delivery systems used for moisturizers. Creams are a two-phase system (emulsion) containing two immiscible liquids — oil and water, one of which is dispersed in the other in the form of microscopic or submicroscopic droplets. To be effective, the ratio between oil and water is important, as well as the type of oil and the amount and type of other ingredients. A good moisturizer will:
- Treat and Prevent Dryness: Be it climate changes, indoor heat, air conditioning, certain medications, sun exposure, or using the wrong facial products, the skin can be depleted of vital moisture. A good moisturizer will not only replace lost moisture but also prevent further loss.
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- Provide Anti-Aging Benefits: No miracle cream’s going to erase all of your fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots. Still, the sooner you start using a moisturizer, the more of a chance you have of slowing down the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. This is especially true if you’re using a formula made with anti-aging ingredients like retinol (a vitamin A derivative), vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid, to name a few.
- Soothe Sensitive Skin: Those with sensitive skin need a little extra TLC because there tends to be dry patches, itchiness, redness, and irritation. A moisturizer formulated with skin-soothing ingredients like oatmeal, chamomile, aloe vera, azulene, etc., can substantially reduce these symptoms. There are even moisturizers that target those with specific acute skin conditions like eczema and rosacea.
- Help Battle Oil and Acne: A moisturizer may be the last product one with oily, acne-prone skin would reach for, but the reality is, when the skin is dry or becomes stripped of its natural oils due to over-cleansing or the use of harsh products, it only produces more oil to compensate for the loss — it’s a self-defense mechanism. The right moisturizer will balance oil production and help keep clogged pores and breakouts at bay.
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Determining Your Skin Type
There are four basic types of healthy skin: normal, dry, oily, and combination skin. Understanding your skin type is an integral part of any beauty routine. Not only does this intel help you choose the right products (including a moisturizer) to address your specific needs, but it’s also a snapshot into how your skin will age.
- Normal Skin: Normal skin can be classified as having an even skin tone, radiant complexion, fine (almost non-visible) pores, is neither too oily nor too dry, and is free from blemishes. Sure, normal skin may seem as though it’s the easiest skin type to take care of, and that may be true to a certain degree. However, the reality is, normal skin can’t escape the aging process. The skin will become dryer and less elastic with age, just like all other skin types, so wrinkles are imminent.
- Dry Skin: Those with a dry skin type produce less sebum (oil) than usual, resulting in a deficiency of hydrating and protective lipids that protect against external stressors such as air pollution, UV radiation, climate changes, etc. Dry skin typically feels tight, itchy, and rough to the touch. Redness can even be present if it becomes sensitized. With age, oil and lipid levels deplete even further, making dry skin even more apparent. On top of collagen loss, fine lines, wrinkles, and dry patches can be more evident than other skin types.
- Oily Skin: The antithesis of dry skin, oily skin produces more sebum than usual. A telltale sign of oily skin is a greasy shine that shows up mid-way through the day — if not 20-30 minutes after washing your face depending on how active the sebaceous glands are. Other characteristics include enlarged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. It’s also typically difficult to keep makeup on. As with a normal skin type, oilier individuals won’t get away with a wrinkle-free complexion just because their skin is more lubricated. While they may have fewer forehead lines because the dermis is thicker and has more oil glands, fine lines and wrinkles tend to be more conspicuous in the lower segment of the face due to the inevitable loss of collagen and elasticity.
- Combination Skin: Combination skin can be frustrating to treat because the T-zone (forehead and nose region) is oily, but the rest of the face looks and feels dry or normal. Those with this skin type often have to execute a little trial and error when it comes to adopting a skincare routine that effectively targets both skin types. Future wrinkle formation may be similar to those of an oily skin type.
How to find the best face moisturizer for you
Dermatologist recommended seeking out face moisturizers with these key categories of ingredients for maximum efficacy in formulas for all skin types and needs:
- Emollients, which are hydrating ingredients like plant oils, fatty acids and triglycerides and squalane, which moisturize and soften skin.
- Humectants draw moisture into skin from the environment or skin's deeper layers. Common examples include glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
- Occlusive ingredients form a barrier over skin to lock in hydration and prevent moisture loss. They can include waxes (derived from plants or beeswax), plant butters (like shea and cocoa), petrolatum and silicones.
Here, the 26 best face moisturizers recommended by dermatologists:
The 26 Best Face Moisturizers 2021 Healthy Skin All Year Long
Best overall face moisturizer for mature skin CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
According to Dr. Debra Jaliman, an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, “Cerave Moisturizing Cream is a very basic, inexpensive product that is great for dry skin,” because it contains glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid in order to deliver excellent hydration. “As we age, our hyaluronic acid levels decrease,” which can cause mature skin to become itchy or irritated, explains Dr. Noelani Gonzalez. “This moisturizer helps replenish hyaluronic acid” — which Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, calls “a hero ingredient,” especially for mature skin. Dr. Hadley King, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, adds that hyaluronic acid “can hold over 1,000 times its weight in water,” which is what makes it such an effective skin hydrator and plumper. In addition to being packed with key ingredients, this moisturizer is also fragrance-free, making it suitable for those with sensitive skin, and it doesn’t feel greasy, Gonzalez says.
Best face moisturizer for acne-prone mature skin Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream
Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream
As we age, “using gentle products made from high-quality ingredients with less irritants, fragrances, and additives becomes more important,” explains Diakow. This moisturizer from Cetaphil, a brand you can find on the physical (or virtual) shelves of many retailers, came recommended as one of the gentlest you can buy. It will “hydrate skin without clogging pores, can be used year-round, and is tolerated well by almost all skin types,” says Dr. Francesca Fusco. King agrees: It’s non comedogenic and packed with hydrating ingredients, including moisturizing glycerin and hyaluronic acid, skin-softening glyceryl stearate and sweet almond oil, and vitamin E, an antioxidant that fights UV damage.
Best drugstore face moisturizer for mature skin Neutrogena Hydro Boost
Neutrogena Hydro Boost
Zeichner also loves this hyaluronic acid–packed Hydro Boost Gel Cream from Neutrogena, which “acts like a sponge to pull water into the outer skin layer to hydrate and plump, and even improve the appearance of some fine lines.” The lightweight, gel-based cream has also earned a spot in our roundups of the best moisturizers for dry skin and the best moisturizers for oily skin, making it a good choice for many different skin types.
Best face moisturizer for itchy mature skin SkinCeuticals AGE Interrupter
SkinCeuticals AGE Interrupter
“Many patients with mature skin come to the office complaining of itching or irritation,” says Gonzalez, who explains that is a sign the skin barrier is compromised. For these patients, she recommends moisturizers that contain ceramides, which are lipids that work to repair and protect the skin barrier. While it’s not cheap, Gonzalez says SkinCeuticals AGE Interrupter is one of the most effective moisturizers you can buy to treat itchy mature skin because, in addition to ceramides, it also contains blueberry extract, which “acts as an antioxidant that helps to both strengthen the skin and prevent wrinkles.” It also “helps diminish the appearance of crepey skin, which makes it a great option for aging skin,” she adds.
Best moisturizer for uneven mature skin OLAY Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance Free
OLAY Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance-Free
According to Jaliman, the powerhouse ingredient niacinamide “helps even pigment and skin color.” In addition to niacinamide, this fragrance-free option from Olay also contains glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and aloe which is super-soothing to the skin.
Best moisturizer for oily mature skin Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
She also recommends this oil-free, non comedogenic moisturizer from Peter Thomas Roth that will give your skin a glow, without getting it greasy.
Best moisturizer for severely dry mature skin SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
According to Dr. Julie Russak, the founder of the Russak Dermatology Group, aging causes “our cells to become less robust and dry up and shrink.” As a result, “what we see are lines and dry skin.” SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 is a lipid replenisher that “restores the natural physiological composition of our cell wall” so that “younger, healthier cells” can take over. “You can literally feel the ingredients quench depleted skin,” she promises, due to the ceramide and antioxidant-infused formula. “This is full of essential lipids like ceramics, fatty acids, and natural cholesterol that all improve the skin barrier and provide deep — but not heavy — moisture, improving texture, fullness, and uneven skin tones,” adds dermatologist Annie Chiu. “It also contains vitamin E, which supports cell reproduction, helps skin repair itself, and defends skin against environmental damage.”
Best moisturizer for mildly dry mature skin Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream Moisturizer
Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream Moisturizer
According to King, “the most effective moisturizers combine both humectants and emollients” — or ingredients that attract and lock in moisture. Vichy Aqualia Thermal Rich Cream, she says, is packed with both, including hyaluronic acid (“a powerful humectant”), shea butter (“a great emollient”), and glycerin (which acts as both). While effective at quenching dry skin, its ingredients are slightly less intense than the ceramides and fatty acids found in the SkinCeuticals product above, making it a good option for those experiencing mild dryness. Buyers should know this cream has a light fragrance, which means it may not be the best bet for those with sensitive skin. But if you don’t mind the fragrance, King promises this one is “light and very nice.”
Best exfoliating moisturizer for mature skin La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Sheer, 1.7 oz
La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Sheer, 1.7 oz
La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream Sheer contains both exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids and hydrating (and luxurious) caviar extract, two ingredients that Chiu calls an “important partnership.” She explains that “the alpha hydroxy acids slough away dead skin and allow the product’s anti-aging ingredients to penetrate more deeply and effectively,” adding that the cream is totally fine to use in the morning because it “allows makeup to glide on beautifully” without any piling.
Best moisturizing serum for mature skin Sente Dermal Contour Pressed Serum
Sente Dermal Contour Pressed Serum
This moisturizing liquid serum “specifically targets mature and photoaged skin” with a blend of skin-replenishing proteins called glycosaminoglycans, which help tighten skin, restore its firmness and elasticity, and decrease the appearance of wrinkles, explains Gonzalez. “I make my mother use this every single day,” she adds.
Best moisturizer with retinol for mature skin Revision Skincare D.E.J. Night Face Cream
Revision Skincare D.E.J. Night Face Cream
“DEJ, or dermal-epidermal junction, is where we store collagen,” explains Russak, and “as we age, we produce this collagen less efficiently, so the skin loses its natural elasticity.” Finding products that will boost the natural production of collagen will result in skin that looks and feels tighter. One ingredient that can help with collagen production is retinol, because the vitamin-A derivative works to stimulate collagen production as well as the growth of new skin cells. This cream from Revision Skincare, which Russak calls “all-in-one moisturizer that works overtime to hydrate the skin and address any visible signs of aging,” contains 0.25% retinol to increase cell turnover deep within the skin. “These newer cells reflect light much better, they look healthier, and in turn revive the skin to look brighter.”
Whether you go with this or any other retinol-infused moisturizer, it is important to know that retinol makes the skin more photosensitive. So, if you aren’t already, you should incorporate sunscreen into your daily routine before using a moisturizer with retinol.
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Best (less-expensive) moisturizer with retinol for mature skin RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
According to Zeichner, “retinol is perhaps the best-studied ingredient we have over-the-counter to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles” and “help rebuild and strengthen mature skin.” He likes this affordable cream from RoC, which also contains retinol (though it does not list an exact amount).
Best brightening moisturizer with retinol for mature skin Chantecaille Retinol Intense
Chantecaille Retinol Intense
“I always recommend vitamin C and retinol for mature skin,” says Dr. Melissa Doft, the founder of Doft Plastic Surgery, because the two ingredients together have been shown to increase collagen and brighten your complexion. This face lotion contains both, as well as green tea and niacinamide for extra brightening, making it “the perfect choice for aging skin.” Whether you go with this or any other retinol-infused moisturizer, it is important to know that retinol makes the skin more photosensitive. So if you aren’t already, you should apply sunscreen every day after using a moisturizer with retinol.
Best exfoliating moisturizer with retinol for mature skin Skinbetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream
Skinbetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream
According to dermatologist Camille Howard-Verovic, this overnight moisturizing cream from Skinbetter also utilizes alpha hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate the skin and better prep it to absorb retinol, the active ingredient. “Both ingredients also help with discoloration, which may occur in mature skin,” she adds.
Best moisturizing serum with retinol for “crepey” mature skin Eve Lom Time Retreat Face Treatment
Eve Lom Time Retreat Face Treatment
If you struggle with patches of crêpey skin, which is characterized by fine lines that tend to resemble crêpe paper, Chiu recommends this moisturizing treatment from Eve Lom. The “light coverage” serum, she says, “contains a retinol complex that stimulates collagen production and niacinamide to increase cell turnover.” When combined, “these ingredients work to improve elasticity” and tighten those crêpey patches.
Best moisturizing serum with a retinol alternative for mature skin Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
If your skin could use a collagen boost but is too sensitive to tolerate retinol, Chiu suggests this moisturizing night treatment. The serum, she explains, contains “bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative that delivers all the effects of a traditional retinol without the drying side effects.” The formula — which she simply calls “fantastic” — also contains squalane, “a potent natural moisturizer that locks in hydration and promotes microbiome diversity,” according to Chiu.
Best tinted moisturizer with SPF for mature skin EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44
EltaMD UV Elements Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 44
Speaking of sunscreen, Diakow says that this product is among the best for daily use as a combination moisturizer and sunscreen because it not only provides “broad-spectrum UV protection using only safe and strong mineral ingredients,” but it also contains hyaluronic acid. Plus, “it has a beautiful universal tint that can blur pigment irregularities, blotchiness, or fine lines, which are common concerns in mature skin.” She recommends using one pump for the face, one pump for the neck and decolletage, and one pump for the back of the hands.
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Best lightweight moisturizer for mature skin Tatcha Water Cream Moisturizer
Tatcha Water Cream Moisturizer
Doft loves the “the texture and light hydrating feel” of Tatcha’s Water Cream. She adds that it’s safe for all skin types and an ideal choice during warmer months when you might want to avoid a heavier cream. Its ingredients include Japanese wild rose, which “helps reduce pores,” according to Doft, and algae to “help increase radiance.”
Best brightening, nighttime moisturizer for mature skin EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
While there are several nighttime moisturizers on this list (all those with retinol, as well as the Cetaphil, are meant to be used in the evening), if you’re looking for a brightening moisturizer to use before bed, look no further then the niacinamide-infused EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer. Dr. Patricia Wexler, the founder of the Wexler Dermatology Group, says that this is ideal for mature skin because it will improve “skin color and tone, repair and restore elasticity and vitality, and strengthen the moisture barrier,” all while you catch up on your beauty rest. It’s also “oil-free, fragrance-free, non comedogenic, and safe for sensitive skin,” she adds.
Best K-Beauty moisturizer for mature skin Amore Pacific’s Time Response Skin Reserve Intensive Cream
Amore Pacific’s Time Response Skin Reserve Intensive Cream
According to Dr. Kenneth Howe, the key to “creating a great moisturizer for mature skin means finding the ideal balance between how much the product moisturizes the skin and how easily it spreads on.” He says that K-beauty brand Amore Pacific’s Time Response Cream is particularly successful in striking this balance due to its silky texture. The price point, he admits, can be prohibitive, but promises “you can’t find a richer night cream — the deep emollient effects go a long way toward justifying the price.” Not only that, but the “trademarked Chrono-T green tea extract adds anti-aging activity, as well,” adds Howe.
Best (less-expensive) K-Beauty moisturizer for mature skin Sulwhasoo Hydro-Aid Moisturizing Soothing Cream
Sulwhasoo Hydro-Aid Moisturizing Soothing Cream
For a more affordable K-beauty option, Howe suggests Sulwhasoo’s Hydro-aid Moisturizing Soothing Cream — which happens to be his mother-in-law’s favorite product — due to its rich hydrating formula that skin can still drink in with ease. “Liriope platyphylla (sounds like a character from Greek mythology, but it’s common name is lily turf) and ginseng sprouts give the product its moisturizing properties, while birch sap extract soothes inflamed skin,” he explains.
Best French moisturizer for mature skin Dermaceutic Hyal Ceutic Intense Moisturizer
Dermaceutic Hyal Ceutic Intense Moisturizer
“This French moisturizer is a favorite in my office,” says Doft. With a combination of low- and high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid (for better penetration), aloe vera, shea butter, and vitamin E, it is an excellent choice for dry and mature skin. “Everyone should have it in their medicine cabinet,” she says.
Best moisturizing eye cream for mature skin Lumiere Riche Extra Moisturizing Illuminating Eye Cream
Lumiere Riche Extra Moisturizing Illuminating Eye Cream
If you specifically want to target the wrinkles around your eyes, Dr. Ainah Tan told us she recommends this product to her patients with mature skin. “Some have more sensitive skin around the eyes,” she explains, and this “does not rely on retinol-based ingredients, but other growth factors, to help with fine lines and wrinkles.” The formula also contains antioxidants and caffeine, “which will help reduce puffiness,” Tan adds.
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Best body moisturizer for hydrating mature skin La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Cream
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Cream
“Over time, the skin’s sebaceous glands produce less natural oils to lubricate, rendering skin dryer and itchier,” explains Diakow. For this reason, those with mature skin should look for creams or ointments with a higher oil content than regular lotions when shopping for body moisturizers. Diakow says that this La Roche-Posay moisturizing balm has a “rich, luxurious feel that immediately rehydrates the skin,” and contains niacinamide that “works to repair the skin’s moisture barrier.” It’s also formulated with prebiotic thermal water, which “provides nutrition for the diverse bacterial flora that enriches and balances our skin.” Diakow told us that the best time to apply it is right after a brief lukewarm shower, so it really seals moisture into the skin.
Best body moisturizer for exfoliating mature skin Eucerin Roughness Relief Body Lotion
Eucerin Roughness Relief Body Lotion
This slightly cheaper Eucerin body lotion that King likes is formulated with glycerin, shea butter, and ceramides to “effectively deliver 48 hours of hydration.” It is also enriched with urea to gently chemically exfoliate. According to King, “It smooths and softens rough and bumpy skin,” especially in dry areas like the elbows, knees, and heels.
Best lip moisturizer for mature skin Vanicream Lip Protectant/Sunscreen SPF 30 Tube - 0.35 Ounce
Vanicream Lip Protectant/Sunscreen SPF 30 Tube - 0.35 Ounce
When moisturizing mature skin, it is important not to forget your lips, because “this delicate area is prone to dryness, thinning, sun damage, and precancerous growths,” explains Diakow. She told us she particularly loves Vanicream’s line for using on mature skin, because the products are formulated without parabens, lanolin, formaldehyde, dyes, or fragrances, making them ideal for “mature skin that tends to be easily irritated.” This Vanicream Lip Protectant not only “soothes and calms dry lips,” according to Diakow, but also provides water-resistant, broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, so it’s great to keep close by for multiple reapplications.