10 Best Face Moisturizers for Dry, Sensitive Skin
By Franki Hanke
Our roundup of face creams to hydrate every budget and skin type.
With sensitive skin, it can be hard to find your favorite moisturizer, but gentle, simple recipes will be your best fit. Everyone’s skin is different, so experiment with facial moisturizers to create your skincare routine.
Here are our recommendations of the best face moisturizer for sensitive skin (of every skin type)—even at the drugstore.
Your best face moisturizer for sensitive skin if you’re ultra-sensitive & dry
Free of alcohol, fragrance, and parabens, Clinique’s Hydrating Jelly is as low-risk as they come. This simple formula is jam-packed with skin-soothing ingredients like cucumber. Caffeine stimulates circulation for a skin wake-up call, too.
Need an alcohol-free option that’s easy on the budget? Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Lotion is a long-standing go-to. It combines an antioxidant form of Vitamin E and soothing Vitamin B5. The simple formula has a medium thickness and a creamy texture. It absorbs easily into the skin over time.
The one drawback for certain allergies is the fragrance Farnesol. While it’s a light, pleasant scent, some people are allergic and experience irritation.
Your best face moisturizer for sensitive skin if you have combination (dry & oily) skin…
With a water-gel texture, Dermalogica’s Calm Water Gel has a weightless application. The formulation includes hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and cactus pear extract for light, quick-absorbing moisture. The gel texture leaves even oily skin refreshed and even—not oily.
Why Hyaluronic Acid?
As we age, the decrease in hyaluronic acid can cause the skin to be itchy or irritated, according to Dr. Noelani Gonzalez*. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful ingredient because it can hold over 1,000 times its weight in water.
*As reported by Dominique Pariso for New York Magazine
Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Gel-Cream is a great bet for sensitive, acne-prone skin. The simple formula of powerhouse ingredients makes for uncomplicated hydration. “This product contains hyaluronic acid, which has an incredible ability to retain water and moisturize the skin,” says Dr. Kassardjian.
“It is gentle, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, and goes on smoothly. It also absorbs quickly to lock in moisture.” Even at an affordable price, it’s a non-irritating option for hydrating dry skin*.
*As reported by Emily Shiffer for Prevention.
Your best face moisturizer for sensitive skin if you have extra dehydrated skin…
A multifunctional favorite, Clinique’s Moisture Surge Hydrator is deeply moisturizing. The best part? The formula smooths fine lines and brightens skin tone. It combines several antioxidants alongside peptide proteins (which are fatty acids) and skin-soothers for a luxurious, rich texture.
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The larger price tag is worth it for the suite of nourishing ingredients that can hydrate and de-emphasize fine lines and liven dull skin tone.
With a stamp of approval from the National Eczema Association, CeraVe isn’t merely a budget alternative, but a rockstar of its own right. This rich cream combines three ceramides with hyaluronic acid for a simple, but deep hydration at every application.
Want a daily moisturizer with sunscreen? Use CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream as a night cream with super moisturizing lipids. The fatty acids will refresh the natural skin barrier overnight.
Your best face moisturizer for sensitive skin if you choose cruelty-free products…
While it’s hypo-allergenic, Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Moisturizer breaks the rules on fragrance. However, the scent is light and reminds me of visiting Honolulu. For skin that isn’t bothered by natural perfumes, this lightweight moisturizer combines fruit extracts and aloe for a certifiable skin smoothie. The extra addition of Green Tea’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatories makes for a soothing morning moisturizer to calm puffiness.
Boasting a cocktail of skin-soothing ingredients, First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream is a cruelty-free option with serious hydration. Colloidal Oatmeal, Glycerin, and Squalane combine for rich, deep hydration. Colloidal Oatmeal moisturizes extremely dry skin, including eczema and rosacea’s dryness.
Your best face moisturizer for sensitive skin if you choose clean products…
With the moisturizing humectant glycerin, Drunk Elephant’s Polypeptide Moisturizer has a rich texture. By using glycerin, this product packs a moisturizing punch alongside amino acids and peptides. While the product comes with a hefty price tag, the performance has earned it several awards: Bazaar’s Anti-Aging Award, Byrdie’s Skincare Award, and Influenster’s Reviewers’ Choice Winner.
While it isn’t fragrance-free, Shea Moisture’s Daily Hydration Face Lotion is otherwise free of many common irritants for sensitive skin. The product combats dryness with Shea Butter, Aloe Vera, and Coconut. It has a lightweight, but creamy texture. While the scent might be a no-go for the most sensitive skin, the smell is light and coconut-y like a little sniff of vacation.
When you try a new product, give it eight to twelve weeks of consistent use to see results. If you’re changing more of your skincare products, change products one at a time to better pinpoint irritation’s culprit. For example, if you just changed your cleanser, use it for a trial period before introducing a new moisturizer.
For day-time use, always pair a moisturizer with sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. If you’re using retinol, be extra serious with your sunscreen. Alongside your new favorite moisturizer, support your skin with enough sleep and water. After all, you deserve healthy, hydrated skin. For night-time use, add a moisturizer into the rest of your routine. If you don’t have one yet, read how to make your best nighttime skin routine.
If your skin is incredibly sensitive or for personal recommendations, consult a dermatologist.
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