The best face moisturizer
For healthy, smooth skin, proper hydration is a must. The elements, harsh skincare products, and even pollution can strip your skin of natural moisture, which is why it's so important to use a good face moisturizer and restore your skin's moisture levels.
With so many moisturizers to choose from, it's not always easy to know what to look for. If you're not sure how to select the best moisturizer for your skin type, our buying guide has all the information you need to find the best formula. Our top pick is from the luxury skin care brand La Mer and doesn't irritate the skin, so even people with rosacea and eczema can use it.
Considerations when choosing face moisturizers
Dry skin is more dehydrated than other skin types, so it can be dull, flaky, and ashy. It's more likely to develop fine lines and often has a tight, itchy feel. If you have dry skin, you need a more intense face moisturizer, so choose a thick, rich formula.
Normal skin isn't too dry or too oily, so it has a healthy, balanced look and feel. That doesn't mean you can skip a moisturizer, though. Choose a light moisturizer that can help your skin maintain its moisture levels.
Oily skin usually has a shiny look because of excess oils on its surface. It's prone to clogged pores and breakouts, but still benefits from the right moisturizer. Opt for a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer to keep your skin balanced.
Sensitive skin reacts easily to skincare ingredients, so it's prone to redness, itchiness, and flakiness if a product irritates it. It responds best to a soothing, fragrance-free moisturizer with gentle ingredients.
Face moisturizers are available in different formulas which affect the consistency, amount of hydration provided, and how quickly they're absorbed into the skin. Your skin type usually determines what face moisturizer formula is best for you.
Serum face moisturizers are a lightweight moisturizing option that absorbs quickly into the skin. They can be oil-, water-, or silicone-based, so they work for normal, oily, or combination skin that requires light hydration.
Gel face moisturizers are another lightweight moisturizing option as they're always water-based and quickly absorbed by the skin, making them a great choice for oily or combination skin.
Lotion face moisturizers are slightly thicker than serum or gel options and offer light to medium hydration. They're quickly absorbed by the skin and don't leave it feeling greasy, so they work well for oily, combination, or normal skin.
Cream face moisturizers are the thickest of all face moisturizer options and provide the most hydration. They usually take some time to sink into the skin and can sometimes have a slightly greasy feel. They work best for dry skin.
Based on your skin type, these are some key ingredients to look for:
Dry skin: Shea butter, glycerin, ceramides, lanolin, coconut oil, lactic acid, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, and dimethicone
Normal skin: Hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, rosehip oil, sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil, and almond oil
Oily skin: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and aloe vera
Sensitive skin: Vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and aloe vera
Some thinner formulas come in bottles with a medicine dropper top, which works well for dispensing a precise amount. However, they can expose the moisturizer to the air and cause some of the ingredients to break down.
Some formulas come in a squeeze tube so the product is protected from air and light exposure. Squeeze packaging doesn't always allow you to dispense just the right amount of product, so you may wind up wasting moisturizer.
Other face moisturizers are available in bottles with a pump dispenser, which don't expose the moisturizer to air or light and allow you to dispense a precise amount.
Thick cream moisturizers often come in jars or pots, so you have to reach your fingers in to get the product out. Not only is the moisturizer exposed to light and air, but the application may be messy.
Many face moisturizers are scented. However, artificial fragrance can cause irritation, which is why you should choose a fragrance-free formula if you have sensitive skin or prefer unscented products.
Face moisturizer prices
Face moisturizers range from $8 to $175. Formulas that cost less than $10 probably don't contain any specialty ingredients but can effectively hydrate the skin. Those between $10 and $30 feature higher-quality ingredients and are less likely to irritate the skin. Face moisturizers that cost between $30 and $55 typically feature high-end and specialty ingredients, while those that range between $55 and $175 contain luxury-quality ingredients.
Q. What step should face moisturizer be in my skincare routine?
A. You should apply your face moisturizer after you've cleansed your face. If you're using a serum, apply it first since it usually has a thinner consistency. Follow up with your moisturizer and then top it with a sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage.
Q. Do I need a different face moisturizer for day and night?
A. It really depends on the formula and your skin type. A face moisturizer that contains an SPF is best for use during the day, but a nighttime formula doesn't need any SPF. If your skin is dry, you may benefit from a richer moisturizer for the evening -- it can deeply hydrate your skin, but you don't have to worry about the thicker consistency affecting your makeup.
Face moisturizers we recommend
Best of the best: La Mer Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Creme
Our take: A well-known celebrity favorite, this is one of the most luxurious moisturizers on the market for those with normal skin.
What we like: Contains seaweed to help hydrate and soothe the skin. Features patented Miracle Broth that serves as an anti-inflammatory. Suitable for those with skin issues like eczema or rosacea. Gives the skin a healthy-looking glow.
What we dislike: One of the priciest moisturizers on the market. Container doesn't provide much product.
Best bang for your buck: Estee Lauder Resilience Lift Firming/Sculpting Face and Neck Cream
Our take: Face moisturizer for anyone looking to firm and lift the skin with results that are apparent in a matter of days.
What we like: Contains Photo-Activated Lift Complex to help plump, soften, and smooth the skin. Stimulates collagen and elastin production to lift skin. Contains SPF 15 to guard against sun damage.
What we dislike: Isn't as effective for softening lines on the neck.
Our take: A luxury moisturizer that delivers potent ingredients without breaking the bank.
What we like: An intensely moisturizing cream that still feels lightweight. Some users see instant improvement in texture and softness. Contains powerful anti-aging ingredients like retinol, green tea, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E. Uses only natural and organic ingredients.
What we dislike: A pricier option than many drugstore moisturizers.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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