The 9 Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream has hyaluronic acid and ceramides for deep hydration

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No matter your skin type, a moisturizer is key to maintaining a healthy moisture barrier. But when you have dry skin, your skin can look cracked and scaly and lose elasticity. The right moisturizer for dry skin will bring necessary hydration while also providing oils for your skin so it can retain that hydration.

Reviewed & Approved

For dry skin on either the face or body, we recommend the CeraVe Body and Face Moisturizer for Dry Skin since it infuses your skin with ceramides and can be used literally anywhere. For dry skin on your face alone, we like the oil-free but still-moisturizing quality of the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel.

“Broadly speaking, moisturizers are divided into three main categories: humectants, emollients, and occlusives,” says Cybele Fishman, MD, of Advanced Dermatology PC. Humectants draw water into the skin, occlusives feature oil to create a barrier that reduces water loss and helps retain moisture, while emollients are formulas that feature water and oil so the product can do the work of humectants and occlusives. According to Dr. Fishman, “an ideal moisturizer for dry skin would have at least one of each, since they do different things.”

Since moisturizers can take different forms—serums, lightweight gel formulas, lotions, creams, ointments, and more—there are many options available to help address dry skin. We researched dozens of moisturizers designed to keep dry skin hydrated, evaluating them for humectants, occlusives, and emollients, and took into consideration price, texture, and more. 

Here are the best moisturizers for dry skin on the market today.

Best Overall

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

4.8
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Amazon

Pros
  • Can be used for face or body

  • Three different ceramides to strengthen skin

  • Thick cream texture that absorbs quickly

Cons
  • May be too thick to use on your face in warmer months

Who else recommends it? GQ, CNET, and Healthline all picked CeraVe Moisturizing Cream.

What do buyers say? 86% of 101,800+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream is our top pick for those with dry skin because it’s incredibly hydrating, comes in an easy to use tub, and is a fast-absorbing formula despite being a thicker cream. This multitasking moisturizer for dry skin comes in a slather-friendly tub and is loaded with hyaluronic acid along with three different types of ceramides—lipids that essentially function as the “glue” that holds our skin together, says Maryland-based dermatologist Amie G. Sessa, MD.

We like that this CeraVe moisturizer is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores (making it an option for your face and your body). Even though it’s thick, it doesn’t leave a greasy or sticky feeling behind. Another great feature for those with dry skin is that it keeps hydrating long after you apply it, providing continuous moisture for 24 hours. It’s a hardworking moisturizer that manages to be gentle enough for all dry skin types, including people with eczema and rosacea.

Price at time of publication: $19

Key Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Dosage: As needed

Best Budget

Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid

4.6
Cetaphil Face Moisturizer

Amazon

Pros
  • Lightweight and non-greasy texture

  • Good for sensitive skin

Cons
  • Not heavy enough for some users

This lightweight-but-effective moisturizer is formulated to keep skin hydrated for 24 hours, thanks to the powerhouse ingredient hyaluronic acid, a humectant that pulls moisture from the deepest layers of your skin to the surface. But it won’t irritate overly-sensitive dry skin, either, since it’s also fragrance-free, oil-free, and non-comedogenic. 

Since it’s a lotion, it has a higher water content and may not be quite thick enough for some. But for anyone needing just a smidge of extra moisture and a wallet-friendly price, Cetaphil’s Daily Hydrating Lotion for Face is a winner.

Price at time of publication: $15

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin | Dosage: Once or twice daily

Best for Face

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel

3.3
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Amazon

Pros
  • Cools and soothes on contact

  • Can be layered under other products

Cons
  • May not be thick or rich enough for some users

This gel moisturizer from Neutrogena is our top facial moisturizer because its lightweight texture absorbs quickly and the gel feels cooling. It goes on like velvet and hydrates your skin instantly with a massive dose of hyaluronic acid that lasts throughout the day.

The lightweight formula also gives it versatility. You could use it alone to draw moisture to the surface of your skin, and it can easily be layered underneath makeup (or even other moisturizers). And because it’s water-based (and not oil-based), it won’t clog your pores—reducing the chances you’ll be left with annoying breakouts.

Price at time of publication: $19

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin | Dosage: Once or twice daily

Best Full Body

Cetaphil Restoraderm Eczema Soothing Moisturizer

4.2
Cetaphil PRO Eczema Soothing Moisturizer

Amazon

Pros
  • Repairs and protects skin barrier

  • Good for people with eczema

Cons
  • May not be strong enough to soothe dermatitis

Dry skin on the body can be itchy and irritating, escalating quickly into rough, scaly patches. When this happens, you need a heavy-duty product that doesn’t feel heavy-duty (because no one wants to be slipping and sliding all over the house after moisturizing). 

Dr. Sessa notes that the Cetaphil Restoraderm Soothing Moisturizer is a good option for people suffering with dry skin on the body. It’s especially helpful for people treating eczema, but you don’t have to have eczema to benefit: the combination of ceramides and colloidal oatmeal in this moisturizer means it can provide relief for dry, itchy skin while also promoting stronger, more hydrated skin in the future. Basically, it’s a highly protective moisturizer that also feels good going on and offers fast, healing relief for irritated skin.

Price at time of publication: $38

Key Ingredients: Allantoin, shea butter, niacinamide | Dosage: As needed

Best with SPF

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer With SPF

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer With SPF

Walgreens

Pros
  • Broad spectrum sun protection

  • Long-lasting hydration

  • Formula includes ceramides

Cons
  • Small size for the price

If you’re struggling to layer sunscreen over your moisturizer in the morning, there’s good news: you can moisturize and protect your skin from the sun with the La Roche-Posay Double Repair UV Face Moisturizer with SPF 30. With a ceramide ingredient as well as niacinamide and glycerin, this is a powerful dry skin moisturizer that protects and strengthens the skin barrier, leaving skin soft and smooth. Its hydration effects work quickly and can last for 48 hours. We especially like that it provides a level of sun protection in the form of broad spectrum SPF.

Price at time of publication: $21

Key Ingredients: Ceramides, niacinamide, prebiotic thermal water | Dosage: Once daily

Best for Sensitive Skin

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer For Sensitive Skin

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer

Amazon

Pros
  • Moisturizes and calms redness

  • Water-based gel without alcohol

  • Can be used in the morning and at night

Cons
  • May not be heavy enough as a cream for some users

Sensitive skin is always tricky to care for, since some ingredients designed to solve one problem end up causing other problems. We think this Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Facial Moisturizer will quench your dry skin without irritating any sensitivities thanks to it’s gentle formula that features prebiotic oat and feverfew, which helps soothe and restore the skin barrier while reducing redness. For sensitive skin concerns, this hypoallergenic gel is free of fragrances, parabens, alcohol, dyes, and phthalates—and, of course, is non-comedogenic, too.

Price at time of publication: $20

Key Ingredients: Prebiotic oat, feverfew, glycerin | Dosage: Twice daily

Best Natural

Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream

Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Body Cream

Amazon

Pros
  • All plant-based ingredients

  • Can be used for face or body

Cons
  • Fragrance may be off putting and not ideal for sensitive skin types

  • May be too heavy for some

This ultra-rich cream by Weleda is another rare find for dry skin sufferers because it can be used on both the body and the face. It relies on plant-based oils and other botanical ingredients—like rosemary, chamomile, pansy, and calendula—to soften your skin and seal in moisture. 

You won’t find any parabens, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances in this cream, either. What you will find is a totally versatile product that can be used literally anywhere: on your arms and legs, on those stubborn rough elbow patches, on your overwashed and cracking hands, and on your face as a makeup primer.

Price at time of publication: $18

Key Ingredients: Sunflower oil, almond oil, calendula, chamomile | Dosage: Small amount for face; liberal amount for body

Best with Retinol

Paula's Choice Resist Intensive Repair Cream

Paula's Choice Resist Intensive Repair Cream

Amazon

Pros
  • Rich texture for extra-dry skin

  • Small amount of retinol for new users

  • Fights signs of aging

Cons
  • Should only be used at night

  • May make your skin more photosensitive due to presence of retinol

The Resist Intensive Repair Cream by Paula’s Choice is a jack-of-all-trades kind of product; not only does it moisturize dry skin, it strengthens the skin barrier and makes your complexion look firmer and more radiant. Nourishing botanical extracts, jojoba oil, and niacinamide combine with anti-aging retinol to give you a three-pronged approach to healthier, more hydrated skin.

Before you stress about using a retinol on your dry, sensitive skin, know this: there’s only a small amount of retinol here, and that’s a perfect place to start if you’ve never used it before, says Dr. Fishman. She recommends a “low and slow” approach to incorporating retinol into your dry skin care routine, advising that you start with a lower concentration of retinol in an oil- or heavy cream-base to avoid irritation. If you’re new to retinol, it’s best to incorporate this into your routine once or twice a week at first, before using more frequently.

Price at time of publication: $37

Key Ingredients: Ceramide NS, jojoba oil, retinol | Dosage: A dime-sized amount once nightly

Best Tinted

bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30

4.9
bare minerals complexion rescue

Nordstrom

Pros
  • Water-based gel won’t clog pores

  • 20 shades to choose from

  • Includes nourishing squalane

Cons
  • Leaves a dewy, not matte finish

  • May feel too heavy or thick for some users

Dry skin can cause redness and irritation, so while you work on rehydrating your skin and improving your skin barrier, it makes sense that you might also want to cover up any discoloration. The good news is that you don’t need to use a full coverage foundation to do that—this tinted gel by Bare Minerals provides just enough complexion correction to mask uneven skin tone, but it doesn’t skimp on the hydration in the process.

Formulated with moisturizing ingredients like squalane and hyaluronic acid, this water-based gel delivers a mega-boost of hydration to dry skin but doesn’t clog pores, either, making it good for many combinations of skin types. It’s available in 20 different shades to match multiple skin tones, blends easily and cools on contact, and even includes SPF 30 mineral-based sun protection.

Price at time of publication: $30

Key Ingredients: Titanium dioxide 6.2%, hyaluronic acid, squalane | Dosage: A pearl-sized amount as needed

Final Verdict

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is hydrating enough to combat dry skin on all your pesky rough patches (on your face and body)but is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog the pores on your face and cause breakouts. It’s also packed with ceramides, which Dr. Sessa says help hold our skin together. If you’re looking for a moisturizer that can hydrate your skin and shield you from the sun, we recommend the La Roche-Posay Double Repair UV Face Moisturizer with SPF 30.

How We Selected the Moisturizers for Dry Skin

To find the best moisturizers for dry skin, we asked two dermatologists to tell us what to look for and avoid when choosing a product that offers deep, lasting hydration. They suggested choosing moisturizers made with a combination of humectant and occlusive ingredients to draw more water to the skin and then lock it in, creating a continuous barrier. They also stressed the importance of finding products that contain emollients like ceramides and shea butter, too, since these function like the “glue” that holds your skin together and keeps it strong.

We scoured the internet for moisturizers formulated to hydrate your face and body, noting when a product could do double-duty (and when it was meant only for the face or body). We also looked for facial moisturizers with extra benefits, like SPF protection and tinted hydration for layering under makeup.

What to Look for in Moisturizers for Dry Skin

Ingredients

We mentioned earlier that you’re looking for most, if not all, of three types of ingredients when choosing a moisturizer for dry skin: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. 

  • Humectants draw water to the epidermis, both from the atmosphere but also from the dermis into the epidermis; hyaluronic acid and glycerin are humectants. Humectants will often be found in lightweight lotions or serums.
  • Emollients feature both water and oil and are the mortar, or building blocks, between the skin cells, which keep the skin supple, smooth and elastic; jojoba oil and shea butter are emollients. Emollients can come in the form of lotions, creams, or ointments. Lotions have the highest water content, making them fast-absorbing, creams have a balance of the two in order to remain non-greasy, and emollients have a higher oil content and are best for severe dryness.  
  • Occlusives create a barrier between your skin and the environment, blocking trans-epidermal water loss; petrolatum, squalene, and cetyl alcohol are occlusives. Occlusives are the heaviest (and greasiest) moisturizers—think petroleum jelly. 

In general, people with dry skin should look for moisturizers that contain all three types of ingredients, but two of them definitely should show up together: humectants and occlusives. Per Dr. Fishman, for any humectant ingredient to be effective, it has to be paired with an occlusive ingredient or else the water drawn from the skin via the humectant will simply evaporate (rather than be “trapped” in the occlusive barrier). Emollients will often do the work of humectants and occlusives, making them a great choice for people with dry skin. 

Consistency

Dry skin moisturizers come in all different textures and formulas: lotions, creams, gels, and ointments. How do you know which one you need? It depends on the part of the body you want to hydrate, says Dr. Fishman, as well as the severity of your dry skin.

“Ointments tend to be the most moisturizing, but some are comedogenic and some just don’t feel nice to use,” she explains. “Lotions usually are water based and not as good for dry skin, and gels…often have astringent properties.”

In other words, a cream or balm is often your best bet, but there are exceptions. If you’re looking for a moisturizer for your body and don’t mind a greasier feel, an ointment will give you the most hydration. People with acne-prone skin may want to skip anything involving an oil base, but if you opt for a gel, make sure it’s not too harsh. 

Area of Body

If you’re wondering why you need a separate moisturizer for your face versus your body, it all comes down to your pores. 

“The main difference [between face and body moisturizers] is that facial moisturizers are typically non-comedogenic, which means they don't cause comedones—a.k.a clogged pores, a.k.a. acne,” says Dr. Sessa. “So while it's generally okay to use a facial moisturizer on the body, the reverse is not necessarily true.”

This does depend on your unique skin, adds Dr. Sessa, but in general, you should opt for a gentler, non-comedogenic moisturizer for your face and then something extra rich and hydrating for your body. Some products can do double-duty—like the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream we chose as our best overall—but that’s more uncommon than you would think.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should I use a moisturizer for dry skin?

    At least once a day, says Dr. Sessa, though you may want to opt for twice: once in the morning and once again at night. And if you’re showering, moisturizing should happen immediately after: “Pat the skin dry—don’t rub—and apply a thick moisturizer all over while skin is still damp,” she recommends.

  • Will a water-based moisturizer help prevent acne breakouts?

    It can definitely help. While people with dry skin often reach for oil-based moisturizers to keep from getting too parched, this can be a problem if your dry skin is also prone to clogged pores and acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, choosing an oil-free moisturizer labeled non-comedogenic means the product isn’t likely to clog pores. 

    It still needs to be super hydrating though, and that’s where a water-based moisturizer—like the Neutrogena HydroBoost Water Gel, for example—can be helpful. With a water-based moisturizer, you’ll be luxuriating in deep hydration but not adding any excess oil on top of your already acne-prone skin.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. 10 of the Best Moisturizers for Oily Skin. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/best-moisturizer-for-oily-skin

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  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Moisturizer: Why you may need it if you have acne.