On the hunt for the best moisturizers for dry skin? You've come to the right place. There can be all sorts of reasons behind dry skin - a drop in temperature, an imbalance in your skin’s PH, or simply genetics. But when you’re suffering with it, it can be patchy and tight at best, flakey and sore at worst. Luckily, there are moisturizers that specifically target this.
If you have dry skin, it’s important that you find the right moisturizer to give it the much-needed hydration it craves. While dry skin is undeniably frustrating, high demand for the best moisturizers for dry skin means brands are continually investing in new research and development, striving for that perfect formula. Thankfully, hydrating moisturizers are available in abundance - so how do pick the right one for your skin type?
How to pick the best moisturizer if you have dry skin
Whether you’re looking for a moisturizer for dry skin that’s packed with natural ingredients, offers anti-ageing wizardry or is super gentle on sensitive skin, we’ve found the very best moisturizers for dry skin on the high street. We’ve slathered on countless creams in order to select the non-greasy, skin-nourishing formulas that allow your skin to drink up the good stuff, leaving your complexion hydrated and dewy.
Which moisturizer ingredients should I look out if I have dry skin?
Some super nourishing ingredients to look out for are as follows (this is not a definitive list, but a cumulation of advice from our skin care experts):
Margo Marroe, founder of the Organic Skincare Company, and homeopathic skin care expert, advises a natural approach to treating dry skin. “Ingredients like plant oils, natural actives and ingredients such as rose hip, beeswax, shea butter are really important to create a barrier on the skin to help prevent water loss and to provide a layer of protection and hydration,” she says.
So how about no-go ingredients for dry skin? “Mineral oil and petroleum are a no no,” Margo warns. “In my extensive research I have found that the skin becomes addicted to these ingredients and if you stop the skin goes through a withdrawal period which induces flaking and peeling. This period lasts for 28-35 days until the skin is able to recover and turn over new cells.” That explains the Vaseline backlash, then…
Does the formula of moisturizer for dry skin always need to be heavier?
While the temptation may be to slather on the best part of a tub of E45 on before bed, the truth is a lighter moisturizer can be just as mighty, given the right ingredients. A layer of moisturizer too thick may even be detrimental to your skin. “Choose a good-quality, light moisturizer that soaks in readily, rather than just sitting on the surface of the skin,” advises Dr Ross Perry, cosmetic doctor and managing director of Cosmedics Skin Clinics.
Skincare guru of our times and author of the best selling Skin Care, Caroline Hirons, agrees. “Think of the top layers of skin as a sponge that is emerging halfway out of a bowl of water,” she explains. “The top part of the skin is drying and exposed. A common mistake when treating dry, dehydrated or parched skin is to apply a thick layer of moisturizer. This is akin to applying a thick layer of cold butter to cold toast. It won’t penetrate.” Instead, Caroline advises to apply a small amount of moisturizer, then wait a while before applying any more, repeating the process until the skin feels fully hydrated.
The general skincare rule of thumb still stands; heavier creams are reserved for our nighttime routines, while lighter moisturizers should be applied in the morning. For practical reasons, a less heavy and greasy base is easier to layer SPF and makeup on top of, as opposed to at night when our naked faces can drink up all that nourishing moisture while we sleep. Both morning and evening, after applying your chosen moisturizer, Caroline advises, “spritz, spritz and spritz again,” to lock in the hydration.
How much moisturizer should I use?
When it comes to skincare application, the experts favour a fruit analogy. And in the case of moisturizer, we’re talking almonds. Aim for two almond-sized blobs, or three if you have a bigger face, and dot across the skin, distributing the moisturizer evenly. If the skin still feels dry and tight, apply another layer after a short wait.
Are effective moisturizers for dry skin more expensive?
In a word, no. There’s nothing wrong with splashing out on a luxurious, divine-smelling face cream that prompts feelings of euphoric every time it’s applied. In fact, that sounds like an extremely valid act of self-care. But on the flip side, high street brands with reasonably priced offerings will also provide your skin with all the nourishment it needs. Dr Ross Perry agrees, telling us: “Expensive options may not be that different when it comes to ingredients - they just have more marketing behind them and play to people’s perceptions of ‘hope in a jar’.”
Instead, look for quality ingredients from brands you can trust. Our guide to the best moisturizers for dry skin is here to help you select the best option for you, which will hydrate and soothe your skin and won’t cost the earth. We’ve tested countless moisturizers in order to select the very best, hydrating formulas, for every dry skin concern.
The best moisturizer for dry skin for most people
Very dry skin will drink up this iconic hydrator, which contains three essential components for skin hydration; ceramides (natural oils found in the skin), fatty acids and phytosphingosine (a water binding agent). It’s perfect for those with sensitive skin, with no perfumes or colour added, making the cream super soothing.
It’s a slightly pricer alternative to a classic thick, no-nonsense moisturizer like E45 or Nivea, but at £16 it’s still great value for money. The formula can be used day and night, but we’d recommend this as nourishing night cream as its thickness didn’t sit as well under makeup as lighter textures.
The best moisturizer for mature skin
Caudalie is the French brand that’s achieved cult skincare status, with its appeal reaching far beyond it’s fantastic products (have you seen the La Sources De Caudalie French farmhouse spa? It’s on the wish list).
The brand’s firming Cashmere Creme feels as luxurious as it sounds, with a thick, velvety texture that glides onto the skin. The brand knows their stuff when it comes to skincare too. Together, Caudalie and Harvard Medical School made the discovery that by combining popular skincare ingredients resveratrol and hyaluronic acid, you achieve a formula that’s twice as effective as retinol for the natural production of collagen.
It’s good to know that there’s some clever technology behind the cream, but for me the main selling point is how luxurious it feels on the skin, with a gentle, uplifting fragrance that, if I close my eyes tight enough, transports me to fields full of wildflowers in the French countryside.
The best moisturizer for dry and sensitive skin
This hydrating lotion was originally formulated to soothe skin that has become weakened by harsh acne medication and drying skincare, but it’s fast become a firm favourite as a simple, fragrance-free moisturizer that does the job extremely effectively.
The formula is non-greasy and fast-absorbing, making it a great option for everyday use. Hero ingredients include MP-lipids, which help build up the skin’s natural barrier, and ceramide 5, which reinforces the skin’s hydrolipidic film, if we’re going to get technical about it. In short, it’s a soothing moisturizer that you can rely on, at an affordable price point.
The best natural moisturizer for dry skin
Firstly, this moisturizer smells divine. If you’re not a rose fan - it is quite a distinctive scent - you may want to skip right past this one. But if floral fragrances float your boat, this delicately-scented cream, reminiscent of soft and pillowy rose petals, will make your morning skincare routine all the more delicious.
Rose geranium, aloe and squalene - a natural emollient that locks in moisture to help prevent fine lines and ease dry patches - work together harmoniously to soothe and soften dry skin. The result is full hydration, which lasted from my early morning pre-gym skincare routine to when I came to take my makeup off at night. This is a really soothing cream, so if your skin is feeling sensitive, patchy or irritated, we’d recommend trialling it. Expect a heavier texture, so if you’ve an oily skin type, you may want to limit use to every other day.
The best fast absorption moisturizer for dry skin
Clinique Moisture Surge is classed by the brand as a “hydrator”, which means it can work on its own, or on top of your usual moisturizer. The refreshing and cooling gel is formulated with hyaluronic acid to deliver a moisture hit of up to 152%, according to the brand.
Hero ingredients include activated aloe vera and caffeine, which double team together to activate the skin’s own ‘“internal water source”. This essentially means that the ingredients help to draw water from the deeper within the skin to hydrate the top of the epidermis.
The brand promises hydration for 72 hours after application. And, while I’ve not actually gone that long without washing my face and topping up on products, I can confirm that the dewy post-facial glow my skin enjoyed after application didn’t fade. If your skin is really dry, we’d recommend using this as a post-moisturizer final step for extra hydration in the winter months.
The best moisturizer for dry skin that's also anti-ageing
This sumptuous cream is a cumulation of Estée Lauder’s years of experience in creating moisturizers that really work. The Revitalizing Supreme + Global Anti-Aging Cell Power Creme, as well as being a bit of a mouthful, is an expensive-smelling, velvety soft formula that could awaken even the most sallow of complexions. The scent is a joy, with top notes of citrus and a base of vetiver, sandalwood and powdery vanilla.
Formulated with anti-ageing in mind, the tech behind this formula is pretty expansive. The cream features the brand's exclusive IntuiGen Technology, which is derived from black bamboo extract and supports cell-turnover. The cream has also been engineered with technology that helps support cells in order to carry out their restorative functions; essential for maintaining healthy skin.
The best oil-free moisturizer for dry skin
Lightweight and refreshing, this zingy daily gel moisturizer is a great wake up call for tired skin. Non comedogenic and oil-free, we’d recommend this option for oily or combination skin types who also want to combat dry skin, especially during the winter months. It offers a lot of hydration (72 hours’ worth, as goes the brand’s claim) without blocking pores, or aggravating problem skin (I suffer with rosacea so oil-based products are a no-go).
The cooling texture is a tonic for early mornings and it’s worth noting the product's citrusy scent - a blend of orange peel, grapefruit and spearmint oil. Application is a joy, thanks to the lightweight texture that glides onto skin easily and is absorbed quickly. We’d peg this one as the ideal post-workout option.
The formula of this bestselling moisturizer has been recently reconsidered, with the introduction of “Hydra-Hug” hydration technology, a term coined by Origins. Hydra-hug technology works at a cellular level, bridging (or “hugging”) cells together. While don’t have the use of a microscope to confirm or deny this claim, the overall impression is that this hydrating gel certainly quenches thirsty skin, creating a glow that lasts.
The best moisturizer for dry skin with extra antioxidants
The USP of this cream is that it promises to deliver moisture 10 layers of skin deep and is packed with antioxidants. Hero ingredients include our old friend hyaluronic acid, which is combined with echinacea, centella asiatica and aloe vera.
The technical bit - it’s an ultra-nourishing moisturizer that restores lipid balance to dry skin for optimal barrier performance. This moisturizer feels practical and functional, which is no bad thing, but if you’re looking for a fragranced, luxurious cream to slather on morning and night, you may be better looking at one of the other options in this guide.