Best moisturizers for dry skin: the tried and tested most hydrating and soothing face creams to shop

The best moisturizers for dry skin promise hydration making dry, flakey or patchy skin a thing of the past

A young woman with curly hair is pictured, she had bright glowing skin and is smiling and seemingly carefree
(Image credit: Getty Images / Sergey Mironov)

The quest for the best moisturizers for dry skin can be a rather perilous one, with so many options out there billed as the best thing since sliced bread, it's hard to know where to start. But fear not, we've set our Beauty Editor's on a mission to try and test several to find the very best on the market. 

When it comes to dry skin, there can be all sorts of reasons behind it from a drop in temperature, an imbalance in your skin's pH, or simply genetics. And we get it, it's really not great if you're suffering with it, it can be patchy and tight at best, flakey and sore at worse. But luckily, there's no need to suffer in silence—the very best moisturizers contain formulas that specifically target all of the above. 

If you have dry skin, it’s important that you know how to choose moisturizer for your skin 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. But, how do you pick the right one for your skin type—for the answer to this and more, scroll down after the products.

Our guide to the best moisturizers for dry skin is here to help you select the moisturizer that is right 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, and nourishing formulas, for every dry skin concern. On our quest we found all the below to be worthy of a spot in our list, but honorable mention goes to the Origins GINZING Energy Boosting Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer and CeraVe moisturizing cream. 

The best moisturizers for dry skin

Weleda Skin Food is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Weleda)

Best for very dry skin, this much loves cult favorite delivers intense hydration

Reasons to buy
+100% natural and 80% organic formula+A real multitasker this can be used all over the body+Great for sensitive skin as there aren't harsh chemicals+The brand has excellent eco-credentials
Reasons to avoid
-Too occlusive for oily, acne-prone skin

There is a reason that Weleda Skin Food has gained cult status around the world and can be found in the kit of almost every make-up artist. This hard-working, multitasking product is great for those with sensitive skin as it doesn't contain any harsh chemicals. This is also a great option for those looking for a planet-friendly offering—the brand has very impressive eco-credentials. 

When it comes to formulas, it's worth noting that this cream is RICH but it miraculously soaks into the skin, so there is no tacky feeling here. Used backstage at several shows each season, this delivers instant hydration leaving dewy skin in its wake. 

Read the full Weleda Skin Food review to find out if this all-natural multitasker really hydrates

CeraVe is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: CeraVe)

2. CeraVe Moisturising Cream

The best moisturizer for very dry skin

Reasons to buy
+No-nonsense, reliable formula +Good for sensitive skin+Good value for money 
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy texture 

There is a reason why people are adding Cerave to their skincare routines. This icon hydrating drug store product, 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 color 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 around $20 / £16 it’s still great value for money. The formula can be used day and night, but we’d recommend this as a nourishing night cream as its thickness doesn't lend itself for use under makeup as much as lighter textures do. 

Caudalie is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Caudalie)

3. Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Firming Cashmere Creme

Best for mature skin

Reasons to buy
+New, anti-ageing formula +Luxurious texture +Uplifting scent
Reasons to avoid
-Higher price point-Thicker consistency

Caudalie is the French brand that’s achieved cult skincare status, with its appeal reaching far beyond its 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 (one can dream!).

La Roche Posay is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: La Roche Posay)

4. La Roche-Posay Effaclar H Moisturizer

The best moisturizer for dry, sensitive skin

Reasons to buy
+Extremely gentle and non-aggravating+Fragrance-free+Affordable 
Reasons to avoid
-Less luxury, more functional 

La Roche-Posay is the go-to for products that are simple but efficacious too. 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 favorite 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 Organic Pharmacy is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: The Organic Pharmacy)

5. The Organic Pharmacy Double Rose Ultra Face Cream

The best natural moisturizer for dry skin

Reasons to buy
+Sweet-smelling+Natural ingredients+Long-lasting hydration
Reasons to avoid
-Strong scent-Heavy texture

The first thing you'll notice with this moisturizer is the rather divine scent. However, if you're not a rose fan, then you'll want to skip past this one—it's quite a distinctive scent. 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 trialing it. Expect a heavier texture, so if you have an oily skin type, you may want to limit use to every other day. 

Clinique is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Clinique)

The best moisturizer for fast absorption

Reasons to buy
+Fast-absorbing+Lightweight texture +Creates a dewy complexion
Reasons to avoid
-Depending on your skin, it may need to be teamed with another moisturizer-Not as heavy-duty as other formulas

Get ready to soak up all the hydrating qualities of this miracle cream. 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—which, according to the brand—delivers a moisture hit of up to 152%.

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.

Read the full Clinique Moisture Surge review to see if this moisturizer delivers on its 72 hours of hydration promise

Estée Lauder is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Estée Lauder)

7. Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme + Global Anti-Aging Cell Power Creme

The best moisturizer for dry skin that’s also anti-aging

Reasons to buy
+High-tech formula+Luxurious texture +Fast results+Anti-aging properties
Reasons to avoid

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-aging 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.

Origins GINZING moisturiser is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Origins)

8. Origins GinZing Energy Boosting Gel Moisturiser

The best moisturizer for dry skin without oil

Reasons to buy
+Uplifting scent+Perks up tired skin+Lasting hydration 
Reasons to avoid
-Lighter formula

Lightweight and refreshing, this zingy daily gel moisturizer is a great wake-up call for tired skin. 

If you already use one of the best non-comedogenic foundations, then this might be good for you as it is non-comedogenic too. 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 from 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. 

Read the full ORIGINS GINZING Energy Boosting Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer review 

Dermalogica is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Dermalogica)

9. Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance

The best moisturizer for dry skin with antioxidants

Reasons to buy
+Deep hydration +Balancing
Reasons to avoid
-More clinical, less luxury -Higher price point

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 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.  

Avéne Hydrance Hydrating Cream is one of the best moisturizers for dry skin

(Image credit: Avéne)

10. Avene Hydrance Hydrating Cream

The best for intense hydration—also very affordable too

Reasons to buy
+Deep hydration +French pharmacy chic
Reasons to avoid
- Can be too greasy for some

Formulated with shea butter, Avène Thermal Spring Water, and Cohederm™—the brand's patented active—the skin was left feeling intensely hydrated with some seriously long-lasting results. It's suitable for those with sensitive skin too. 

it could be slightly too rich for those that prefer a lighter cream, but it does soak into the skin effortlessly. We were into the slightly dewy look it left us with. Best used twice daily to soak up all the benefits. 

How to pick the best moisturizer if you have dry skin

Whether you’re after a moisturizer for dry skin that’s packed with natural ingredients, offers anti-aging benefits, or is super gentle on sensitive skin, we’ve found the very best moisturizers for dry skin available. We’ve slathered on countless creams in order to select the very best 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 for—or avoid—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 skincare experts):

Margo Marroe, founder of the Organic Skincare Company, and homeopathic skincare expert advises a natural approach to treating dry skin. “Ingredients like plant oils, natural actives, and ingredients such as rosehip, 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. 

What about ingredients that those with dry skin should avoid?

“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… 

Woman applying moisturizer on a blue background

(Image credit: Getty Images / Delmaine Donson)

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 before bed, the truth is a lighter moisturizer can be just as mighty—but it all depends on 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 applying 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 applications, namely how to apply moisturizer, the experts favor 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 the best moisturizers for dry skin (aka effective) 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, drug store 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. 

Lauren Hughes

Lauren is deputy editor at woman& and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. 

As well as keeping up with the latest news and most-talked-about TV shows, Lauren loves helping people share their stories, bringing experiences and adventures to life online. A big fan of adventure herself, she also loves sharing tips on where to find the best places to eat, drink, and be merry off the beaten track. Lauren has written a series of travel guides for London hotels and loves sharing her insights into a destination's cultural and culinary offerings. At the weekend, you'll usually find her hanging out with her pet cat (or anyone else's pet she can get her hands on), escaping to the countryside, or devouring a good book. You can mainly find pictures of her cat (and a few humans for good measure) on Instagram at @laurenkatehughes.