The 12 Best Face Moisturizers of 2021

Get glowing with these top hydrating products

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Our Top Picks
Recommended as the final step of your skincare routine, this moisture-binding formula is powered by vitamin B3 and antioxidants.
Designed specifically for men’s skin, this non-oily moisturizer helps revitalize dull skin and visibly improve the skin’s texture.
Affordable without skimping on quality, this cream quickly absorbs into the skin without any sort of greasy feel.
Catering perfectly to oily skin, this lightweight moisturizer uses prebiotics and natural extracts to both hydrate and soothe.
This cloud cream lives up to its name with its fluffy and light formula, delivering essential hydration to dry skin.
This pricey moisturizer provides the perfect blend of ceramides and fatty acids to help restore your skin's moisture barrier.
Packed with hyaluronic acid, a friend of dark skin tones, this formula provides all-day moisture relief.
This protein moisturizer combines signal peptides and pygmy waterlily to help improve aging skin’s tone and firmness.
Those looking for a natural option will appreciate the superfood blend of kale, spinach, and green tea in this moisturizer.
A two-in-one moisturizer that provides both hydration and protection from UV rays and is free of parabens and fragrance.

No matter your skin type, it’s incredibly important to moisturize your face daily. Think about it: Your face is constantly subjected to the elements—temperature changes, blustery winds, environmental pollutants, indoor heating—all of which leave it vulnerable to bacteria and harmful pathogens that contribute to rapid aging, breakouts, and more. Without proper hydration, your skin’s barrier is easily compromised, keeping you from both looking and feeling your best.

With that said, it’s also important to moisturize your face with the right kinds of ingredients. For instance, lotions designed primarily for your body are more likely to clog pores on your face and lead to breakouts, and different skin types react better to face moisturizers of different weights and formulations.

Here are the best face moisturizers for every skin type, skincare focus, and budget.

Best Overall for Women: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream

“The red jar” is a fan favorite for a multitude of reasons. The moisture-binding formula is powered by vitamin B3, amino-peptides, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants, deeply penetrating the skin with an instant boost of hydration. Vitamin B3 specifically assists with surface skin cell turnover and regeneration, as well as exfoliates dead, dull skin away to reveal a fresh glow.

The moisturizer has a luxurious feel and is recommended as the final step in your skincare routine. It helps soften the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and it firms the skin, thanks to its hydrating ingredients.

Best Overall for Men: Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Moisturizer for Men

Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Moisturizer for Men

Guys who want to ensure that they’re giving their skin what it needs should consider this formula from Kiehl’s. Designed specifically for men’s skin, the non-oily moisturizer helps revitalize dull, fatigued skin, and visibly improve the skin’s texture with vitamin C, vitamin E, chestnut extract, soy protein, and caffeine.

The moisturizer absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn’t leave any greasy residue behind, making it an excellent pick for men on the move. It provides just the right amount of moisture and helps oily skin achieve a matte look all day long.

Expert Advice

"Prevention is key! The more pliable and moisturized the skin, the less likely it is to crack and itch. Just like how you layer thin, quality pieces of clothing to keep warm, the same should be done for skincare products. Start with the products that have the lightest consistency (oils) and finish with the thickest (creams)."— Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, a board-certified and nationally-acclaimed dermatologic surgeon

Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Holy Hydration! Face Cream

e.l.f. Holy Hydration

This face cream from e.l.f. helps brighten and balance your skin tone, lock in moisture, and promote a plump and glowing complexion. Nourishing yet lightweight, the cream absorbs quickly into the skin, leaving your face feeling soft and never sticky or greasy. It’s powered by hyaluronic acid, vitamin B3, squalane, peptides, and vitamin B5, and it’s suitable for all skin types.

Free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and fragrances, this face cream gives you everything you want and nothing you don’t in a hydrating face moisturizer. A quality product at an affordable price, it’s a serious bargain.

Best for Oily Skin: Dermalogica Active Moist

Dermalogica Active Moist

Yes, oily skin needs to be moisturized, too, and this formula from Dermalogica caters perfectly to this skin type. It’s a sheer, lightweight, and oil-free moisturizer that uses prebiotics and a unique blend of lemon, burdock, and cucumber extracts to hydrate and soothe your skin without weighing it down, while also improving its texture.

It applies smoothly, absorbs quickly, and actively balances your skin’s hydration needs, all while keeping pores clear and avoiding a greasy feel. The moisturizer is also free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and gluten.

Best for Dry Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer

water-drench-moisturizer

In need of a more intense boost of hydration? This cloud cream is powered by a 30 percent hyaluronic acid complex that literally draws atmospheric vapor to your skin and locks in moisture for up to 72 hours. Meanwhile, ceramides further assist in restoring the skin’s moisture barrier, and antioxidant-rich elderberry helps reduce visible signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles.

Fluffy and light, the cream leaves your skin feeling silky and hydrated without weighing it down. The formula is free of oils, alcohols, and fragrances, making it a safe pick for virtually any skin type.

Best Splurge: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

If you want to go all out, give this restorative formula from SkinCeuticals a try. It features a smart balance of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids to help restock your skin with essential lipids, restore its natural moisture barrier, and support its natural repair processes.

The formula also contains antioxidant-rich essential oils, vitamin E, and other nutrients that help fight free radical damage, boost elasticity and firmness, and ward off fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture. Free of parabens and dyes, this moisturizer is an excellent fit for normal, dry, and aging skin.

Best for Dark Skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream with Hyaluronic Acid for Extra-Dry Skin

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream

Hyaluronic acid is a dear friend to dark skin tones, as they tend to lose moisture quicker than lighter skin tones and hyaluronic acid can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water. This gel-cream formula from Neutrogena is packed with hyaluronic acid, instantly quenching thirsty skin and providing long-lasting moisture relief.

It absorbs quickly like a gel but keeps you hydrated like a cream, resulting in a smooth and healthy-looking skin texture. You can safely wear it beneath your makeup by day and on its own by night. It’s free of oils, dyes, and fragrances, and it’s non-comedogenic.

Best Anti-Aging: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream

It’s especially important to keep aging skin well hydrated, and this moisturizer from Drunk Elephant does exactly that. The protein moisturizer combines signal peptides, pygmy waterlily, and soybean folic acid ferment extract to help improve your skin’s tone, texture, firmness, and moisture retention immediately.

Its signal peptide complex features nine signal peptides made of amino acids (which form proteins in the skin) that help bind moisture to your skin. Meanwhile, pygmy waterlily supplies important antioxidants and nutrients to replenish and soothe the skin. And the soybean folic acid ferment extract is full of B vitamins that promote skin elasticity. 

Best Natural: Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisturizer

Looking for an all-natural option? You can’t get more natural than a superfood-based moisturizer. This formula from Youth to the People combines a superfood blend of kale, spinach, green tea, and alfalfa with hyaluronic acid and vitamins C, E, and K to create a nutrient-dense, air-whipped gel moisture cream that’s friendly to all skin types.

It’s lightweight but effective, helping to restore, balance, and condition dry skin as it absorbs quickly. It serves as a great makeup primer by day and replenishing moisturizer by night. It’s also free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dimethicone, and mineral oil. 

Best with SPF: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

It’s important to not only keep your skin hydrated during the day, but also protect it from the sun’s harsh rays. This moisturizer from La Roche-Posay gives you that two-in-one punch.

The formula features prebiotic thermal water, ceramides, niacinamide, and glycerin to help protect and restore the skin barrier for healthy-looking skin, as well as nourish the skin’s microbiome. Meanwhile, four sunscreen ingredients help prevent damage caused by UV rays and free radicals. The moisturizer is free of parabens, fragrances, and oils, and it is both dermatologist- and allergy-tested.

Best for Sensitive Skin: EltaMD AM Therapy Face Moisturizer

Folks with sensitive skin have a particularly tough time with moisturizers because they have to strike the perfect balance between hydrating, soothing, and non-comedogenic ingredients.

Here’s where EltaMD comes to the rescue—its AM Therapy formula is sheer for ideal morning application, keeping your skin moisturized (but not shiny or greasy) all day. The hyaluronic acid content helps your skin cells increase moisture absorption and retention, and willow bark stimulates turnover for smoother skin while minimizing irritation. The formula also features niacinamide, a moisturizing ingredient that helps even your skin tone.

Best Drugstore: CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM

No skincare list is complete without a CeraVe product. This particular facial moisturizing lotion formula is packed with niacinamide (vitamin B3) to soothe your skin, as well as hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides to help your skin retain moisture and restore its natural barrier while you sleep.

The oil-free and fragrance-free moisturizer won’t clog your pores or irritate your skin. Instead, it delivers a steady stream of much-needed moisture throughout the night, all while feeling surprisingly lightweight on the skin. This pick is best suited for normal and oily skin types.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a more intense moisturizer with anti-aging benefits that also happens to be quite affordable, reach for Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream. There’s a reason they’ve sold more than 1 billion of those red jars! But if you need a more lightweight option, you get the best bang for your buck with e.l.f. Holy Hydration! Face Cream. It’s airy, loaded with the hydrating nutrients your skin needs, and it has an affordable price tag.

And of course, don't forget the importance of sun protection. If you want a two-in-one morning moisturizer with SPF, you can’t go wrong with La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Facial Moisturizer.

What to Look for in a Face Moisturizer

Humectants

Humectants are ingredients that help hydrate the skin by attracting water molecules from the dermis like a magnet, drawing them closer to the epidermis to create that moisture barrier. They make your skin look less flaky and less prone to cracking and chafing. Humectants also encourage the healthy shedding of dead cells. Popular natural humectants include hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, alpha hydroxy acid, and honey. Popular synthetic humectants include butylene glycol, urea, and glycerin.

Emollients

Emollients are ingredients that help smooth and soften the skin by helping to repair cracks in the skin barrier, thus preventing water loss. Healthy skin is hydrated skin! In face moisturizers, emollients work best when paired with humectants. Common emollients include cocoa butter, shea butter, and oils like olive oil, and colloidal oatmeal. 

Weight

Some face moisturizers are lighter oils while others are heavier creams. People with different skin types and lifestyles prefer different weights—usually lighter products for morning use and heavier products for evening and overnight use. What’s more, folks with particularly oily skin tend to stick with lighter products all around, whereas people with really dry skin often rely on thicker creams to keep their skin hydrated and healthy.

FAQs

What is a moisturizer?

Think of moisturizers as a shield. You use moisturizers to lock in active ingredients and keep harmful aggressors out. Even if your skin doesn’t seem dry, it still needs that layer of protection. Moisturizers prevent transepidermal water loss by sealing in moisture and preventing moisture loss through the skin. 

How do you moisturize your face properly?

Applying moisturizer immediately (within 60 seconds) after showering or cleansing allows the product to trap some of the water on your skin and prevent it from evaporating. Apply moisturizer after your serum and before your SPF. At night, apply after your serum on clean skin.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

As a seasoned health writer, Alena Hall understands how important it is to know exactly what you’re getting in a wellness product. Over the years, she has reviewed dozens of products, from athletic recovery aids to homeopathic essential oils to ever-trendy CBD topicals, to help readers like you discover products that can help you live your best life.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit 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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