Even the most basic facial skin care has two parts: cleansing your face and moisturizing it.
A moisturizer helps lock water in to your skin cells on your face, making your skin feel softer, smoother, and younger.
The right moisturizers might not be the same for everyone, depending on whether your skin is dry, oily, or sensitive, and depending on whether you are applying moisturizer in the morning or at night.
Our research team has looked into the best moisturizers on the market and come up with the ten best face moisturizers you can buy.
1. CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
CeraVe’s moisturizing cream has attained near-legendary proportions among skin care enthusiasts. Users are enamored by its unique hydrating ceramides, which are often recommended by dermatologists to hydrate skin and keep it healthy.
The newest breakthrough isn’t the product itself; it’s in the packaging. Long offered only in a tub, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream now comes in a pump-top jar that makes it much easier to dispense on a daily basis without worry about bacterial contamination from your hands.
Thanks to its moisturizing abilities, its excellent reputation, and its ability to function with a wide range of skin types, CeraVe is an excellent pick for just about anyone.
2. LilyAna Naturals Face Cream
LilyAna Naturals has an excellent, all-natural moisturizer that will surely appeal to people who want their cosmetics to come from a natural source instead of a chemistry laboratory.
Based around a rose water and aloe vera juice base, LilyAna Naturals Face Cream combines a whole slew of plant and herb extracts to create a hydrating facial cream with a light, vegetal scent that is a great solution for people with dry or sensitive skin. To top it all off, it does this without feeling wet or greasy.
3. EltaMD AM Therapy
EltaMD is the face moisturizer of choice for people with severely dry skin. While it’s called an “AM Therapy” moisturizer, it doesn’t include sunscreen in it (though EltaMD offers another broad spectrum sunscreen that goes well with their moisturizer).
Their AM Therapy does include niacinamides to brighten your complexion, as well as colubrina peel extract and willow bark extract to soothe and hydrate your skin. It interacts very well with sensitive skin, and it should be the go-to option for people with very dry skin on their face.
4. Olay Complete Daily Defense
Olay Complete Daily Defense is one of the best face moisturizers that also includes sunscreen to reduce skin damage and aging from sunlight. Olay combines skin hydration, sun protection, and skin healing thanks to the aloe vera extract included.
It goes on very smooth and blends flawlessly into your skin, though the liquidy texture isn’t to everyone’s liking. However, Olay Complete Daily Defense isn’t greasy or oily, nor does it block your pores–a big accomplishment for a moisturizing and sunblocking combo.
5. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery
Paula’s Choice combines moisturizing agents with the antioxidant powers of vitamin C and vitamin E. It’s a good choice if you want an evening moisturizer that will help repair your skin as well as moisturize it.
Like some other moisturizers that focus on skin repair, Paula’s CHoice Skin Recovery includes peptides which prime your skin cells to start synthesizing new material to repair themselves. It’s not a bona fide anti-wrinkle cream, but it will still help if your skin is dry and starting to sag.
6. Neutrogena Hydro Boost
Neutrogena Hydro Boost is good for rejuvenating damaged skin that’s showing its age. The formulation includes the collagen-boosting compound hyaluronic acid to help increase the rate of skin repair, and it hydrates skin very well without being greasy or oily.
A very small minority of people find that it causes a rash and irritation, but in general, even people with sensitive skin have success with Neutrogena Hydro Boost.
7. Egyptian Magic
Egyptian Magic is about as natural as a face moisturizer can come. It’s only got six ingredients, and half of them are from bees–honey, royal jelly, and beeswax.
The formulation is incredibly simple and all-natural, so it’s very likely to function well with even the most sensitive of skin. However, one of the advantages that competitors have on Egyptian Magic is that their more advanced formulations can tackle dry skin more aggressively.
Egyptian Magic isn’t quite the weapon of choice when it comes to extremely dry skin, and it doesn’t have quite the penetrating and staying power of some other moisturizers. Still, if you put exclusively natural ingredients at a premium, it should be on your short list.
8. bareMinerals Bare Haven Moisturizing Soft Cream
bareMinerals offers a moisturizing cream that combines the moisturizing power of ceramides with peptides to nourish skin health and a bit of algae extract for antioxidant power.
The moisturizing ability is solid, but those with the driest skin might find that bareMinerals Bare Haven doesn’t quite cut it for them.
It also tends to feel pretty greasy immediately after you apply it, so using it along with makeup might be a pain. It does dry up, but it takes a few minutes, so it’ll prolong your routine if you are using it in the morning.
9. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
La Roche-Posay is typically known for great cosmetic products, but their face moisturizer is a bit off the mark. It’s got several different sun blocking components, as well as ceramides for hydration, which should make it an excellent morning face moisturizer.
However, something’s not quite right in the execution; users find that La Roche-Posay’s product is gritty and tends to aggravate sensitive skin.
Since it’s still got quality ingredients, it might make the cut if you are looking for a moisturizer with sunblock in it and haven’t had luck with other products on the market.
10. St. Ives Timeless Skin Facial Moisturizer
St. Ives Timeless Skin Facial Moisturizer is a widely popular face moisturizer, but despite its fame, its ingredients are more of a mixed bag than you’d expect.
It’s got some useful ingredients, like hydrolyzed collagen, which could be incorporated by your skin to help reduce wrinkles, but the presence of mineral oil and other petroleum derivatives high up on the ingredients list is a bit of a head scratcher.
These ingredients are actually pretty inert; they aren’t likely to provoke a skin reaction, but their moisturizing power isn’t very remarkable either. Most people should look elsewhere, at least at first.
Face moisturizer benefits and side effects
A face moisturizer is the final part of any proper face care routine. After washing and possibly exfoliating your face, it’s critical that you lock in moisture to keep your skin soft and smooth.
A successful face moisturizer will help skin retain water, while also not blocking your pores, which can cause breakouts, and while not irritating skin either.
Scientific studies don’t often look at improvements in skin quality in healthy people, but we can make inferences about potential benefits by observing the effects of face moisturizers in people with dermatological conditions.
One example is a 2005 study in the dermatological journal Cutis which described an experiment carried out by doctors at Wake Forest University School of Medicine (1).
The doctors were trying to find out how specific face moisturizer ingredients affect skin dryness in people with rosacea; they had a group of 50 subjects use a face moisturizer with niacinamides (which you can find in several top skin moisturizer brands) and apply it to half their face.
After four weeks of twice-daily applications, the subjects were evaluated by doctors who did not know which side of the body the moisturizer was applied to.
The results showed that the moisturizer was successful at restoring the integrity of the skin’s barrier against water loss, and improved both subjective and objective measurements of skin health in the patients.
From this, we can logically infer that such a moisturizer, with advanced hydrating agents like niacinamides, would be effective at treating dry skin and locking in moisture in healthy people too.
Further benefits come when a moisturizer is combined with a sunblock. For daily use in the morning, a face moisturizer combined with sun-blocking ingredients can work synergistically to combat and prevent skin aging.
According to a study published in 2006 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, perhaps the most important environmental cause of skin aging in sun exposure (2).
It’s so important that scientists just call it “photoaging” for short. The ultraviolet light in sunlight causes damage to skin cells and hurts their ability to repair themselves.
Over time, as this damage accumulates and healing slows, skin starts to age by getting wrinkled and losing its elastic properties. While a wrinkle cream can help repair this to some extent, it’s far better to prevent it from happening in the first place.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine describes how protection from ultraviolet light can help prevent the breakdown in skin integrity (3).
In addition to the wrinkles and lack of elasticity, photoaging can also cause discoloration–splotches and spots. Again, it’s much easier to prevent this damage to the skin than it is to repair it after it’s happened.
As with pretty much all cosmetics, there is a chance that a face moisturizer could cause a rash or a breakout of acne or cysts on your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Beyond knowing whether or not your skin is sensitive, it can be hard to predict whether a product is liable to cause irritation, though in general products with more ingredients are more likely to cause adverse effects, by simple probability.
Another worry related to a cosmetic product that you apply to your face every day is bacterial contamination. This is of particular concern in products that come in tubs or jars that do not have pump lids, as shown by a 1990 study in the journal Applied and Environmental Biology (4).
The study compared the likelihood of bacterial contamination in skin lotion stored in a jar versus skin lotion stored in a pump top container.
Approximately 20 samples of skin lotion in a jar and 20 in a pump-top container were given to volunteers, who used the products as directed for two weeks.
Afterwards, the volunteers returned the products to the researchers, who tested them for bacterial contamination.
They found that 71% of the jar-based skin lotions were contaminated, while only 10% of the pump top lotions were contaminated.
While this doesn’t have to be a main deciding point in which face moisturizer to buy, if you have continual problems with breakouts on your face, it might be worth considering if it’s not the product that’s causing your problems, but how it’s stored.
A pump top container (even if it’s not the original one the product came in, as long as you clean and sanitize it before using it) might be the solution to your problems.
Finding the right face moisturizer will set the foundation for a great face care routine. Depending on whether your skin is dry or oily, you may need a different moisturizer.
Further, if you want to protect your skin from the aging and damaging effects of sun exposure, think about using a moisturizer in the morning that has sunblock in it.
Be extra judicious if you know you have sensitive skin, and if you want to take extra precautions against bacterial contamination, either buy a face moisturizer that comes in a pump top container or transfer your favorite skin moisturizer into a clean and sanitized pump top container.
With the right skin care routine, your face will be looking younger, smoother, and healthier in short order.