Figuring out the best face moisturizers for every skin type can be difficult, especially in the wintertime. Are you also fighting seasonal dryness and dehydration? I know I am. Even the oiliest skin types suffer from tightness and flakey skin that is often covered in a top layer of natural sebum that does not help at all.
The relief that a good moisturizer provides is immediately apparent – the tightness disappears, and suddenly the skin just feels healthy, soothed, and comfortable.
Depending on your skin type, you need a moisturizer that will do different things, which is why I’ve compiled a list of the best facial moisturizers for every skin type. Before that, I give some details about how to figure out your skin type, how to apply a moisturizer, and I also explain what I look for in a really fantastic moisturizer.
Figuring Out Your Skin Type
Before you can know exactly which are the best moisturizers for you, you should probably first figure out what your skin type is. Figuring out one’s skin type is pretty simple – you just have to go off the size of your pores, and how long it takes for your skin to produce sebum after it has been cleansed.
Dry skin types have smaller pores, and the skin produces very little oil. Throughout the day the skin will look matte and will produce very little oil (also known as sebum). While dry skin types are more prone to redness, thin skin, sensitivity, flakiness, and fine lines, these concerns on their own are not a sign of dry skin.
Normal and combination skin types are somewhere in the middle between dry skin and oily skin. Normal skin doesn’t really exist, other than as a platonic ideal (after all, who’s to say what’s normal?). With normal and combination skin types, the pores are about medium sized, or perhaps small on the cheeks and larger in the T-zone (the T-shaped area of the forehead, nose, and chin).
The skin, throughout the day, produces some oil, but neither so little as to count as dry, nor so much as to count as oily. This is not an exact science, and the spectrum of combination skin is very large, with some people falling closer to oily skin, and others falling closer to dry skin.
Additionally, with the seasons’ changing, those with normal and combination skin might find that they have different needs. Those with normal and combination skin may experience everything from redness and sensitivity, to signs of premature aging, to hyperpigmentation or acne, and they may want a moisturizer that will target those specific needs.
Oily skin types are the easiest to determine, once you let go of your preconceived notions. Oily skin types have larger pores, especially in the T-zone, and they produce more oil. If you notice a sheen on your skin by midday (hot and sweaty days don’t count!), then you likely have an oily skin type (or maybe a combination skin type that leans towards oily).
If you find yourself constantly struggling to blot away excess oil, then you have an extremely oily skin type. Oily skin types are usually more prone to acne, however, they are just as susceptible to problems like flakiness and dehydration, which can be symptoms of over cleansing the skin.
What About Skin Conditions?
The best moisturizers for every skin type are primarily determined by their texture – do they mattify the skin? Do they become absorbed quickly? Do they feel thicker and more protective?
However, all skin types also have to deal with specific concerns, like acne, redness, hyper-pigmentation, dehydration, premature aging, loss of tone, dullness, and much more. These concerns often have very little to do with one’s actual skin type, but a moisturizer can still help treat them.
When reading through my list of the best moisturizers for skin types, also keep in mind what your unique additional concerns are, and whether each moisturizer might help treat those. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know about the special active ingredients in each moisturizer, and what they will target.
Best Way to Apply a Face Moisturizer + Tips and Tricks
You would think it’d be a given – just take some cream or lotion, and slap it on your face. While you are not totally wrong, there are some best practices when it comes to putting on that face moisturizer.
• Always start with a well-cleansed face. Make sure the facial cleanser you are using is gentle, non-soap based, sulfate-free, and that it doesn’t leave your skin feeling parched. Additionally, make sure you have successfully removed all of the cleanser!
• There are a lot of different philosophies around how you should apply the moisturizer to your skin. My personal preference is to take a dime sized amount of cream in the palm of my hand.
I gently rub both of my palms together, and then massage the cream into my face starting at the chin, and working my way up. I rub my palms over my face in circular, outward motions – this makes sure the moisturizer gets under the peach fuzz that grows on my face, and also gives me an uplifting face massage.
• Another popular application method, from Dr. Hauschka, is known as the “press and roll”. You apply the moisturizer by gently pressing the length of your fingers against your face, and then rolling them off in outward motions. You might want to watch this video to understand the method better.
• You might want to try out skincare layering techniques, to give your skin a real moisture bomb. Before applying your moisturizer, you can first apply a hydrating toner, an essence, a skin serum, or an ampoule or two.
The key is to apply various treatments in the order of how thick and oily they are. Liquids go first, followed by light emulsions, followed by creams, and then heavier balms.
• Always the best time to apply a moisturizer is when your skin is already saturated with water – this means you should apply moisturizer immediately after your shower.
• The moisturizer you’re using right now is the furthest thing from being one of the best facial moisturizers for every skin type? You can upgrade it by adding a drop of whatever active ingredient it is missing, right into your hand before applying.
Not hydrating enough? Try glycerin. Not conditioning enough? Try adding a plant oil (rosehip or grape seed oil for oily skin, coconut oil or apricot oil for dry skin). Doesn’t do anything for your acne? Mix in a bit of tea tree oil or benzoyl peroxide.
• Despite what you have likely heard from many disingenuous skincare writers, you can definitely use moisturizer around the eyes! It will hydrate and moisturize your eye area perfectly, even if it won’t necessarily treat unique eye issues like puffiness or darkness. Just make sure it is gentle – a mattifying or resurfacing moisturizer won’t do the trick for around the eyes.
Requirements for the Best Facial Moisturizers
To make it to my list of the best face moisturizers for every skin type, a face cream or lotion had to fit the following criteria:
• It had to be as hydrating as possible. No matter the skin type, everyone’s skin needs extra water. Our skin becomes dehydrated very easily, and even an adequate consumption of water is not enough. When we drink water, our blood delivers it to all of our internal organs first, and the skin is the final organ to receive any of it.
However, when we apply a moisturizer, our skin gets an immediate dose of much needed water. No matter your skin type, it is very likely that you are dehydrated!
• It had to receive amazing feedback, from online reviews, or from myself and my skincare enthusiast friends. After all, I can’t give you my personal feedback on the best moisturizers for every skin type, since I only have one skin type.
• It had to have a truly outstanding formula that reflects the cost of the product. I have no problem with a moisturizer based on inexpensive ingredients like glycerin and mineral oil. But, if those are the main ingredients the moisturizer is made up of, it should not cost an arm and a leg.
• While this wasn’t mandatory, a moisturizer formula with really incredible active ingredients that go above and beyond moisturizing had a much easier time making it unto my list of the best face moisturizers.
Best Face Moisturizers for Normal or Combination Skin Types
For normal skin, the best face moisturizers will help to keep your skin well hydrated. They will also maintain the balance of oil in your skin, and will have incredible ingredients that will nourish and strengthen your skin, to prevent signs of premature aging or any other type of environmental damage.
The best face moisturizers for normal skin are not too greasy, nor are they too light. Much like your skin, they are right in the middle!
1. Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
This light moisturizer from Clinique is the Holy Grail face lotion for thousands of people. You will find fans of the moisturizer amongst oily-skinned and dry-skinned individuals alike, although it is certainly best for those with normal and combination skin (despite what the company advertises).
This formula stands out for its elegance. It is light and quickly absorbed by the skin, thanks to a combination of silicones that also prevent moisture from evaporating from the skin.
2. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
This moisturizer’s fan base comes from all over the skin type spectrum, thanks to its considerable hydrating properties and elegant formula. The combination of colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, ceramides, and plant extracts makes for a cream that is super hydrating without ever feeling greasy.
The moisturizing effects last for the whole day (even on cold and dry winter days), and the soothing effects will calm down even the most sensitive of skin types. This is definitely another one of those face moisturizers that I would feel comfortable recommending to dry, oily, and normal skin types alike. It can be picked up at Sephora.
3. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM with SPF 30
As far as affordable skincare brands go, CeraVe is the gold standard. Their formulas rival those of more expensive and high-end brands, even if the packaging leaves a little bit to be desired.
I would have felt just as comfortable featuring their PM lotion, but you can’t have a list of the best face moisturizers for every skin type without mentioning even one day cream with SPF. This offering protects from both UVA and UVB damage, and it also contains a considerable amount of skin-brightening niacinamide, hydrating hyaluronic acid, and stratum corneum repairing ceramides.
You really cannot go wrong with this moisturizer, especially if you have combination or normal skin. You can pick it up at Ulta.
4. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
I get a weird form of ASMR (pleasurable excitement), when I see a really beautiful skin care formula. Reading the ingredients list for this cloud cream is one of the easiest ways for me to get that feeling, because it is just so perfect.
30% of this formula is made of the super humectant hyaluronic acid, and the rest of it is skin-loving ceramides and probiotic ferments. A little goes a long way with this surprisingly light moisturizer that could actually be used by all skin types without a problem.
It will leave your skin plump, hydrated, and glowing. You can grab it from Sephora.
5. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base
I am usually suspicious when a brand that focuses on creating makeup switches over to skin care, but Bobbi Brown knocked it out of the park here, with a hydrating, anti-aging, and non-greasy moisturizer that also doubles as an excellent makeup primer.
The skin absorbs it quickly, but it does leave behind a bit of a dewy finish. A host of vitamins in this cream keeps the skin looking young and fresh, while humectants and occlusives hydrate the skin.
It does not cause breakouts, either, so you don’t need to worry if you get the occasional hormonal pimple. You can purchase this moisturizer at Nordstrom.
Best Face Moisturizers for Oily Skin
Those with oily skin often avoid using moisturizers, to frequently disastrous results. While oily skin might not need any more oils added to it (although some oils, like grape seed and rosehip oil won’t hurt), it certainly needs more moisture.
As I’ve mentioned before, our skin does not produce water, but it needs it to function well and look good. Contrary to popular belief, however, a topical moisturizer cannot change the way the oil glands produce oil, and there is no such thing as “using a moisturizer to balance oily production”.
However, a moisturizer with mattifying ingredients like silicone, rice powder, or cucumber extract will certainly help keep your skin from looking shiny and greasy, and will also minimize the appearance of your pores.
Since oily skin types often also suffer from acne, the best facial moisturizers for them might also contain ingredients that can control the breakouts, like benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, or salicylic acid.
1. Murad Oil Control Mattifier SPF 15 PA++
This is the perfect day cream for anyone with oily skin that gets greasy. It’ll help keep your skin smooth and matte throughout the day, while still providing incredible hydration.
It gets a couple bonus points for having a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and for coming in a squeeze tube, which is more hygienic than a tub. In addition to mattifying the skin, this moisturizer also controls breakouts with willow bark extract, and protects from premature aging with niacinamide.
It really is a wonderful and well-rounded face moisturizer for oily skin. It can be bought at Sephora.
2. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Lotion Exfoliant
I have a love-hate relationship with Paula Begoun, but it is undeniable that when it comes to formulating with BHA (also known as salicylic acid), her lab knows what’s up. Salicylic acid is an exfoliant that penetrates through oil, to exfoliate within the pore and suppress the acne bacteria.
It is one of the gentlest acne treatments that are still super effective, and it is nice to be able to kill three birds with one stone by exfoliating, controlling bacteria, and moisturizing all at the same time. This lotion is still quite moisturizing, and features my favorite oil for oily skin: grape seed oil, as well as soothing green tea extract and hydrating beta glucan.
Get it at SkinStore! If your skin is extremely oily, you might prefer the even lighter Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant from Paula’s Choice.
3. Proactiv Green Tea Moisturizer
I am extremely skeptical of companies that resort to subscription services and expensive, celebrity-led ad campaigns, because often the reason they use such techniques and spend so much money on advertising is that the product simply isn’t good enough on its own.
With that in mind, despite all these concerns, and even though as a whole the Proactiv line certainly leaves something to be desired… this moisturizer from them is great for oily skin!
It has a light gel texture that is quickly absorbed by the skin, leaving a smooth and hydrated feel. It is super calming to red and active acne, thanks to the green tea extract, and it contains a bit of skin-resurfacing vitamin A, which works well with other acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide.
There is also my favorite hyaluronic acid in the formula, so overall – definitely a winner. Buy it at Ulta!
4. Kate Somerville Anti Bac Clearing Lotion
Benzoyl peroxide is by far my favorite acne-clearing treatment. For my own skin, it is the most effective of solutions. The only problem is that often, this anti-acne treatment is a little too drying to the skin… but then here comes Kate Somerville, with this brilliant formula that somehow manages to clear acne, hydrate the skin, and still keep it matte.
In addition to the 5% BP, this formula also includes skin-healing ceramides, and protecting plant extracts. For those with extremely oily skin, this lotion will totally do the job, but if you lean towards combination skin, you might want to add another hydrating cream or serum to your routine. You can find this at Sephora.
5. Mario Badescu Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF 17
Finding a second moisturizer for oily skin with adequate sunscreen was tough, since so many sunscreen ingredients can cause acne and breakouts. While this offering from Mario Badescu isn’t a total mind blower, the SPF 17 in it comes strictly from mineral ingredients, which is much better for sensitive, oily skin.
It is a super light formula that hydrates and soothes the skin, without ever looking greasy. Instead of overdoing it with the actives, it is a straightforward and simple cream that is sure to please even the fussiest of oily skin types. Buy it at Nordstrom!
Best Face Moisturizers for Dry Skin
Those with dry skin need their moisturizer to give them two things: water and oil. Dry skin is one that underproduces oil, but it is also very prone to becoming dehydrated as well as to showing signs of premature aging and sensitivity.
Antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and occlusive oils are important to restore dry skin. I’ve picked the best face moisturizers that can do exactly that!
1. Jurlique Calendula Redness Rescue Soothing Moisturizing Cream
Dry skin is often much more prone to irritation and sensitivity. This is because the oil our skin naturally produces helps to defend our skin from external irritants – if we have less of that oil on our face, then we are more likely to suffer irritation.
That is why I chose to add this moisturizer to my list of the best face moisturizers for dry skin – it is super soothing and healing, not to mention it is a wonderful cream. To hydrate, it contains humectants honey and glycerin. It heals and strengthens the skin with calendula, and slows down the aging process with a collection of nourishing plant oils.
Its texture is rich, but not overly thick, and it’d make for a perfect night cream. It can be bought at Sephora.
2. Egyptian Magic All Purpose Skin Cream
Sometimes simple can be good, like with this ultra-basic formula that still has a massive cult following. This all-natural cream features a few ingredients gifted from bees that have become super popular lately, especially amongst K-beauty enthusiasts: bee pollen, royal jelly, and propolis.
These are all uniquely rich in nutrients that heal the skin, fortify it, and slow down the signs of aging. This cream’s formula is actually unique, in that it is a very oily balm, and therefore doesn’t include either water or classic humectants (honey is a humectant, after all).
For severely dry skin, this will seriously replenish your skin’s oil levels, but you should consider applying a humectant laden serum beforehand. You can buy the Egyptian Magic cream from Target.
3. Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance
This offering from Dermalogica is deceptively light. Despite its thin texture, this face moisturizer keeps the skin plump and hydrated all day long.
It hydrates with lactic acid, and then works double time to really slow down the aging process and repair the skin with some really heavy-duty antioxidants like vitamin C, wild yam extract, and ginko biloba. Especially those with mature skin rave about its ability to give their skin long-lasting dewiness, and to slow down all signs of aging.
Another great thing about this moisturizer: it comes in a hygienic squeeze tube that is double the size of your average moisturizer. You can find this moisturizer at Ulta.
4. Kate Somerville Deep Tissue Repair Cream with Peptide K8
It’s usually pretty hard to justify a $150 price tag, but somehow Kate Somerville did it. Where other face moisturizers slow down the aging process while keeping the skin soft and plump, this moisturizer straight up reverses signs of aging, due to a robust (and pricy) peptide and ceramide complex.
The texture of this cream is quite thick, so normal-dry skin types will definitely prefer it for night time, rather than under makeup. Despite looking like it comes in a jar, it actually has a hygienic pump dispenser.
Those with sensitive skin, however, beware: sometimes the stronger the anti-aging and healing effect, the likelier the product is to also be irritating. You can grab this wonderful cream at Nordstrom.
5. Philosophy Miracle Worker SPF 50 Miraculous Anti-Aging Lotion
While all skin types need sun protection, those with dry skin need to be extra careful. That is why it was important for me to add a day cream with SPF to this list of the best face moisturizers for every skin type.
50 SPF is robust and perfect for summertime, but this moisturizer from Philosophy has a lot more to offer. Peptides, along with vitamins C and E, help to keep the skin looking fresh, smooth, and young, while glycerin keeps the skin plump and hydrated.
This smooth texture, fortified with a bit of silicone, makes sure that any makeup you apply on top of this face cream will look amazing. You can purchase this at SkinStore.
Wildcard Face Moisturizers
Sometimes a moisturizer targets a skin condition that is so unique, or has an ingredient so specific, that it just doesn’t exactly fit into a list of the best facial moisturizers for skin types. I still had to mention these moisturizers, even if their uses are a bit more specific.
1. Alpha Skincare Renewal Lotion
A little bit like the BHA lotion from Paula’s Choice, this is also an exfoliating moisturizer. It features 10% alpha hydroxy acid, an ingredient super effective at eliminating dead skin and leaving its texture smooth and soft.
The reason this moisturizer doesn’t fit into the other categories is that all skin types can benefit from the exfoliation it provides, and indeed, those with oily, mature, and dry skin all rave about its ability to minimize acne marks and fade wrinkles. The only skin concern this moisturizer wouldn’t be great for is sensitivity.
Those with dry skin might only want to use it as an occasional treatment, and use a gentler and more hydrating facial moisturizer the rest of the time. It’s available at Ulta.
2. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer
Dr. Gross is a king of actives, so it is not surprising to see such an actives-laden moisturizer coming out of his brand. Retinol, specifically, is one of the best solutions for wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Anyone trying to combat those should seriously consider giving this moisturizer a try.
It also contains the unique ingredient ferulic acid, which increases the protective abilities of the other antioxidants present in this formula. Find this anti-aging miracle at Sephora.
3. DDF Discoloration Reversal Moisturizer
Hello, red-faced friends! Even though this facial moisturizer is promoted as a solution to discoloration overall, the real beneficiaries of this lovely lotion are those suffering from rosacea and other skin conditions that cause redness.
It is LOADED with niacinamide, one of my favorite anti-aging and anti-redness ingredients. This is one of the few types of face moisturizers that will not irritate sensitive skin at all, and will still pack a really serious anti-aging punch. We are talking about real wrinkle reversal here.
Other ingredients that make this moisturizer seriously worth a try are skin-brightening glucosamine, and a whole collection of anti-aging vitamins. This gorgeous concoction can be found at Ulta.
4. Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E Antioxidant Protect + Repair Moisturizer
This is another moisturizer that is heavy on the active ingredients, and might be too intense for some people. However, the 5% vitamin C, as well as the robust quantity of potent extracts and repairing polysaccharides make this cream really stand out.
It is hard to get such extreme skin-brightening properties out of a face cream, but this one certainly does the job, targeting hyperpigmentation while also hydrating and protecting from premature aging. Extreme oily skin types may want to avoid this, while dry skin types might need something extra moisturizing applied above or below it.
The high content of vitamin C should definitely be avoided by those with sensitive skin… but if you can handle it, and dullness and pigmentation are your issues, go ahead and pick up this moisturizer at Sephora.
Do you think your moisturizer lost a spot on this list of best facial moisturizers for every skin type? Are you tempted to give one of these face moisturizers a try? Comment and let us know!
Photos via @tsangtastic, Sephora, Nordstrom