The 28 Best Face Moisturizers For All Skin Types in 2021

·8 min read

In the skincare Olympics, last year’s options for the best face moisturizer for your skin type might not make 2021’s list. Why? Formulas change (even the most coveted) as brands constantly update recipes and star “actives” to make them cleaner, better, faster, stronger. “New products are continually released onto the skincare market, some of which contain more potent combinations of ingredients, and sometimes even entirely novel actives,” says Jessica Weiser, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University. She adds that rotating tried-and-true favorites intermittently helps “to ensure that your skin continues to respond to its source of hydration.” Changing seasons often cue a swap. In a heatwave, lightweight gel (basically the halter top of summer hydration) might tap in for an ultra-rich cream.

Of course, consumer demand is a powerful thing. Now that Big Beauty is finally catching on to customers asking for nontoxic ingredients and do-it-all recipes, there’s a new wave of natural multitaskers. “With endless innovative moisturizers, the hydration market is more abundant than ever, and there are products suitable to all skin types and needs,” says Dr. Weiser. To help narrow the search and edit the noise, we tapped experts for their recommendations on 28 of the best face moisturizers.

Best Drugstore Moisturizer

Even if Amazon is the drugstore of today, these can be found at the closest corner counter—for under $20. Dr. Weiser likes La Roche Posay’s Toleriane for a basic moisturizer as it’s “soothing and calming to even the most sensitive.” Makeup artist Daniel Martin (who works with classical pianist Chloe Flower one day and TikTok’s Charli D’Amelio the next) agrees that it’s “great for sensitive skin,” and prebiotics are a barrier bonus. To restore protective barrier function, “look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides in a non-comedogenic formula,” says facial plastic surgeon Yael Halaas, MD. She likes CeraVe for its broad-spectrum SPF that “won’t clog pores or cause acne flare-ups.”

CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

$19.00, CERAVE

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer

$20.00, LA ROCHE-POSAY

Best Lightweight Moisturizer

Lightweight and clean, Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Pink Juice oil-free moisturizer is a bestseller that caters to multiple skin types, incorporates hyaluronic acid (which holds a thousand times its weight in water), and sits in adorable packaging. Martin says Tatcha’s Water Cream is “hands down my go-to for the summer or anywhere you’re dealing with humidity and heat.” As global director of artistry and education for the brand, he’s tested it everywhere. He says to apply before makeup—even long-wear.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer

$39.00, GLOW RECIPE

Tatcha Water Cream Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer

$68.00, TATCHA

Best SPF Makeup Moisturizer

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue has swept its category for a reason—its clean mineral SPF recipe protects from blue light with just the right buildable texture for beginners. When Vogue staffers would ask for something to polish up before an event, I’d hand them a tube in their skin tone. The next time, they’d bring a friend—a certain accessories editor once raved, “it looks like you’ve had your makeup professionally done.” For those who like chemical broad-spectrum sunscreen, La Prairie’s offers a dose of their signature Caviar Water within one of the most beautifully textured skin-perfecting foundations on the market.

BareMinerals Tinted Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid and Mineral SPF 30

$19.00, BAREMINERALS

La Prarie Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation SPF 25

$220.00, LA PRARIE

Best Age Support Moisturizer

This is the kind of category typically labeled as “Anti-Aging,” though in 2021, that terminology is already dated. What was once the industry standard now sounds like “Anti-The-Natural-Course-of-Life-Itself.” Younger generations are anti-anti-aging and pushing for industry language to change (Allure announced it would stop using it in 2017). Brands are updating packaging with more realistic terms along the lines of “Pro-Aging.” MUTHA notes that their nontoxic Cream Extreme is pregnancy-safe (a rare find in this category), while Augustinus Bader’s “clean science” is a new insider favorite. Martin keeps iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion in his kit, which “brightens up tone while protecting skin and diminishing wrinkles over time.”

Caudalie Resveratrol Lift Firming Cashmere Moisturizer

$65.00, CAUDALIE

Mutha Cream Extreme

$150.00, MUTHA

Augustinus Bader Rich Cream with TFC8 Face Moisturizer

$265.00, AUGUSTINUS BADER

iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion

$95.00, AMAZON

Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin

Dry skin that was once treated mainly with petroleum products (a byproduct of crude oil) can benefit from modern, plant-based alternatives. Topicals offers a completely clean (and often sold-out) option full of soothing colloidal oatmeal and skin-replenishing ceramides, and its aluminum tube is easier to recycle than plastic. Martin likes Good Light’s Moon Glow featuring snow mushroom, another ingredient that holds a thousand times its weight in water. It layers well. “I’m truly obsessed with their milky lotion,” he says of his new hot-weather basic. “It’s an awesome pre-moisturizing lotion for dry skin that needs more hydration without added weight.”

Topicals Like Butter Mask for Dry, Sensitive & Eczema-Prone Skin

$32.00, TOPICALS

Good Light Moon Glow Milky Toning Lotion

$22.00, SOKO GLAM

Best Moisturizer for Extremely Dry Skin

Extremely dry skin calls for a buttery balm-like Nopalera’s botanical bar, part of the waterless skincare eco-revolution. Inside of a reusable (like, way cute) recyclable aluminum tin, it looks solid at room temperature—then melts into skin. Otherwise, consider a thicker cream. Glowbar founder Rachel Liverman (a third-gen esthetician) likes Avene Cold Cream for a “rich and creamy moisturizer that provides intense hydration, leaving even the driest skin feeling smooth and supple.”

Eau Thermale Avène Cold Cream Intense Moisturizer

$20.00, AMAZON

Nopalera Moisturizing Botanical Bar

$30.00, BAN.DO

Best Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin

For inflamed and acne-prone skin, balance is key—so is hydration. “Acne is often a reason patients avoid using proper moisturizers, but in fact moisturizing acne-prone skin can help suppress oil production and speed healing of the skin,” says Dr. Weiser. She likes this “dewy” Biossance gel that “leaves skin radiant without causing occlusion that can lead to skin congestion and blemishes.” It features squalane, “a plant-derived, excellent emollient to keep skin hydrated.” Soothing niacinamide blends with moisture-trapping humectants in Bubble Level Up balancing moisturizer—plus, its touch-pump dispenses single servings to keep bacteria out of the mix.

Bubble Level Up Balancing Moisturizer

$15.00, HELLO BUBBLE

Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

$52.00, BIOSSANCE

Best Moisturizer for Dull Skin

Dr. Weiser shares that a mild exfoliant can help encourage skin turnover to “eliminate dead skin cells that contribute to dullness,” which translates into a “glow.” She recommends Sisley Paris Phyto-Blanc La Lotion for its brightening effect and ability to “continually even tone to yield bright, radiant skin while eliminating dryness.” ReVive Moisturizing Renewal cream can be applied as a final step at night (while skin does some of its best work).

Sisley Phyto-Blanc Brightening Hydrating Lotion

$160.00, NET-A-PORTER

RéVive Moisturizing Renewal Cream

$195.00, RÉVIVE SKINCARE

Best Anytime-Anywhere Moisturizer

For any time, anywhere moisture, creams that let skin breathe and skip the kind of SPF that needs to be washed off at the end of the day are at the front of the line. Industry-beloved brand Lord Jones soothes with CBD, while Grown Alchemist smartly wraps their rosehip oil Hydra-Repair cream in a recyclable tube (sealed with Amazon’s Choice approval). Dr. Weiser and Dr. Halaas both like Afore Moisture Complete by Dr. Few, which boasts aloe, squalane, and antioxidants that protect from free radical damage.

Lord Jones Acid Mantle Repair Moisturizer With 250mg CBD and Ceramides

$75.00, LORD JONES

Grown Alchemist Hydra-Repair Day Cream with Rosehip Oil

$45.00, AMAZON

Aforé Moisture Complete

$95.00, AFORÉ BEAUTY

DefenAge 24/7 Barrier Balance Anti-Aging Cream

$127.00, DEFENAGE

Best Hand Cream

Hands do as much work as (or more than) our expressions. “Our hands take a punishing even more than our faces,” says Dr. Halaas. “As a surgeon, I wash mine innumerable times and use drying, irritating antimicrobial hand sanitizer.” Many can relate. She suggests finding a moisturizer you like and committing to “frequent application—nighttime gloves can be a help.” Clarins makes a kit for both hands and feet that could be worth the investment. Mario Badescu’s costs less than $10 for a non-slip finish.

Mario Badescu Hand Cream with Vitamin E

$8.00, MARIO BADESCU

Henne Luxury Hand Cream

$25.00, HENNE

Best Body Moisturizer

“Body skin doesn’t have the reparative ability that facial skin has, so it needs more support from protective creams,” says Dr. Halaas. Flamingo’s offers squalane on a drugstore budget, and it’s hard to describe the heavenly-yet-sharp botanical scent of Agent Nateur’s holi(body) serum. Martin chills out with CBD-powered PRIMA R+R Cream for “any aches and pains—its eucalyptus, lavender herbal blend of botanicals is actually refreshing and cooling on the skin for the summer.”

Flamingo Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion

$5.00, FLAMINGO BEAUTY

Davines SU Aftersun Hydrating Skincare Gel

$32.00, AMAZON

Agent Nateur Holi(oil) Youth Body Sérum

$95.00, NET-A-PORTER

Prima R+R Cream 750mg CBD Recovery Rub for Soothing Comfort

$55.00, PRIMA

Originally Appeared on Vogue