The Best Face Moisturizers for Every Skin Type and Concern

MC Editors and dermatologists put hundreds of creams to the test.

woman applying face moistuizer
(Image credit: La Mer)

Choosing the best face moisturizer for you and your skin is incredibly personal. Skin type plays a major role, textural preference is a huge factor, and other products in your routine come into play. For example, you may want a do-it-all moisturizer with SPF and retinol to boot or a bare-bones cream whose sole job is to hydrate. There are oil-free moisturizers, vegan formulations, and even moisturizers for rosacea, eczema, and acne-prone skin. The options are plentiful, but keep your skincare standards high, and don’t settle for less. 

To help guide you on your journey, the Marie Claire editors—along with board-certified dermatologists—are here to point you in the right direction. This year alone, we’ve tried hundreds of moisturizers (it's a fun part of the job) to find the creme de la creme for every skin type and concern. Ahead, team MC gets candid about the face moisturizers we love.

The Best Face Moisturizers

The products on this list have all been vetted by Marie Claire's Beauty Editor, Samantha Holender (aka yours truly) and Marie Claire's Beauty Director, Deena Campbell; have been hand-selected by a board-certified dermatologist; or tried and tested by one of our editors over the course of a few weeks. Each and every one includes hydrating ingredients, is highly rated by reviewers, and provides hydration. While the *best* moisturizer for you will vary based on personal preference, you truly can't go wrong with one of the items on this list. For a more personalized recommendation or if you have any concerns, check with your board-certified dermatologist. 

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Do I Need a Moisturizer?

There’s no world in which you don’t need a moisturizer. Oily or dry—it’s a must. “Everyone has skin, so everyone should use a moisturizer daily,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of Spring Street Dermatology Dr. Sapna Palep. The whole point of a moisturizer is to keep the skin barrier, aka the outermost layer of our skin, healthy, hydrated, and intact, so it can do its job protecting the body from external factors (read: pollution, free radicals, UV rays). “If the skin barrier is compromised, skin may look and feel uncomfortable and irritated,” she adds. 

What Moisturizer Is Best for My Skin Type?

While you should look for a moisturizer that works with your skin type, understand that you might need to switch up your products a few times throughout the year. "Skin types are not static," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nava Greenfield. "They change as the seasons change, as our hormonal balances shift, and as our skin ages and has environmental and ultraviolet triggers. Understanding the complexities of our skin is the first step to figuring out which moisturizer to apply for best results."

If your skin is severely dry, consider a cream-based moisturizer, says Dr. Palep. “For deeper hydration, look for a moisturizing cream, versus a gel. A cream tends to be thicker and will add more hydration.” If your skin errs on the oily or acne-prone side though, you’re best off looking for a light water cream or gel.

woman applying face moistuizer

Apply a dime-sized amount of moisturizer for adequate hydration.

(Image credit: La Mer)

What Ingredients Should Be in Moisturizer?

Every moisturizer is going to be different and therefore, feature a unique ingredient list. Moisturizers for acne-prone skin may have acids, like salicylic, glycolic, or lactic, that are designed to speed up cell turnover, while moisturizers for people with eczema might have colloidal oatmeal. But at baseline, there should be a handful of hydrators. “You want to look for a moisturizer that has a mix of humectant, emollient, and occlusive ingredients, all of which work together to add maximum hydration,” advises Dr. Palep. “Humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin attract water from the air or from within deeper layers of the skin to add moisture. Emollients, like shea butter and cocoa butter, are ingredients that add moisture to the skin when applied. Occlusives like jojoba oil and argan oil also add moisture while also adding a physical barrier to help prevent water loss.” 

scarlett johansson applying moisturizer

Johansson previously told Marie Claire she's "addicted" to The Outset Day Cream.

(Image credit: The Outset)

When Should I Apply Moisturizer?

Moisturizer will be one of the last steps in your skincare routine, going on after cleanser, toner, and serums. You should apply moisturizer in the day and at night.

Do I Need Different Day and Night Moisturizers?

It's not necessary to have multiple moisturizers in your routine—but you may want to alternate. "Because day time routines typically involve the application of several products, the moisturizer may need to be a little lighter so as not occlude sweat glands and allow for oil movement out of the skin avoiding breakouts," explains Dr. Greenfield. "Night time is an opportunity for heavier products if needed."

How Much Moisturizer Should I Use?

"A dime-sized amount of most moisturizers should be enough to apply one generous layer to the entire face," explains Dr. Greenfield. Don't feel the need to overdo it—a little goes a long way.

Meet the Dermatologists

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Dr. Sapna Palep

Dr. Sapna Palep has been recognized as one of New York’s leading board-certified dermatologists for over a decade. Since founding Spring Street Dermatology in 2010, Dr. Palep has helped countless patients achieve clear, healthy skin with her safe, effective, and highly individualized treatment plans. Dr. Palep conducts annual skin cancer screenings and treats all dermatologic conditions, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. She is also highly sought after for her skill in cosmetic treatments, including Botox, chemical peels, dermal fillers, microneedling, and resurfacing lasers.

A native of Florida, Dr. Palep completed her undergraduate studies in biology and chemistry at the University of Miami in 1999. She attended the University of Miami School of Medicine for two years before relocating to New York in 2000. She completed her medical degree at New York Medical College in 2004. The same year, Dr. Palep graduated with a Master’s of Business Administration from the Lubin School of Business at Pace University, where she majored in Health Systems Management.

nava
Dr. Nava Greenfield

Dr. Nava Greenfield is a dermatologist practicing at Schweiger Dermatology Group. Dr. Greenfield earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Queens College, City University of New York, where she graduated Cum Laude with honors in mathematics, natural sciences, chemistry and biochemistry.

Dr. Greenfield attended medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University. She completed her internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital and her residency in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Greenfield has been published in many medical journals, including The Journal of Dermatological Treatment, the Journal of Women’s Dermatology and Pediatrics. Dr. Greenfield is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, Women’s Dermatologic Society and the American Medical Association.

Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, Delish.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.