12 Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologist 2021

Labor Day weekend has come and gone, which means that summer has officially come to an end (le sigh). Despite the fact that it’s still sweltering, we’re nearing the time when we’ll trade sun dresses for cardigans and lightweight serums for more robust formulas. In fact, the first seasonal swap to make is your moisturizer. As in, you’re going to need a moisturizer for dry skin.

“If not cared for properly, your skin can suffer a lot of damage during the hot summer months,” says Jeriel Weitz, DO, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “Most people experience increased pigment production during the summer as they find themselves spending more time outside in the sun. Furthermore, the damage from summer can lead to dead skin cell build-up. Lastly, as the summer winds down and the weather becomes cooler, your skin needs help retaining moisture.”

Because of all of this, you’ll want to shift your moisturizing products from thinner, water-based lotions to thicker, oil-based creams around the same time you swap your tank tops for sweaters.

Best fall moisturizers for dry skin

If you’ve got dry skin, you’ll want to use a moisturizer that will really help to seal hydration beneath the surface and prevent it from evaporating into the environment (the phenomenon is known as “transepidermal water loss”). Because of this, Dr. Weitz recommends opting for products that have cream or ointment formulations. “Look for ingredients that are occlusives, meaning that they create a barrier that prevents water from escaping the skin, such as petrolatum, beeswax, shea butter, squalane, mineral oil, and vegetable oils such as soybean oil and grape seed oil,” he says.

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Aquaphor Healing Ointment — $6.00

Known as the “swiss army knife” of dry skin treatments, this petroleum jelly product truly does it all. It infuses skin with moisture—so much so that it’s recommended for even the most severely dehydrated and cracked complexions—and acts as a protective layer to seal in hydration for the long haul. Slather it all over (face, lips, hands), and reap its skin-nourishing benefits from now until spring.

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Cerave Moisturizing Cream — $16.00

Dr. Weitz is one of many derms who have recommended this particular cream for dry, winterized complexions. It’s formulated with the most moisturizing skin-care ingredients money can buy—including hylauronic acid, glycerin, and three types of ceramides—and will strengthen your skin barrier to stand up to the effects of even the coldest, driest days.

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Avène Eau Thermale Hydrance RICH Hydrating Cream — $32.00

This moisturizer delivers both instant and long-term hydrating benefits, making it the perfect pick to use on dry skin all winter long. It replenishes your complexion with skin-similar lipids (which come with the added bonus of diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles), and it soothes and calms skin with a combination of shea butter and the famed Avène thermal water. In a clinical study conducted by the brand, users reported that their skin felt four times more hydrated after 28 days of repeated use.

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Best moisturizers for dry sensitive skin

During the cold-weather months, moisturizing sensitive skin is just as much about soothing and strengthening as it is about hydrating. The reason? The weaker your skin barrier is, the more prone it will be to irritation. Because of this, Dr. Weitz suggests looking for products that contain ceramides, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, soy, and colloidal oatmeal, which she says “are gentle and will help to repair the epidermal barrier.”

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Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream — $8.00

Dr. Weitz names this moisturizer as “one of her favorites” for sensitive skin because it contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and squalane—which work together to hydrate skin and fortify its barrier. Because it’s so gentle and effective, this multi-purpose cream can be used on your face as well as all over your body.

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Aveeno Calm and Restore for Sensitive Skin Oat Gel Moisturizer — $18.00

Colloidal oatmeal is constantly getting the derm stamp of approval for treating sensitive skin, thanks to the fact that it’s soothing, moisturizing, and anti-inflammatory, and this moisturizer delivers the ingredient in spades. It’s lightweight, yet effective, and works to calm down even the angriest, most irritated complexions.

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Eucerin Skin Calming Cream — $9.00

Another oatmeal-enriched product, this cream will make skin itching and irritation a distant memory. It absorbs quickly (and deeply) into skin, and will deliver hydration for 24 hours after you apply it.

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Best moisturizers for dry oily skin

“For people with oily skin, the best ingredients are those that will not clog your pores, such as dimethicone and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Weitz. You may also want to look for ingredients that will slow down your body’s natural sebum (or oil) production, like niacinamide, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid.

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La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Daily Moisturizer for Oily Skin — $32.00

Designed specifically with oily skin in mind, this antioxidant-rich moisturizer protects against free-radical damage (it’s got vitamin C and E in the mix), and employs salicylic acid to tighten pores and reduce oil production. Plus, it leaves behind a smooth, matte finish, which means you won’t ever have to deal with slick, shiny skin.

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SkinMedica Ultra Sheer Moisturizer — $58.00

Dr. Weitz loves this moisturizer because it’s got skin-soothing niacinamide (which acts as an acne-fighting anti-inflammatory and diminishes the appearance of dark spots) and contains potent antioxidants by way of vitamins C and E. It goes on sheer, and seeps immediately into skin to create a smooth, radiant complexion.

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Best moisturizers for dry acne-prone skin

It’s a common misconception that acne-prone skin doesn’t need moisturizer. In fact, skipping this final step in your routine can actually make breakouts worse. The reason? Depriving your skin of moisture will cause your oil glands to kick into high gear to try and combat the dryness, leading to an overproduction of sebum and the potential for even more clogged pores. “Look for ingredients that are non-comedogenic, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory,” says Dr. Weitz. Check the formula for moisturizers like dimethicone and hyaluronic acid, and anti-inflammatories and anti-microbials like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and niacinamide.

Shop fall moisturizers for acne-prone skin

Neutrogena Hydroboost
Photo: Neutrogena

Neutrogena Hydroboost Water Gel — $16.00

Derms don’t go a day without recommending this gel moisturizer to their acne-prone patients, and it’s for good reason. It’s packed with skin-quenching hyaluronic acid, which acts as a natural humectant to help your skin hold water and appear smoother. Plus, its lightweight, jelly texture is totally non-comedogenic, so you won’t ever have to worry about it clogging your pores.


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Clean and Clear Essentials Dual Action Moisturizer — $5.00

This oil-free moisturizer contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that crystallizes down to a teeny, tiny size so that it’s able to get way down deep into your pores and clear away dirt, grime, and oil from the inside out. It’s also got glycerin in the mix, which will help to combat winter dryness.

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Obagi Medical CLENZIderm M.D. Therapeutic Lotion — $41.00

This hydrating moisturizer contains a 5 percent concentration of benzoyl peroxide, a potent acne-fighting ingredient that has a reputation for being drying. Because this formula pairs it with hydrating squalane (which is known as the “big gulp” of moisturizing ingredients), it works to clear out congested pores without stripping your skin.

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