These Derm-Approved Moisturizers Will Vastly Improve Your Skin's Dew Point

I think we all know that moisturizing is so important. But not all moisturizers are created equally, and I don’t mean just in terms of quality. I’m also referring to which ones will work for your own particular skin type and needs. In fact, one of the most important things to keep in mind when shopping for a moisturizer is looking for one that suits your skin type—every dermatologist that I spoke to for this story gave that piece of advice.

“Choose your moisturizer based upon your skin type, skin conditions, and goals,” says Corey L. Hartman, MD, FAAD, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology. “If you have oilier skin, choose a lighter moisturizer that’s serum- or oil-based containing glycerin or squalane. If your skin is dry and needs help with the skin barrier function, choose a heavier product with ceramides. If you suffer from atopic dermatitis, perhaps an ointment would be best.”

If you don’t choose a product for your skin type or aren’t moisturizing regularly, Caroline Robinson—MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, and founder of Tone Dermatology—says that the skin cells become sluggish in their turnover process, and it can be difficult for the skin to hold on to the water it needs. “One of my favorite tips to combat dry skin is to ‘wet moisturize,’ meaning don’t completely dry your skin before you apply your lotion. This will give you a hydration boost,” she adds.

Aside from considering your skin type, there are a few other things you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for a moisturizer. If you find the right one for you, that will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. So here are more shopping tips derms gave me:

Check the ingredient list: “The ingredients are placed in order of concentration/potency, so your first five ingredients should be any of these mentioned: humectants, occlusives, and emollients,” says Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics. “In terms of products to avoid, you’d want moisturizers to be paraben-free, fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and phthalate-free.”

Look for multipurpose products: Kathleen S. Viscusi, MD, FAAD, FACMS, co-founder and partner at Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta (DESSNA), always recommends her patients look for multitasking products, especially ones that contain SPF protection.

Expensive doesn’t mean better: Instead of prioritizing a moisturizer with a splurgy price tag, Rodney recommends choosing the product with the best combination of ingredients for you.

Look for peptides: Viscusi recommends products with peptides. “They provide a more effective form of delivery technology to penetrate the skin deeper, therefore providing benefits such as moisturization and anti-aging properties more effectively,” she says.

Prioritize truly moisturizing and hydrating ingredients: “The best place to start is by thinking about what the skin loves, which are the natural lipid moisturizers that it produces: ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids,” Robinson says. “The ideal moisturizer has a blend of all of these ingredients so that the skin recognizes it and soaks it up, rather than the moisturizer sitting on the skin. I am also a fan of humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid because these moisturizers help to attract water to the skin.”

Avoid irritating ingredients: “Avoid mineral oil which can be an allergen,” Hartman says. “Propylene glycol is a potent moisturizer, but it is one of the most common and insidious causes of contact dermatitis. Fragrance can act as another common irritant, leading to rashes, burning, and itching. Parabens are preservatives commonly used in cosmetics, but they may disrupt hormone production and have been linked to cancer.”

Avoid essential oils: Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, FAAD, FACMS, medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology, says that essential oils really just sit on the skin and are not readily absorbed. Instead, she suggests adding drops of oil to your moisturizer to increase overall absorption if you like oils.

And if you need more help choosing your next holy-grail moisturizer, check out the recs from dermatologists below.

Rodney, Evans, and Elyse Love, MD, FAAD, recommend this moisturizer. “[It’s] a tried-and-true classic. This moisturizer works great for those with dry skin,” Love explains. “It’s oil-free, so it won’t clog the pores and cause acne. As a plus, it can be used on the entire body.”

“My favorite moisturizer for dry skin is Senté’s Dermal Repair,” Hartman says. “It is a lush, rich, elegant cream that contains a heparan sulfate analog, which not only drives hyaluronic acid but also stimulates the skin to produce its own hyaluronic acid, making it more hydrated and moisturized on the outside.”

Many derms recommended this one. “Those with very oily skin love this moisturizer because it is lightweight and hydrating. It does a great job of balancing oily skin without added weight,” Love says.

Hartman and Love like this moisturizer from La Roche-Posay. In fact, it’s Hartman’s favorite for a drugstore pick: “La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer is by far the best one at the drugstore. It gives a rich feel that is oil-free and replenishes moisture while restoring the skin’s natural protective barrier.”

“The face cream by Epara is a recent find of mine, and I love that the Black-owned brand has prioritized science and skincare for darker skin tones,” Robinson says. “The luxurious cream contains a blend of plankton extract (a brightener), niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, and shea butter to address two of the most common skin concerns in darker skin types as they age: dryness and discoloration.”

Evans says this one works for all skin types. “Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the skin and can be enhanced by applying it topically to the skin. This substance helps to create the plumpness we see in our cheeks and smoothness in skin texture,” she says.

Hartman says this is his pick for the best high-end moisturizer for dry skin. “[It] contains exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids and hydrating caviar extract that work in unison to allow maximum penetration and the ultimate in nourishment for the skin,” he explains.

“Isdin’s Hydralift is another great moisturizing option that contains plant-based stem cell extracts and hyaluronic acid to effectively moisturize skin—all while being noncomedogenic, so it works for all skin types!” Viscusi says.

“[It] contains a potent combination of humectants and emollients to keep the skin hydrated. It also helps repair the skin barrier and is great for eczema,” Rodney says.

Ope Ofodile, MD, MPH, a cosmetic and medical dermatologist at DESSNA, recommends this one, saying, “[It] contains a triple-action formula to help effectively bring hydration balance back to skin with hyaluronic acid, skin-barrier support, and natural moisturizing factors.”

Robinson recommends this moisturizer, which she says is a blend of squalane, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid in a super-hydrating formula.

“Vanicream’s Moisturizing Lotion is ideal for dry, sensitive skin,” Hartman says. “It contains no fragrance, dye, formaldehyde, or lanolin. It contains both humectants and emollients to provide a mix of hydration and moisturization.”

“I like separate creams for the nighttime that are thicker and can provide nutrients to retain moisture and revitalize your skin,” Rodney says. “Retinol helps with cell turnover and is a great ingredient to use before bed. With consistent use, it not only moisturizes your skin but also improves the appearance of minor blemishes.”

Robinson likes this rich moisturizer, which contains quercetin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid.

“SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore contains free fatty acids to replace cellular lipids and nourish dry skin. This is a crowd favorite for those with extremely dry skin that is worth the splurge,” Hartman says.

Both Love and Robinson recommend this classic. “This trend is known as ‘slugging.’ Vaseline can be a great occlusive layer on top of a hydrating moisturizer to lock in moisture,” Love says. “It is noncomedogenic and won’t clog pores or cause acne. Since it increases the absorption of anything applied before it, stick to using hydrating and soothing ingredients only on slugging days.”

“[It’s] a great daily face lotion with added sunscreen for those who forget to apply it. Also includes niacinamide to keep your skin hydrated and encourage cell repair,” Rodney says.

“This rich night cream contains a blend of fatty acids, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate; peptides and antioxidants to repair; and azelaic acid to even tone,” Robinson says.

This is Hartman’s pick for the best plant-based moisturizer for dry skin. “Nourish’s Lightweight Moisturizing Face Lotion contains argan oil to replenish moisture and rose water to improve tone, hydration, and elasticity. Shea butter acts as a seal to lock in the moisture and repair the barrier,” Hartman says.

“This is the perfect everyday option for those who are looking to combine their sun protection and moisturizer all in one!” Viscusi says. “It contains a highly potent hyaluronic acid booster for long-term hydration while also protecting the skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays.”

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated. Next: My Holy-Grail Moisturizer for Dry Skin Is Surprisingly Found at the Drugstore