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The best face moisturizers of 2024, recommended by dermatologists and experts

These soothing, hydrating facial moisturizers from CosRx, CeraVe, LaRoche-Posay, Charlotte Tilbury and more work for a wide range of skin types — and budgets.

beauty products on a bright backdrop
The best moisturizers of 2024 come from brands like CosRx, First Aid Beauty and Charlotte Tilbury. (Amazon, Sephora)

Of all the anti-aging skin care products you can buy — from eye creams to serums to toners to exfoliators — facial moisturizers are probably the most familiar. Many of us grew up watching our mothers and grandmothers apply some type of face cream to soothe dryness, including familiar classics like Pond's or Oil of Olay. But when it comes to finding the best face moisturizer today, it's easy to feel a little lost. Many of us still don't even understand why we need it, let alone the number of options on the market.

Quick overview
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Table of contents:

Best face moisturizer overall

Factors to consider when choosing a face moisturizer

How we tested

Other face moisturizers we tried

Face moisturizers FAQs

But never fear: While most of us might not understand the ins and outs of moisturizers for a healthy glow, experts do: "Every skin-care routine should include gentle, soothing and hydrating ingredients that help maintain the skin's protective moisture barrier," says Dr. Kiran Mian, a dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery in New York City. "Moisturizers specifically work to help add moisture to dry skin and protect the skin's barrier to prevent it from drying out again."

The following are our seven favorite moisturizers of the year, and they suit a wide variety of skin concerns.

Formulation: Cream | Size: 3.52 ounces | Skin type: Dry, dehydrated | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, sea buckthorn water

CosRx has helped popularize snail mucin as a skin care ingredient, but you shouldn’t sleep on its other products. Case in point: the Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizing Cream. A favorite among the K-beauty crowd, this face cream packs and seals moisture into dry, dehydrated skin. I love it for its lightweight, fast-absorbing formula and antioxidant ingredients. 

In addition to hyaluronic acid, it contains vitamin tree water (also known as sea buckthorn), which is filled with vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids that help strengthen the skin barrier and increase hydration even more. The midrange price is the cherry on top.

  • Hydrates and plumps dry, dehydrated skin
  • Diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Free of parabens
  • Some users say it feels oily
  • Might not be best for breakout-prone skin
  • Comes in a jar instead of an airtight pump
$17 at Amazon

Formulation: Cream | Size: 2 ounces | Skin type: Dry, dehydrated, eczema | Key ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal

If you're one of the millions of eczema sufferers in the U.S., dry skin isn't the only thing you have to worry about when you're looking for a good moisturizer. First Aid Beauty's Ultra Repair Cream is made with colloidal oatmeal, which soothes skin instantly and protects and strengthens the skin barrier.

  • Good for all skin types, including those with skin conditions
  • Ultra-hydrating
  • Gentle ingredients
  • Contains skin-soothing oatmeal
  • Not completely fragrance-free
  • Too lightweight for some users
$14 at Amazon

Formulation: Cream | Size: 19 ounces | Skin type: Normal, dry | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides

If you want something that's expert-approved and affordable, try this CeraVe pick that can be used on both the face and body. "CeraVe Moisturizing Cream contains effective moisturizers like hyaluronic acid and ceramides that trap in moisture and prevent evaporation over the skin barrier," says Dr. Angela Lamb, a dermatologist and director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Practice in New York City.

  • Ample size
  • Velvety texture
  • Works for many skin types
  • Good for face or body
  • May be too heavy for oily skin
  • Some users find the texture tacky
$18 at Amazon

Formulation: Cream | Size: 2.5 ounces | Skin type: All | Key ingredients: Niacinamide, ceramide-3 

While nourishing botanical oils are a common ingredient in moisturizers (and usually beneficial for dry skin), some people prefer — or need — an oil-free face cream. This one, by La Roche-Posay, is free from oils and won't clog up pores. It's also a popular moisturizer for all skin types due to its formulation of ceramides, niacinamide, glycerin and La Roche-Posay's Prebiotic Thermal Water.

  • Oil-free
  • Won't block pores
  • Contains skin-fortifying ceramides and niacinamide
  • Lightweight
  • Some users complain that the formula pills on their skin
  • Too lightweight for some users
$24 at Amazon
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$24 at CVS Pharmacy$23 at Target

Formulation: Cream | Size: 1.7 ounces | Skin type: Dry, dehydrated, sensitive | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vitamin B5, vitamin E

"This Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream hydrates for 48 hours," Dr. Kiran Mian says. "It's formulated with hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, niacinamide and panthenol that work to improve the resilience of sensitive skin." 

Cetaphil's affordable cream is made with the brand's HydroSensitiv Complex, a combination of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vitamin B5, and vitamin E — a good checklist of ingredients you want in a moisturizer. For those with sensitive skin, niacinamide does a great job of soothing, but we like how there's also blue daisy extract — this pretty, flower-bearing plant has antioxidant benefits that help with redness and discomfort.

  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Contains antioxidant ingredients
  • Lightweight and nongreasy
  • Dermatologist-tested
  • Won't block pores
  • Comes in a jar instead of an air-tight pump
  • Scented, so not best for the fragrance-sensitive
$15 at Amazon
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$19 at Walmart$26 at Ulta Beauty

Formulation: Cream | Size: 1.7 ounces | Skin type: Dry, normal | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, peptide complex

When it comes to celebrities and beauty editors, one product that frequently comes up is Magic Cream. Celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury created this moisturizer to instantly prep models' skin before runway shows, and it became an in-demand product for her celebrity clients. (It has been used to prep everyone from Demi Moore to Lizzo, and it's a favorite of Khloé Kardashian.) 

I was first introduced to Magic Cream this way: A makeup artist applied it to my skin before glamming me up, and I was impressed by how good my skin felt and how my makeup looked afterward. I became an instant believer!

The cream contains all the good stuff: hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, nourishing rose hip and camellia oil, frangipani flower extract, shea butter and the BioNymph Peptide Complex (love the name). The peptides help reduce wrinkles and make skin appear smoother and more plump. It became my go-to when I began noticing that I needed a more hydrating face cream during winter. Now I love using it year-round. Even though I'll use other primers to camouflage pores before putting on makeup, nothing has the same effect on my skin as Magic Cream.

  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Helps with firmness and elasticity
  • Hydrates outer layers of skin for up to 24 hours
  • Brightens and evens out skin tone
  • Scented, so not best for the fragrance-sensitive
  • Might not work for super oily skin types
$100 at Sephora

Formulation: Cream | Size: 1.07 ounces | Skin type: Normal, dry | Key ingredients: TFC8, hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed rice protein

While the luxury price point and thick formula ensure Augustinus Bader's Rich Cream lives up to its name, it's easy to see why it has earned multiple awards and accolades. There's a lot of science backing up the product — the proprietary TFC8 technology (a blend of natural amino acids, peptides and high-grade vitamins) helps with wrinkles, redness, hyperpigmentation and stretch marks, making the skin look and feel firmer and stronger over time. Some users prefer something lighter during the summer or if they have oily skin, but even though it's thicker than the moisturizers I'm used to, I found that it rubbed into my skin quickly and easily without leaving me feeling greasy. Using this brought my sunken, sallow skin back to life after an illness (being sick is not good for my complexion).

  • Unscented
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
  • Protects against environmental stressors
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Helps prevent hydration loss
  • Might feel too heavy for oily or combination skin
  • Dry skin types may want a lighter formula for summer
$185 at Sephora
  • Skin type: Before purchasing a moisturizer, you should first know both your skin type — normal, dry, oily, combination, sensitive — and what that means for your individual hydration needs. If you can't tell just by looking, a dermatologist or aesthetician can help.

  • Budget: Once you've established skin type, you can start looking at value: How much you can afford to spend on a product you'll use twice a day? Remember, as with all skin care, consistency is key, so choose a face moisturizer you can afford to regularly restock.

As two over-40 beauty editors with decades of experience testing skin care products and very different skin (Marie's is more oily and acne-prone, Jennifer's is drier and, regrettably, in some places, crepey) we already had a few favorite face moisturizers. But we also tried more than two dozen new products for this story, evaluating their efficacy, absorption rate, texture, scent and value. We also considered (and included) expert picks we both love.

SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator tops many best lists and the formulation itself is fine, but we found the bottle to be laughably small, especially at its $150-plus price.

Beauty experts and influencers rave about the Outset Restorative Niacinamide Night Cream and, while the ingredients themselves are high quality, and we love other products from this line, this moisturizer pilled and was impossible to use under makeup.

"Moisturizers are an essential step in skin care because they can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and promote a more supple appearance in the skin," says Dr. Julia Schwartz, a board-certified dermatologist and adviser for telehealth company Ro.

Generally, thinner moisturizers are out — your parched skin needs a little extra oomph. "I recommend thicker, richer formulas for dry skin, like Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream," Mian says.

Once you've reached a certain age, a thicker formula may also be a good bet. "I like cream moisturizers for people with mature skin," says Schwartz. "A thicker cream formula can help lock in more hydration which, again, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles."

The experts we spoke with recommended twice-daily application — gently rubbing a quarter-sized amount all over your face, avoiding the eyes and mouth. This will lock in moisture and seal in any other skin care products (like vitamin C serums or retinol), while also boosting hydration.

At night, moisturizer should be the last step in your skin care routine. In the morning, it should be the second-to-last step, before sunscreen.

"I recommend that people generally keep their skin care routines as simple as possible to make it easier for them to follow," Schwartz says. "If your moisturizer is working well for you, not promoting an overproduction of sebum while also keeping your skin hydrated and skin barrier supported, you can use the same moisturizer for day and night and all year round."

Angela Lamb, MD, board-certified dermatologist

Kiran Mian, MD, board-certified dermatologist

Julia Schwartz MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist