The Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin in 2024: Our Top Picks

The Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin in 2024: Our Top Picks


Moisturizer is a critical part of any skincare routine, but especially for those with dry skin. Dry skin lacks sufficient moisture in the top layer of skin, the stratum corneum, which can lead to tightness, flaking, scaling, redness, and irritation. Using an effective moisturizer can provide long-lasting hydration and restore a healthy barrier function to protect the skin.

Dry skin has many causes including genetics, aging, harsh soaps, inflammation, cold dry weather, and deficiencies in ceramides or fatty acids in the skin. Whatever the cause, choosing the right moisturizer is key to providing hydration and comfort.

When evaluating the best moisturizers for dry skin, the following criteria are most important:

  • Rich, creamy texture
  • Hydrating ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides
  • Occlusive ingredients to seal in moisture like dimethicone, shea butter
  • Fragrance-free and non-irritating
  • Provides long-lasting hydration
  • Absorbs well without leaving a greasy residue

The rest of this article will examine the leading moisturizer formats, ingredients, and products to find the best options for dry skin in 2024.

Moisturizer Types

When shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin, it's important to understand the different types of moisturizers and what ingredients they contain. This will help you find the best moisturizer for your specific skin needs. The main types of moisturizers are:


Oil-based moisturizers contain plant oils and butters like coconut oil, olive oil, argan oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. They provide intense hydration and help repair the skin's moisture barrier. The oils seal water into the skin and prevent moisture loss. Oil-based moisturizers are best for very dry, flaky skin. They may feel heavy for some.


Water-based moisturizers contain humectant ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and panthenol. They draw moisture into the skin from the environment and dermis. Water-based moisturizers hydrate without feeling greasy. They are lighter than oil-based options. Look for "water cream" or "gel cream" formats.


Silicone-based moisturizers contain dimethicone, cyclomethicone, and other silicone ingredients. Silicones create a protective barrier on the skin's surface to lock in moisture. They give the skin a smooth, silky texture. Silicone moisturizers are lightweight and non-greasy. They may not provide enough hydration for very dry skin on their own.

Ingredients to Look For

When shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin, there are several key ingredients to look for that can provide enhanced hydration and moisturization. These ingredients help counteract dryness and restore moisture balance to the skin.


Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin's barrier and prevent moisture loss. Moisturizers with ceramides help repair and strengthen the skin's moisture barrier, locking in hydration. They prevent transepidermal water loss and improve the skin's ability to retain moisture.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. It draws moisture from the air and from the lower layers of the skin to the surface, plumping and hydrating the skin. Look for moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid to provide a surge of hydration and suppleness.


Glycerin is a popular humectant used in moisturizers. It smooths and softens skin while sealing in moisture. Glycerin hydrates by attracting water from the air and surroundings to boost the skin's water content.


Dimethicone is a silicone that helps form a protective barrier on the skin's surface. This helps prevent transepidermal water loss. The silky-smooth texture also makes an ideal primer for makeup application.

Shea Butter

Rich in skin-nourishing fatty acids, shea butter is an excellent emollient for dry skin. It smoothes and softens rough patches while providing a hydration boost. The thick, creamy texture helps seal in moisture and makes skin feel supple. Look for shea butter towards the top of ingredient lists.

Ingredients to Avoid in Moisturizers for Dry Skin

When shopping for a moisturizer for dry skin, it's important to avoid products containing certain ingredients that can further dry out and irritate your skin. The main ingredients to avoid include:


Added fragrances are common in moisturizers, but can cause reactions and irritation for those with sensitive or dry skin. Fragrances do not provide any skin benefits, so it's best to choose fragrance-free moisturizers whenever possible.


Parabens are preservatives used in many cosmetics and skin care products. However, research shows parabens can disrupt hormonal function and potentially cause health issues. People with dry skin may be more vulnerable to their effects.


Some moisturizers contain alcohol denat or other types of alcohol. While alcohol may provide temporary anti-bacterial properties, it strips the skin of oils and dries it out over time. Alcohol-based products should always be avoided for dry, flaky skin.

Opting for moisturizers free of these irritating ingredients can help prevent stinging, redness, and further dehydration. Carefully read ingredient lists and choose simple, gentle formulas without unnecessary additives. Your dry skin will absorb moisturizer better without harsh fragrances, parabens, and alcohol.

Moisturizer Format

When it comes to moisturizers for dry skin, you'll typically find them in one of four formats: creams, lotions, oils, and balms. Here's a breakdown of each format:


Creams tend to be thicker and more occlusive than lotions. This means they form a protective barrier on the skin that prevents moisture loss. Creams are great for dry and sensitive skin types, as they provide long-lasting hydration. Look for creams that contain emollient ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, and plant oils. Some popular cream moisturizers for dry skin include CeraVe Moisturizing Cream and Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream.


Lotions have a lighter, milkier texture compared to creams. They absorb quickly into the skin and are non-greasy. However, they don't provide as much occlusive benefits as a cream. Lotions work well for normal to dry skin. Some top lotions for dryness relief include Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion and Olay Complete Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15.


Plant-based oils like jojoba, coconut, and marula can be used on their own as moisturizers. Look for cold-pressed, unrefined oils without added fragrances. Oils provide deep hydration and can boost skin’s moisture barrier. They are especially beneficial for severely dry skin. Some facial oils great for dryness include The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil and Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil.


Balms have a balm-like, waxy texture. They are quite heavy and occlusive. Balms create a protective seal over the skin to prevent moisture loss. They are ultra-nourishing for dry, flaky skin. Some top-rated balms for dryness include Aquaphor Healing Ointment and La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5.

Application Tips

When applying moisturizer for dry skin, follow these tips:

  • Apply after cleansing. Moisturizer absorbs best when applied to clean skin that is free of dirt, oil, and makeup residue. Wash with a gentle cleanser before applying moisturizer.

  • Apply on damp skin. Lightly pat skin dry after cleansing. Leave it slightly damp but not dripping wet. The extra moisture helps the skin absorb the moisturizer better.

  • Focus on dry areas. Target extra moisturizer on the parts of your face that tend to get more dry - this is often around the eyes, mouth, and cheeks. Apply moisturizer generously on dry patches.

  • Use gentle motions. Gently smooth and massage the moisturizer into skin using upward strokes. Don't rub vigorously.

  • Apply twice daily. Apply moisturizer after cleansing both morning and night for best hydration.

  • Layer with serums. For an extra moisture boost, apply a hydrating serum before moisturizer. The serum provides an extra dose of hydration.

  • Apply SPF in the morning. Follow moisturizer with a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen in the morning for protection.

  • Use a humidifier. Running a humidifier at home and at work prevents moisture loss.

Following these simple tips can help your moisturizer absorb better and maximize hydration for dry skin. Be consistent for the best results.

Best Budget Moisturizers

When looking for an affordable moisturizer that still provides excellent hydration, there are some great drugstore options to consider. Three of the top budget-friendly moisturizers for dry skin are:

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a cult-favorite moisturizer that provides instant and long-lasting hydration. It contains hyaluronic acid to attract moisture to the skin along with ceramides to help restore the skin's protective barrier. The rich, creamy texture absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling smooth and soft all day long. At around $15 for a 19 oz tub, it's an incredibly affordable option.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream

Developed specifically for dry and sensitive skin, Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream is a great basic moisturizer. It contains minimal ingredients and is fragrance-free, making it ideal for those with easily irritated skin. The formula includes hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and sweet almond oil to deeply hydrate the skin. At around $15 for a 16 oz jar, it's a moisturizer that delivers great quality without the premium price tag.

Vanicream Moisturizing Cream

Vanicream Moisturizing Cream provides intense moisture while being gentle enough for sensitive skin. Free of common irritants like fragrance, dyes, and masking fragrances, it's a good option for those prone to skin reactions. Key hydrating ingredients like glycerin, petrolatum, and ceramides help replenish moisture and reinforce the skin's barrier. A 16 oz tub costs around $17, making this a wallet-friendly choice.

Best Mid-Range Moisturizers

When looking for a mid-range moisturizer for dry skin, there are a few great options to consider in the $10-$30 price range. These offer quality ingredients without the high price tag of luxury brands.


Olay's Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream is an excellent mid-range option for dry and mature skin. It contains hydrating glycerin, skin-softening petrolatum, and a special amino peptide complex that hydrates and improves texture. It absorbs quickly and provides all-day hydration without feeling greasy.


Neutrogena's Hydro Boost line offers several moisturizers ideal for dry skin. The Hydro Boost Gel-Cream for Extra Dry Skin provides intense hydration thanks to hyaluronic acid. It has a lightweight gel texture that absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling quenched. The Hydro Boost Water Gel also deeply hydrates with hyaluronic acid but has an even lighter texture.


Aveeno's Skin Relief Intense Moisture Repair Cream contains a rich blend of emollients like shea butter and glycerin. Colloidal oatmeal soothes dry, sensitive skin. This fragrance-free moisturizer provides 24-hour hydration and helps strengthen the skin's moisture barrier. Aveeno's Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 is another great drugstore option containing soy extract and light-reflecting minerals for a healthy glow.

The mid-range options above all provide quality hydration at an affordable price point, making them great choices for dry skin. Look for key ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, colloidal oatmeal, and shea butter.

Best Luxury Moisturizers

Luxury moisturizers often feature advanced formulations and premium ingredients not found in drugstore brands. While the high price tags of luxury skincare may seem daunting, for those with extremely dry, sensitive skin, investing in these nourshing, restorative creams can make a dramatic difference. Here are some of the top luxury moisturizers to consider for dry skin in 2024:

La Mer Moisturizing Cream

The legendary Crème de la Mer has a cult following for its unparalleled hydrating and smoothing effects. With a proprietary formulation called Miracle BrothTM made from sea kelp, vitamins, and minerals, this rich cream seals in moisture, soothes irritation, and dramatically softens skin. The price tag is steep at around $180 for a 30ml jar, but fans insist La Mer’s moisturizer transforms even the driest complexions.

Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream

Japanese skincare brand Tatcha takes inspiration from geisha beauty rituals to craft its luxe moisturizer. Featuring Okinawa red algae, hyaluronic acid, and Japanese purple rice, The Dewy Skin Cream delivers a mega-dose of hydration. It leaves skin looking plump and dewy, never greasy. At $70 for 1.7 oz, it’s a worthwhile splurge for nourishing dry skin.

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 Cream

Backed by extensive scientific research, SkinCeuticals’ Triple Lipid Restore cream replenishes the three key lipids that declining levels of can lead to dry skin. Formulated with 2% pure ceramides, 4% natural cholesterol, and 2% fatty acids, this moisturizer rebuilds the skin’s natural moisture barrier while imparting a radiant glow. It's especially ideal for those with compromised or aging skin prone to flakes, redness, and irritation.


Choosing the right moisturizer for your dry skin is important to keep your skin healthy, hydrated, and comfortable. This article has covered the key things to look for and avoid when selecting a moisturizer for dry skin.

To summarize the top recommendations:

  • For a budget-friendly option, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a dermatologist-recommended, non-comedogenic moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid and ceramides to restore the skin barrier. It absorbs quickly and provides 24-hour hydration.

  • For a mid-range option, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration moisturizer is free of common irritants and packed with colloidal oatmeal, antioxidants, ceramides, and shea butter to soothe dry skin and strengthen the moisture barrier. It provides immediate relief and lasting hydration.

  • For a luxury moisturizer, La Mer The Moisturizing Cream is a rich, indulgent formula containing sea kelp, vitamins, antioxidants, and hydrating emollients. It helps hydrate while improving skin's appearance and texture.

Using an effective moisturizer for dry skin types is vital to keeping skin comfortable, reducing flakiness and irritation, improving texture and elasticity, and preventing premature aging. Take the time to choose a moisturizer that suits your skin needs and preferences, and make it a daily habit to nourish your skin. Your skin will thank you.