If you have dry or sensitive skin you need a moisturizer that is highly emollient, yet does not contain ingredients or fragrances that can irritate it further. Even better are lotions or creams with healing properties. If your skin tends more towards oiliness, you might prefer a moisturizer for oily skin, there are some with gentle formulas. If you have both sensitive skin and acne, we found a top acne treatment that gets praise for its effectiveness without causing other reactions.
CeraVe Moisturizing Facial Lotion AM (Est. $10 for 3 oz. ) could have been our top pick in almost any of the categories in this report, that's how popular it is with experts and users. The manufacturer doesn't specifically market it for sensitive skin, but many experts recommend it for that; and it often appears in moisturizer roundups as a good pick for dry or sensitive skin types. It's fragrance free and is loaded with other beneficial ingredients -- including ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. With an SPF of 30, it also provides broad-spectrum UV protection and many, many users say it's one of the few products containing sunscreen that does not irritate their skin or their sense of smell.
Users say the formula is "just thick enough that it supplies excellent moisture but not so much so that it sits on your face like a mask." Paula Begoun says it has a "lightweight lotion texture that feels elegant." It wears well under makeup, according to reviewers, and those with very dry skin say that it's highly emollient and performs like a much thicker cream. Its sister product, CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM (Est. $12 for 3 oz.), our top pick as best night cream, is very similar but lacks sunscreen. However, that makes it an excellent daytime choice for those who simply do not want a product that contains sunscreen.
Mary Kay Timewise Age-Fighting Moisturizer Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 (Est. $22 for 3 oz.), which we review in the section on the best facial moisturizers for normal skin, also gets good reviews form people with sensitive skin. However, another Mary Kay product, Mary Kay Intense Moisturizing Cream (Est. $18 for 1.8 oz.), gets raves from dry skin sufferers as well as those with sensitive skin. It's especially popular with the sunscreen-adverse crowd, who say there are absolutely no irritating ingredients in its formulation. It has a rather thick texture, which reviewers with dry skin love, and yet it goes on smoothly and absorbs well, they say, and works even under makeup. It gets a so-so rating from Begoun at BeautyPedia.com, but she does note that it's aimed at those with dry to very dry skin. Users largely disagree, and it's a top pick at TotalBeauty.com, where it's on the list of top moisturizers, with a total rating of 9.1 out of 10. Users say it's lightweight and goes on cleanly and evenly. Members say it has soothing properties and it's a top choice for eczema sufferers.
Another product worth considering if you have dry or sensitive skin, and one that's a close runner up to CeraVe in reviews, is Cetaphil Fragrance Free Daily Facial Moisturizer, SPF 15 (Est. $12 for 4 oz.). It gets a "good" rating from Begoun, who says it's a good, avobenzone-based product. Users love its non-irritating formula, and some say it's even better than prescription-strength products they've used for inflamed skin. Those with dry skin say it helps keep them moisturized throughout the day. It's often described by dry skin sufferers as "moisturizing but light." It works well under makeup, they say, and many even use it on their hands or other areas of the body where they have dry or irritated skin.
CeraVe just squeaks to the top spot in this category by a hair, thanks to its appearance on so many "best of" lists not only for its great performance, but also its bottom-dollar pricing. However, if, for whatever reason it doesn't work for you, one of these runners up most certainly will -- and they won't break the bank either.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best reviewed facial moisturizers
The best facial moisturizers (and an acne treatment) you can buy today as identified in reviews and our editors' analysis.
Best facial moisturizers for normal skin
These facial moisturizers will give your skin all-day protection and nourishment.
Facial moisturizers for oily skin
Oily skin types need a special moisturizer that heals and restores balance.
Best tinted moisturizers
A relative newcomer to the skincare market, these are foundation and moisturizers in one.
Best night creams
These rich, emollient creams will heal and nourish your skin while you sleep.
Best acne treatments
Take a two-pronged approach to treating acne, with an all-over product and a spot treatment.
Don't go shopping for a facial moisturizer without learning what you need to know first. Our Buying Guide how to determine the best type of facial moisturizer for you.
Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top facial moisturizers and acne treatments, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.