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Best Face Moisturizers

By: Angela Stringfellow on May 09, 2018

Editor's note:
For everyday use, Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 15 offers both moisturizing and anti-aging benefits. CeraVe AM  and CeraVe PM face creams are ideal for those with sensitive skin. If you have oily skin, you still need to moisturize, and experts and users agree that Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream is a top choice.

Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 15
Best Reviewed

Best face moisturizer

Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer gets a lot of love from experts and users alike, thanks to its blend of beneficial antioxidants and niacinamide, a cell-communicating ingredient. A fragrance-free formulation with a silky texture that absorbs readily into the skin, Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer keeps skin hydrated while also helping to ward off fine lines and wrinkles. One caveat: its SPF 15 rating means you'll need to add another sunscreen product to get the recommended SPF 30 protection.

Buy for $17.99
CeraVe PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion
Best Reviewed

Best night cream

Marketed as a night cream but suitable for both day and nighttime use, CeraVe PM Moisturizing Facial Lotion is both gentle and effective, with a light, gel-like texture that doesn't leave a greasy feel or sticky residue behind -- meaning it's easily worn under makeup. It contains ceramides and skin-restoring ingredients like hyaluronic acid, a well-known moisturizing agent. A fragrance-free formulation, CeraVe PM is suitable for most skin types, including those with sensitive skin.

Buy for $22.32
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion Review
Best Reviewed

Best face cream for sensitive skin

The daytime version of CeraVe PM, CeraVe AM is gentle enough for everyday use, even by users with ultra-sensitive skin who typically experience irritation from sunscreen-containing products. It contains several beneficial ingredients, including ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. With the recommended level of broad-spectrum sun protection – SPF 30 – this day cream is all you need to keep your skin well hydrated while simultaneously protecting it from the harmful effects of the sun.

Buy for $23.58
Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream SPF 30
Best Reviewed

Best facial moisturizer for oily skin

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream functions as a moisturizer and sunscreen in one, offering the SPF 30 broad-spectrum sun protection experts recommend. Plus, it contains a variety of ingredients that can help ward off signs of aging, such as niacinamide, peptides and antioxidants, and its non-greasy texture absorbs readily into the skin, leaving a satin finish that works well under makeup. On the downside, it does contain minimal fragrance, which some users with sensitive skin may find irritating.

Buy for $22.48

Types of Facial Moisturizers

Daily Face Creams

You only have one face to last your entire lifetime, so you should start taking care of it early and keep it up as you age. Daily face creams help by forming a barrier to protect your skin from the elements and environmental damage, while enhancing your skin's natural moisturizing capabilities. The best day creams keep working all day long, rather than just one burst at application, and should contain sunscreen to further protect your skin from damage.

Night Creams

The biggest difference between day creams and night creams is that night creams never contain sunscreen. Because of that, they may be a good choice for day use if you have sensitive skin that doesn't take well to sunscreen ingredients. Night creams often have a thicker consistency than day creams, which provides a moisturizing treatment that lasts all night long, leaving you with dewy, fresh-looking skin in the morning. However, that much moisture can also change the color or texture of your makeup if you apply a night cream as a face moisturizer during the day.

Face Creams for Dry or Sensitive Skin

Face creams designed for dry or sensitive skin have very specific, mild ingredients that have generated few reports of irritation or other adverse reactions. Most of these formulations do not contain fragrance or plant extracts, as those are common triggers for sensitive skin. Some don't contain sunscreen, either, as that can irritate sensitive faces. For those whose skin is particularly dry, emollient ingredients help minimize redness and flaking, while anti-irritants may help to calm and soothe irritated skin.

Face Creams for Oily/Acne-Prone Skin

Although it may seem counterintuitive, oily or acne-prone skin still needs a moisturizer, because oil and hydration are two different things. The right face cream can even help repair damage caused by the excessive scrubbing many people with oily skin endure. As a general rule, look for light lotions or gels instead of creams, which tend to be heavier. The top facial creams for this skin type are also noncomedogenic, which means they won't clog your pores. Other beneficial ingredients for people prone to blemishes include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which are especially useful for exfoliating your skin and clearing your pores.

Healthy skin doesn't have to be complicated

Taking care of your skin doesn't have to mean a complicated beauty routine: For many people, using a good facial cleanser, followed by a quality face moisturizer at least once a day, makes a huge difference. If you can cleanse and moisturize a second time at night, that's even better.

This type of routine isn't only for women; skincare expert Paula Begoun, author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," recommends that men follow essentially the same simple routine. And although some face creams and other products are marketed specifically to men, anybody can use any product in this report. We found plenty of reports of men sneaking bits of moisturizer marketed to women, and vice versa.

If, or when, you're ready to take your skincare to the next level, add a good eye cream, since that skin tends to be drier -- and more delicate -- than that on your face, and some moisturizers are not recommended for use around the eye area. If you're noticing the onset of fine lines, a good wrinkle cream can help reduce them. And finally, having the right body lotion can do wonders for the rest of your skin. Just don't use it on your face, which is more delicate than the skin on your other body parts. We cover all of those beauty products in their own reports.

Finding The Best Facial Moisturizers
Our Sources
"Moisturizers, Daytime & Nighttime"
"The Best Face Moisturizer"
"The Best Anti-Aging Skin Products"

We found the best reviews of facial moisturizers at Beautypedia, where skincare experts analyze hundreds of face moisturizers after careful analysis of ingredients, packaging, ease of use and suitability for various skin types. Editors of Reviews.com conduct hands-on testing to identify the best face moisturizers after evaluating 168 popular brands, and the Good Housekeeping Institute puts several face moisturizers to the test in an analysis of 45 different anti-aging skincare products.

Editors at Allure and Elle also recommend the best face moisturizers, based on editors' personal experiences, while editors at Health base their recommended face creams on input from dermatologists. TotalBeauty also names the best face moisturizers based on reader feedback. Finally, for insights on how well facial moisturizers work for people with different skin types in the real world, we turned to consumer reviews at Amazon, Sephora and Ulta, where some popular face moisturizers have received hundreds to thousands of reviews.  

The best face creams

If you have normal or combination skin, the best facial moisturizers for you will contain hydrating ingredients and lightweight emollients that feel like they're barely there. These products wear well under makeup, without changing the color or texture of that makeup or feeling like an extra layer on your skin.

Experts usually recommend that moisturizers meant for daytime use should contain sunscreen. However, many users don't like having that extra ingredient; they prefer being able to choose their sunscreen, if any, independently. Keep in mind that if you don't use sunscreen while you're outside, you should take other measures -- for example, a broad-brimmed hat -- to help protect your face from sun damage and reduce your risk of wrinkles, sun spots and skin cancer.

One standout among daytime facial moisturizers is Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 15 (Est. $18 for 1.7 oz. ). Editors at Beautypedia like its pump-style packaging, which helps to maintain the stability of its delicate ingredients during use. Speaking of ingredients, Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer contains several worthy of note: vitamin C and green tea, both of which are antioxidants, niacinamide, a cell-communicating ingredient, and avobenzone for reliable UVA protection, which is stabilized by octocrylene. Editors say this silky-textured, fragrance-free formulation is ideal for people with normal to slightly dry or combination skin.

Editors at Allure say Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer is gentle, effective and non-greasy, with "an impressive cocktail of hydrating glycerin and texture-smoothing niacinamide," which helps to combat crow's feet and fine lines. Users say this lightweight moisturizer absorbs quickly, leaving their skin with a youthful glow that feels soft and smooth without leaving a greasy or sticky residue behind. While it is fragrance-free, a few users say that it does have a sunscreen scent, which some find unpleasant or overpowering. Opinions are mixed among those with sensitive skin; some users say it doesn't cause breakouts or irritate their skin at all, while others report a slight stinging sensation, especially if they apply this moisturizer immediately after washing their face.

Our previous best-reviewed facial moisturizer, Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer (Est. $10 for 6 oz.) with broad-spectrum SPF 15, is still a solid choice, drawing kudos from experts and users alike. The "broad-spectrum" designation means the SPF component protects against both UVA and UVB rays, which skin care and medical experts say is important for maximum protection. Like the top-rated Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer, it contains the cell-communicating ingredient niacinamide as well as avobenzone for reliable protection against UVA rays.

Ingredients like skin-conditioning panthenol and vitamin E help nourish your skin, and this moisturizing lotion works well under makeup, too. If you have combination skin with a few oily patches, it won't leave them looking too shiny. Overall, experts at Beautypedia say Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer is a good choice for those with normal to slightly dry skin. However, they give it a slightly lower rating than our Best Reviewed Olay Total Effects, primarily because it lacks anti-irritants and repairing ingredients, and it also contains fragrance, which can be irritating to sensitive skin.

Olay Complete has attracted a loyal following of long-term users who say it adds just the right amount of moisture to your skin without feeling greasy. Reviewers say this day cream spreads easily and won't leave your skin feeling slick once it absorbs, and while it does have a lingering scent, it's mild and most people aren't bothered by it. You can also buy this product in an oil-free formula as Olay Complete Lotion All Day Moisturizer for Combination/Oily Skin (Est. $18 for 12 oz.) for oily/combination skin. Both versions are noncomedogenic (won't block your pores) and represent some of the best dollar-per-ounce values on the market.

It's worth noting that the recommendation for daytime sun protection is SPF 25 to SPF 30, and both Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer and Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer are rated SPF 15. "Applying an SPF 15-rated sunscreen under a foundation, tinted moisturizer, or BB cream that offers broad-spectrum SPF 25+ will take far better care of your skin," experts at Beautypedia suggest. "This layering approach ensures your skin gets sufficient sun protection even if you're not applying liberally."

If you don't want to bother with layering multiple creams for adequate sun protection, Replenix UltiMATTE Perfection SPF 50+ (Est. $40 for 1.6 oz.) earns a coveted five-star rating from the skincare experts at Beautypedia. This fragrance-free, daytime moisturizer offers broad-spectrum, mineral-based UV protection with an impressive rating of SPF 50+. Packaged in a squeeze tube, its creamy texture blends readily into the skin with a light, silky feel, leaving a powdery, matte finish with little blending required for even coverage. However, editors at Beautypedia warn that, despite its claims, Replenix UltiMATTE Perfection's matte finish won't last all day; oily areas may start to show within an hour or so of application. This is due to the hydrating ingredients, which aren't just essential for moisture but also help to keep the high amount of zinc oxide from making the skin feel dry and tight.

Replenix UltiMATTE Perfection contains a beneficial mix of antioxidants like vitamin C and green tea and skin-repairing lipids, as well as ceramides and skin-conditioning silicones, which actually allow this facial moisturizer to work well under makeup, functioning much like a primer. It does have a tint, but a neutral one that works well for a variety of skin tones -- so it won't leave fair-skinned people looking as though they've applied the wrong shade of foundation. User feedback, while somewhat limited, is mostly positive. Most reviewers say it applies smoothly and leaves their skin feeling hydrated. It's gentle enough for sensitive skin, most users say, and some reviewers say the matte finish helps to minimize the look of redness and skin discolorations.

If you have dry skin or live in a dry climate, editors at Reviews.com recommend The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (Est. $12 for 2 oz.), noting that it "leaves behind a velvety feel that left testers' skin feeling seriously nourished." It doesn't contain sunscreen, however, so you'll need to use a separate sunscreen product to safeguard your skin from the sun's harsh rays. It's a good anytime moisturizer for those with dry skin, editors say, but for those with normal or oily skin, it's also "a great seasonal standby when the winter wind and cold leaves your skin parched."

The Ordinary has a thicker consistency -- not so thick that you can't wear it under makeup, but thick enough that it's also suitable as a night cream. Editors at Beautypedia say it contains a good mix of hydrating and skin-replenishing ingredients, including natural moisturizing factors (hence the name) such as hyaluronic acid and amino acids. It's lightweight, yet still provides "substantial moisture," editors say, although they do point out that it's short on antioxidants and sophisticated anti-aging ingredients. Users say it can be applied under or over makeup, as it absorbs easily and leaves a matte finish. Those with extremely dry skin say The Ordinary is a lifesaver, particularly in the winter, and it's gentle and non-irritating on sensitive skin.

A product of Korean origin, Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb (Est. $43 for 1.6 oz.), is a hit among users, perhaps due in part to the recent trend in Korean beauty products. However, it's an excellent product that will appeal to any picky consumer thanks to its lack of potentially irritating or harmful ingredients like parabens, sulfates, phthalates, mineral oils, petrolatum, and synthetic preservatives or fragrances. A lightweight gel-cream, it provides intensive hydration while instantly cooling the skin for a refreshing feel. It contains a blend of apothecary herbs, such as lady's mantle, which is rich in antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals, improve skin elasticity and minimize the appearance of pores.

Users of all skin types, including oily, combination and dry skin, say Belief The True Cream Aqua Bomb leaves their skin feeling supple and hydrated, without a greasy feel or an oily buildup by the end of the day. Some reviewers say it's the first face moisturizer they've found for daytime use that doesn't dry out their skin, and several users say it's non-irritating on their sensitive skin and doesn't cause breakouts like other face moisturizers they've tried. It has a non-greasy texture that's perfect for wearing under makeup, users say, and it has a natural scent that most users find pleasant.

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Facial Moisturizers buying guide

What every best Facial Moisturizers has:

  • A combination of moisturizing and water-binding ingredients as well as humectants.
  • Soothing agents and anti-irritants.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).

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