If you’re dealing with colder weather or using a particularly harsh skin care product, it’s very likely you’ve experienced the conundrum that is very dry, flaky skin.
Part of it has to do with your skin type — some people just naturally have drier skin than others, which largely depends on genetics. Skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema, chlorine in pools, and simply getting older can also make your complexion feel dry and dull. “Your skin becomes thinner as you age, so it retains less moisture,” says Meghan Feely, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical dermatology instructor at Mount Sinai.
But even those with oily skin have probably felt the moisture being zapped from their face from time to time. If your forehead, nose, and chin tend to get a bit shiny (with the occasional breakout) you can still have dry skin on your cheeks. “There are different numbers of sebaceous glands (which produce oil) in different areas of your face,” says Yoram Harth, M.D., San Francisco-based dermatologist and co-founder of MDacne, an acne-treatment app.
That’s where a hydrating moisturizer comes in—but not all of them are created equal.
How to choose the best moisturizer for dry skin
Be cautious of irritants: Alcohol can dry out your skin, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board. Sulfates, dyes, and fragrances can also be harsh and irritating, causing more trouble than they’re worth. As a general rule of them, if you notice any redness, itching, or other unpleasant reactions after using your moisturizer, opt for a simpler product.
Look for hydrators: Lots of ingredients offer a dose of moisture while soothing the skin. It may take some trial and error to find the ones your skin responds to the most, but some to look for include: hyaluronic acid, ceramides, urea, plant oils, aloe vera, shea butter, glycerin, squalane, soy, colloidal oatmeal, and B vitamins.
Know your skin type: If your skin is really dry and sensitive (or you’re dealing with a skin condition), a richer cream or lotion will probably give you the results you’re looking for. People with oily or acne-prone skin will benefit from lighter gel formulas instead.
Now that you know the basics, you’re ready to bring your extremely dry skin back to life. Here, the best moisturizers for dry skin — from drugstore finds to splurgy picks — that will have you glowing in no time.