Keep skin fresh and hydrated with our pick of the best facial moisturisers for all skin types
Smooth, healthy skin that looks radiant with or without makeup is a beauty goal for many of us – and a good moisturiser is key to achieving just that. Whether your skin is dry or oily, the right moisturiser for your skin type will lock in hydration and keep skin supple and smooth, without feeling greasy. For dry and sensitive skins, a creamy moisturiser will soothe tight, desiccated skin; if your skin is naturally more oily, a light moisturiser will keep it fresh and balanced.
Good hydration is key to a fresh and glowing complexion and there are many options to choose from, from heavier creams and balms to lighter, fast-absorbing gel formulations. We’ve tested a range of moisturisers to help you choose the right formula for your skin type and needs.
Read on for our handy guide to picking the best moisturiser for you, followed by our picks of the best moisturisers to buy right now. There’s something here for every budget and every skin type.
How to choose the best moisturiser for you
What’s in a moisturiser?
The main function of a moisturiser is to add water and other hydrating ingredients to the skin’s uppermost layers, sealing it in to prevent it from evaporating back into the atmosphere. A moisturiser usually takes the form of a cream, gel or lotion base that’s made up of a natural or synthetic oil suspended in water. It will also include water-trapping ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, mineral or vegetable oils; or silicones such as dimethicone, which lock in moisture and help to smooth the skin’s surface.
In addition to the hydrating base, moisturisers may also include active ingredients such as vitamin E, known for its healing properties, or brightening vitamin C; antioxidants such as green tea or camomile extract to calm skin; alpha-hydroxy acids (or AHAs) that gently exfoliate the top layer of skin to reveal fresher skin beneath; and sunscreens that guard against ultraviolet light. Moisturisers designed for oilier skin may also include mattifying ingredients.
Apply moisturiser after cleansing, toning and serum, if you use one. In the morning, wait a few minutes before applying makeup so the moisturiser has time to sink into your skin.
Choosing the right moisturiser for your skin type
If you’re not sure of your skin type, it’s easy to check by pressing a clean tissue over your face. Oily skin will leave oily marks all over the tissue; combination skin will leave patches in the T-zone of the nose and forehead area only; and dry skin will leave little to no oil on the tissue. You can also figure out your skin type using a strip of sellotape: dry skins will leave little white flakes of skin on the tape, while oily skin will leave a slight sheen and no flakes.
You may find that your skin type changes over time: teenage skin is often oilier than more mature skin, for example. The makeup of your skin is also likely to change through the year. Cold weather and central heating can have drying effects, which will often mean you need a richer cream in winter, while most skins prefer a lighter lotion in the hot and humid weather conditions of summer. Check your skin from time to time to ensure you’re continuing to use the right products.
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What’s the difference between a day and night cream?
Typically, a day cream is lighter in texture, so it sinks in quickly and can be worn beneath makeup, and may also contain sun protection to guard against UV rays and antioxidants to fend off pollution. Night creams usually have a thicker consistency, sinking in more slowly; this makes them less suitable for daytime wear since the rich texture may cause your makeup to slide off. Night creams also contain ingredients designed to penetrate the skin as it regenerates during sleep.
Whether or not you invest in both is likely to depend on your budget and how you approach your skincare regime. Dry skins in particular may enjoy a thicker night cream or masque to help replenish skin overnight, but there’s nothing to stop you wearing your day cream at night as well – as long as it doesn’t contain an SPF.
How much do I need to spend?
There are no hard and fast rules here, with how much you spend likely to come down to whether you consider a skincare routine as an opportunity for luxurious pampering or a functional part of your day. More expensive moisturisers tend to contain higher concentrations of active ingredients (in some cases, clinically researched by the skincare company) with rarer, more luxurious oils in the base. However, there are also some very well-performing budget moisturisers that work just as efficiently. We’ve included some excellent moisturisers at all price brackets below.
How we test moisturisers
At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. As such, we have personally tested all of the moisturisers that feature in the roundup below, following the directions for use found on the packaging.
We use the creams as directed for one week and examine the results on the skin, paying particular attention to promises made in terms of smoothing, plumping or brightening. If a product is made for a specific skin type then, where possible, we test on that skin type. We also note how the product feels and smells in use, and any issues such as heaviness, greasiness, stinging or residue. We observe how the skin feels immediately after using (or the following morning, in the case of products designed for overnight use), and the results with repeated use. Finally, we note the quantity of product needed for each application, the package design and ease of use, and gauge how many uses we’d expect to get from one bottle or jar.
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The best moisturisers you can buy in 2023
1. La Roche-Posay Nutritic Intense Rich: Best moisturiser for dry skin
Price: £19 | Buy now from Look Fantastic
Dry skins need richer creams to keep skin moist throughout the day, and La Roche-Posay’s intense cream is one of the most gentle and nourishing creams suitable for dry and very dry skins. Made with glycerin and hydrating thermal spring water, Nutritic Intense Rich cream is both hypoallergenic and paraben-free and therefore ideal for sensitive skins.
As the name suggests, this extra-rich cream is thick and takes time to sink in, making it especially good as a night cream or intense weekly treatment. If you’re using this in the daytime, be sure to leave time in your routine for it to absorb into skin before applying makeup. A great caring cream for dry and fragile skin.
Key details – Pack size: 50ml
2. CeraVe Moisturising Cream: Best budget moisturiser for dry skin
Price: £5 | Buy now from Lookfantastic
CeraVe has made a name for itself in recent years with its effective products that arrive in no-frills packaging – and this deeply moisturising cream with nourishing ceramides and hydrating hyaluronic acid is a budget saviour for dry skins. The cream feels rich but soaks in well so there’s no greasy texture, and skin feels soft and comfortable for hours after applying.
CeraVe’s cream is fragrance-free and gentle enough to use on sensitive skins. It’s particularly good for those who may have irritated dry patches that are in need of something calming to soften and repair the skin’s natural barrier. A fab product for budget-conscious dry skins.
Key details – Pack size: 50ml
3. Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Clearing Jelly: Best moisturiser for oily skin
Price: £22 | Buy now from Clinique
Those with oily skin might be tempted to skip moisturiser. However, cleansing skin without replacing moisture can lead to the skin producing excess sebum in response, which will make skin oilier and more prone to breakouts. A lightweight, non-greasy gel formula is just what this skin type needs to hydrate and balance the complexion without adding extra oils.
Clinique’s water-based hydrating jelly is just the ticket: it’s light and easily absorbed, with hyaluronic acid locking in the right kind of moisture without adding shine, and exfoliating salicylic acid helps to keep skin clear. Part of a range of skincare products for oily skins, Clinique’s Clearing Jelly is also suitable for use on sensitive and combination skins.
Key details – Pack size: 100ml
4. L’Oreal Paris Hydra Genius Normal to Combination: Best budget moisturiser for oily skin
Price: £9.95 | Buy now from Superdrug
L’Oreal’s ultra-lightweight liquid moisturiser is perfect for oilier skins that want a hydrating product that helps balance the skin without adding oil or grease. Formulated with aloe water and hyaluronic acid, this liquid moisturiser is even lighter and more quickly absorbed than a gel, and leaves skin feeling wonderfully fresh for hours after use. The aloe scent is pleasant, and the liquid texture means you can apply makeup almost immediately after moisturising.
Hydra Genius doesn’t contain any exfoliating or mattifying ingredients; it’s perfect for those who don’t want a rich cream for their face. And since the formula is so lightweight, Hydra Genius is also an excellent option for summer skin that doesn’t need a rich occlusive layer.
Key details – Pack size: 70ml
5. Origins GinZing Energy-Boosting Moisturiser: Best for combination skin
Price: £34| Buy now from Lookfantastic
Oily T-zone and dry cheeks? You’ll need a hardworking moisturiser that hydrates the parched areas of skin on your face, without making any oily parts look slicker. Luckily, Origins’ GinZing moisturiser with its energising gel-based formula ticking both boxes. Including invigorating extracts of Panax ginseng and coffee bean, the moisturiser perks up tired, lacklustre skin in an instant, with its smooth and lightweight texture quickly absorbing into skin – even on troublesome T-zones. It sits perfectly underneath makeup as a hydrating primer, and it smells as good as it feels as a result of the refreshing orange scent.
If your skin falls on the oily or dry side, we’d recommend a dedicated moisturiser; but this Origins number does a fantastic job attending to those whose skin has a little of both. For a cooling and depuffing treat, especially in the summer, leave the gel moisturiser in the fridge before using.
Key details – Pack size: 50ml
6. e.l.f. SuperHydrate with Squalane: Best budget moisturiser for combination skin
Price: £12 | Buy now from Boots
Cult Californian beauty brand e.l.f. creates ethical and cruelty-free beauty, and skincare products that won’t break the bank. This lightweight gel moisturiser with glycerin and plant-derived squalane adds a hydrating boost to dryer parts of the face, without overloading oily areas.
The gel melts into skin on application; give it a few minutes to absorb before applying makeup for a soft and velvety finish. Skin feels fresh and hydrated instantly, and a little of the gel goes a long way, so you shouldn’t need to replace the pot too soon after buying. A great budget choice to keep tricky dual-zone skin comfortable all day and night.
Key details – Pack size: 48g
7. Estée Lauder Re-Nutriv Ultimate Lift Age-Correcting Crème: Best luxury anti-ageing moisturiser
Price: £215 | Buy now from John Lewis
The best cream we’ve come across for boosting hydration, this deluxe cream designed for mature skins promises to strengthen delicate skin and plump fine lines. And “plumped” is exactly the way skin feels, thanks to Estée Lauder’s multi-patented molecules with South Sea pearls and refined 24K gold that restore the skin by boosting the body’s own natural collagen production.
Estée Lauder advises using the cream both morning and night, with its recommended facial massage process; but depending on the texture of your skin, you may prefer to use this thick, rich cream at night only. If your skin is in need of a rich daytime cream, be sure to allow time for Re-Nutriv to absorb fully before applying makeup. And the bonus: the pleasantly weighty pot in which the cream arrives feels luxurious and is sure to look good on your nightstand – which we’d rather expect for the price.
Key details – Pack size: 50ml
8. Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Anti-Ageing Day Moisturiser SPF15: Best moisturiser for mature skin
Price: £17 | Buy now from Amazon
A moisturiser that delivers seven age-defying benefits before breakfast, Olay’s Total Effects is a fantastically hydrating day cream packed with antioxidants and vitamins to fight the signs of ageing. The gentle exfoliating properties of the cream leave skin feeling instantly smooth after application, without any greasiness or heaviness, and looking subtly radiant.
The tone of your skin is balanced, lines and pores are slightly blurred, and skin feels nicely supple for most of the day; and built-in SPF 15 helps ward off the polluting effects of the sun. Enjoy comfortably moisturised skin with more than a few extra benefits on the side – and all for an incredibly reasonable price.
Key details – Pack size: 50ml
9. Weleda Skin Food: Best multi-tasker
Price: £14 | Buy now from Cult Beauty
Organic brand Weleda has been harnessing the power of plants in its health and beauty products since 1921, and this hardworking beauty balm containing beeswax, sunflower seed and almond oils is a real multitasking moisturiser. Warm the thick balm in your hands before applying – sparingly, since a little really does go a long way – to the face for a luminous glow. You can also use this formula to soothe rough knees and elbows, dry hands, ragged cuticles and even frizzy hair.
Skin Food is particularly beneficial for dry skins, but this versatile hero product is suitable for all skin types and won’t cause irritation to sensitive skin.
Key details – Pack size: 75ml