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Finding the best moisturizer for dry, sensitive skin is no easy task. While you might be tempted to slather on the richest formula you can find and call it a day, catering to sensitivity and the different causes of dryness or dehydration requires a little extra work.
What causes dry, sensitive skin? According to dermatologists, there’s no shortage of possibilities. “There’s a whole host of reasons this may occur,” says dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara. “You might not be moisturizing enough, using overly harsh products to cleanse, overusing retinoids, over-exfoliating, or using the wrong mix of products.” Beyond your routine, external factors such as changes in weather or sun exposure can also contribute to this skin type.
Whether your sensitivity shows up as an occasional reaction to products or a more frequent skin condition flare up (like eczema and rosacea), you need a moisturizer that reinforces your natural barrier function. “Some people have a weaker skin barrier and are more prone to irritation,” says dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. Once your barrier becomes compromised, you’ll experience symptoms like redness, burning, stinging and flaking. In order to treat this, both Dr. Gohara and Dr. Zeichner recommended looking for moisturizers that do two things: boost your skin’s protective layer to prevent further water loss, and calm inflammation. Approved ingredients include ceramides, glycerin, colloidal oatmeal, and niacinamide. Keep an eye out for these, while avoiding exfoliants and potential irritants like fragrance. “As much as we like the sensorial experience of a fragrance, it commonly leads to skin reactions,” says Dr. Zeichner.
Not sure where to start? We’re making things easier for you with this list of dermatologist and editor-approved favorites. Below, the 15 best moisturizers for keeping dry, sensitive skin hydrated and calm.
1. Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Rich Moisturizer
Dr. Zeichner recommends this drugstore find for all skin types, but particularly those experiencing dryness and irritation. Soothing glycerin and allantoin provide all the hydration you need while staying gentle on your barrier. “It also contains chamomile extract, which has a calming effect on the skin,” he says.
2. Avène Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Balm
French pharmacy brand Avène bases its products around thermal spring water, which is gentle enough to use on post-surgery skin. This thick balm is specifically designed for very sensitive skin types, or those with skin conditions. “There are no preservatives in this product at all due to air-sealed packaging,” says Dr. Gohara. “It soothes inflamed skin in 30 seconds, and the thermal water calms irritation.”
3. Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream
Celebrity esthetician Kate Somerville developed this cream as a calming treatment for clients to use after peels. The thick, rich texture melts upon contact and feels especially luxurious at night, especially on flaking or irritated skin. Its calming properties come from peptides, moisture-locking ceramides, and anti-inflammatories like green tea. Softening shea butter gives it that signature buttery texture and softening feel.
4. Senté Dermal Repair Cream
This moisturizer features a heparan sulfate analog, an active ingredient associated with both plumping and calming effects. “It’s been evaluated on people with sensitive skin and rosacea,” says Dr. Zeichner. The result is a rich, calming formula that delivers both soothing relief and an overall firming, toning effect.
5. Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream
Perhaps the most raved-about moisturizer since La Mer, Augustinus Bader’s cream is said to do it all: smooth lines, improve texture, impart glow, hydrate and essentially turn your skin into the best version of itself. The Rich Cream adds an additional dose of nourishing ingredients (like avocado and argan oil) to the original formula, which owes its success to the proprietary TFC8 (Trigger Factor Complex 8), a regenerating mix of more than 40 different ingredients. It’s still a mystery exactly how the magic happens, but dermatologists, celebrities ,and editors alike agree that just one layer of this — and nothing else — improves dry skin to an impressive degree.
6. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer
This fast-absorbing lotion is also one of the best moisturizers for dry, sensitive skin, and comes recommended by Dr. Gohara. “It keeps water in and irritants out,” she says of the formula, which contains ceramides and soothing colloidal oatmeal. Avocado oil and shea butter help further soften the skin, but the moisturizer remains light enough to layer under your foundation.
7. Pause Collagen Boosting Moisturizer
Pause’s moisturizer is another great option for those seeking intense hydration in a lightweight formula. It’s specifically designed to address changes in skin throughout menopause, making it one of the best moisturizers for sensitive, aging skin (although it works beautifully on anyone). A blend of vitamins, antioxidants and peptides work together to spark collagen production, giving your skin more structural support and elasticity.
8. Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre
This famed cream bathes your face in light — yet deeply hydrating — moisture that dries down to a weightless finish. It’s packed with barrier-strengthening fatty acids and firming soy proteins that leave skin smooth and soft. Shea butter provides another layer of emollient hydration. Wear it day or night; the finish layers well under makeup, making it a backstage favorite.
9. InnBeauty Project Next Level Daily Moisturizer
For an instant skin refresh, slather on InnBeauty’s gel cream formula. Dr. Zeichner likes the inclusion of niacinamide (or vitamin B3) here, which helps soothe and strengthen the skin. The rest of the formula contains plant-based extracts designed to further calm redness and impart glow.
10. Vaseline Healing Jelly
Sometimes, it’s best to keep things simple. “Mineral oil is incredible at barrier repair,” says Dr. Gohara. It’s admittedly not the most comfortable thing to wear during the day, but a layer of Vaseline at night forms an occlusive barrier that’s incredibly effective at keeping skin from drying out.
11. Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream
A rare sensorial experience that still works for sensitive skin, Glow Recipe’s sunshine-colored cream smells like banana pudding while delivering soothing, lasting hydration. The formula’s calming lineup includes banana, magnesium, turmeric and cica, and leaves skin bright and soft.
12. Tata Harper Superkind Fortifying Moisturizer
Reactive skin types should immediately reach for this silky lotion from Tata Harper. As the name suggests, it’s designed to be as gentle as possible, which means you won’t find any fragrance, essential oils, or common irritants inside. It’s equally good for soothing flare-ups and reactions as it is for calming sunburn. Best of all, it leaves behind that signature Tata glow that makes you look like you’re emerging fresh from the spa.
13. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
CeraVe’s no-frills moisturizers are immensely popular with dermatologists and TikTok creators alike. Dr. Zeichner recommends the PM formula in particular, which he says “delivers ceramides to the skin to help fill in cracks between cells in the outer layer,” reinforcing your barrier. It also contains soothing, brightening niacinamide — giving you everything you need to treat dry skin symptoms in a bargain formula.
14. Beekman 1802 Bloom Cream Daily Probiotic Moisturizer
Beekman’s Bloom Cream is worth the price of admission for the pump applicator alone, which dispenses your moisturizer in a blooming flower pattern. The actual formula impresses, too. It’s based on the concept that your skin barrier and biome need to be balanced in order to achieve smooth, glowing results. A probiotic complex and protective ingredients both mimic and boost your barrier function, restoring hydration while fighting dullness.
15. Renée Rouleau Phytolipid Comfort Creme
Those experiencing sensitivity from retinoid or retinol overuse need look no further than this repairing cream. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau recommends this luxurious formula for dryness, flaking, and redness resulting from a weakened barrier (aside from retinol burn, this might include over-exfoliation, laser treatments, chemical peels, or skin conditions, including rosacea and eczema). Phospholipids and anti-inflammatory botanicals provide instant relief as soon as you apply.