12 best moisturisers for skin to soothe and hydrate

Face feeling dry and tight? Discover the best moisturisers for skin to suit every complexion and budget

a collage showing the best moisturisers on the high street - including clinique and kiehl's
(Image credit: Future)

The best moisturisers for skin are usually a non-negotiable part of our daily skincare arsenal. Find the right one, and your skin will thank you for it. 

Moisturising is an essential and unmissable step in any good skincare regime. Once you've cleansed your face, applied your skin toner (opens in new tab) and put on your best facial oil (opens in new tab), it's time for the all-important moisture application. But as is the case with all skincare products - finding the one that is right and works for you is the ultimate goal. If you’re struggling to quench your skin’s thirst, look for moisturisers with the right combination of ingredients, says NHS dermatologist Dr Cristina Psomadakis (opens in new tab) who boasts an MSc in Skin Ageing & Aesthetics. “Most moisturisers will have three general categories of ingredients to provide targeted support: emollient ingredients that smooth the skin, humectant ingredients that add moisture and occlusive ingredients that reinforce the skin barrier.”

Contrary to popular belief - much like the best hand creams for dry skin (opens in new tab) - the best moisturisers aren’t necessarily the thickest and most sumptuous. More important is the chosen moisture-grabbing ingredients within the formula. Hyaluronic acid is probably the hottest hydrator on the block, known to attract up to 1000 times its weight in water. Ceramides are essential in supporting the skin barrier, while glycerin is one of the most commonly used ingredients in moisturisers, thanks to its ability to pull water from the air into the outer layer of your skin. Dr Psomadakis has her own personal favourites - “Individual ingredients I like to look for include ceramides, glycerin, panthenol and allantoin.” From high street favourites and sensitive skin saviours to luxurious formulas with anti-ageing benefits, we’ve collated the best moisturisers for skin in one comprehensive list so you can treat your complexion to some TLC.

What to consider when choosing the best moisturisers for skin

  • Star rating: Our in-house star-rating system is based on peer reviews. They’ve tried and tested the best moisturisers for skin and awarded stars based on factors such as product quality, ease of use, customer feedback, awards and value for money. Products that have received a 5 star status are rare and considered exceptional, going above and beyond our reviewer’s expectations.
  • Active ingredients: We looked for a combination of emollient, humectant and occlusive ingredients. Some of the most potent hydrators include Hyaluronic acid, a moisture-binding molecule, barrier-supporting ceramides and peptides, glycerin and fatty acids.
  • Cruelty-free: More and more beauty brands have realised that testing on animals is not a humane or sustainable practice. We’re keen to select products from brands that follow this ethos.
  • Packaging: Moisturisers usually come in tubs so you can scoop out just the right amount for the area you need. It also means you can ensure every last drop of cream is used, as opposed to squeeze bottles that always retain some product. If we have included squeeze bottles, it’s because the formula justifies the inclusion, and the packaging is widely recyclable. Because of course, sustainability is a serious concern - anything that is non-recyclable is a no-no for us.

A selection of the best moisturisers for skin as tested by our Beauty Editor Stephanie Maylor

(Image credit: Stephanie Maylor)

12 best moisturisers for skin

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

(Image credit: Kiehl's)

1. Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

Best moisturiser to suit all skin types

Specifications

RRP: $33/£28.50
Active ingredients: Glacial Glycoprotein, Olive-Derived Squalane
Cruelty-free: Yes
Packaging: Recyclable jar

Reasons to buy

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Featherlight texture
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All-day supple feeling
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Tested in extreme climates

Reasons to avoid

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None, we love this!

This is Kiehl’s number one-selling product, and it’s one that Beauty Editors fawn over. It’s a real no-mess, ‘does what it says on the tin’ moisturiser that quenches skin’s thirst throughout the day, leaving it feeling plump and bouncy. In fact, after just one application skin is 2.3 times more hydrated. What’s so fantastic about this cult cream is it’s been proven to fight against moisture loss in testing climates that can dehydrate skin. It will keep skin supple and comfortable whether in the depths of a biting winter chill, in extreme dry heat or a moisture-sapping air-conditioned room.

“Ultra Facial Cream is one of my all-time favourite hydrators and I'm constantly recommending it,” says Fiona McKim (opens in new tab), Beauty Editor of Woman&Home . “The main thing I love about it is that it has a slippery texture that's magically somehow lightweight and quenching. It never leaves a claggy residue on my combination skin but still does a great job of making it feel all soft and bouncy and comfy.” No wonder it’s won over 70 international beauty awards!

Indie Lee Active Oil Free Moisturizer

(Image credit: Indie Lee)

2. Indie Lee Active Oil Free Moisturizer

Best moisturiser for oily skin

Specifications

RRP: $50/£47
Active ingredients: Mandarin extract, Glycerin, Pomegranate, Milk Thistle
Cruelty-free: Yes
Packaging: Recyclable box and glass bottle

Reasons to buy

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Pleasant scent
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Made with 99.4% natural origin ingredients
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Antioxidant protection

Reasons to avoid

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On the pricey side

If ‘clean’ beauty is your bag, you’ll appreciate Indie Lee’s green credentials. Every single product is made without chemicals, contaminants or synthetics. This moisturiser is formulated without oil too, meaning it's a solid option for those with oily, combination and acne-prone skin types. What it lacks in oil it more than makes up for in hydrating extracts and antioxidant protection against pollution, making it an ideal morning moisturiser for city-dwellers.

WRITER REVIEW: For me, this felt really calming on my skin, almost offering a cooling sensation. It absorbed effortlessly, leaving my skin plump and buoyant. Where other moisturisers deliver a glowy sheen, this made my skin look velvety and mattified, which was particularly welcome across my T-zone, which airs on the oily side. It made a noticeable difference to balancing out my shiny areas.

Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream

(Image credit: Curél)

3. Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream

Best moisturiser for sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP: $24.09/£20
Active ingredients: Glycerin, Squalene, Eucalyptus leaf extract, Ceramide technology
Cruelty-free: Yes
Packaging: Recyclable jar

Reasons to buy

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Lightweight texture
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Award-winning
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Absorbs easily

Reasons to avoid

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Slightly smaller tub for the price

You might not have heard of Curél, but it’s big news in Japan. Simple and efficacious, it’s the number one skincare brand for sensitive skin there, and is recommended by 86.8% of Japanese Dermatologists. The range is based around ceramide technology. Ceramides are fatty acids that form the skin’s moisture barrier. Think of them as the cement that holds the bricks of the skin barrier together. When our skin lacks ceramides, you’re likely to experience dry, itchy and sensitive skin. This cream utilises ceramide-promoting moisturisers to replenish ceramide levels, increase moisture and strengthen the skin barrier to prevent dryness going forwards.

Dr Catharine Denning (opens in new tab), a GMC registered medical doctor (who specialises in Cosmetics) and Curél brand expert recommends this ceramide-rich moisturiser for those with sensitive skin. “It’s perfect to help repair the damaged skin barrier,” she says.

Weleda Skin Food

(Image credit: Weleda)

4. Weleda Skin Food

Best moisturiser for rough patches

Specifications

RRP: $19/£13.50
Active ingredients: Calendula, Chamomile, Beeswax, Glycerin
Cruelty-free: Yes
Packaging: Recyclable tube

Reasons to buy

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Delightfully rich texture
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A little goes a long way
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Can be used on the face or body

Reasons to avoid

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Can feel tacky if over-applied

This award-winning green tube is lauded by Beauty Editors, make-up artists and celebrities for its ability to cure dry, rough skin, making it one of the best moisturisers for skin of all types. No wonder then that one bottle of Skin Food is sold every 10 seconds. Enriched with organic sunflower seed oil, calendula and chamomile, it’s unexpectedly rich, so go easy - a little really goes a long way. More than a moisturiser, this multi-use, magical skin saviour can be used across the face, hands, elbows and feet - anywhere your skin is crying out for a big slurp of moisture. 

“This is such a rich, sumptuous cream, it's always in my beauty stash” says Future PLC's Group Beauty Director, Sarah Cooper-White (opens in new tab). “It works wonders on the itchy, rough patches on my knees, immediately dissipa