- If you’re one of those people whose face feels flaky whether it’s December or August, finding the right face cream can be difficult.
- But if full-on hydration and protection are what you’re after, Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream is your best bet.
While dry skin tends to plague most people in the chillier months, for some, their daily skincare regimen is a near-constant fight against the flake. And, if you’re one of these folks, you know that all moisturizers are not created equal. Luckily, looking out for some key ingredients can save you a lot of trial and error when it comes to soothing your chapped face.
Face creams that contain ceramides, for example, are usually a good bet; these molecules mimic your skin’s natural lipid layer, which is a central component of its protective barrier. Hyaluronic acid is another ingredient to keep an eye out for. It works to attract and trap moisture, and in fact, can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water – making it something of an overachiever in the skincare industry.
While finding the right face cream is key to mitigating dry skin, the steps you take before you apply that face cream are equally important. You’ll want to gently exfoliate pre-moisturizer, since dry patches of skin can block pores and keep face creams from penetrating deeply. Misting your face with a hydrating toner is also a smart move; damp skin absorbs creams more thoroughly.
Of course, if dry skin is a recurring issue you should talk to your dermatologist before embarking on a new routine. They can determine whether or not your skin is dehydrated because of an underlying condition like eczema or psoriasis. If that’s the case, you may need a prescription for proper treatment.
Here are the best face creams for dry skin in 2020:
- Best face cream for dry skin overall: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
- Best lightweight face cream for dry skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
- Best drugstore face cream for dry skin: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
- Best high-end face cream for dry skin: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
- Best plant-based face cream for dry skin: Youth To The People Age Prevention Superfood Cream
Updated on 2/26/20 by Mara Leighton: Updated copy, formatting, and prices.
The best face cream for dry skin overall
- Dr. Jart
The Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream is made with ceramides, which are molecules that mimic your skin’s natural barrier to hydrate and heal.
Hydration may seem like the most important quality in treatment for dry skin, but you’re going to want something that heals as well. Enter: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream. This product is such a winner because it’s more of a skin mimic than a skin cream.
Let me explain. The star ingredients in Dr. Jart+’s cream are ceramides, which are lipid molecules that work to defend your skin. (Here I should note that while we all have naturally-occurring ceramides, the ones found in skincare products are synthetic – though they serve the same purpose.)
Ceramides help to bind skin cells together, forming the protective barrier that keeps good stuff in and bad stuff out. People who suffer from seriously dry skin tend to have a leaky barrier, which causes moisture to escape. So, Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream helps your epidermis to hydrate itself by working to fix those leaks. Because of its ability to do actual maintenance on your skin instead of just covering up a problem, this cream is also fantastic for those with eczema.
A warning: This cream is heavy-duty, and if you don’t actually suffer from chronically dry skin you might find it a little too heavy. It’s perfect, however, for those with aging skin, diagnosed dry skin issues, or intense chap.
Pros: Helps to actually heal skin instead of just hydrate it
Cons: May be a little too heavy for those who only suffer from seasonal dryness
The best lightweight face cream for dry skin
The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is a lightweight moisturizer that hydrates without being too heavy.
One of the most common misconceptions about dry skin is that it’s best treated with a heavy moisturizer. In fact, thick formulas can actually do more harm than good if they don’t contain the right ingredients.
Instead of penetrating pores, creams with heavy consistencies tend to sit on top of your skin, sapping it of air and moisture. So in some cases, a lighter formula may be your best bet. And when it comes to lightweight moisturizers, no product does it better than Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel.
This all-star product contains one of the key ingredients I mentioned before: hyaluronic acid. Like ceramides, hyaluronic acid is naturally occurring in your body – not just in your skin, but in your joints and eyes as well. It holds 1,000 times its weight in water and pulls moisture from the environment, which it then utilizes to hydrate your skin.
While hyaluronic acid is an amazing source of moisture, it may not be strong enough for those suffering from rosacea or eczema. So if you’re dealing with one of those issues, check in with your doctor for product recommendations.
Pros: Lightweight, perfect for those who don’t love the feel of a heavy cream
Cons: May not be hydrating enough for certain skin issues
The best drugstore face cream for dry skin
Have dry skin that’s also sensitive? CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream is formulated without fragrance, so you can hydrate without irritation.
Dry skin tends to be ultra-sensitive. It makes sense – when your face’s protective barrier is damaged, certain skincare additives can suddenly leave you itchy and inflamed.
Luckily, CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream is formulated without fragrances, making it ideal for sensitive skin. It also delivers the one-two punch of ceramides and hyaluronic acid that flaky skin is desperate for. First, the hyaluronic acid penetrates your pores, giving you a deep dose of moisture. Then, the ceramides work to lock that moisture in by repairing the skin’s barrier layer.
CeraVe says that this hydration lasts for 24 hours, and while I’m not sure about that claim, I can definitely say that it left me feeling moisturized all day. There was no midday tightness or afternoon flake.
Pros love it too, with Glamour beauty writer Rachel Nussbaum saying “ever since [I started using CeraVe], I’ve had baby soft, clear skin with the smallest pores of my life.”
Pros: Wallet-friendly, absorbs quickly, moisturizing
Cons: It might be a little too heavy for those with acneic skin
The best high-end face cream for dry skin
- Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream is worth its bigger price tag because it’s packed with amino acids and peptides for moisturizing and anti-aging power.
While dry skin can strike at any time, it becomes more common with age. Women, especially, are increasingly prone to it as they get older, as menopause can cause some serious dryness. So instead of reaching for a cream that only delivers moisture, those with aging skin may want to find a product that also provides some anti-aging benefits.
That’s exactly what Drunk Elephant’s Protini cream does. It hydrates dry skin while delivering a powerful cocktail of amino acids and peptides (a.k.a. protein fragments that are widely thought to help preserve and boost collagen, reducing the appearance of fine lines).
Pros are fans of this cream, too. Fashionista editor Steph Saltzman raved that after using Protini, her skin “feels instantly coddled and protected, like it’s been wrapped in a snug little security blanket/forcefield against the elements.”
As a bonus, this cream wins for its near-perfect delivery system. Instead of a jar, which can easily become contaminated if you don’t wash your hands before dipping your fingers in, Protini comes with a push-top applicator. It dispenses just the right amount of face cream in a totally hygienic way. Moisturized skin that’s also healthy? Sign us up.
Pros: Anti-aging and moisturizing, innovative delivery system
Cons: The active ingredients may be a little too much for those with sensitive skin, expensive
The best plant-based face cream for dry skin
- Youth to the People
Youth To The People’s Age Prevention Superfood Cream is both green and hyper-moisturizing, making it perfect for ethically-minded folks.
When it comes to skincare, it’s not always easy being green. So many active ingredients are synthetic. And while that doesn’t mean that they’re unhealthy, there are plenty of people who’d prefer to get their skincare superpowers from plant-based sources. The caveat? Those natural ingredients aren’t always as effective as the synthetic kind.
But Youth To The People seems to have licked this seemingly never-ending cycle with its Age Prevention Superfood Cream. This moisturizer is stocked with 100% vegan ingredients, but it’s also a powerful weapon in the fight against flake. Some of these ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, you’re already very familiar with, but others, like kale and spinach, are less common when it comes to skincare.
These two greens are great for your skin and your body. Spinach helps to prevent against sun damage, while kale contains some powerful antioxidants – specifically vitamins A, C, E, and K. These antioxidants are helpful in rebuilding your skin’s protective layer, so that the hyaluronic acid also present in this formula can penetrate perfectly. And since this formula contains lightweight moisturizers, like hyaluronic acid, you can use it all year long.
Pros: Vegan ingredients, lightweight
Cons: Severely dry skin may not get the amount of moisture it needs
Check out our other great skincare guides
- Shutterstock/Alena Ozerova
Whether you’re new to the exfoliation game or a seasoned skincare pro, Glossier’s Solution is the exfoliator you should be reaching for. Its powerful mix of acids dissolves dead skin cells and improves your complexion, giving your face a gorgeous glow. Read our full guide for other top picks.
Everyone wants healthy, smooth, and soft skin. Dry skin not only looks dull and flaky, it also feels tight and itchy. The solution? A good moisturizer. Our favorite moisturizer for both face and body is the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. Read our full guide for other top picks.
Let’s face it, there’s nothing you can do about getting older, but you can delay the signs of aging with a good serum like the Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum. Read our full guide for other top picks.
Eye creams and serums are likely the product you know you should be using but have no idea how to actually shop for. If you’re unsure of where to start, reach for the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Eye Serum. Read our full guide for other top picks.
Clay masks are an easy and cost-effective way to give your skin a boost without hitting the spa. Our top pick is the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask because it is a super affordable all-natural mask that deep cleans your pores. Read our full guide for other top picks.