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11 Face Moisturizers That Really Work

In our 20s and even 30s, moisturizer didn’t seem that important. Then we hit our 40s and a powerhouse face cream became an absolute must.

As we age, skin loses collagen and produces “fewer moisturizing factors to protect and hydrate the skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Pooja Sodha of FaceMD+. “Applying topical moisturizers, particularly after exposure to water, helps to trap moisture in the skin,” she says. 

As anyone who has spent hours perusing the aisles of Sephora, Ulta, or Bluemercury knows, the sheer number of moisturizers can be overwhelming. To narrow down the choices, Dr. Sodha recommends using creams during dryer seasons and lotions for warmer weather and daytime use, and she says to look for products with ceramides, which can help regenerate the natural moisturizing barrier of the skin. Other effective ingredients recommended by skin care experts like Dr. Sodha include low-concentration alpha and beta hydroxy acids to enhance cell turnover and retinol for discoloration and fine lines. The one caveat is that retinol can irritate sensitive skin, so you must use SPF during the day (which you should anyway) if you’re planning to slather it on at night.

Armed with Dr. Sodha’s advice and the goal of finding effective paraben- and phthalate-free face creams, we found 11 moisturizers that really work.

For Day

best moisturizers

One of the great joys of perimenopause is the dastardly duo of acne and aging skin, thanks to fluctuating hormones. To the rescue: Murad’s Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30, made with an oil-control complex and the highest level of UVA protection, and infused with black tea-derived kombucha collagen defense to fight wrinkles.

SuperGoop Superscreen Daily Moisturizer checks all the boxes. It’s hydrating, protects against damaging sun rays, contains antioxidant-rich blue-green algae, and is lightweight enough to go under makeup. SuperGoop products are free of phthalates, parabens, and a whole list of other undesirable ingredients.

Looking for a rich daytime cream to wear under makeup? Try Glossier Priming Moisturizer, a luxurious blend of the aforementioned ceramides and kukui oil to help lock in moisture and create a smooth canvas for foundation.

If you’d prefer not to drop a small fortune for moisturizer but still want something that works and doesn’t contain harmful ingredients, we like Acure’s Seriously Soothing Day Cream. It’s particularly good for sensitive skin and has organic chamomile and sunflower amino acids to help alleviate dryness — and it’s just 10 bucks.

Any dermatologist will tell you that the best way to prevent skin aging is to use sunscreen. But finding a moisturizer that has sunscreen and isn’t greasy or filled with chemicals isn’t easy. Tropical Vanilla Day Cream from Eminence Organics has SPF 32. Not only does it moisturize with shea butter; vitamins A, E, and C; and coenzyme 10, it also has an enticing scent.

Not everyone can tolerate SPF in their moisturizer. If that’s you, we suggest Dr. Hauschka’s Rose Day Cream. With a gentle floral scent and hydrating avocado and rose hip oil, this moisturizer is especially good for sensitive skin and it may even help calm inflammation. It comes in both regular and light versions. 

For Night

best moisturizers

M-61 Hydraboost from Bluemercury is a night cream we go back to again and again. Active ingredients like peptides and hyaluronic acid firm and plump skin while tamarind and aloe vera hydrate and soothe. Papaya and white mulberry help brighten and improve radiance.

If natural simplicity is what you’re after, you may want to add rosehip oil to your skin care arsenal. Made by harvesting the seeds of rosebushes, this gentle oil is inexpensive (around $13) and packed with essentials like anti-inflammatory fatty acids and vitamins A and C. 

Crème de la Mer is legendary. The secret sauce is a blend of sea kelp, calcium, magnesium, potassium, lecithin, iron, and vitamins, plus oils of citrus, eucalyptus, wheat germ, alfalfa, and sunflower combined in a process called biofermentation. This one is expensive but goes a long way. 

best moisturizers

Algenist Genius Sleeping Collagen is vegan and free of sulfates parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and a host of other unsavory ingredients. It’s also buttery and made with anti-aging alguronic acid, a compound that regenerates and protects algae cells that purportedly works wonders on human skin as well. After just one night, we woke up with noticeably softer skin that felt more hydrated and plumper than the day before. 

Nuria Defend Overnight Recovery Cream has a fresh scent and a light texture, and it seeps into the skin almost instantly. It’s infused with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from seaweed and brown algae to fight against damage caused by environmental aggressors. It’s also vegan, cruelty free, and a source of funding for girls’ education, so you can feel extra good about using it.

Photos: Top, milan2099; all others courtesy of the companies

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