Hydration at a bargain.

By Hana Hong
November 02, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Credit: courtesy of manufacturers

While it’s true that skincare is all about customization, there are certain categories that are essential for everyone. Case in point: Second to SPF, moisturizer is a non-negotiable, no matter your routine. A good face moisturizer can benefit all skin types—yes, even oily!—by balancing hydration levels (hydration = glowy skin), keeping breakouts at bay, and providing some impressive anti-aging benefits

But of course, we have to find the right formula first. Finding the right moisturizer can often feel like a very expensive game of skincare roulette, but a higher price doesn’t always mean better quality. In fact, you can get dermatologist-preferred ingredients (i.e., ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and more) at your local drugstore without the hefty sum. To simplify the strenuous process of tracking down the perfect formula, we sifted through dozens of hardworking hydrators—all under $40 — for the best face creams and lotions that are easy to apply and restock.

$22, ulta.com

Looking to streamline your morning routine? The ultimate multitasking beauty product, Garnier’s all-new formula has the high concentration of a serum, the hydration of a cream, and the SPF of a sunscreen. Hyaluronic acid (a powerhouse skin hydrator that can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water) tackles dehydration, while watermelon extract helps plump skin.

$17, amazon.com

A dermatologist favorite, this daily face cream has all the MVP ingredients you could ever dream of in a drugstore moisturizer: niacinamide to reduce inflammation, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, and vitamin E to protect your skin from free radicals. And in true Cetaphil fashion, it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin types. 

$39, ulta.com

The iconic Regenerist collection has gained a cult following over the years for its ability to hydrate better than most hundred-dollar face creams. The hundreds of rave reviews speak for themselves: One user compared the powerful peptides—which signal your skin cells to make more collagen—to a shot of Botox.

$19, target.com

Although the price tag is under $20, this buttery cream (which is also choice for eczema and psoriasis sufferers) feels like a hundred bucks on your face. Bonus: The packaging now comes with a pump so you don’t have to keep dipping your fingers inside the tub.

$20, amazon.com

Itchy, tight pores don't stand a chance against this oil-free moisturizer, which is spiked with moisture-locking ceramides, prebiotic thermal water, and niacinamide to thwart dryness and irritation from the inside out.

$5, amazon.com

There’s no need to worry about this gentle gel moisturizer triggering a breakout, even if you have super greasy skin. Formulated with plant extracts and minerals, the non-sticky formula absorbs quickly and cools red, irritated skin upon impact for a seriously refreshing ahh moment.