Behold, the holy grails of hydration.

By Hana Hong
December 02, 2020
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Staying hydrated is a non-negotiable, so it’s no wonder even skincare skeptics reach for moisturizer—if nothing else. When the brutal winter months roll around, nothing (not even excessive amounts of H2O) can replace a rich, hydrating cream to keep moisture in and dryness out. Sure, any moisturizer out there will probably hydrate your skin—that is its main purpose after all—but that doesn’t make shopping for one an easy feat. Your skin is a tough crowd to please—not to mention everyone’s skin type, skin goals, and budget is unique, making it that much harder to find something that sweeps you off your feet. 

To ensure you have a reliable face cream that meets all your current skin needs, we scoured the market to locate a variety of standout selects. From a lightweight gel cream created for acne-prone complexions to a trustworthy drugstore formula that produces softer, bouncier skin on a budget, here are some of the best cream formulas to get your moisturizing fix.


This cream has a glorious, silky slip that keeps me hydrated for a good 12 hours, which is an impressive feat for my chronically dry skin. I also feel good knowing that lotus extracts are protecting my skin against free radicals and reversing the first signs of aging.


Think of the peptides in this protein moisturizer as little messengers—they signal your skin to create more collagen, improving skin‘s tone, texture, and firmness as a result. One small dollop will leave your skin looking absolutely poreless and imparts a dewy glow that sits wonderfully under foundation. Bonus: It has a neutral pH of 4.0 for those aiming for a pH-optimized skincare routine.


I’ve waxed poetic about this drugstore formula to anyone who will listen—but TBH, the name says it all: the skin-plumping complex improves elasticity and firms skin for a sculpted look. And if you’re prone to eczema or just have sensitive skin like me, the fragrance-free version (they have a scented option as well) won’t irritate whatsoever. (P.S. The brand is currently offering a free limited-edition Orolay coat inspired by the red jar with any $150 purchase on its website!)


OK, before you roll your eyes at me for touting a $212 moisturizer, hear me out: it will seriously change your complexion. For starters, the formula has one of the best scents I’ve smelled in a face cream. It has a smooth creamy texture that somehow seems to transfer onto your skin as soon as you apply. Even after it absorbs, I have a hard time not touching my face because it just feels so dang soft. 


For a long time, I assumed that parched skin needed to be drenched in oilier formulas, but all that did was clog my pores and open the gateway to breakouts. Enter: hyaluronic acid. PTR’s popular formula is light as a, well, cloud—yet manages to pack a powerful punch of hydration, so a little goes a long way. And because its whipped texture is practically weightless, you can layer with abandon.


It’s all about texture for me—and gel reigns supreme on tired mornings. This mint green concoction is like sweet nectar from the hydration gods. The melty formula feels like a cold refreshing burst on your face and soaks in seamlessly as soon as you apply so you’re happily moisturized all day long. All that, and it’s oil-free (read: great for acne-prone skin).


This potent potion is the best of clean beauty. Not only does it have antioxidant-rich green tea extracts, which is a major redness reducer, but also hydrating kale and vitamins C, E, and K to keep skin ultra-supple and nourished.