We updated this article in March 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on extensive testing done by the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab. Our original top-rated picks, selected by the GH Beauty Lab, remain the same.
Applying a face moisturizer daily is one of the number one keys to healthy, glowing skin no matter what the season, your age, or skin type. Experts say that hydrating is crucial for keeping skin youthful and healthy, even if you don’t have dry skin. “Moisturizing protects the skin barrier," explains Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. The healthier your barrier, the better your skin’s defense against inflammation and damage, which can protect skin from signs of dehydration, irritation, redness, and even hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles over time.
But just because a product is called a moisturizer doesn't mean it will be effective at hydrating skin. So Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab scientists are constantly putting face moisturizer formulas to the test, using both Lab instruments and consumer tester feedback to determine which really work. In the GH Beauty Lab's most recent day cream test, scientists tallied 4,434 Lab data points to find the best face moisturizers you can buy for all skin types, including combination skin, sensitive skin, oily skin and dry skin, and for all ages, whether you're looking for an anti-aging formula or one for glowing skin.
Here, read all about the best face moisturizers and creams , as tested by the GH Beauty Lab, backed by the Good Housekeeping Seal or recommended by dermatologists:
Our top picks
- Measurably and powerfully hydrates skin
- Lasting moisturization
- Rich texture
This iconic Olay cream outperformed almost a dozen competitors — even one priced at $440! — in GH Beauty Lab moisturization testing. Lab scientists were blown away by how well this GH Seal star kept skin moisturized over a 24-hour period, increasing hydration levels by 50% on average.
- Powerful hydrator
- Reduces darks spots and evens skin tone
- Bargain price
- May cause irritation in contact with eyes
The best of the GH Beauty Lab's anti-aging day cream test, this L'Oréal Paris brightening lotion delivers the biggest bang for your buck, effectively evening out skin tone, reducing UV spots, and hydrating. Lab tests found it raised skin's hydration 28% and decreased UV spots by 11% in four weeks. "In addition to the moisturizing effect, it decreased the appearance of my wrinkles, improved my skin tone, and my skin appeared brighter and more radiant," a tester reported
- Boost skin's glow
- Softens lines
- Absorbs fast
More than a moisturizer, GH Seal star Mary Kay’s lightweight day cream with SPF boasts actives like antioxidants and peptides for high-level hydration, brightening, and line-fighting benefits. The formula absorbed quickly and is non-greasy, users said. Clinical studies showed that 80% of testers saw an increased glow and 70% perceived minimized facial lines.
- Effectively hydrates skin
- Reduces wrinkles and dark spots
- Great value
A GH Beauty Lab favorite and Seal star, this luxe-feeling Roc cream is based on the research-verified ingredient retinol, which speeds up skin cell turnover to reduce dark spots and wrinkles starting in as little as seven days. In clinical tests, volunteers’ skin looked 32% smoother and more radiant after one week of daily use. The formula improved the look of wrinkles and dark spots by 46% over eight weeks and kept skin moisturized for a full 24 hours, Lab data analysis revealed.
- Powerful hydration
- Light feel
A gold standard and GH Beauty Award winner, the classic Clinique lotion stands the test of time, effectively hydrating even very dry skin for hours in GH Beauty Lab assessment despite a light feel. Measurements with the Lab’s Corneometer device showed that it increased skin's moisture by an impressive 41% over six hours after application.
- Mattifying whipped texture
- Hydrates and firms
A heavy-hitting moisturizer without the weight, GH Seal star and Beauty Award winner Olay’s ground-breaking formula "whips" actives like hydrating hyaluronic acid into a soufflé with a satin-matte finish that’s perfect for combination skin types. Over 60% of testers said their skin felt firmer and looked more lifted with use, according Beauty Lab evaluations.
- Lightweight texture
- Lasting hydration
- Bargain price
- May be too light for very dry skin
- Provides sun protection
- Measurably increases hydration
This GH Seal star and Beauty Award-winning Olay lotion is the rare formula that provides both sun protection and the real hydrating effects of a regular moisturizer. GH Beauty Lab tests found it increased skin moisture levels by 31% — more than any facial SPF 30 previously evaluated.
- Minimal, mild ingredients
- Calming and non-irritating
- May be too heavy for oily or combination skin
Rich in nourishing glycerin and triglycerides, Eau Thermale Avène's cream was created with minimal ingredients and without common irritants like fragrance to help soothe the most sensitive skin. Both GH Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann and GH's beauty director use it in their routines to relieve inflammation like redness and eczema. "This is my go-to when my skin is reacting and I need a moisturizer that will feel deeply coddling to help calm it," GH's beauty director says. "It's so gentle, I can use it right on flare-ups."
- Lasting hydration
- Gentle on skin
- Boosts radiance
Like a cool drink for your complexion, GH Seal star No7’s waterlight gel-cream hybrid melts in to hydrate parched, reactive skin with lipids, glycerin and plant-derived sugars. The formula increased skin’s moisturization for three days post-application, and 84% of testers said their skin (including sensitive) looked glowing after one week of use, per Lab data evaluation.
- Not greasy or pore-clogging
- Balances shine
- May not be rich enough for dry skin
- Hypoallergenic and fragrance-free
- Calms skin
Quell skin redness and reactivity with this Cetaphil night moisturizer that contains replenishing ceramides and shea butter, which Dr. Engelman recommends for rosacea relief. The formula is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, so it's less likely to inflame skin.
- Soothes skin
- Light, relieving gel texture
- Bargain price
Instantly quench and relieve a dehydrated face with Aveeno’s advanced formula, a GH Beauty Award winner that melds a next-generation water-based gel texture and nourishing, anti-inflammatory colloidal oat, often used to treat eczema. The light moisturizer “melts in with no greasiness or tackiness and cools and calms dry, irritated skin patches on contact,” Wizemann reports. “My skin looked better the next day: less red and not rough.”
- Contains natural ingredients
- Measurably hydrates skin
- Not oily or irritating
This Caudalie cream, packed with natural botanical oils, waters, and extracts, came out on top in GH Beauty Lab night cream testing for seriously hydrating (boosting levels by 43%) and improving skin's texture. Testers also gave it perfect marks for not being greasy or irritating. One said she saw an almost instant change: "I woke up looking refreshed!"
- Measurably smooths skin
- Minimizes wrinkles
Lightweight and gentle, Roc was a star in GH Beauty Lab day cream testing for smoothing wrinkles, lines and skin texture. Lab digital imaging with the Visia Complexion Analyzer showed the formula improved skin texture by 11% after four weeks of daily use."It left my skin feeling plump and looking smooth and glowing," one tester raved.
- Measurably hydrates skin
- Increases firmness
- Not irritating
- May take time to absorb
Soften skin in your sleep with this mild Philosophy cream made with hyaluronic acid, a winner of the GH Beauty Lab’s night cream test for its powerful moisturizing properties. It raised skin moisturization by 34% after six hours and firmness by 29% in four weeks, per Lab measures, and 95% of testers said it didn’t irritate. Many testers raved about the "luxurious" texture. "My skin looked better after the first night I used this," one marveled.
- Strong hydration
- Increases firmness
- Affordable price
Light in feel (and price!), this gel-like L'Oréal Paris night cream received high marks in GH Beauty Lab testing for both hydrating and firming skin. It raised skin moisturization by 40% per Lab calculations with the Corneometer, and upped firmness 36% in four weeks. "I could tell a real difference in my skin within just a few uses," a tester reported. "It was smooth, plumped and felt very moisturized."
- Powerful moisturization
- Minimizes pores
- May feel tacky on skin
This Perricone MD moisturizer was one of the top hydrators in GH Beauty Lab day cream testing and the only winner made with mineral-only sunscreen. Beauty Lab scientists measured a 30% increase in skin's moisturization levels over six hours. It also outperformed the rest at reducing the look of pores, by 8% in four weeks according to calculations with the Visia Complexion Analyzer. "It made my skin feel dewy and fresh," a tester remarked.
- Diminishes hyperpigmentation
- Strong hydration benefits
Yes, it's an investment, but the rich Algenist formula, which incorporates the regenerating properties of microalgae, earned top scores for diminishing UV spots and moisturizing skin in GH Beauty Lab testing. It reduced the appearance of hyperpigmentation 11% and raised skin hydration 33%. "I love how great it felt on my skin and how it really is removing my dark spots," a tester noted. Another said: "My skin looks so much brighter with less fine lines.
- Intensely nourishing formula
- Softens skin
Made with plant-derived ingredients like artichoke, turmeric, and avocado, this rich GH Seal star cream was created specifically to intensely moisturize mature skin. In a test of women aged 55 or older, 86% agreed the formula left their skin feeling hydrated, GH Beauty Lab data evaluation confirmed.
- Enhances radiance all day
- Minimizes dark spots
- Good value
A cloud-like moisturizer with 5% brightening niacinamide and green tea, this Olay GH Seal star and Beauty Award winner quickly soaks into skin and boosts luminosity. The formula ups radiance through an eight-hour day and fades and shrinks dark spots and pores over time, GH Beauty Lab data evaluation confirmed.
- Smooths lines
- Hydrates skin
- Good value
It can be easy to forget SPF when you're not heading to the beach, so reach for a moisturizer with built-in broad spectrum SPF 30 skin protection daily to prevent lines. Neutrogena's GH Beauty Award winner hydrated skin well in GH Beauty Lab tests and earned rave reviews for improving skin tone and softening fine lines. "My skin looks younger and has less visible wrinkles," and "Hands down the best wrinkle cream I have tried," two testers raved.
Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab scientists have a century-long history of testing skincare products for efficacy, including face moisturizers. When skincare products make moisturization or hydration claims, GH Beauty Lab scientists use the Corneometer device to gauge how well (or not!) a formula moisturizes skin. The machine (as pictured below) is used to measure the hydration levels of testers' clean skin before application and again six hours after to calculate how much the product has increased skin's moisture levels.
GH Beauty Lab scientists also send moisturizers that are label-masked to eliminate bias to consumer testers to use in their skincare routines. After a set time period, they report their feedback on factors such as absorption, texture, scent and the look and feel of skin after use. This data is then collated to find the best moisturizers on the market.
Moisturizers are emulsions of oil and water (plus other ingredients for nourishing, treatment and preserving) that help replenish hydration, keeping moisture in skin and dryness out. GH Beauty Lab scientists recommended seeking out face moisturizers with these key categories of skincare ingredients for optimal efficacy in formulas for all skin types and needs:
- Emollients, which are hydrating ingredients like plant oils, fatty acids and trigyclerides and squalane that moisturize and soften skin.
- Humectants draw moisture into skin from the environment or skin's deeper layers. Common examples include glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
- Occlusive ingredients form a barrier over skin to lock in hydration and prevent moisture loss. They can include waxes (derived from plants or beeswax), plant butters (like shea and cocoa), petrolatum and silicones.
For maximum benefits, apply moisturizer to your clean face daily (morning and/or evening as needed for your skin type) following any other treatment products like serums. Massage it in as you apply: “This will increase its absorption and effectiveness, plus improve circulation,” Dr. Engelman advises.
April Franzino has over 15 years of experience researching, writing and editing skincare-related content, utilizing the expertise of the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab scientists and top industry professionals such as dermatologists and aestheticians. She is an expert in all face skincare product categories, including moisturizers. April works closely with the GH Beauty Lab to coordinate skincare product testing and translate test results into best-in-class compelling, factually accurate science-backed content for Good Housekeeping.
Nicole Saporita is a former senior editor at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she regularly collaborated with Beauty Lab experts.