Shopping for a moisturizer that’ll pair well with your face wash for the ultimate skincare routine means being met with dozens of options and a slew of claims. But what if all you want is a quality, everyday moisturizer? To help you find a reliable option that’ll leave your skin hydrated, we sifted through hundreds of options, narrowing the final list down to the highest-rated, non-specialized face moisturizers for “normal” skin—neither dry nor oily.
During our testing process, we found a clear winner: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream (available at Amazon) . This smooth, thick moisturizer is infused with shea butter for soft skin but also contains colloidal oatmeal and allantoin for soothing benefits. We also named The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (available on Sephora) our Best Value pick because it feels just as moisturizing, but is a fraction of the price.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
The First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream promises “intense hydration,” and that’s exactly what it delivers. The cream is thick but has a silky texture that allows a dime-sized amount of formula to spread easily and evenly around my entire face.
I felt the hydrating benefits instantly, too. The cream felt cool on my skin as it began to absorb, and my skin went from dry and rough to ultra-smooth. Once the cream soaked in—within a few seconds—my skin felt even softer to the touch and not at all greasy or sticky. This hydrating sensation lasted the majority of the day—more than six hours.
The positives didn’t stop with the formula: The cream is fragrance-free, making it suitable for even sensitive skin, and it’s available in multiple sizes, including an 8-ounce tub that’s useful if you go through moisturizer quickly.
In a blind test, The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA could be mixed up with the First Aid Beauty Intense Repair Cream. Though significantly less expensive per ounce, this cream feels just as luxe in just about every way.
The 3.3-ounce squeeze tube dispenses the product with no issue and a small amount of formula goes a long way, spreading over skin beautifully. It absorbs at about the same speed as the First Aid Beauty—in just a few seconds—and leaves skin silky, too.
The one difference (and downside) is that this moisturizer’s finish leans greasy, so if you’re a stickler for oiliness, you may want to splurge for our Best Overall pick.
I'm Brigitt Earley, a lifestyle writer and editor with a dozen years of experience testing all different types of beauty products. I don’t have any pressing skincare concerns, but I’m beginning to think more about how to keep my skin looking youthful. If anything, my skin leans dry, particularly during the colder months of the year. Because of that, I gravitate towards hydrating, creamy face moisturizers. And, of course, anything that’s easy to find and relatively budget-friendly is always a big plus.
I checked out bestseller lists across retailers and other editorial lists to find the top face moisturizers. I then capped my list at $10 per ounce—a price I determined after looking at the most well-reviewed options. While $10 for a single ounce of formula may seem pricey, my research showed that, if it’s a great product, reviewers were willing to fork over the cash for it. Then, I put each one to the test, pitting the top-rated brands against one another to find the best of the best.
The testing process was straightforward: I evaluated each moisturizer for bottle functionality before slathering it on my skin. As I used each product, I assessed how easily the moisturizer spread and how hydrated and comfortable my skin felt a few minutes and then hours post-application. When I finished testing all of the face moisturizers, I teamed up with Reviewed’s in-house experts to score and weigh the results on a scientifically calibrated rubric.
During the testing and scoring process, I considered a few attributes:
Performance: How long does it take to absorb? How hydrated does skin feel after use? Does the formula leave any residue behind?
Usability: How easy is it to get the formula out of the container? What’s the consistency like? Is the face moisturizer easy to spread? What kind of scent, if any, does it have?
Packaging functionality: Does the container have a locking mechanism or a cap to avoid spills?
What You Should Know About Face Moisturizers
When it comes to face moisturizers, a few considerations may influence your purchasing decision:
Formula type: It’s important to note that, though many use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference between creams, lotions, and gels. Creams are the thickest and contain the most oil of the three, lotions are thinner and contain more water and less oil than creams, and gels are the thinnest and contain little to no oil. All can offer great hydrating benefits, but typically creams are the most moisturizing. Typically, someone with normal to dry skin may enjoy a cream, while those with oily or combination skin may prefer a lotion or gel—but it’s as much a personal preference as anything else.
Skin concern: There’s a face moisturizer to address just about any skincare concern—wrinkles, acne, dark spots—as well as skin types of oily, dry, normal, and combination. We chose to focus only on moisturizers for all skin types that offer the basic necessity: moisture. And yes, oily skin needs moisturizer, too.
Cost: Like other beauty products, there are vast differences in cost. For the purpose of our tests, we focused on readily available (meaning you can find them online or in local stores) and relatively affordable moisturizers priced at less than $10 per ounce.
Other Face Moisturizers We Tested
L'Oréal Paris Collagen Moisture Filler
The L'Oreal Paris Skincare Collagen Face Moisturizer is plenty thick and spreads easily and evenly over skin. It takes a touch longer to absorb than our top two picks, but nothing you’d notice if you’re not, say, testing a dozen or so moisturizers. The cream feels smooth and hydrating and left my skin moisturized and silky to the touch for as many as six hours.
If there’s any downside, it’s that the product has a medicinal smell that tends to linger. If you can ignore that (and it didn’t really bother me), it’s a great option, especially considering its widely available at drugstores, grocery stores, and other retailers.
The E.L.F. Holy Hydration! Face Cream isn’t quite as thick and creamy as some of the other options I tested, but it’s still a very effective moisturizer. There’s hardly anything to complain about: It’s easy to get out of the container, spreads well, and leaves skin feeling perfectly moisturized and smooth for as many as six hours.
I needed more formula than the dime-sized amount I used of the other moisturizers to fully cover my face and it didn’t absorb quite as readily as our top-ranking ones. That said, the absorption time (about two minutes) is hardly inconvenient, and the formula doesn’t leave any residue behind. It’s also truly fragrance-free, meaning there’s no added fragrance and the formula doesn’t smell chemically or medicinal, which makes it a good option for those with sensitive skin or noses.
The Vanicream Facial Moisturizer is much more lotion-like than the higher-ranking products I tested and, as such, feels more liquidy. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to squeeze too much out of the tube. But because of this consistency, the moisturizer spreads with ease and a little bit goes a very long way—I really only needed a pea-sized drop to coat my whole face in a thin layer compared to a dime-sized amount.
The moisturizer is also designed for and marketed toward those with sensitive skin, meaning it’s free from potential irritants, such as dyes, fragrance, lanolin, and parabens. Still, it doesn’t have the medicinal smell that some fragrance-free products tend to have.
It also manages to be a relatively effective moisturizer, despite how gentle and lightweight it is. I felt some tackiness on my skin even after the formula was fully absorbed, but otherwise, it left my face feeling smooth and hydrated for a couple of hours.
I was initially skeptical of the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion because it doubles as a body lotion—I thought it might be too heavy for my face. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a lightweight lotion. It didn’t feel at all heavy, greasy, or sticky.
Although lightweight, it’s not quite as runny as the Vanicream, which made it easier to work with. Interestingly, though, it wasn’t as instantly hydrating and didn’t leave my skin as silky-smooth as some of the other higher-ranking products did.
Overall, this is a good product to stock if you want to streamline your beauty routine for all of your skin lotion needs, but it ultimately wasn’t my favorite face moisturizer.
Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel is a gel-based product that has a very watery consistency. Because of this, it spreads well and feels instantly cooling on the face—but it sat on top of my skin for a few minutes before it fully absorbed. It also has a slight medicinal, musty smell that I didn’t care for.
That said, once the formula was fully absorbed, it left my skin feeling silky—albeit a tiny bit sticky—and hydrated, but not for quite as long as other products did.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
If you don’t love the thickness of cream moisturizers but could use the hydration of one, you’ll love the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer, as it feels like a happy medium between a cream and a lotion. It’s thick enough to leave skin feeling amply moisturized, but it’s not as heavy as a true cream, making it easier to spread.
And while it initially feels a little greasy, patience goes a long way because that sensation disappears once the moisturizer fully absorbs into the skin a few minutes later post-application. At that point, skin feels super quenched—and remains that way for the better part of the day.
Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer, For Sensitive Skin
Though the Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer looks thick and white like a cream, it’s actually a gel-based moisturizer that becomes clear the second you touch the formula—it’s much lighter and feels wetter on the skin. And while a dime-sized amount spreads easily, it’s not as instantly cooling and quenching as the other gel option on this list, Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost.
This also left my skin feeling greasy—I wanted to wash my hands immediately after application. But if you can get past the surprisingly oily nature of the formula, you’ll be pleased with how silky-soft the skin feels once fully absorbed. Just don’t expect it to last—I felt the urge to reapply just a few hours after the initial application.
I appreciated the easy-to-spread, cream-like consistency of the Olay Active Hydrating Beauty Fluid Lotion, but the product has a strong baby powder-like scent that initially turned me off. If any potent fragrance bothers you, this will be a hard hurdle to surmount, because the scent definitely lingers.
And though it’s relatively moisturizing, the formula is too greasy, which increases absorption time and causes skin to feel damp and oily for longer than I would have liked. Instead of feeling like the moisturizer absorbed in and hydrated my skin, it felt like a film on top that wasn’t providing hydration beyond the surface.
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+
The Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+ says its formula has a silky texture that penetrates quickly, but I found that only the first half of that claim held up. While the product feels very silky, it doesn’t readily absorb and I had to really work to rub the product in. The effort pays off, as skin feels smooth and not at all scaly once the lotion is fully absorbed into skin, but the application is an inconvenience.
Another area where this fell flat: The product is fragrance-free, but has a noticeable medicinal scent that may bother you.
The Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion is very thin and milky, which makes it exceptionally runny. As a result, it’ll spurt out of the bottle and run down your fingers if you’re not quick and precise with application. And though it’s infused with hyaluronic acid, it’s not nearly as hydrating as other formulas I tested—both upon application or after several hours of wear.
The cucumber-like scent of the Garnier SkinActive Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream is a nice touch, but the product feels more like applying post-sun aloe on the skin than it does a face moisturizer. Like aloe, it’s immediately cooling on the skin, but it’s also sticky. It sits on top of the skin for a long time—so long that it doesn’t feel like it ever fully absorbs in to hydrate the skin, but instead feels more like a filmy mask than a moisturizer.
Burt's Bees Sensitive Solutions Calming Day Lotion
Like other low-ranking products, the Burt's Bees Calming Day Lotion feels thin, milky, sticky, and even a little greasy. It didn’t seem to make a noticeable difference in my skin's hydration in the way thicker formulas did. What’s more, the pump bottle (the only packaging this is available in) has an incredibly small dispenser, which makes application a bit slower—I needed a few solid pumps to get enough product to cover my face, especially because it absorbs immediately on contact with skin. On top of it all, the product has a musty smell that almost skews dirty rather than fresh.
Brigitt Earley is a freelance writer and editor based in NJ. Her work has appeared in a number of lifestyle publications, including Real Simple and Apartment Therapy. She’s a new mom, runs an Instagram account full of the most delicious food she can find, and loves to hate a good barre class.
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