13 best moisturisers for dry skin that smooth and soothe

·9 min read
We tested for consistency and absorption (iStock/The Independent )
We tested for consistency and absorption (iStock/The Independent )

Moisturiser is the most classic skincare buy of all, and it is often the priming layer beneath a make-up base.

If your skin is dry, you’ll be looking for a moisturiser that counteracts that. Signs of dry skin include tightness and flaking, and a visible lack of elasticity.

Dry skin can be caused by environmental factors such as the weather, air conditioning and central heating, as well as certain health conditions or deficiencies. Meanwhile, dehydrated skin is different and may present alongside oiliness.

With dry skin needing extra hydration, moisturisers must sink in and add nourishment. But not every moisturiser will effectively combat dryness.

How we tested

We sampled several moisturisers over a few months, testing consistency and absorption. Our tester is prone to dry skin which can be sensitive too. To make our list, products had to add visible hydration and improve dullness. We also rated them on value for money, their ingredients and the packaging.

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From lavish to lightweight, glossy and creamy formulas, read on for our list of the best for dry skin.

The best moisturisers for dry skin for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Milk Makeup vegan milk moisturizer: £34, Selfridges.com

  • Best for dull skin – Freya and Bailey reboot superfoods resilience moisturiser: £42, Freyaandbailey.com

  • Best affordable buy – CeraVe PM facial moisturising lotion: £9.75, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best luxury buy – Perricone MD cold plasma plus the intensive hydrating complex: £145, Lookfantastic.com

  • Best lightweight moisturiser – Skinsense hydranet hydrating day cream: £22.50, Facethefuture.co.uk

  • Best for tone correcting – RoC multi correxion revive and glow gel cream: £22.47, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best night cream – Espa overnight hydration therapy: £39, Harveynichols.com

  • Best for fine lines and wrinkles – StriVectin anti-wrinkle SD advanced plus intensive moisturizing concentrate: £69, Boots.com

  • Best under make-up – Ameliorate replenishing facial cream: £24, Cultbeauty.co.uk

  • Best for glow – Jones Road miracle cream: £34, Jonesroadbeauty.com

  • Best for a matte finish – Aesop perfect facial hydrating cream: £85, Aesop.com

  • Best for the décolletage – Q+A 5-HTP face and neck cream: £12, Qandaskin.com

  • Best vegan-friendly moisturiser – Youth To The People adaptogen deep moisture cream: £50, Cultbeauty.co.uk

Milk Makeup vegan milk moisturizer, 48ml

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

We really rate the fun factor this lime green tub brings, appearing both fresh and fancy. Vegan-friendly, moisturising ingredients encompass shea butter, argan milk, grapeseed oil and fig milk. Indulgently creamy, the formula is buttery soft and slides onto the skin.

Despite its thick composition, we were pleasantly surprised by how quickly the product soaked in. Leaving a sheer veil, our face felt seriously smooth and fine lines looked plumped up. This initial effect remained throughout the day, with noticeable hydration lingering for several hours, both on bare skin and underneath make-up.

Buy now £34.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk

Freya and Bailey reboot superfoods resilience moisturiser, 60ml

Best: For dull skin

Rating: 9/10

Presented in a compact bottle with a pump nozzle and metallic trim, we quickly noticed the luxurious vanilla and lavender scent of this moisturiser. Also vegan-friendly, the ingredients include shea butter, green tea and oat silk alongside skin-balancing niacinamide.

Our tester’s dry skin can feel dull, but we saw luminosity straight away. Absorption is extremely fast, which saves time waiting around ahead of applying make-up. The result is an excellent glowy-matte hybrid that has zero greasiness. With regular use over a few weeks, our skin looked noticeably clearer too.

Buy now £42.00, Freyandbailey.com

CeraVe PM facial moisturising lotion, 52ml

Best: Affordable buy

Rating: 8/10

Also available with added SPF, this sheer, fragrance-free lotion glides onto skin then quickly absorbs. The ingredients list, meanwhile, features plumping ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

Given its lightweight composition, this cream feels deeply moisturising. Designed to protect the dermis’s natural barrier, we did see conditioned skin. For the price, our tester noted its effortless efficiency in both soothing and smoothing dryness.

Buy now £9.75, Boots.com

Perricone MD cold plasma plus+ the intensive hydrating complex, 59ml

Best: Luxury buy

Rating: 8/10

Despite being an undeniably pricey splurge, our tester found this enveloping moisturiser to be lavishly cooling. Alternatively, you can warm it in your hands. Packaged in a glass jar with a twist-off lid, the glossy cream is a blue-grey shade. Ingredients include peptides and brightening vitamin C.

Instantly soothing on our skin, we also appreciated its speedy absorption, which was particularly helpful ahead of applying foundation. As a result, we saw smooth, supple skin with an added glow. This cream is of a midweight consistency but is still satisfyingly hydrating for those who don’t like an overly thick moisturiser.

Buy now £145.00, Lookfantastic.com

Skinsense hydranet hydrating day cream, 50ml

Best: Lightweight moisturiser

Rating: 8/10

Presented in a tall, square-edged bottle, the pump nozzle is useful for mess-free application. The formula is velvety soft and gently lightweight while still feeling nourishing. Gliding over our tester’s face, previously tight areas looked to have added elasticity.

Ingredients include acacia-derived collagen, and its welcoming scent is sweetly creamy. Quickly soaking in, the luminous cream was also delicate on our tester’s easily irritated skin.

Buy now £22.50, Facethefuture.co.uk

RoC multi correxion revive + glow gel cream, 50ml

Best: For tone correcting

Rating: 8/10

This vibrant glass pot holds an orange-coloured cream, which is thick and shiny. It includes vitamin C to add skin brightness, but it did tingle a bit on application. However, the silky consistency smoothed out dry patches.

We also saw a more even-looking complexion, with our tester’s face appearing refreshed. This is a perfect multi-tasking pick for skintone correction and extra hydration in one.

Buy now £22.47, Amazon.co.uk

Espa overnight hydration therapy, 55ml

Best: Night cream

Rating: 9/10

Although technically an intensive treatment, we have relied on this as a regular dry-skin-relieving night cream for several years now. The essential oil blend includes cedarwood and ylang-ylang, while hyaluronic acid hydrates and lavender soothes. All of this contributes to a spa-like scent, making the application feel ultra relaxing.

The gleaming cream covered our skin well, sinking in as we slept to reveal obvious hydration the next morning. Where dryness has made our wrinkles more obvious, they appeared improved, and irritated tightness felt smoothed.

Buy now £39.00, Harveynichols.com

StriVectin anti-wrinkle SD advanced plus intensive moisturizing concentrate, 60ml

Best: For fine lines and wrinkles

Rating: 8/10

This compact tube contains key skincare ingredients including collagen, vitamin B3 (aka niacinamide) and hyaluronic acid. Its formula is so smoothing that the glistening cream glides onto the skin without much effort. With a rich consistency, our face felt well-coated in abundant moisture which gradually sank in.

Under make-up, there was slight surface residue as the day went on, so we would recommend leaving extra time for it to absorb. Almost immediately, the appearance of dryness was improved, with our fine lines and wrinkles reduced and a feeling of elasticity added over the weeks we were using it.

Buy now £69.00, Boots.com

Ameliorate replenishing facial cream, 75ml

Best: Under make-up

Rating: 8/10

This lotion-like cream comes in a generously sized tube for its affordable price tag, with a useful pump-release nozzle. Hydrating ingredients include hyaluronic acid and milk protein, so it’s not suitable for vegans. While spreading the calming moisturiser onto our skin, we picked up on a comforting, powdery scent.

Perfectly nailing the balance between being thickly nourishing and easily absorbed, we saw an improvement to frown lines straightaway. The product also offered a smoothing, primer-like base underneath our tester’s foundation.

Buy now £24.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk

Jones Road miracle cream, 40g

Best: For mature skin

Rating: 8/10

More of a balm than a cream, dipping into this stylishly branded jar we found a thick paste that felt incredibly soothing. Not easily spreadable at first, the vegan-friendly vitamin A, E and shea butter formula steadily melted onto our face with a rubbing motion.

The effect is that of all-consuming moisture that perked up our dull, dry skin by creating a glowing finish that was richly velvety to the touch. After a busy day and evening, we could still detect hydrating glossiness in our make-up look, which we found impressive.

Buy now £34.00, Jonesroadbeauty.com

Aesop perfect facial hydrating cream, 60ml

Best: For a matte finish

Rating: 8/10

When opening the brown glass apothecary-style pot of this moisturiser, we immediately noticed the golden cream’s clean, botanical scent. The inclusion of vitamins A and E are gently nourishing, and we could feel that on our face as this cream was gradually absorbed.

With a thick but not heavy formula, its moisturising effect left our tester’s skin looking a lot less dry, without any excess shine. And we saw significant smoothness. An undisputed treat buy, this is the right one for those who don’t like a glowing, dewy effect.

Buy now £85.00, Aesop.com

Q+A 5-HTP face and neck cream, 50g

Best: For the décolletage

Rating: 8/10

A vegan-friendly moisturiser presented in a brown glass pot, this white cream is free from fragrances and suitable for all skin types. Key ingredients include caffeine and plant-fermented biosaccharide gum, with amino acids coming from griffonia seeds.

It has the consistency of a cooling yoghurt which easily soaks into skin. Appearing to even out the appearance of fine lines caused by dryness, we saw a brightened tone too. The cream offers refreshing skincare that you can layer up with as much product as you like, rather than it being a thick, slathering hydrator.

Buy now £12.00, Qandaskin.com

Youth To The People adaptogen deep moisture cream, 59ml

Best: Vegan-friendly moisturiser

Rating: 8/10

This shiny, vegan-friendly cream is packaged in a clear glass pot with a twist-off lid. Free from fragrances, we found the lustrous consistency to feel calming on our sensitive skin. The main ingredients are squalane, jojoba and shea butter, as well as plant-derived ashwagandha.

We rubbed it into our skin, spreading the cream easily across our face and neck, and found absorption to be fast. As well as soaking in well, there was moisture left on the surface, creating a smooth layer. It didn’t feel too dense for our pores, either.

Buy now £50.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk

The verdict: Moisturisers for dry skin

As a dry skin all-rounder, Milk Makeup’s offer is smoothing and nourishing both under make-up and on a bare face. Meanwhile, Freya and Bailey’s cream adds brightening radiance and helps with clarity. Finally, for an affordable yet highly efficient hydration pick, we’d recommend CeraVe.

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