The best moisturiser for every skin type and budget

Hydration, hydration, hydration

close up of model

Hydration, hydration, hydration

Hunting out the best moisturiser and best face serums for your skin might seem like a simple enough premise, but how many times have you picked one off the shelf and it’s made your skin feel oily/itchy/or tight?

The thing is, it’s impossible to find the best moisturiser for your skin if you don’t know what you’re looking for or working with.

‘Knowing your skin type is the first step,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. 'A one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work as dry, sensitive and oily skins all have different needs.’

How to work out your skin type

If you’re unsure, there are a few tests you can do yourself, as each skin type has its own unique hallmarks to look out for.

Dry skin, for example, lacks oil because it produces less sebum than normal skin. It can feel uncomfortable, flaky and itchy, especially near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth.

‘Rub gently on one area of skin,’ says Georgia Louise, facialist to Jennifer Aniston. ‘If you see loose skin cells in the form of flakes, or your face quickly turns red and becomes inflamed, then you definitely have dry skin.’

woman applying moisturiser to her face

If you’re a little too blessed in the sebum department, have enlarged pores and are prone to blemishes, you most likely have oily skin.

But another check you can do is with a large tissue. Simply wash your face, dry it with a towel and leave it completely un-moisturised for at least one hour. Take the tissue, cover your face with it and blot.

If the tissue is greasy and your face looks shiny, you have oily skin. You have combination skin if you’re left with oil on the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) while your cheeks remain dry.

Sensitive skin is probably the most overused description for skin that’s normally dealing with irritation that we, not the skin gods, have caused.

‘Often flare ups are the result of product overload or the wrong mixture of ingredients,' says skin expert Debbie Thomas. 'Microscopic cracks appear in the skin that enable toxins and irritants to seep in and cause problems.'

You'll find out pretty quickly if you have sensitive skin if it turns fire-engine red when you brush your fingers across the side of your face.

What's the best moisturiser for my skin type?

Now that you know your true skin type, you can start shopping for a moisturiser...

Remember, you shouldn't use your moisturiser around your the eye area, because the skin around the ocular bone is a lot more delicate than skin on the rest your face. For this you should use the best eye cream to suit your needs. And also your day cream should be different from your best night cream, as they do very different things.

Best moisturiser for dry skin

Just because you have dry skin doesn’t mean you should automatically slather on creamy, unctuous products.

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Over-moisturising the surface sends a signal that your skin has enough water, lipids and protein. It then starts to produce less hydration and nutrients of its own. The result? Skin gets lazy and we get trapped in a vicious cycle of applying even richer creams.

Those with dry skin should look for moisturisers containing ingredients that prevent water loss.

Hyaluronic acid blows most ingredients out of the water for hydration as a single gram can hold up to six litres of water.

Other ingredients that are a formidable opponent for dry skin include antioxidants and emollients like glycerin.

‘I'm a huge fan of the antioxidant purslane, which also happens to be one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It reduces inflammation and repairs the skin’s moisture barrier,’ says world-renowned aesthetic doctor, Dr Barbara Sturm.

And there's certainly no shortage of moisturising ingredients in the Dr Barbara Sturm Face Cream Rich (£145, Cult Beauty), one of our top picks for those needing a moisturiser that packs a hydrating punch.

Best moisturiser for oily skin

Oily skin can still become dehydrated. Especially if you are also using spot-zapping products, which typically tend to be drying.

The right moisturiser can trick your skin into thinking its sebum levels are balanced. This is important if you want to avoid a breeding ground for acne bacteria.

Just remember to stick to oil-free formulas and steer clear of products containing mineral oil. ‘It's basically like putting petroleum on your face,' says Sturm. 'Mineral oil keeps your pores large, and it actually takes hydration out of your skin.’

Dewy gel moisturisers are a good option as they are lightweight and water-based.

They work a bit like this: ‘Water transports other actives in the product so they penetrate the skin better. The gel then traps the water so that it doesn’t evaporate at room temperature,’ says Benedicte Le Bris, GM of research and development at L’Occitane.

‘Another benefit of gel moisturisers is they won’t block pores. They are free from the fatty ingredients that normally make moisturisers creamy.' So your face never feels congested and greasy. Sound like what your skin needs? Try L’Occitane's Aqua Reotier Ultra Thirst-Quenching Gel (£29.50), a feather-light hydrator that doesn't clog pores.

Note that the best moisturisers for combination skin actually involve multi-moisturising. In other words, using creams for dry skin on the cheeks and a gel moisturiser on the T-zone only.

Best moisturisers for sensitive skin

If your skin is sensitive, you're probably already aware that certain ingredients cause inflammation. You'll have some idea of what triggers your skin, but it may be best to avoid creams that contain alcohol, essential oils or fragrance.

'Most skin types experience sensitivity at some point,' says Thomas. 'If skin is exposed to changes in weather and allergens such as dust it can read them as the enemy. It fights them off by producing inflammatory hormones.’

Now that you know what you're looking for are you ready for our roundup of the best?

Keep scrolling to find the moisturiser of your dreams...

Fiona Embleton