If you've ever referred to your skin as being dry and dehydrated interchangeably, you're not alone — but dry skin and dehydrated skin are not the same thing, says
Dr. Daniel Lanzer, a cosmetic dermatologist surgeon based in Australia. He tells Bustle, "There is a huge misconception in dehydrated skin and dry skin." In both cases, though, applying moisturizer daily is essential. The best moisturizers for dehydrated skin are ones that treat your temporary condition — dehydration — caused by "damage to the [skin's] protective barrier which allows excess moisture to evaporate from the skin," Dr. Lanzer explains. Dry skin, on the other hand, is a skin type — one in which skin produces less sebum.
The good news about
dehydrated skin? It's easy to treat with a few simple lifestyle changes and the right over-the-counter products. To start, Dr. Lanzer advises readdressing your skin care routine and cutting out any harsh cleansers that leave your skin feeling stripped or tight, as well as witch hazel- or alcohol-based toners and fragranced products that can cause irritation. (It's also a wise idea to try and limit your caffeine intake, he adds.)
To soothe and rehydrate your dehydrated skin, incorporate moisturizers that contain essential fatty acids. "EFA omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids are the building blocks to a healthy cell membrane. These fats help the skin's natural oil barrier and [are] critical in dehydrated skin." Dr. Lanzer also advises seeking out topical
products that contain hyaluronic acid, because it "works like a magnet for moisture."
Quench your dehydrated skin's thirst with any of the best face moisturizers and body lotions featured ahead.
The Overall Best Moisturizer For Dehydrated Skin
Those essential fatty acids that Dr. Lanzer is such a fan of are the stars of
Paula's Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer. Omegas 3, 6, and 9, shea butter, and ceramides, which serve to restore the skin's natural protective barrier, are blended together in this whipped, light face moisturizer. The gentle formula is also fragrance-free and housed in a handy pump top bottle that lessens the chance of bacteria and other contaminants from getting inside. Relevant review: “A little goes a long way. This has restored the moisture in my skin. Worth every penny. My skin looks supple and feels like butter!”
I recently picked up this
moisturizer on a trip to Paris, and suffice to say I’m obsessed. I have skin that’s both dehydrated and dry, and it’s practically removed every last trace of flakiness from my face (which I’m prone to naturally, but also because I used Retin-A). I’m going to go out on a whim and say it’s even better than Embryolisse’s cult-classic Lait-Crème Concentré, the product that made the brand a household name within the skin care world. It feels richer and more nourishing, but it’s not at all greasy or sticky. In the formula, you’ll find hyaluronic acid and aloe vera for hydration, as well as acexamic acid, which helps encourage your skin to regenerate. It doesn’t have a scent, either. Relevant review: “This a superb moisturizer. I had several extreme dry patches and within a week they were gone. It's a wonderful base for makeup and keeps my skin soft and Moisturized throughout the entire day. The soothing ingredients helped reduce the redness I get during the dry winter months. I am so happy to have found this incredible moisturizer. I highly recommend this if you have dry patches, redness or simply dry skin. An amazing moisturizing product.” 03
Best Moisturizer For Very Sensitive, Dehydrated Skin
If you have very sensitive skin, Vanicream should be your go-to brand. Made with hydrating hyaluronic acid and
five different types of strengthening ceramides, their daily facial moisturizer will keep your dehydrated skin moisturized without running the risk of causing irritation. Like all Vanicream products, it’s made without common irritants like essential oils, fragrance, parabens, dyes, and more. Relevant review: “Like all Vanicream products, this is very gentle for sensitive skin but I was amazed at how moisturizing and hydrating this is while still feeling lightweight. I have much more expensive products that are not as wonderful as this.” 04
Best Gel Cream For Dehydrated Skin
Hydro Boost Gel-Cream always seems to show up on "best of" moisturizer lists, and no wonder. It's a soothing, cooling, refreshing (and affordable) face moisturizer that's loaded with hydrating hyaluronic acid. The unique gel-cream consistency feels wonderful when applied to skin, and leaves your face feeling soft and hydrated, but not greasy, all day long. This noncomedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free product is gentle enough for most skin types, even people prone to breakouts or irritation. Relevant review: “I love this product. I've always had dry skin no matter what. So I was looking for something really hydrating. I am at my third jar and I am really satisfied. I read that it works best on wet skin so I've been applying it every morning and night after I wash my face. My skin feels so soft and hydrated for the entire day. Even during winter time. No more dry skin flakes I used to have. Amazing product!” 05
Best Night Cream For Dehydrated Skin
EltaMD's PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer contains skin-softening peptides, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, along with anti-inflammatory niacinamide (a vitamin B3 derivative) to replenish, rehydrate, and strengthen dehydrated skin. It's noncomedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free, so it's safe for sensitive and acne-prone skin types, too. Relevant review: “This stuff is AMAZING. It instantly hydrates and my sensitive, finicky skin hasn't been this happy in years. I use this at night and the sensitive/redness sunscreen day lotion during the day. A little goes a long way too. With the Both the night cream and day lotion I've find that each bottle lasts 6 or more months easily. I basically never leave reviews, but this is the best skincare line I've ever found. If you're on the fence, just do it -- your skin will thank you.” 06
Best Korean Moisturizer For Dehydrated Skin
If you prefer to stick with Korean skin care products, here’s a K-beauty offering for dehydrated skin.
Purito Deep Sea Pure Water Cream is made with 60% sea water, while ingredients like glycerin, allantoin, panthenol, and niacinamide offer further nourishing and soothing benefits. Like the Vanicream moisturizer, this is another great choice for sensitive skin as it’s free of essential oils, fragrance, and other potential irritants. Relevant review: “This product is fragrance free, affordable, light and very moisturizing. My skin was DRY. I had dehydration lines, itchiness, and even flakes around my hairline but this has helped so much [...] I also break out easily and have had no issues with acne from this product.”
If your budget allows,
Biossance’s Squalane + Omega Repair Cream is an excellent moisturizer for dehydrated skin. It contains hyaluronic acid and omega fatty acids, both of which Dr. Lanzer recommends for treating dehydrated skin, though it gets an extra hit of hydration from squalane. Even better, this is also enriched with ceramides to promote stronger skin — so if you have dehydrated skin that’s damaged, weak, or irritated, this cream should be able to help nurse it back to life. Relevant review: “I have never liked a moisturizer more than I do this one. I have a mixture of dry and oily skin but more dry and this stuff worked wonders for me. My skin is so soft and hydrated all day long. Love it.” 08
Best Body Lotion For Dehydrated Skin
This drugstore lotion from Cetaphil contains sunflower seed oil, which is rich in fatty acids, and barrier-repairing ceramides to soothe, soften, and strengthen dehydrated skin. It also contains allantoin, a popular ingredient among sensitive skin types because of its anti-inflammatory properties. While it may seem pricey for a body lotion upon first glance, keep in mind that you're getting a whopping 16 ounces of product, so you'll be set for a while. Relevant review: “Absolutely no scent. Perfect for someone with easily irritated skin. Will make your skin SO soft and hydrated after only a few uses. It absorbs quickly but you can still feel it on your skin for about half an hour, not necessarily sticky. Worth every cent. If this is how I’m feeling after only 3 days of use, can’t imagine how great the results will be long term!” 09
Best Face & Body Moisturizer For Dehydrated Skin
Another beloved drugstore moisturizer,
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream can be used from your head to toes. Packaged in a huge, 19-ounce tub, this rich, creamy body lotion works to strengthen and moisturize skin using ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. In fact, because it uses a time-release technology, it purportedly keeps skin hydrated for up to 24 hours. Safe for all skin types, it's noncomedogenic, fragrance-free, oil-free, and approved by the National Eczema Association, too. Relevant review: “This is my holy grail moisturizer! I use this on my face and body daily and my skin feels amazing! I bought this because I was researching to find the best recommended facial moisturizer & all recommendations lead back to this one. I have been using this since November and my skin has never looked and felt more hydrated. [...]” 10
Bonus: Best Moisturizing Mask For Dehydrated Skin
When you have dehydrated skin, using a super-hydrating mask once or twice a week — or more often, in lieu of night cream — can really help.
Drunk Elephant’s F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial is a particularly nice treatment for dehydrated skin, as it’s rich in vitamin F (which basically refers to two different omega fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, which Dr. Lanzer recommends), though there are plenty of other hydration heroes in the formula, like plant squalane and sodium PCA. Meanwhile, ceramides support a strong skin barrier, and niacinamide offers soothing benefits. What more could you want in a product for dehydrated skin? Relevant review: “Smooth and soft. Wonderful nightly mask leaves skin so soft and smooth. Dewy skin as I roll out of bed in the morning. Superb product!” Expert: a Dr. Daniel Lanzer, cosmetic dermatologist surgeon based in Australia