12 of the Best Moisturizers for Sensitive Skin

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If you have sensitive skin, then you may have learned the hard way that you can’t use just any old random products on your face. Compromised skin requires using one of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin to soothe and help prevent further information while protecting the skin’s natural barrier. 

The best face moisturizer for sensitive skin is made with minimal yet powerful ingredients to help relieve itchy, red, rough, bumpy, and scaly skin. Face feeling extra parched? Then you need the best face moisturizer for dry sensitive skin — a formulation that meets the best of both worlds.

Sure, we can tell you about the best face moisturizer for sensitive skin, dermatologist-recommended, but we can go further than that. Here at Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare routine that’s safe and effective — even if it requires a lotion for sensitive skin. 

Ahead, 12 of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin to help calm, restore, and protect. 

Best Moisturizers for Sensitive Skin: The List

Formulyst Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer, $29

Related: Best Moisturizers For Oily Skin

Avene Skin Recovery Cream, $35

La-Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer, $19.99

Related: Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration, $38

Clinique Moisture Surge 100-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, $56

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Ultra-Light Moisturizer, $28

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $62

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer, $11.79

Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E Antioxidant Protect + Repair Moisturizer

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, $8.99

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance-Free, $27.77

Dermalogica Barrier Repair Moisturizer, $49

The Complexities of Sensitive Skin

Research suggests that approximately 60% to 70% of women and 50% to 60% of men report having sensitive skin. While there are variances in how these individuals perceive skin sensitivity, most report itching, burning, stinging, tightness, and dryness. 

One theory for why women are more prone to skin sensitivity is differences in skin thickness. Women may also be more at risk for dehydration and dry skin due to hormonal changes. These theories still require further research.

While the role of dermatologists is to help their patients discover the root of their sensitive skin without exacerbating the problem — or creating a new one — “sensitive skin” is somewhat of a nebulous term. However, it’s typically associated with contact dermatitis, allergies, dry skin, acne, or a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea. Sensitive skin is also linked to hormonal fluctuations, certain medications, or even heredity. 

Unfortunately, sensitive skin can be tricky to treat. “The biggest issue we have in treating sensitive patients is intolerance to the products themselves, explains Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Sensitive skin issues have risen dramatically in the last decade, driving the need for practical, scientifically formulated, and tested products that are also affordable. 

 

Sensitive Skin Triggers

  • Stress 
  • Pollution
  • Hormonal Fluctuations
  • Cosmetic/Medical Procedure
  • Chemical and/or Fragrances and Dyes
  • Fragrance
  • Smoking
  • Diet
  • Cosmetics and Soap

What to Look for in a Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin

When shopping for the best moisturizer for sensitive skin, look for a formula that’s both hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and, if possible, contains ten or fewer ingredients to lessen the risk of reacting.

Avoid ingredients like phthalates, fragrances, and alcohol, which may cause irritation or even a bad skin reaction. It’s necessary to note how important it is for moisturizers for sensitive skin to be free of any fragrances, which often contain harsh ingredients that can act as irritants. What’s more, beauty companies are allowed to keep their fragrance ingredients a secret thanks to an industry loophole. Some of the best ingredients for a sensitive skin lotion or cream include: 

  • Hyaluronic Acid: Moisturizing
  • Allantoin: Soothing
  • Colloidal Oatmeal: Calming and softening
  • Niacinamide: Redness-reducing
  • Squalane: Hydrating and conditioning
  • Laminaria Saccharina: Anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial
  • Olea Europaea: Skin-smoothing, hydrating, and nourishing
  • Vitamin E: Soothing, replenishing, hydrating
  • Hydrolyzed Elastin: Moisture-binding, protecting
  • Squalane: Anti-inflammatory 

When a Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin Isn’t Enough

Whether you feel an over-the-counter moisturizer for sensitive skin isn’t helping (or is making your condition worse), don’t waste any more time trying to self-diagnose a sensitive skin condition; make an appointment with a dermatologist or your primary care provider. They’ll likely provide you with a prescription cream or help steer you in the right direction of OTC formulas that are best for you. 

Some questions you should be prepared for include: 

  • Where on your face and/or body are you experiencing skin sensitivity? 
  • How long have you noticed you’ve had sensitive skin? 
  • Do any of your close relatives have sensitive skin or a notable skin condition?
  • What makes your sensitive skin better — if anything? 
  • Is your skin extra-sensitive to the sun? 
  • Is your skin prone to rashes and bumps?
  • Do you have broken capillaries on your nose and cheeks?
  • What makes it worse? 
  • Do you have sensitive skin to touch?
  • Is your skin affected by the climate — indoors and outdoors?
  • What skincare, cosmetics, fragrance, and laundry detergents do you use?

Best Moisturizers for Sensitive Skin

Formulyst Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer, $29
Formulyst’s Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer only has ten ingredients and isn’t full of harsh chemicals that irritate sensitive skin. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, squalane, apricot kernel oil, and jojoba seed oil. Together, these are potent hydrators that will keep skin hydrated, supple, soft, and protected without irritation. The watery texture of this moisturizer is excellent for sensitive skin because it’s not too rich or heavy.

Related: Best Moisturizers For Oily Skin

Avene Skin Recovery Cream, $35
This cream is suitable for all skin types, but it was still formulated explicitly with minimal ingredients to provide deep hydration while preventing and soothing irritation. Key elements include plant squalene, parcerine, glycerin, and Avene thermal spring water. Plant squalane is a natural emollient that helps skin retain moisture. 

Parcerine is a patented ingredient that calms irritation and redness. It also helps restore any damage to the hydrolipidic barrier, the barrier that protects skin from pollutants and irritants. Glycerin also acts as an emollient, providing hydration and softening skin. Avene thermal spring water is a calming ingredient that also soothes and softens.

La-Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer, $19.99
This moisturizer for sensitive skin was formulated to protect the natural skin barrier and replenish lost moisture. It provides 48 hours of hydration, thanks to ingredients like niacinamide (vitamin B3), glycerin, ceramide-3, and La-Roche Posay prebiotic thermal water. 

Niacinamide is an excellent ingredient for sensitive skin. Studies have shown the ability to reduce redness or blotchiness, yellowing, and wrinkling. Glycerin is an emollient that helps the skin retain moisture. Ceramide-3 helps soften skin and has been shown to reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) after irritation. According to one study, prebiotic thermal water can help improve skin microbiota diversity and reduce dryness and inflammation.

Related: Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration, $38
This super gentle cream can even be used on babies and children. It’s specially formulated to treat dehydrated and distressed skin and even relieve those suffering from eczema. Calming ingredients in this formula include colloidal oatmeal, which helps relieve itching and minor irritation; shea butter, which softens and soothes; and allantoin, which is another calming and soothing ingredient. 

This cream also contains an antioxidant booster featuring licorice root, feverfew, and white tea extracts to protect from free radicals, unstable atoms that damage skin cells and accelerate aging.

Clinique Moisture Surge 100-Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator, $56
Featuring a refreshing gel-cream texture, Clinique’s Moisture Surge Hydrator absorbs quickly and provides long-lasting hydration. The company’s testing also claims that this moisturizer continues to provide hydration even after you wash your face. 

Hyaluronic acid helps moisturize and plump up wrinkles, while activated aloe water acts as a soothing agent to calm irritated, angry skin. This formula does not contain any potentially irritating fragrances either — fragrances are often the culprits responsible for much of the irritation people suffer from sensitive skin.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Ultra-Light Moisturizer, $28
Perfect for sensitive skin, this ultra-lightweight moisturizer glides on easily and absorbs quickly for ultimate hydration. It features vitamins C and E, a green tea antioxidant complex, meadowfoam seed oil, and chia seed oil. 

Vitamin C is a great skincare ingredient that helps fade away dark spots while also stimulating collagen production. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that can help scavenge free radicals. The green tea complex also provides free radical scavenging. Meanwhile, the meadowfoam seed oil and chia oil soften and condition skin to keep it looking luminous and feeling smooth.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, $62
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream is a popular option that is safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin. Like other moisturizers for sensitive skin on this list, it boasts a very lightweight formula that doesn’t leave behind a greasy or oily feel, yet it provides 24 hours of moisture. 

An ingredient called glacial glycoprotein, derived from sea glaciers, stands out due to its ability to thrive in extreme, harsh environments. As a beauty ingredient, it hydrates and protects while also preventing moisture loss. Squalane oil, derived from olives, also hydrates and helps protect against moisture loss.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer, $11.79
Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Moisturizer is lightweight, non-greasy, and fragrance-free. Glycerin prevents irritation, redness, and dehydration, while vitamin E provides soothing, replenishing, hydrating, and antioxidant benefits. This lotion for sensitive skin also contains SPF to protect against harmful UV rays.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. C + E Antioxidant Protect + Repair Moisturizer
Sunday Riley’s C.E.O. moisturizer combines the powerful duo of vitamins C and E to repair and protect sensitive skin that may also be prone to damage — vitamin C helps with collagen synthesis, and vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant. Together, they work even more efficiently to help strengthen skin and help undo the free radical damage that weakens it. This formula also features tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a highly stable and potent form of vitamin C.

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, $8.99
Vanicream is a dermatologist-developed line. It’s made with sensitive skin in mind and is free of fragrance and dyes. Primary hydration sources are petrolatum, sorbitol, and propylene glycol.

Petrolatum (derived from petroleum) is an emollient that works to condition and soften the skin. Sorbitol is a humectant that draws in moisture to prevent water loss and dryness. Propylene glycol is also a humectant that hydrates skin, making it easier for other active ingredients to become absorbed. It’s used in small amounts in skincare products and shouldn’t be a cause for concern if you’re worried about toxicity.

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Fragrance-Free, $27.77
Loaded with hyaluronic acid and vitamins, Olay’s Micro-Sculpting Cream features a peptide that helps nourish and protect skin without irritating it. Along with vitamins B3 and E, vitamin B5 (panthenol) is a critical ingredient in this formula. Studies revealed it significantly decreases transepidermal water loss (TEWL) or loss of moisture that can result in dryness and irritation. 

Dermalogica Barrier Repair Moisturizer, $49
This unique waterless formula calms skin that has become sensitized due to skin barrier damage. 

This formula features the brand’s UltraCalming Complex featuring oat and plant botanicals to protect against environmental aggressors and minimize discomfort from itching and burning sensations. Meanwhile, oil of evening primrose and borage seed oil help protect from irritants. Vitamins C and E work together to combat the free radicals that can lead to barrier damage in the first place.

Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: The Final Word

The best face moisturizer for sensitive skin is made with minimal yet powerful ingredients to help relieve an itchy, red, rough, bumpy, and scaly complexion.

When shopping for the best moisturizer for sensitive skin, look for a formula that’s both hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) and, if possible, contains ten or fewer ingredients to lessen the risk of reacting.

Avoid ingredients like phthalates, fragrances, and alcohol, which may cause irritation or even a bad skin reaction. It’s necessary to note how important it is for moisturizers for sensitive skin to be free of any fragrances, which often contain harsh ingredients that can act as irritants.

What’s more, beauty companies are allowed to keep their fragrance ingredients a secret thanks to an industry loophole. Some of the best ingredients for a sensitive skin lotion or cream include hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, vitamin E, niacinamide, and squalane.

 

FAQs

A moisturizer is always a good idea regardless of skin type or condition. The key is finding a formula to suit the needs of sensitive skin. That means finding the best moisturizer for dry sensitive skin that addresses redness, bumps, tightness, itchiness, etc. The best moisturizers for sensitive skin to soothe and help prevent further information while protecting the skin’s natural barrier.

Choose a moisturizer for sensitive skin formulated with humectants such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients will allow your skin to hold onto water molecules and help retain the moisture you supply. Apply your moisturizer to damp skin within a few minutes of washing your face or getting out of the shower for the best results.

Aside from having sensitive skin, it’s a pH issue when skin burns after applying a moisturizer. Our skin is naturally acidic, so if it stings, the formula has thrown its pH balance off, meaning it’s not compatible.

Aloe Vera is a super ingredient for sensitive skin. The cooling properties of the plant help in soothing redness, infection, rash, and itchiness.

Vaseline is considered a hypoallergenic moisturizer. It’s recommended by dermatologists and has the seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association, which means it is appropriate for use by those with Eczema.

Sensitive skin is a common condition that means your skin is more prone to reactions such as redness and itching. Most people who have sensitive skin notice occasional or frequent itching, burning, and stinging of patches of skin. Sensitive skin is very treatable, but it may require a visit to a dermatologist.

Some general tips for comforting sensitive skin (aside from a face cream for sensitive skin) include: 

  • Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps and skincare products
  • Take short 5 to 10-minute showers with warm — not hot — water
  • Avoid harsh astringents and exfoliants
  • Use mild, fragrance-free laundry detergents and cleaning supplies (consider organic)
  • Always use a shaving gel or cream 
  • Opt for essential oils versus perfumes (though you have to be careful with E.O.s, too. 
  • Get a humidifier

Sources:
The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin,” Frontiers of Medicine 2019.
Sensitive Skin: Review of an Ascending Concept,” SciElo
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, “Topical Niacinamide Reduces Yellowing, Wrinkling, Red Blotchiness, and Hyperpigmented Spots in Aging Facial Skin”; International Journal of Dermatology.
“Ceramide 1 and Ceramide 3 Act Synergistically on Skin Hydration and the Transepidermal Water Loss of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate-Irritated Skin”; Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.





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