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The importance of having an effective moisturizer cannot be overstated. If nothing else, moisturizing should be one of three staples in your daily routine; preceded by using a cleanser and followed by applying sunscreen, according to Shane Miller, licensed esthetician and creator of the popular Instagram account @howtohydrate.
“Moisturizers play a key role in keeping the moisture barrier happy and healthy,” Miller says. “Using moisturizer in your morning and evening skincare routines provides your skin with the nourishment needed to keep your moisture barrier from becoming impaired. An impaired moisture barrier can exacerbate existing skin conditions such as fine lines, hyperpigmentation, breakouts, inflammation, rosacea, and dryness.”
Can People With Sensitive Skin Wear Moisturizer?
Our skin’s moisture barrier, otherwise known as the acid mantle, isn’t visible to the naked eye, but plays a major role in our skin’s overall health and wellbeing, namely in the way it keeps us safe from harmful bacteria, environmental aggressors and other things that could lead to an infection. This is the final layer of our epidermis, so if it’s not being cared for and maintained you are opening yourself up to a higher risk. If you’re someone who has sensitive skin, this becomes all the more important.
In addition to keeping your moisture barrier in check, the best moisturizers for sensitive skin provide a variety of other benefits, including locking in the hydration from previous steps in your routine, to treating dryness, increasing moisture retention, improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and even giving your skin an instant glow.
As for when exactly in your routine you should be applying moisturizer, Miller recommends that it come before sunscreen in your morning routine, and before heavier nighttime products such as oils or ointments in your evening routine.
“Generally speaking, it’s best to layer your skincare routine from lightest textures to heaviest textures,” he advises. Your skincare routine should be layered in the following order:
- Eye Cream
- Exfoliant (1-2 nights a week)
- Oil/Ointment (last step for nighttime)
- Sunscreen (last step for daytime)
Moisturizer Buying Guide
We looked at the following criteria when assessing our list of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin. A misconception for those with sensitive skin is to avoid formulas containing fragrance. According to Miller, most of the population does not suffer from fragrance allergies. In fact, most leave-on cosmetic products (such as moisturizers) contain less than one percent of fragrance in the total formula.
“Unless you have inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea or eczema, it’s most likely safe for you to use fragranced skincare,” Miller advises. “Always patch test new products before applying them to your face.”
Another thing to note: make sure you’re looking for moisturizers that contain soothing and nourishing ingredients such as Centella Asiatica, Colloidal Oatmeal, Aloe Vera, Niacinamide, Squalane, Ceramides, and Peptides.
The Best Moisturizers for Sensitive Skin
We’ve rounded up some of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin that you can buy online. From luxury brands to new skincare startups, these are the top moisturizing creams to try right now.
1. Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisturizing Cream
This lightweight and hydrating moisturizer is perfectly suited for someone with sensitive skin, thanks to the calming blend of Centella Asiatica, Magnesium, Aloe Vera, and Squalane in its formula.
“Glow Recipe co-founders Christine Chang and Sarah Lee like to keep bananas on hand during trips to help soothe travel-induced stomach aches, which ultimately inspired the creation of this sensitive skin-friendly formula,” Miller says. Not only will this give your skin the nurturing boost it needs, it has a delicious, subtle aroma that resembles Banana Laffy Taffy and uses less than 0.5% natural fragrance made of edible ingredients.
2. Youth To The People Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream
Adaptogens have been in herbal medicine for thousands of years as a way to treat both physical and biological stress, and ultimately restore homeostasis. This moisture cream contains Ashwagandha and Reishi adaptogens to bring those healing properties to your skin. Miller also points to the Squalane and Peptides it’s formulated with, making this a perfect option for those with sensitive skin.
“This fragrance-free moisture cream is super hydrating, and truly smells neutral while applying, unlike other fragrance-free formulas that can sometimes smell like plastic,” he says.
3. Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra Grape Water Gel Moisturizer
Caudalie launched this water gel moisturizer earlier this year, and it’s the step in your skincare routine you didn’t know you were missing thanks to a key ingredient: Organic Grape Water.
“Organic Grape Water is a natural prebiotic enriched in polysaccharides, which help repair damaged skin while rebalancing its microbiome,” Miller explains. Also present in the formula are Squalane and Aloe Vera to soothe and hydrate skin. For an added boost, Miller recommends pairing this with the Vinosource-Hydra Hyaluronic Acid Serum, which you can layer beforehand.
4. Naturium Multi-Peptide Moisturizer
Vitamin C serums can be effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkles and brightening your complexion, among a host of other benefits. But if you suffer from sensitive skin, these serums may trigger unwanted reactions in your skin, such as irritation and increased sensitivity. This moisturizer from Naturium utilizes an encapsulated derivative of Vitamin C, which makes this a gentler, more stable option for those looking to get those restorative benefits while also moisturizing their skin, thanks to the blend of Peptides, Niacinamide, and Squalane found in its formula.
5. Topicals Like Butter Mask
Though marketed as a wash-off mask, Topicals also suggests applying this thick and smooth as butter cream in the evening as the final step of your routine, which Miller says is his favorite way to use it.
“Formulated with soothing Colloidal Oatmeal, Centella Asiatica and Ceramides, this formula instantly relieves sensitivity, dryness, redness, and irritation,” he says. This mask can be used on all skin types, though it’s a perfect match for those with dry, sensitive and eczema-prone skin. After trying this out, you’ll understand why it sold out less than 48 hours after launching at Sephora.
6. COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All in One Cream
If you experience sensitivity, dryness, dehydration or inflammation, we encourage you to try this cream and marvel as it heals your skin. The key ingredient here is Snail Mucin, which Miller calls one of K-Beauty’s hottest ingredients due to its regenerating, healing and hydrating properties. Its noticeably brief 18-ingredient formula also contains Allantoin and Panthenol for additional soothing and moisturizing benefits.
While having less ingredients doesn’t determine the effectiveness of a skincare product, this all in one cream creates tough competition for other no-frills moisturizer formulas.” Miller raves.
7. Paula’s Choice Reconditioning Moisturizer
There’s a reason Paula’s Choice is considered to be one of the leading skincare brands by many skincare gurus, experts and those with sensitive skin. This Reconditioning Moisturizer uses Wild Cherry Extract, Algae Extract, Ceramide NG, and Allantoin to provide soothing benefits while strengthening the skin’s environmental defense.
“This moisturizer is marketed as a nighttime product, but it’s lightweight enough to layer as the last step in your morning routine before sunscreen!” Miller advises. “I prefer applying it in my morning routine, because I love knowing this antioxidant-packed formula is helping my sunscreen fight off free-radical damage.”