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These formulas can tackle dryness, acne, sun protection, and more.

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All skin needs moisture to look and feel its best. But those with sensitive skin may have a harder time finding the right products when it seems like almost every formulation causes issues with your already fragile face.

“Sensitive skin is not a medical term, but generally we refer to individuals who have skin that is irritated by many environmental triggers as ‘sensitive,’” explains board certified dermatologist Anar Mikailov, MD, founder of KP Away skin care line.

He says that environmental triggers like humidity, temperature, wind, and sun exposure can cause sensitive skin. However, lifestyle triggers such as using too many products with irritating ingredients or even spending time in chlorinated pools can also make skin more sensitive. When so-called “normal” skin is overexposed to these triggers over time, it can become sensitized.

The main rule to follow for sensitive skin? Less is more. Since moisture is crucial for healthy skin, choosing the right moisturizer is even more important because it may be one of the only products your skin can tolerate.

Regular use of moisturizers is a “therapeutic cornerstone for sensitive skin management,” Mikailov says. As you go about choosing one, there are a few key things you need to look for, particularly when it comes to the ingredient list.

“In general, moisturizers should be free of dyes, fragrances, and scents,” Mikailov says. “The list of ingredients should be minimal — ideally under 10.”

Here are a few key steps to picking the right formula for your skin:

Understand the three basic categories of moisturizers

Moisturizers can be categorized into three main types:

  • humectants, which bind water to the skin
  • occlusive, which create a physical barrier on the skin
  • emollients, which help restore the skin barrier

Ideally, Mikailov says that sensitive skin moisturizers should overlap between an emollient and an occlusive in order to provide necessary hydration and prevent outside elements from penetrating the skin. He says that a moisturizer with all three components would also work, but these formulations tend to have many more ingredients.

Look for sensitive skin-friendly keywords

When reading labels, check for the words “noncomedogenic” and “hypoallergenic,” as these terms denote products that are generally safer for sensitive skin.

Noncomedogenic means that the product is oil-free but won’t strip your skin of moisture. Hypoallergenic means that the product typically doesn’t cause allergic reactions. It’s important to note, however, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require cosmetic manufacturers to provide hard data to prove any product’s claims.

Check for irritating ingredients

Mikailov says that some moisturizers contain ingredients that can lead to either allergic reactions or irritant reactions.

For instance, propylene glycol is a common irritant used in many skin creams that should be avoided. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), propylene glycol is “found to provoke allergic reactions in patients with eczema and other skin allergies.”

In order to find a moisturizer that works for you, you’ll need to patiently vet products first by reading labels. You should also be willing to test out a few formulas before settling on the right one for your skin care routine.

To choose the best moisturizers for sensitive skin, we looked at products formulated specifically for sensitive skin, analyzed product labels for irritating ingredients, and read user reviews to understand how these products worked for people with sensitive skin. We also searched for products that had been recommended by dermatologists specifically for people with sensitive skin.

Pricing:

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$40
  • $$$ = $40–$60
  • $$$$ = over $60

Best overall

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin

This gentle, all-purpose cream holds a National Eczema Association (NEA) Seal of Acceptance, an important distinction for sensitive skin products. It’s both fragrance- and oil-free, making it a favorite for people with sensitive skin, and — added bonus! — it can be used on both the face and the body.

Best drugstore find

Simple Kind to Skin Replenishing Moisturizer

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: glycerin, allantoin, bisabolol,

Hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic, this budget formula is both gentle and nourishing. It’s also pH-balanced, which means it keeps your skin at the optimal acidity level to help it retain moisture. Reviewers love how it keeps their sensitive skin breakout-free and doesn’t sting on contact.

Best splurge

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore

  • Price: $$$$
  • Key ingredients: ceramides, natural cholesterol, fatty acids, glycerin, vitamin E

This formula is filled with moisture-boosting ingredients like vitamin E and glycerin, along with natural fats that repair the skin barrier. The cream both soothes and smooths delicate skin. It’s particularly ideal for mature and sensitive skin types that lean more on the dryer side. Best of all, this splurge-worthy product is backed by dermatologists as a top high-end pick.

Best PM moisturizer

Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Cream for Face

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: glycerin, hyaluronic acid, olive oil, vitamin E, vitamin C

Specifically designed for sensitive skin, this night cream provides additional moisture with vitamin E and glycerin (a humectant) and barrier protection. The fragrance-free and hypoallergenic formula won’t clog pores and can heal dryness.

Best for mature skin

Kate Somerville Age Arrest Anti-Wrinkle Cream

  • Price: $$$$
  • Key ingredients: peptides, aloe, kelp extract, oat extract, hyaluronic acid

In clinical testing, this cream was not only deemed safe for sensitive skin, but 90 percent of users saw highly significant improvement in both their skin firmness and elasticity.

The formula is purported to improve the look of fine lines, smooth wrinkles, provide hydration and increase skin elasticity through Somerville’s “telo-5” technology. This technology is based on the science of telomeres, which protect chromosomes from damage and, ultimately, cell death, and are thought to be a key part of the aging process.

Reviewers rave about the light texture of this moisturizer, especially how it’s still effective in dry, cold weather, as well as its skin-smoothing results.

Best for dry skin

Eau Thermale Avene XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cream

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: glycerin, mineral oil, triglycerides, evening primrose oil

When skin loses its protective moisture, it can become more sensitive, leading to skin that’s tender and flaky.

This cream is recognized by the NEA for its efficacy, and it’s ideal for those with eczema and atopic dermatitis, which can result from skin that’s both sensitive and dry. It helps repair the look and feel of the skin through rehydration and reestablishes the skin’s microbiome, the microorganisms that protect against various germs and pathogens.

Best for acne-prone skin

Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer with Sunscreen

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: glycerin, oxybenzone

If your skin is sensitive but also tends to break out, this dermatologist-recommended formula might be a good option, since it provides oil-free moisture.

While some reviewers found the cream to be too greasy in texture, most people recommended this moisturizer for those with sensitive, acne-prone skin. (The cream also has SPF 15 sun protection as an added bonus.)

Best for sun protection

COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: aloe, ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, titanium dioxide

This moisturizer contains gentle ingredients (like aloe) and contains the highest possible UVA protection rating (PA++++), making it an ideal choice for those looking for optimal sun protection without irritation.

Reviewers say that this moisturizer isn’t greasy and sinks into the skin well, providing a nice foundation for makeup application.

Best vegan formula

Youth to the People Superfood Air-Whip Moisture Cream

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, green tea, vitamins C, E, and K

This lightweight, vitamin-rich cream is ideal for those who are easily irritated by synthetic ingredients. With a 100-percent vegan formula and no parabens, phthalates, sulfates, phthalates, dimethicone, or mineral oil, this formula is not only earth-friendly, but it’s also skin-friendly as well.

Best tinted moisturizer

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Tinted Moisturizer

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal

For those looking for a two-in-one product, this dermatologist-tested tinted moisturizer is gentle enough for sensitive skin. Free from alcohol, fragrance, phthalates, and other known irritants, it provides light coverage, sun protection (an impressive SPF 30!), and hydration.

Best gel moisturizer

Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: glycerin, oat flour, feverfew

Clinically tested for use on sensitive and irritated skin, this lightweight, soothing gel is noncomedogenic and free from irritants. Reviewers rave about the way this gel calms redness and easily soaks into the skin.

Best oil moisturizer

Viva Naturals Organic Jojoba Oil

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: Jojoba oil

For those looking for pure oil, jojoba is an ideal choice for sensitive skin because of the way it closely mimics the natural sebum found on the skin. Not only can jojoba regulate sebum production, reducing breakouts, but it won’t cause additional irritation as it moisturizes and maintains the skin barrier.

When applying moisturizer, it’s important to first gently exfoliate so the cream can fully penetrate your skin. You can do this with a damp washcloth, which will also cleanse the skin of any dirt and excess oil.

Next, don’t dry your face completely — having a little water on your skin will actually help seal in moisture. Then, lightly apply a pea-sized amount of moisturizer using your fingertips until all the product is absorbed.

In addition to moisturizing with products, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol, and eating foods that have high water content will help support your skin.

Choosing a moisturizer for sensitive skin can feel overwhelming when yet another product irritates your skin. However, reading labels carefully and steering clear of harsh, synthetic ingredients can make the process much easier.

If you’re unable to find an over-the-counter moisturizer that works for you, there are prescription creams for those with sensitive skin or eczema that you can discuss with your dermatologist. Together, you can figure out which topical products will best support your skin function and provide the moisture your skin needs to stay healthy.

Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.