Best moisturizers for sensitive skin: 7 soothing, calming formulas we love

We’ve handpicked the best moisturizers for sensitive skin to comfort and calm

a collage of three of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin by ren, kate somerville and avene on an orange backdrop
(Image credit: Future)

If your skin is on the reactive side, including one of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin in your regime is a good idea. These gentle formulas will keep your skin moisturized and happy without the use of any potentially irritating ingredients, whether your skin is always sensitive or temporarily sensitized.  

And while those with both skin types need gentle formulas in their skincare routine that will support and restore the skin barrier, there is a difference between the two. "Sensitized skin is essentially skin that for all intents and purposes is normal, but has become irritated by external agents, for example, acids,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “Sensitive skin, however, is an underlying skin type whereby blood vessels and nerve endings are overly responsive." 

“The key difference between sensitive and sensitized skin is that, with sensitized skin, once the products causing the issue are stopped and the barrier function of the skin is restored, the irritation, sensitivity and any other changes go away,” adds Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, General Medicine Consultant, Expert Aesthetic Physician, and CeraVe ambassador.

How to pick the best moisturizers for sensitive skin

If your skin is sensitive, you’ve no doubt experienced the fun of buying a new moisturizer in the hopes that it’ll improve your complexion, only for your face to freak out. When it comes to finding the best moisturizers for sensitive skin (and the best face moisturizer in general) ingredients like ceramides and glycerin tick the right boxes—but which ingredients should you avoid on the label? 

“The key with choosing moisturizers for sensitive skin is to look for a moisturizer which is ideally fragrance and essential oil-free,” explains Dr Mahto. “Opt for a product with a short or minimal ingredients list and, depending on whether the skin is dry or not, choose something high in emollients or humectants.”

"I would also advise avoiding heavily alcohol-based products or heavily perfumed products, and products shouldn’t be too exfoliant on the skin," adds La Roche-Posay dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall. "If you constantly exfoliate the skin you will start to disrupt the skin barrier. So you’re really looking for products that are going to hydrate the skin and calm the skin. That will start to improve your symptoms."

The best moisturizers for sensitive skin, as chosen by our beauty experts 

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion

(Image credit: CeraVe)

1. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion

The best moisturizer for sensitive skin on a budget

Specifications

RRP: $16.99/£13
Texture: Lotion
Formula: Non-comedogenic, fragrance-free

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Non-greasy
+
Affordable 

Reasons to avoid

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Not the sexiest packaging

This is an oldie but a goodie and comes with a drugstore price tag that’s very bank balance friendly. All of CeraVe’s products contain three ceramides to support skin barrier function and are completely fragrance-free. An ultra-light daily lotion for your face, it sinks into the skin easily without feeling heavy or greasy.

It’s also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores, and contains hyaluronic acid for hydration and niacinamide to calm and improve skin texture. Plus, the formula’s clever technology means that moisture is released into the skin both instantly and throughout the day. 


La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Fluid

(Image credit: La Roche-Posay)

2. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Soothing Fluid

The best moisturizer for sensitive skin brand according to dermatologists

Specifications

RRP: $30/£18.50
Texture: Light lotion
Formula: hypoallergenic, fragrance-free

Reasons to buy

+
Brand recommended by dermatologists
+
Hydrates skin for up to 48 hours
+
Approved by Allergy UK

Reasons to avoid

-
Some skin types may prefer a more nourishing moisturizer

One of the best La Roche Posay products for sensitive skin, this was recently reformulated to include probiotics to support the skin's microbiome and a calming complex, making it a great match for reactive skin that's prone to redness and stinging. It contains hero skincare ingredient glycerin to lock in moisture, plus neurosensine to help soothe any itchiness, and hydrates skin for up to 48 hours. 

"This ultra-gentle skincare is soothing, anti-inflammatory, and hydrating; tolerated by even the most sensitive skin," says Dr Hextall. "With the prebiotic addition, I cannot imagine any skin type that wouldn’t benefit from this formulation.” La Roche-Posay is considered one of the go-to brands for sensitive skin; Dr Mahto also recommends the Toleriane Ultra Fluid for unhappy complexions.


Avène Tolerance Control Cream

(Image credit: Avène )

3. Avène Tolérance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream

The best moisturizer for sensitive skin prone to stinging

Specifications

RRP: $35/£17.50
Texture: Thick cream
Formula: fragrance-free

Reasons to buy

+
Calms skin very quickly
+
Very thick
+
Trustworthy brand

Reasons to avoid

-
A little pricier than some options

Avène is another French pharmacy brand that goes hand in hand with creating some of the best moisturizers for sensitive skin, and one that you’ll find recommended by dermatologists up and down the country. Designed for reactive and allergic complexions, the Tolérance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream has been proven in trials to calm the skin within 30 seconds and help to restore the skin barrier within 48 hours. 

It’s got a lovely thick texture that really nourishes the skin, providing deep comfort and hydration to help keep reactive skin under control for longer, and contains a patented post-biotic called D-Sensinose to calm and bring back normality to the skin barrier. An all-around great moisturizer that it’s hard not to love. 


Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream

(Image credit: Curél)

4. Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream

The best moisturizer for sensitive skin in Japan

Specifications

RRP: $30/£19.50
Texture: Cream
Formula: Fragrance-free

Reasons to buy

+
Leaves skin very soft
+
Non-greasy texture
+
Ceramide based

Reasons to avoid

-
A little pricier than some options

Curél is the number one skincare brand for sensitive skin in Japan, which is a pretty major endorsement, and all of the products are formulated with dehydrated skin and sensitivity in mind. Although it offers intensive moisture as its name suggests, this formula doesn’t feel at all heavy and cushions your skin with moisture. 

To help support and repair a compromised skin barrier, the formula contains unique Ceramide Care Technology to help boost your skin’s ceramide levels and lock in moisture. What’s more, the Intensive Moisture Facial Cream is (unsurprisingly) free from fragrance, alcohol, and colorants. If on the other hand, you prefer something lighter for your daily moisturizer, you could reach for the brand’s Moisture Facial Lotion instead.


Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream

(Image credit: Kate Somerville)

5. Kate Somerville DeliKate Recovery Cream

The best luxury moisturizer for sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP : $76/£69
Formula: Cream, fragrance-free

Reasons to buy

+
Lovely texture
+
High-end brand
+
Chic packaging

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Kate Somerville is Hollywood’s go-to aesthetician, so you can trust that her products are top quality (even Meghan Markle said she was a fan before she became a royal). The DeliKate Recovery Cream was once only used on Kate’s clients after an in-clinic peel to "put out the fire" in post-tweakment skin, but it’s so good that she decided to release it to the masses.

And we are so glad she did because this is brilliant. It's a redness-reducing, tightness-ridding, skin-calming cream containing hero ingredients peptides and ceramides, plus ginger root and Tasmanian pepper berry to help support the barrier. The texture is lovely, with a thick, cloud-like texture that doesn’t feel at all heavy or greasy on the skin, and it really does plump and hydrate. If any moisturizer should be described as comforting, it’s this one.


REN Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream

(Image credit: REN )

6. REN Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream

The best anti-pollution moisturizer for sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP: $50/£36
Texture: Cream
Formula: Vegan

Reasons to buy

+
Brand's best selling moisturizer
+
Defends against pollution
+
Eco-friendly brand

Reasons to avoid

-
Does contain a small amount of fragrance, although 100% natural

Designed for easily irritated skin that’s prone to redness, this is a great lightweight daily moisturizer for skin prone to sensitivity. Great for city dwellers because of its anti-pollution technology, which helps shield skin from environmental aggressors, it’s the brand’s best-selling moisturizer and contains skin-loving ingredients like omegas 3 and 6 alongside vitamin E to help calm inflammation. 

In a consumer study conducted by the brand, 97% of users found that their skin immediately felt calmer after using the Evercalm Day Cream—and as a bonus, REN as an overall brand has impressive sustainability credentials to boot. 


Eucerin Ultra Sensitive Soothing Care

(Image credit: Eucerin)

7. Eucerin Ultra Sensitive Soothing Care

The best moisturizer for sensitive combination skin

Specifications

RRP: £17 (UK only)
Texture: Cream
Formula: Alcohol and fragrance-free

Reasons to buy

+
Great for 'normal' or combination skin 
+
Reasonably affordable
+
No-nonsense trustworthy brand

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't feel very luxe, if that's your thing

Eucerin is a longstanding go-to drugstore brand for those who seek the best moisturizers for sensitive skin as well as dry skin types. It might not be housed in the sexiest packaging around, but this moisturizer is excellent for uncomfortable dry, and hypersensitive skin. 

It’s not too heavy and is free from any potentially irritating fragrance and alcohols, which would make it a particularly good choice for rosacea-prone skin. The texture is a 'just right' light cream, silky enough to sink in but rich enough to feel comforting on tight or dry skin. Containing a unique active known as SymSitive, it helps to improve both sensitivity and reactivity in the skin for lasting relief. 


woman&home thanks consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, General Medicine Consultant, Expert Aesthetic Physician Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme La Roche-Posay dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall for their time and expertise

Lucy is a UK-based beauty journalist who has written for the likes of Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, OK!, Women's Health and more, as well as contributing to woman&home. Her work covers everything from expert skin and haircare tips to the latest product launches and the show-stopping beauty looks spotted backstage at London Fashion Week. During her career she's interviewed some seriously famous faces, from Little Mix to Drag Race royalty The Vivienne, as well as chatting to the industry's leading hairdressers, dermatologists and make-up artists.