The best face moisturisers of 2024 to hydrate, soften, and support your skin

Find the best face moisturiser and everything else will follow - these are our ultimate skin-hydrating picks

Three of the best face moisturizers
(Image credit: Future)

The best face moisturiser can do a lot of things: it can hydrate (obviously), it can make tight skin feel comfortable, soften rough texture, and plump up lines from within. Depending on the ingredients and who it's aimed at, your face cream can also help rebalance oil production, fortify your skin barrier, gently improve tone, and soothe sensitivity. 

With that said, there are also a lot of things that even the very best face moisturisers can not do. They are not active treatments that do the heavy lifting in your skincare routine—that job belongs to things like the best hyaluronic acid serums skincare acids, ascorbic acid (aka Vitamin C), and the best retinol creams. Also, despite some claims, your face cream will not eradicate wrinkles, firm skin, shift pigmentation, or drastically overhaul skin texture. That simply isn't the job of a moisturiser. 

Hopefully, this little reality check hasn't proven too disheartening, because actually, there's nothing wrong with a gentle product. It's this softly-softly approach that makes face hydrators one of the most universal skin essentials around. Young, old, male, female—chances are, if you use only one product it's a moisturiser. And there are as many options on the market are there people looking for their perfect hydrator. That's where this guide comes in. 

The best face moisturisers, chosen by our beauty team

How to pick the best face moisturiser for you

Moisturisers fall into three main categories; emollients, humectants, and occlusives. It's worth familiarising yourself with these distinctions, as they're clues to how the moisturiser will feel and if it's likely to suit you. Bear in mind these are not mutually exclusive, so a product with humectant ingredients can also contain emollients, occlusives, or a combination of all three. 

  • Emollients: Emollients can be oil, water, lipid, or butter-based, and work to replenish and condition skin, helping it hold onto natural moisture. This makes them a great choice for normal to dry skin types, as well as dehydrated skins that lack water. Very oily skin may find some emollients a bit rich, although textures can vary. Emollients to look out for include shea butter, ceramides, squalane, and coconut oil.
  • Humectants: These increase hydration by drawing water into the skin from the atmosphere and holding onto it. This helps make tight skin feel more comfortable, as well as appear plump. Humectants are great for any skin type but work particularly well as day creams or the best night creams for oily skin as they hold hydration within the skin rather than creating a heavy layer on top of it. The most famous humectant is hyaluronic acid, but glycerin, aloe vera, and lactic acid are also members of the humectant club. 
  • Occlusives: Occlusives are generally the thickest moisturising ingredients. They create a rich layer on top of the skin that prevents water loss, which not only makes skin feel comfortable but can also protect a depleted barrier from irritants. Naturally, occlusives' heavier feel means breakout-prone skin isn't likely to love being smothered in one, but they are often a key ingredient in the best moisturisers for dry skin as well as the best face oils. Seek out beeswax, lanolin, silicones—such as dimethicone—and petroleum jelly (the ingredient often used in skincare trend slugging, which you can find out more about in our what is slugging guide)

Budget is another key consideration in picking the best face moisturiser, as are added ingredients—think gentle acids, vitamins and face moisturiser with SPF. A lot comes down to texture, too. Cream, gel, fluid, and oils are all an option, and the right one for you really comes down to preference. If you have dehydrated skin, chances are you will enjoy the feeling of a rich cream more than someone with naturally oily skin, who will likely prefer a lighter and fresher texture. 

Fiona McKim
Beauty Editor,

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.

With contributions from