Keep reactive skin soft, smooth & soothed with these top hydrators

A good face cream is hard to find, and if you have sensitive skin, finding The One can be especially tricky.

If you’ve had a reaction to a product in the past, it’s natural for the fear of a flare-up to be at the forefront of your mind. However, today’s choice of moisturisers is better than ever and provides options for any bank balance and concern. Whether your sensitive skin is dry, dehydrated, or eczema- or rosacea-prone, there’s something for everyone.

From the ingredients that can help calm, soothe and hydrates to the ones to avoid, here’s what you need to know about moisturisers for sensitive skin to keep your skin glowing from dusk till dawn.

What causes sensitive skin?

Skin may become sensitised for a range of reasons, which include genetics, age, lifestyle and your current skincare regime (using harsh products, for example). These can cause the skin barrier’s function (its protective layer against environmental aggressors) to become impaired, making it more prone to irritation, flare-ups, dryness and dehydration.

What moisturiser is best for sensitive skin?

The ultimate goal for your moisturiser if you have sensitive skin is to support your barrier function to keep skin soothed and well hydrated and prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).

For dehydrated or dry sensitive skin, look for products that nourish, calm and hydrate such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, aloe vera, colloidal oatmeal, chamomile, squalane, ceramides and niacinamide. They’ll also help replenish skin’s hydration levels after cleansing (check out our guide to the best face washes for sensitive skin here).

When scanning your moisturiser’s ingredients label, look for a balance of humectants that attract moisture (great for dehydration), soothing emollients (such as butters, oils and lipids) and occlusives. Occlusives coat the outermost layer of the epidermis and prevent TEWL, which can be great for those who have dry or dehydrated skin or skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. However, if you’re prone to acne or spots or have oily skin, you may prefer lighter weight lotions rather than thicker textured creams and ointments to avoid clogging pores.

Your moisturiser needn’t have a fussy formula either – the simpler the better to keep risk of irritation to a minimum. The more targeted work for specific skin conditions such as pigmentation is best left to your day or night serums.

Which ingredients should you avoid if you have sensitive skin?

Common irritants can be fragrance, essential oils, exfoliating acids like glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid, and alcohol. Everyone is different though, and some may be able to tolerate a few of them in small amounts. If you’ve had a reaction to a particular ingredient in the past, have a scan of the INCI list at the back of your product’s packaging to check that it doesn’t contain it before applying to your skin. If in doubt, patch test before using a new product by applying a small amount of the moisturiser onto a clean, dry area of skin (the upper forearm or behind the ear work well for this). Leave it for 24-48 hours and if you don’t experience any burning or itching, you should be good to go.

9 of the best moisturisers for sensitive skin

Whether you’re looking for a face moisturiser for dry sensitive skin, a protective daily sunscreen or a soothing lotion for eczema or rosacea, we’ve got you covered.

Explore these other great options, too.

Best dermatologist-recommended face moisturiser for sensitive skin

Try: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Moisturiser for Sensitive Skin

• Size: 40ml

• Fragrance-free

• Alcohol-free

“This moisturiser contains shea butter, glycerin and squalane, which are great moisturising agents to protect and repair the skin barrier,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Shaaira Nasir. “It also has niacinamide, which has anti-inflammatory properties and La Roche Posay’s Thermal Spring Water to help maintain a healthy balanced skin microbiome.”

Best moisturiser for extremely dry sensitive skin

Try: CeraVe Moisturising Cream

• Size: 454g

• Fragrance-free

• Non-comedogenic (formulated in a way that is not likely to cause pore blockages and breakouts)

Containing three essential ceramides to support the skin barrier, this luxuriously textured cream provides instant and long-lasting hydration. Its larger-than-average size (454g) makes it ideal if you want to slather it on your body, too. For a lighter option, try CeraVe Moisturising Lotion.

Best moisturiser for dry sensitive skin

Try: La Roche-Posay Nutritic Intense Moisturiser Riche

• Size: 50ml

• Non-comedogenic

As well as a high concentration of the brand’s soothing Thermal Spring Water, you’ll also find a hydrating and calming combo of glycerin, shea butter and niacinamide in this nourishing balm. Formulated to strengthen the skin barrier, its rich texture works a treat for dry areas.

Best light moisturiser for sensitive skin

Try: Bioderma Sensibio Light Cream

• Size: 40ml

• Fragrance-free

• Non-comedogenic

Formulated to relieve irritation and tightness, this lightweight day cream offers both performance and tolerance for those with sensitive skin. It’s also non-comedogenic to make it a good match for oily and/or breakout-prone skin types.

Best moisturiser for eczema

Try: Cetraben Cream

• Size: 475ml

• Fragrance-free

This moisturiser from Cetraben (the first eczema-prone skincare range to be approved by the British Skin Foundation) provides instant relief from itchiness and dryness. Soothing and protective, it helps lock in moisture and protect against irritants and water loss to keep skin soft and supple.

Best face moisturiser with SPF for sensitive skin

Try: La Roche-Posay Anthelios UVMUNE 400 Invisible Fluid SPF50

• Size: 50ml

• Very high UVA/UVB protection

• SPF50+

For the best protection against skin damage from the sun’s rays (which can cause skin cancer), invest in a separate broad-spectrum sunscreen such as this one to apply on top of your moisturiser, and reapply it throughout the day. Not only is it harder-wearing than a moisturiser with SPF (it’s water, sand and sweat-resistant), but it protects against both UVA and UVB rays with the Anthelios UVMUNE 400 filter which helps protect against UV induced damage.

Best value moisturiser for sensitive skin

Try: Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream

• Size: 40ml

• Fragrance-free

If your skin’s feeling a little delicate post hair removal, dab a little of this cream on top. Containing an antibacterial zinc/copper complex, soothing Avène Thermal Spring Water and other restorative tech, it’s designed to calm and soothe.

Best moisturiser for rosacea

Try: Cetaphil Pro Moisturising Night Cream

• Size: 50ml

• No added fragrance

Created to reduce redness and improve dryness, this skin-strengthening night cream helps replenish and smooth skin texture to leave your face feeling more comfortable and less irritated.

Best multitasking moisturiser for dry sensitive skin

Try: Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré Nourishing Moisturiser

• Size: 75ml

• 6-in-1

Rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins, this milk-textured cream can be used as a primer, moisturiser, make-up remover, face mask, after-shave cream and baby-care product. As far as multitaskers go, its talents are impressive.