10 Best Face Moisturizer For Dehydrated Skin of All Types [May, 2019]

Best Face Moisturizer For Dehydrated Skin

Is your skin flaking, irritated, dull, and rough?

Ok, we are here to help.

But before, let’s make things clear about “dry/dehydrated” confusion.

Is there any difference?

Yes, there is.

Dehydration is a widespread skin’s condition when it lacks water due to the weakened barrier. It’s a temporary phenomenon and can be rather easily corrected by moisturizing cosmetics.

Dry skin is a type (your body skin is dry too, not only face), along with oily, normal, or mixed types. It lacks oils because sebaceous glands don’t produce enough of sebum. It is life-long and inherited, but it can be easily corrected by cosmetics, too.

Dry skin is usually met between seniors and children, while dehydrated skin is ubiquitous between all ages.

Simply put, there are two different criteria affecting skin appearance and well-being: water content (dehydrated or normal skin) and sebum production (dry, oily, normal, combination skin).

In this article, we’ve picked up the best moisturizer for dehydrated skin of all types. And, if you are curious, we have a big guide explaining everything about skin dehydration.

1) The best moisturizers for dehydrated normal skin

2) The best moisturizers for dehydrated oily skin

3) The best moisturizers for dehydrated dry skin

4) The best moisturizers for dehydrated combination skin

Ok, let’s find a moisturizer that fits your skin type and condition!

The Best Moisturizers For Dehydrated Normal Skin

If your skin type is normal (you are lucky!), sebaceous glands emit an optimal quantity of sebum. There is usually no oily shine, roughness, or flaking.

It is matte, beautiful skin, easy for maintenance.

But sometimes it becomes dry (dehydrated), and, usually, it’s connected to impairments in epidermal barrier structures.

To restore the epidermal barrier of normal skin, incorporate cosmetic products containing these ingredients in your skin care routine:

1) Physical (biomimetic) lipids including ceramides, essential free fatty acids, cholesterol;

2) Humectants, to rehydrate your skin;

3) Occlusives, for the first steps of barrier treatment.

All these components can be formulated in one moisturizer or in separate. In case, you use three different moisturizers, apply them on your skin according to this list: physical lipids are the first, than humectants, and the occlusives are the latest.

Here are our ideas:

Retinol Moisturizer Cream for Face - with Retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E and Green Tea

This moisturizer contains natural oils (Organic Sunflower Oil, Palm Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter) rich in antioxidants and essential free fatty acids (for example, the linoleic acid presence in sunflower oil is 70%). They will supply your skin cells with building materials necessary for epidermal barrier restoration. 

Hyaluronic acid and Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide are humectants to bust water content in your skin. 

Retinol fights thin wrinkles and acne; it also brightens up the skin. 

One of the exciting new trends in the modern study of the skin is researchers of the microbiome. 

The microbiome is a community of symbiotic microorganisms (for example, lactobacilli) living on the surface of the skin and constituting the acid mantle. This moisturizing cream has a prebiotic action on the microbiome which means it delivers essential nutrients and food to these friendly bacteria.

A healthy microbiome safeguarding the skin from pathogens which provoke inflammation.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer replenishes moisture content in the skin for 48 hours and helps to restore the protective epidermal barrier (with Ceramide-3, Niacinamide & Glycerin). 

Also, it contains UV protection SPF 30.

Ceramide-enriched firming moisturizer

This anti-aging moisturizer contains a mix of 5 skin-identical lipids called ceramides which help to restore and fortify the epidermal barrier. The latter prevents excessive water evaporation from the skin, so it looks firm and healthy. 

The cream contains Vitamin C. As an antioxidant, it neutralizes free radicals which damage skin cells (one of the premature skin aging reason). Most effective antioxidants are vitamins A, C, E. 

Retinol, or pure Vitamin A, is one of the most popular and powerful rejuvenating ingredients. It suppresses ferments destroying collagen and make fibroblasts synthesis it more actively (as their activity decreases with age, skin become flabby). 

The Best Moisturizers For Dehydrated Oily Skin

It sounds like nonsense, but, it’s true, oily skin can be – and very very often is – dehydrated.

So, why oily skin is dehydrated?

There are two different kinds of skin lipids: sebum from sebaceous glands splashed out to the skin surface and intercellular lipids situated inside the stratum corneum. They have different origin and composition.

Sebum is a secretion of sebaceous glands, while intercellular lipids are created in lamellar bodies of keratinocytes (cells constituting 90% the epidermis).

On the skin surface, sebum creates a semi-permeable film, involved in epidermal barrier maintenance, antioxidants transportation, dust and UV-protection.

Intercellular epidermal lipids, in turn, are part of a very complex structure that regulates water evaporation through the skin (this process is called TEWL – Trans Epidermal Water Loss).

In the case of excessive secretion of sebum, it penetrates the skin and builds into intercellular lipid structures replacing original lipids and disrupting its precise organization.

That way, the barrier becomes more permeable and can’t hold water from evaporation effectively; thus, the skin loses moisture and becomes dehydrated.

To restore the epidermal barrier in oily skin, incorporate these ingredients in your skin care routine:

1) Physical (biomimetic) lipids including ceramides, essential free fatty acids, cholesterol;

2) Humectants, to rehydrate your skin.

Here are our ideas:

COSRX Oil Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap

Weightless lotion made out of 70% of willow ark water (birch sap) soothes and calms the irritated skin. It’s an oil-free formula, absorbing to the skin instantly, doesn’t leave any greasy residue, so, it perfectly suits oily and combination skin.

COSRX lotion also contains sodium lactate which is one of the Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) constituents. NMF molecules aggregate in the stratum corneum (the topmost layer of the skin) and retain water, making skin moisturized naturally.

Hyaluronic acid is a polymer is being produced by our body to retain moisture inside the dermis (the skin layer between epidermis and hypodermis). When applied to the skin, it rests on its surface attracting and binding moisture. 

Erborian Yuza Sorbet

Korean moisturizer Yuza Sorbet contains microcapsules with antioxidants to nourish the skin and to fight harsh environmental stressors. Its lightweight structure is suitable for people with oily or combination skin prone to irritations.

Except for Yuza, known in South Korean for its powerful antioxidant properties, the moisturizer formulated with honey extract (hydrating), sesame (softening) and sweet almond (nourishing) oils.

It gives the skin a radiant and healthy look.

The Best Moisturizers For Dehydrated Dry Skin

Dehydration also occurs when the activity of sebaceous glands is decreased.

Sebum is a natural occlusive compound hindering water evaporation, but also it’s emollient softening and smoothing scales of skin. Sleek scales reflect light (making skin sparkle) and close water inside the epidermis.

In the case of sebum deficiency, horny scales become shaggy and dry. Instead of reflecting light, they absorb it making skin look dull. Also, shaggy scales increase the area of water evaporation (not good news for hydration at all!).

To rehydrate dry skin, use cosmetics containing:

1) Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF);

2) Humectants;

3) Occlusive compounds replenishing sebum deficiency;

Here are our ideas:

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA Surface Hydration

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA Surface Hydration ingredient list looks super nutritious!

There are almost all of Natural Moisturizing Factor constituents in this cream. Good news for the dry skin! NMF will accumulate in the stratum corneum plasticizing horny scales and retaining water. The “deep” moisturizing effect will increase gradually with every cream’s application and will last longer. 

Hyaluronic acid and polysaccharides (humectants that stick to the skin’s surface attracting and binding water from the air) will provide a fresh and supple look to the skin.

The cream also contains useful triglycerides, which can then be broken down into free fatty acids and glycerin to restore the protective skin barrier.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream - Daily Face And Body Moisturizer for Dry Skin

Perfectly formulated, eczema association approved cream for dry and sensitive dehydrated skin.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream contains physiological lipids that build in skin’s protective barrier restoring and straightening it.

This moisturizer also uses innovative multi-vascular emulsion technology which allows enclosing actives inside microcapsules. That way, active ingredients slowly release from capsules which prolongs the moisturization effect of this cream.

This cream is fantastic, we’ve already reviewed it in our site: Is CeraVe moisturizing cream good for your face? Extended scientific review

Paula's Choice Moisture Boost Hydrating Treatment Cream Moisturizer with Niacinamide

As dry skin lacks sebum, this moisturizer contains a lot of proven emollients (Jojoba oil, Petrolatum, Squalane) which soften and soothe horny skin scales. Along with antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, they protect the skin of harsh environmental influences, while keeping water inside for young and fresh-looking skin.

When skin cells grow older and experience harmful external influences like UV-radiation, acne, and hormonal fluctuations, skin cell formation disrupts. Cell-communicating agents Niacinamide and Decarboxy Carnosine HCI make skin behavior like a healthy and young one. 

Skin-identical lipids (Ceramide 3, Cholesterol) help to restore the impaired epidermal barrier, while moisturizers (Glycerin, Hyaluronic acid) rehydrate the skin on the deep level. 

The Best Moisturizer For Dehydrated Combination Skin

Combination skin has both oily areas (usually, the nose, forehead, chin) and dry areas (cheeks, the skin around eyes, face sides).

Ideally, cosmetics should moisturize skin avoiding additional oils.

Here are our ideas:

Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream

This is quickly an absorbing, light-texture gel-cream which contain clean ocean water from Polynesia Lagoon and overwhelming quantity (27+) of seaweed extracts. It doesn’t leave a greasy residue (perfect for combination skin!), and moistures the skin all day long.

Also, the price is quite reasonable for this Korean product.  

The Face Shop Chia Seed Moisture Recharge Cream

This no-shine Korean gel-cream consists of 73.64% chia seeds.

Chia seeds are very moisturizing, especially for people with very dry and sensitive skin, and for those with eczema. Chia seed oil contains a lot of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which are great building material for the lipid barrier restoration. 

The integral epidermal barrier reduces transepidermal water loss resulting in skin rehydration. 

Due to the presence of essential free fatty acids, it soothes skin inflammation and itchiness.

Ok, now, if you are curious reader, let’s dive deep into details.

What Is Dehydrated Skin?

Dehydrated (usually, everybody called it dry, so I’ll do the same) skin refers to dehydrated stratum corneum of the epidermis.

Stratum corneum loses the ability to prevent excessive moisture evaporation due to impairments in its water-retaining and barrier structures.

Dry skin symptoms are:

  • Roughness;
  • Excessive flaking;
  • A feeling of tightness;
  • Sensitivity;
  • Irritation and frequent inflammation reactions;
  • Thin wrinkles;
  • Dullness.

The main diagnostic criteria are the decrease in water content of the stratum corneum and an increase of index of transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

In addition, in severely dehydrated skin, pH-level changes to the alkaline side, instead of a slightly acidic state. So, unnatural pH-level of the skin is also important criteria of skin dehydration.

Concerning sebum content level, we already know that it can be normal, higher (for oily skin), and lower (for dry sebodeficient skin) than needed. Such variability doesn’t allow to classify sebum is diagnostic criteria for dehydrated skin, but it helps to determinate the root cause of the problem.

Why Does Skin Need Water Anyway?

Water is indispensable for cells to live, feed, develop, and so on. So, the skin layers with living cells containing up to 80% of water.

Stratum corneum which composed of dead cells is different. The water content there is low, about 15%. It maintains stratum corneum plasticity and integrity and, also, participates in enzymatic activity.

If the moisture content in stratum corneum decreases, its overall structure begins to fail, provoking a barrier disintegration. That way, it becomes permeable to water and transepidermal evaporation enhances.

So, soon, due to the deficit of moisture in living cell layers, skin recovery slows down, it becomes dull, and thin wrinkles begin to appear.

Eventually, dehydration of the skin becomes a self-sustaining phenomenon.

Enzymatic activity

In particular, the formation of natural moisturizing factors (NMF) depends on enzymatic disintegration of a protein called filaggrin. This process requires a certain level of moisture.

So, water deficit obstructs the formation of these water-binding molecules, resulting in a decreased amount of NMF in stratum corneum, therefore, a decreased amount of bound water, and, therefore, a decreased water content and so on. Vicious circle!

Formation of the strong skin barrier depends on continuous replacement of old worn out scales to new ones. The perfect balance between cells proliferation and desquamation is needed.

The desquamation of scales requires the participation of enzymes, which, in turn, need water. So, during constant water deficiency, the balance between desquamation and proliferation also breaks.

Inflammation and pathogens

With a water content below 10%, the stratum corneum loses plasticity and begin to crack. It allows pathogens to penetrates the skin what results in inflammatory reactions.

All attempts to eliminate irritation applying anti-inflammatory and antibacterial treatments are usually futile or not persistent.

So, before combating symptoms of chronic inflammatory reactions, such as itching and redness provoked by dehydration, it’s necessary to take care of barrier restoration and rehydration of stratum corneum.

Why Skin Becomes Dry? Main Water-Retaining Structures Of The Skin

There is a broad spectrum of health issues provoking skin dryness:

  • A hormonal imbalance (for example, the skin of people with diabetes is prone to be dry and irritated);
  • Diseases of the genitourinary system;
  • Digestive problems;
  • Genetic defects (for example, ichthyosis and atypical dermatitis are both caused by mutations in genes responsible for the hornification process);
  • Infectious diseases, etc.

The skin of a healthy person can also be dehydrated due to:

  • external (UV-radiation, strong wind, cold, dust, mechanical frictions (of a pillow, for example), dry climate, harsh chemicals disrupting epidermal barrier structures) or
  • internal (unbalanced nutrition lacking essential free fatty acids, constant stress) factors.

But what happens to the stratum corneum? Why does it stop to retain water?

To answer these questions, let’s talk about the main water-retaining structures of the horny layer:


Sebum (a natural emollient) smoothes horny scales down to the skin surface reducing the contact area of intercellular spaces with air (less evaporation).

It creates a semi-permeable water-repellent layer on the skin surface to decrease the moisture evaporation.

And, it releases glycerol, hygroscopic molecules, which attract water from the air, bind, and hold it in stratum corneum.

Lipid Barrier

Lipid barrier works like cement.

It fills the spaces between corneocytes (bricks) to control the diffusion of water and water-soluble compounds through stratum corneum.


Natural moisturizing factors are small hygroscopic molecules (free amino acids, lactic acid, pyroglutamate sodium).

Inside stratum corneum, they surround dead cells “corneocytes” creating kind of water sheath around them.


Keratin is large protein molecules filling corneocytes. They are not water-soluble, but in the water, they swell and bind its molecules by electrostatic bonds.

In stratum corneum, water is present in two forms:

  • free (between lipid bilayers) and
  • bound (in molecules of NMF and keratin).

If one or two of these structures brake, the water content is stratum corneum decreases.

How Can We Prevent Skin Dryness? 
Types Of Moisturizing Agents

Occlusion and imitation of sebum.

The water continuously rises from the deeper layers of the skin to its surface and evaporates there. Thus, if you cover the skin with something gas-tight, the water content in stratum corneum will rise quickly.

This way of moisturizing the skin is called occlusive.

And, sebum is the native occlusive of our body.

But it’s not impermeable: oxygen and carbon pass through it freely.

The water evaporation hinders due to smoothening of horny scales and the presence of glycerol from sebum.


Glycerol is an essential element of the epidermal water-retaining system. There are two types of glycerol: endogenous and exogenous.

Exogenous glycerol comes from enzymatic disintegration of sebum glycerides. The areas of skin, where sebaceous glands activity is optimal, are more hydrated, than those lacking sebum.

Endogenous glycerol is part of the system providing water circulation between living cells, and it’s also necessary for lipid biosynthesis. It comes to living cells from the blood.

Glycerol has a 200-year history of usage as a moisturizing agent in cosmetics. It’s quite useful, accessible, and not an expensive ingredient which replenishes its deficiency in the skin.

However, if the concentration of glycerol in cosmetic is higher then 5-7%, it will dry the skin.

First, a significant amount of glycerol will disrupt the work of the epidermal barrier. Secondly, because it is very hygroscopic (water-absorbing), so the part remaining on the skin surface will soak water from stratum corneum.

Sebum mimetics

Some cosmetic ingredients have similar occlusive properties to sebum, i.e., limit water evaporation.

  • Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, Vaseline, liquid paraffin, and ceresin are hydrocarbons derived from petroleum;
  • Liquid silicones (silicone oils) are hydrophobic high molecular weight organosilicon compounds;
  • Lanolin is animal wax extracted from sheep’s wool with organic solvents;
  • Squalene and its derivative squalane are a natural component of human sebum, which can come from some plants or shark liver;
  • Vegetable oils, primarily solids like a shea butter;
  • Natural waxes and their esters: beeswax, coniferous, and cane wax;

The cosmetic ingredients above are different in their occlusion strength. The most proven occlusive component is Vaseline.

In dermatology, it is used to moisturize skin for eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis. The disadvantage of Vaseline is the feeling of heaviness and oiliness it leaves on the skin.

Predominantly occlusive moisturizers quickly soothe dry skin, reduce inflammation and itching in skin diseases, but don’t help to eliminate the root cause of dehydration. So, they should be used daily only if the epidermal barrier can never be restored (for example, in the case of atopic dermatitis). In other cases, use predominantly occlusive cosmetic like an emergency: to soothe dehydrated skin or on the first stages of the barrier restoration process.

There are occlusive ingredients in the majority of moisturizers. In some formulations, they play a crucial role (in waterless ointments, for example), and in the others, they are auxiliary components, while the significant role belongs to humectants.


The application of substances capable of attracting and binding water molecules (hygroscopic compounds) is a great way to moisturize skin quickly. There are two main categories of hygroscopic compounds used in cosmetics: large polymer molecules resting on the skin surface and small natural moisturizing factor molecules.

Large polymers

Large polymers (molecular weight is more than 3000 Da) are not able to penetrate the stratum corneum. Instead, they remain on the surface and absorb atmospheric water like a sponge, forming a kind of wet compress for the skin. These high-molecular compounds include:

  • Polygrycols (propylene glycol, ethylene glycol);
  • Polysaccharides (hyaluronic acid, chitosan, chondroitin sulfate, mucopolysaccharides), pectins;
  • Protein molecules of animal or plant origin and their hydrolysates (in particular, such saleable cosmetic ingredients as collagen, elastin, and keratin are usually added to formulations as moisturizing agents);
  • Polynucleic acids (DNA) and their hydrolysates.

The ingredients above are met almost in all types of moisturizers, including emulsions (creams). But, usually, you can find them in fluid cosmetic like tonics, lotions, serum, and concentrates.

By the way, cosmetics containing large polymers don’t work for a dry climate as good as for a wet one. In fact, in a dry climate, the water, retaining in these sponges quickly evaporates, so they begin to shrink provoking a feeling a tightness.

The ability of large hygroscopic polymers to dry and shrink is used in cosmetics for an immediate yet temporary lifting effect.

To prevent fast water evaporation, cosmetic chemists usually add occlusive ingredients to formulations.

Another option is the application of two complementary products, for example, tonic (provides moisture to the skin) + cream (hinders moisture evaporation).

Deep skin moisturizing

Some cosmetics proclaimed to be deeply moisturizing.

What does it mean?

It means that this cosmetic contains compounds of natural moisturizing factor which permeate inside stratum corneum and act there as sponges.

Natural moisturizing factor (NMF) is a complex of hygroscopic low-molecular-weight substances like free amino acids, urea, lactic acid, and pyroglutamate sodium.

In stratum corneum, molecules of NMF surround corneocytes and plasticize them to prevent skin cracking.

Free amino acids and urea are formed in the process of protein filaggrin disintegration.

Lactic acid is a component of the sweat secretion, and it seeps inside the stratum corneum upon the reabsorption of sweat.

Unlike large polymers we mention above remaining on the skin surface, the NMF molecules penetrate stratum corneum easily and rest there. The more NMF molecules inside it, the more its water-retaining capacity, that’s why this moisturizing is called “deep”.

The moisturizing effect of NMF cosmetics is not so pronounced and quick as those provided by large polymers, but it lasts longer and less depends on air humidity. It is also cumulative.

There is no lifting effect, also.

Hygroscopic substances work best in moist air or when applicated right after bath or shower. They increase the plasticity of horny scales and make the skin smoother. In cosmetics, they work in combination with the occlusives.

Restoration and strengthening of the epidermal barrier

Impaired lipid barrier of stratum corneum (imbalanced lipid composition, destruction) is one of the most frequent causes of skin dryness.

So, adding physiological lipids to skin care routine, along with to occlusives and humectants, sound like a good idea.

Molecules of lipids permeate to intercellular spaces and build in lipid bilayers. Some of them will reach the viable layers of the epidermis to be included in the cellular metabolism or serve as precursors of lipids that the skin lacks.

Natural oils

Natural oils are mixtures of different lipids so their replenishing efficiency and mechanism of action will depend on the composition.

  • Oils containing essential free fatty acids (linoleic, y-linolenic) promote the acceleration of the synthesis of components of lipid barrier delivering lipid precursors directly to cells. They include borage oil, evening primrose oil, black currant seed oil.
  • Sterin-rich oils have an anti-inflammatory effect. They include rosehip oil, tamanu oil, soybean oil, safflower oil.
  • Oils enriched with saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids can form a semi-permeable film on the skin surface imitating sebum, thus, help to restore the skin barrier. They include shi oil, Triadica sebifera oil, macadamia oil, corn oil, coconut oil, cocoa oil, cashew oil.

Physiological lipids

The best ingredients aimed to restore intercellular lipids of the epidermis are physiological lipids: the mixture of ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids. All of the components of this mixture are natural elements of the epidermal lipid barrier; that’s why they work nife and don’t have any side effects.

Now, they are trendy cosmetic ingredients. In composition, they can be included as separate molecules or as liposomes and micelles. The latter two also work as carriers or containers for other active components of cosmetics. They stabilize them and provide their penetration through the stratum corneum.

Some advanced cosmetics use lamellar emulsions based on phosphatidylcholine. In these products, the smallest drops of lipids mixed with water resemble natural bilayers of stratum corneum.

This category of cosmetics is called biomimetics. It has excellent moisturizing and restoring properties as it similar to the lipid barrier not only in composition but also in structure.

Physiological lipids perfectly work in formulation for healing the skin after injuries, for atopic dermatitis, sensitive skin, and UV-damaged skin.

To support the barrier restoration, you can also take supplements containing essential free fatty acids, especially y-linolenic acid (GLA)

Ingredients: ceramides, cholesterol, free fatty acids.


To protect skin from lipid oxidation (a chain reaction of lipid destruction invoked by free radicals), cosmetic chemist add antioxidants – usually fat-soluble vitamin E – to the formulation. Since the latter is fat-soluble, it quickly builds in lipid layers and prevents oxidation.


  1. All illustrations are from a cartoon called Kapitoshka, it’s about adventures of water drop and wolf, watch it here, no subtitles, however
  2. Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, 4th Edition, by André O. Barel (Editor), Marc Paye (Editor), Howard I. Maibach (Editor)
  3. Skin moisturization / edited by James J. Leyden, Anthony V. Rawlings.
  4. Repair and Maintenance of the Epidermal Barrier in Patients Diagnosed with Atopic Dermatitis
  5. Investigating the barrier function of skin lipid models with varying compositions