5 Best Hypoallergenic Moisturizers (Sensitive Skin) in 2020
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5 Best Hypoallergenic Moisturizers (Sensitive Skin)

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best hypoallergenic moisturizer
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:
BEST FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN ZELEN Life Moisturizer
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN Bioderma Hydrabio Cream

 

Millions of people have sensitive skin.

The best hypoallergenic moisturizers for sensitive skin types are usually fused with natural ingredients and free of synthetic chemicals. They are suitable for all skin types, and they are created not to cause irritation.

In our list, we look at the 5 best hypoallergenic moisturizers that keep you hydrated without you developing an allergic reaction.

Read further to find a detailed review of each moisturizer that made our list. We will discuss what makes them great options also highlight the things to be aware of and who they are most suitable for.

We have made sure there is something for everyone.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Moisturizer
  • Organic, plant-based formula for sensitive skin, no chemicals
  • Non-greasy, lightweight and absorbs fast, locks in moisture
  • Non-comedogenic and vitamin-rich, helps acne breakouts
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bb2-table__imageBioderma Hydrabio Cream
  • Rich, creamy texture, extremely nourishing
  • Helps prevent signs of aging
  • Makes the skin look radiant and luminous
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bb2-table__imageL'Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream
  • Makes skin feel soft, supple and less tight
  • Calms dry skin and reduces flakiness
  • Rich in vitamins, restores a youthful glow
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bb2-table__imageDermalogica Calm Water Gel
  • Boosts moisture fast, locks in immediate hydration
  • Weightless water-gel
  • Soothing action, calms redness
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bb2-table__imageVichy LiftActiv Supreme Night Cream
  • Allergy tested
  • Helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Provides 24-hour hydration
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Before you buy: 7 Things to consider when purchasing a hypoallergenic moisturizer

Before you rush out to buy a hypoallergenic moisturizer, do some homework. Hypoallergenic moisturizers are created mostly for sensitive skin.

As such, they tend to be milder and have fewer properties than other moisturizers.

Their main function is to hydrate, and some of them only serve that purpose. Here are a few things to know before you buy one for yourself.

1. Skin type

Do you have sensitive skin? This is important. You may have oily, dry, combination, or even oily skin but do you also have sensitive skin? By sensitive, we mean, do you break out in a rash the moment you apply something?

Do you break out into a rash, hives, wheals, and flares? Does a cream make you break out wildly? Is there blotchiness, redness, or burning on any application of the product?

If your answer is yes to any of the above questions, then you have sensitive skin, and a hypoallergenic moisturizer might be best for you. Even among hypoallergenic moisturizers, some are formulated for dry or oily skin.

Knowing your skin type will help you choose the right one.

2. Gel-based and oil-based

A gel or water-based hypoallergenic moisturizer is suitable for people with oily and combination skin. On the other hand, oil-based hypoallergenic moisturizers are more suitable for people with dry and normal skin.

3. Texture

Hypoallergenic moisturizers tend to have different textures based on the skin type they target. And so thicker textures of hypoallergenic moisturizers tend to sit on the skin and gradually absorb into the deeper layers over many minutes.

It could feel weighty and dense until it is fully absorbed. These are great emollient moisturizers for those with very dry skin, eczema, and dermatoses. Lightweight formulas tend to feel non-greasy and are absorbed more rapidly into the skin.

4. Allergens

What are you allergic to? Review the ingredient list before you buy it. Many individuals are also allergic to natural ingredients like honey and citrus.

Hypoallergenic moisturizers tend to have fewer chemicals, but it is up to you to identify any allergens and select the best moisturizer.

Sometimes, it may not be the ingredients but the colors, the dyes, or the fragrance that can make you allergic or breathless. Know what’s right for you!

5. Don’t take “dermatologist recommended” at face value

You may see many hypoallergenic moisturizers that say this is a dermatologist-recommended choice. Treat this statement with caution. How many dermatologists recommend it? Where are these dermatologists based? Who did they test it on?

The label “dermatologist recommended” can be a marketing gimmick to demonstrate some sort of clinical endorsement. This isn’t always true, and you shouldn’t be an influencing factor when deciding which moisturizer to buy.

6. Frequency of use and single-ingredient products

Hypoallergenic moisturizers are mild and so can be used twice a day. Dermatologists do recommend single ingredient moisturizers or products that have fewer ingredients for people with sensitive skin.

This helps reduce the reaction, especially in those who are super sensitive due to fresh eczema or those recovering from a chemical burn.

7. Patch test first (if possible)

If you have sensitive skin, try and use a sample. Do a skin patch test on your neck first, to see how your skin reacts to a particular product (if possible).

Hypoallergenic moisturizers tend to be expensive because the ingredients are fewer and often naturally sourced. Plenty of research and development goes into their formulation, and so they are priced higher. A skin patch test can help ensure you buy the right product.

The 5 best hypoallergenic moisturizers in 2020

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer is not just one that is less prone to make you break out but also ones that hydrates, nourishes, and soothes the skin.

Here are our top five hypoallergenic moisturizers in 2020.

1. ZELEN Life Moisturizer

moisturizer zelen life

Best features:

  • Non-greasy and lightweight formula absorbs fast
  • Non-comedogenic, moisturizes without clogging pores
  • Chemical-free, cruelty-free, vegan and eco-friendly

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer for:

Those prone to inflammation and acne breakouts.

Overview:

ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer, unlike others created for sensitive skin, is a very lightweight formula. It is a quality moisturizer that boosts hydration to your daily skincare routine.

This moisturizing day cream can be applied in the morning while reaping its many benefits throughout your day. There’s no need for re-application as its formula locks in moisture for long-lasting hydration. It’s non-greasy and leaves your skin soft and smooth.

It features an organic formula packed with the purest plant-based ingredients. It’s chemical-free without parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, or synthetic colors and fragrances. This makes it a great hypoallergenic moisturizer for sensitive skin and those prone to inflammation.

Its key ingredients are jojoba, calendula, and clary sage, making it suitable for most skin types. These ingredients also protect the skin from the daily elements by strengthening the skin barrier. It is cruelty-free and not tested on animals in any way.

All of the moisturizer’s benefits come from its certified organic and expertly sourced ingredients.

Jojoba is a carrier oil that has anti-acne and anti-aging properties. It fights wrinkles and other signs of aging and speeds up the skin’s healing process. It also mimics the skin’s natural oil (sebum) and regulates the amount of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands, which helps to control acne breakouts.

Calendula is a natural oil derived from the marigold flower and provides daily moisture while nourishing the skin. It’s a natural antiseptic, as well, and heals the skin while reducing redness.

Clary sage is a flowering herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region, and it tightens the skin while giving it a youthful, radiant glow. It’s anti-inflammatory properties prevent skin irritation. It’s also an antibacterial that curbs the growth of bacteria.

The results of various in vitro tests reveal that formulations containing sage oil as an active natural antimicrobial agent have significant inhibitory activity against Staphylococcus. Due to its antimicrobial properties, clary sage oil can treat wounds and skin infections caused by staphylococcus.[1]

The good:

  • Hypoallergenic–organic plant-based formula
  • Smoothing, calming, and soothing effect on the skin while leaving it refreshed and revitalized
  • Enriched with vitamins and loaded with essential fatty acids, as well as essential antioxidants

Things to think about:

  • No SPF
  • Mattifying finish

Bottom line:

This is an excellent hypoallergenic moisturizer for those with problem skin such as acne or eczema. It’s bio-active, organic formula soothes and calms inflamed areas while providing the skin with valuable hydration.

2. Bioderma Hydrabio Cream

Best features:

  • Restores radiance
  • Contains salicylic acid
  • Prevents premature aging

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer for:

Those with sensitive, dull/sluggish skin.

Overview:

Bioderma’s Hydrabio Cream is a rich and creamy texture that nourishes and hydrates dry skin types, especially for night-time use. It contains the Aquagenium patented formula, which improves the natural moisturizing capacities of the skin to retain hydration.

This formula contains niacinamide and apple seed extract. This is specially formulated for sensitive skin. It not just moisturizes but also restores visible radiance.

By eliminating dead cells and progressively reducing the thickness of the skin’s upper layer, one of its ingredients, salicylic acid, equalizes and smoothes the skin’s surface, giving it long-lasting radiance.

Apple seed extract stimulates the activity of aquaporins, and vitamin PP (niacinamide) strengthens skin resistance and impermeability. Vitamin E helps to protect the skin against oxidative stress and combat premature cutaneous aging.

Studies have shown that niacinamide can act as an antioxidant. It can improve epidermal barrier function, decrease skin hyperpigmentation and dark spots, reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It can also decrease redness/blotchiness, decrease skin yellowness (sallowness), and improve skin elasticity.[2]

Apple seeds are also studied for their role in anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties.[3]

The good:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Paraben-free

Things to think about:

  • Scented formula
  • Very thick, cannot use it with foundation

Bottom line:

This is a great hypoallergenic moisturizer for lackluster and dull skin in need of kicking back into life.

3. L’Occitane Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream

Best features:

  • Soothes very dry skin
  • Reduces tightness
  • Ultra-rich texture

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer for:

Dry, sensitive skin that is peeling or flaking.

Overview:

L’Occitane’s Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream is an ultra-rich moisturizer that helps soothe dry to very dry skin by locking in hydration all day. It is specially formulated to help nourish and protect skin that requires intensive hydration.

Its melting texture is infused with 25% shea butter to answer the essential needs of dry to very dry skin. Shea butter is a plant fat that is extracted from the seeds of the shea tree. It has anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties.[4]

It is rich in vitamin E, omega 6, and karitene to leave the skin soft, supple, and comfortable. You can use this not just for your face but massage into the skin all over the body after bathing, showering, or anytime your skin feels dry or tight.

It contains shea butter, chestnut seed extract, and sunflower seed oil, among other ingredients. These are responsible for making the skin silky soft and reduce the feeling of tightness.

As the skin is protected against external aggressors, it stays comfortable all day long. Chestnut seeds horse contain saponins, known collectively as ‘aescin.’

They have a gentle soapy feel and are potent anti-inflammatory compounds. They reduce the fragility of blood vessels and prevent swelling.[5]

The good:

  • Gives a youthful, dewy finish
  • Reduces skin flakiness
  • Contains 25% shea butter

Things to think about:

  • High price tag for the size
  • Settles like a mask coating on the face as it dries

Bottom line:

L’Occitane’s Ultra-Rich Comforting Cream is an ideal moisturizer for sensitive skin with peeling and flakiness. If you are looking for an ultra-rich moisturizer that gives an intense moisturization, then it is worthy of the high price tag.

4. Dermalogica Calm Water Gel

Best features:

  • Provides immediate hydration to dry, irritated skin
  • Softens, soothes, and calms
  • Locks in moisture and defends skin against dryness

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer for:

Sensitive, dry skin.

Overview:

Dermalogica’s Calm Water Gel is a weightless water-gel moisturizer that hydrates dry, sensitive skin. This is so important for people in colder climes and during the winter when dry skin can feel stretched.

This moisturizer hydrates dry, irritated skin and locks in moisture. This light water-gel moisturizer is also great for oily and combination skin.

The formula is refreshing that transforms into a skin-quenching fluid upon application, forming a weightless barrier against environmental assault. It has a dual hyaluronic acid technology that works in different skin surface layers to increase and lock in moisture.

It also contains apple fruit extract and glycerin that hydrates and softens the skin while defending it against dryness. The other ingredients are cactus pear extract that helps soothe sensitivity and imparts water-binding properties to help support healthy moisture balance.

Hyaluronic acid (HA) helps skin repair, cancer prevention, wound healing, regeneration of tissues, and has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.[6]

While cactus pear extract contains polyphenols, vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and amino acids. Consequently, they have many anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, hypoglycemic, antimicrobial, and neuroprotective properties.[7]

The good:

  • Water-based moisturizer
  • Vegan, paraben-free, cruelty-free, and gluten-free
  • Soothes redness

Things to think about:

  • Higher price point

Bottom line:

This is an excellent hypoallergenic moisturizer for those with dry skin who are looking for fast-acting weightless water-based gel.

5. Vichy LiftActiv Supreme Night Cream

Best features:

  • Anti-wrinkle, hypoallergenic moisturizer
  • Paraben-free
  • Allergy tested

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer for:

Sensitive skin with wrinkles.

Overview:

Vichy’s LiftActiv Supreme Night Cream has been formulated with rhamnose and vitamin C. This moisturizer for the face provides 24-hour hydration.

What is rhamnose?

Rhamnose is a naturally occurring deoxy sugar derived from plants such as buckthorn, poison sumac, and birch trees. It acts as a good surfactant and emulsifier.

This face cream is a gentle anti-aging night cream that visibly reduces the appearance of wrinkles and boosts the skin’s firmness. It is dermatologist and allergy tested and found to be suitable for people with sensitive skin. It also won the Good Housekeeping Anti-Aging Awards in 2013.

Vichy’s anti-wrinkle cream provides a lasting lifting effect. It makes your skin firm and radiant. It is non-sticky and non-greasy. The Liftactiv Night Supreme targets stubborn signs of aging like wrinkles and loss of firmness, making the skin dull and lifeless.

This 24-hour cream is enriched with gentle agents for softer and smoother skin. It is demonstrated through clinical studies that with continued use, it provides a long-lasting uplifting response on the skin.

Various studies provide evidence that rhamnose has a potentially beneficial effect on the papillary dermis and dermal-epidermal junction, both areas affected by skin aging.[8]

High concentrations of vitamin C stimulate collagen synthesis and assist in antioxidant protection against UV-induced photodamage.[9]

The good:

  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Erases the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Non-greasy and hydrating

Things to think about:

  • Expensive
  • It can cause breakouts, redness, and burning

Bottom line:

This is a wonderful hypoallergenic moisturizer for sensitive skin, as well as aged skin with wrinkles.


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How we chose these products

We looked at many characteristics as we searched for the best hypoallergenic moisturizer. The first thing we considered was chemicals. Most people are allergic to synthetic chemicals, parabens, and sulfates.

We highlighted this in our list as we mentioned the key ingredients in each product and whether they had or didn’t have any of the above ingredients.

We also looked at skin types. Our list is created keeping in mind the existence of various skin types. We also added water-based and oil-based formulas suitable for acne-prone skin and oily skin.

The list also addresses secondary skin concerns like dull skin, aging skin, and skin peeling due to dryness. There’s a whole range of products to ensure that there’s something for everyone, including price. There’s got to be something for you too.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions

What causes sensitive skin?

The cause of sensitive skin is inflammation. Some doctors refer to it as “inflammaging.” This is because it accelerates the breakdown of collagen and extracellular skin, leading to redness, flaky, and irritable skin.

In some individuals, it can be a temporary thing. In others, it ends up being chronic. Sensitive skin linked to rosacea, eczema, lupus, or hormonal issues is usually genetic.

This usually lasts a lifetime, and occasional flareups can be treated symptomatically but not cured away completely. Aging can also make your skin more sensitive. As you age, the skin becomes thinner and drier, making it more vulnerable and sensitive to various chemicals.

What is a hypoallergenic moisturizer?

A hypoallergenic moisturizer is a moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin and usually chemical-free or with fewer chemicals. Ideally, hypoallergenic moisturizers have fewer than ten ingredients.

How often and when should I apply hypoallergenic moisturizer?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you apply your moisturizer to slightly damp skin after it has been cleaned. If you have a skincare routine, apply the moisturizer to your skin after cleansing and toning.

Also, make sure you’re cleansing the skin just once a day with your fingers. No scrubs, no brush, no loofah or sponge. And no hot water. Use only cold water if you have sensitive skin.

Additionally, for sensitive skin, toners are generally not recommended. Toning the skin removes the top protective layer of lipids in the skin, leaving you with exposed, vulnerable skin that can react easily.

You can use your moisturizer twice a day. However, for those with super sensitive skin or if you are recovering from a chemical burn, it is recommended that you use it once a day.

How to know if I’m allergic to a moisturizer?

It is better to do a patch test before using a hypoallergenic moisturizer. Use it on your neck or the inside of your wrist. Test a small batch or review sample before purchase. If you develop an allergy, then this product may not be suitable for you.

What are the signs of an allergy?

Different skin types react differently in terms of an allergy. It could range from a mild itch to a full-blown breathlessness which requires epinephrine. Everyone is different.

However, you could have symptoms like redness, blotchiness, dryness, itching, wheals, flares, swelling, breathing difficulty, irritation, flaking, or peeling skin.

Those with chemical burns may not even realize the skin is experiencing an allergic reaction as there are no visible signs on the skin, but they feel mild tingling, stinging, or burning sensation.

What do I do in the event of an allergy?

In the event of an allergic reaction, apply an icepack to reduce inflammation and take an anti-histamine, one that you would for your other allergies.

If you develop a change in voice, lip swelling, difficulty breathing, and generalized itching all over the body, head to an emergency room right away.

Can I use makeup with my hypoallergenic moisturizer?

Go easy on the makeup. Don’t spackle yourself up. Foundation and concealer prevent the skin from breathing. It clogs the pores and dries the skin, resulting in more skin imbalances. Try allergen-free makeup but us it sparingly.

What about botanical makeup?

Just because products are plant-based or botanical doesn’t mean their less powerful. Many plant-based ingredients are rich in amino acids and complex proteins that can trigger an immune response causing an allergic reaction.

Can I exfoliate?

No. Exfoliation is a big no for sensitive skin. Any scrub or alcohol or acid-based peel will strip the epidermis’ top layer, leaving the dermis exposed.

Do not also use mattifying products as they usually contain silicone, which leaves your skin soft and fresh but damages the skin long term. Avoid anything with alcohol and triclosan.

Embrace products that contain dimethicone, glycerin, and petrolatum.

Can I use a sunscreen?

Yes, you must. Look for a mineral-based sunscreen. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the two most important ones, and some sunscreens have a combination of both.

They form a physical barrier and reflect the sun rays off you instead of absorbing them like chemical sunscreens. Try to get an SPF 15, at least as this will give you 93% protection.

Remember, the higher you go, the more comedogenic ingredients are present in a sunscreen. As with everything else, patch test first.

Is there a cure for sensitive skin?

Various light therapies like laser therapy and pulse light and broadband light therapy can treat skin conditions. You can calm the skin with various anti-inflammatory medications.

However, the primary mechanism is to prevent irritating the skin by minimizing the products you use on your face and maintaining the natural protective barrier.

Conclusion

The best hypoallergenic moisturizer is out there for you.

For many dealing with sensitive skin, it takes a lot of trial and error to find the right moisturizer. This journey is fraught with burns, breakouts, rashes, and redness until you’ve found the “one.”

Have you found the best hypoallergenic moisturizer?

If yes, let us know. We’d like to add it to our list.

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References

  1. Sienkiewicz M, Głowacka A, Poznańska-Kurowska K, Kaszuba A, Urbaniak A, Kowalczyk E. The effect of clary sage oil on staphylococci responsible for wound infections. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2015 Feb;32(1):21-6. doi: 10.5114/pdia.2014.40957. Epub 2015 Feb 3. PMID: 25821423; PMCID: PMC4360007.
  2. Levin J, Momin SB. How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(2):22-41.
  3. Palermo V, Mattivi F, Silvestri R, La Regina G, Falcone C, Mazzoni C. Apple can act as anti-aging on yeast cells. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012;2012:491759. doi:10.1155/2012/491759
  4. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
  5. Wilkinson JA, Brown AM. Horse Chestnut – Aesculus Hippocastanum: Potential Applications in Cosmetic Skin-care Products. Int J Cosmet Sci. 1999 Dec;21(6):437-47. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-2494.1999.234192.x. PMID: 18503457.
  6. Bukhari SNA, Roswandi NL, Waqas M, Habib H, Hussain F, Khan S, Sohail M, Ramli NA, Thu HE, Hussain Z. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. 2018 Dec;120(Pt B):1682-1695. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2018.09.188. Epub 2018 Oct 1. PMID: 30287361.
  7. El-Mostafa K, El Kharrassi Y, Badreddine A, et al. Nopal cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) as a source of bioactive compounds for nutrition, health and disease. Molecules. 2014;19(9):14879-14901. Published 2014 Sep 17. doi:10.3390/molecules190914879
  8. Pageon H, Azouaoui A, Zucchi H, Ricois S, Tran C, Asselineau D. Potentially beneficial effects of rhamnose on skin ageing: an in vitro and in vivo study. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2019 Jun;41(3):213-220. doi: 10.1111/ics.12523. Epub 2019 May 6. PMID: 30845349.
  9. Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866

About The Author

Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes
Dr. Pamela Q. Fernandes

Pamela Q. Fernandes is a doctor and medical writer. Born and raised in Kuwait, she graduated from Angeles University College of Medicine, Philippines in 2007. Soon after that, she started her career as a medical writer and physician. Pamela is an advocate of preventive health, rural medicine, women’s health and tele-medicine having been active in these roles for the majority of her decade long career in medicine. As a seasoned medical writer, she has worked with many medical publishing houses and doctors, as well as pharmaceuticals, hospitals and practices. She specializes in training material for doctors and patient education material. As an academic writer, she is a qualified writer of articles for medical journals, case reports and medical presentations.

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