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Skin is our first line of defense against all the harsh external attacks.
As opposed to the skin on other body parts, facial skin remains uncovered and directly exposed to the extremes of temperatures and environmental conditions.
And, since the facial skin is also thinner and more sensitive than other body parts, for example, back or arms, it requires special care and love.
One of the most challenging phases for our facial skin is a harsh winter. So, in this article, we are going to share with you the best winter face moisturizers to keep your skin healthy, glowing, and untroubled from the cold winds and freezing temperatures.
In this review, we hope you get an overview about how to choose your winter moisturizer, what to look for, as well as a few top picks from our team for various skin types and needs.
So let’s get you going on the train of winter perfect skin.
Before you buy: 5 things you have to consider when purchasing a face moisturizer for winter
1. What is a moisturizer supposed to do?
Moisturizer is not just meant to hydrate your skin. An ideal moisturizer, in addition to improving the skin’s capability of holding the water and reducing the water loss, also improves the general health and condition of the skin and repairs the skin barrier.
2. Do you need an extra face moisturizer for winter?
The skin barrier of the face is weaker than other parts of the body since it is always exposed to sun, pollution, and other skincare products like cleansers.
This just gets worse in winters when cold and dry is also thrown into the equation. Even the usual ‘healthy’ skin becomes more sensitive and irritable in cold and dry climates (1).
It is prudent to use a special ‘winter facial moisturizer,’ which is more nourishing than your usual moisturizer.
3. What kind of moisturizers are there, and what’s best for you?
There are the following different kinds of moisturizers (2):
They improve skin barrier function by filling the damaged gaps in the lipid layer, improving the skin’s feel and look—E.g., Fatty alcohols, ceramides, jojoba oil, dimethicone, etc.
They bring the water from deeper layers of the skin, as well as from the humid environment, to the skin’s surface, improving the skin’s hydration—Eg. Lactic acid, glycerine, hyaluronic acid, urea, etc.
Occlusive ingredients form a thin layer on the skin to physically block the water loss—E.g., Petrolatum, beeswax, etc.
An ideal moisturizer will contain a ‘mix’ of at least two, in ideal cases, all three types of moisturizing ingredients. Suppose you don’t find one moisturizer with all the good properties. In that case, it is also not a bad idea to layer the moisturizers- emollients/humectants as the first layer and occlusive as the second layer.
4. Not all alcohols are bad alcohol
As you would see in the product ingredients mentioned below, many moisturizers contain ‘alcohols’ like cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol.
Now, I am sure you must have read that alcohols are bad for the skin and may dry it out the skin. Not these types of alcohol. They belong to the so-called ‘good alcohols.’
5. Buying moisturizer according to the skin
Do not buy moisturizers according to your ‘skin type,’ but buy them according to your skin condition. Even with oily skin, you might need a heavy moisturizer if you live in harsh weather extremes or go through a phase of dehydrated skin.
But if your skin behaves normally, as a rule of thumb, gel and lotion textures are more suitable for oily and combination skin, and creams and ointments for dry skin.
The 4 best winter face moisturizers
ZELEN Life Moisturizer (Best for clean skincare)
- Contains beneficial plant oils but is not heavy on the skin
- Can be used during the day, as well as nighttime
- Fast absorption, locking in moisture to protect against wintery conditions
The best winter face moisturizer for:
Both men and women with oily and combination skin, and those who are organic skincare lovers.
Sunflower, jojoba, calendula, clary sage.
The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is suitable for those who are interested in purely organic skincare that is effective for the winter and summer. Its main ingredients are sunflower, jojoba, calendula, and clary sage.
Jojoba regulates sebum due to the fact that it has a similar composition to it, preventing its overproduction. Jojoba mimics the properties of human sebum, tricking the skin into thinking it has an adequate amount. Due to this, it seals the hydration on the skin’s surface. Whatsmore, it prevents the clogging of pores with oil, which is one of the primary reasons for acne breakouts.
The sunflower seed oil has been shown to improve the skin’s hydration, repair the skin’s barrier, and reduce redness (4). It is recommended to improve the skin condition of babies with eczema. Additionally, it is rich in vitamin E which, is well-known for its action against premature aging.
Calendula and clary sage are rich in anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. (5). These make them vital ingredients to include for people who want to heal their blemishes or minimize the effects of rashes and irritations. They calm the skin, accelerate wound healing, and provide a soothing effect.
Additionally, rose geranium flower water, sweet almond oil, and tocopherol impart this moisturizer an antioxidant effect to fight the free radicals causing aging and skin damage.
This moisturizer has a very lightweight and highly moisturizing texture, making it an excellent winter cream. It doesn’t leave a greasy residue, and you can instantly feel your skin protected from the different environmental conditions that cause dryness. However, it can be also used during the summer due to its non-greasy and sebum regulating properties. After using it for a couple of days, I have to say I have noticed a difference in my skin. It looked more radiant, and healthy. Totally worth it!
But you may be wondering… what about its scent?
If you are a person who likes fragranced skincare products, then you might think that ZELEN Life Moisturizer is not for you. This is because there is no artificial scent in its formulation. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it is completely unscented. It features a wonderful blend of floral and citrus tones that come from its pure, botanical ingredients. While the scent fades away quickly, it is very calming and relaxes the mind.
Lastly, if you live in a country that still gets a lot of sunshine in winter, then La Roche-Posay Hydraphase might be a more suitable moisturizer for you. This is because it contains sun protection (SPF 20). However do note that while it is also very lightweight, it is important to note that I found it a bit less hydrating than ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer.
- Suitable for all skin types including, acne-prone and sensitive
- Contains multiple gold standard moisturizing botanical ingredients
- Has barrier repairing and soothing properties- can be used for damaged skin
- Antioxidant ingredients to fight the ‘stress’ due to environmental factors
Things to think about:
- Even though the product does not contain artificial fragrance, natural perfumes can cause allergies and sensitization in people who are susceptible to it
The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is a great unisex product that packs the hydrating, as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of natural ingredients without being heavy on the skin. An organic product with a luxury feels without making you go bankrupt.
- Value for money
EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex Face Moisturizer (Best for hydration)
- Imparts a good moisture boost and contains multitasker ingredients like Niacinamide
The best winter face moisturizer for:
Those with sensitive skin, and irritated skin due to use of skin treatments.
Ceramides, squalane, tocopherol, hyaluronic acid
Elta MD is a brand that is loved and recommended by dermatologists for producing quality skincare products. This product is no exception. It is formulated with emollient ingredients such as ceramides and squalane to visibly improve the appearance of the skin (6).
Let’s dive deeper into the ingredients:
Ceramides play a key role in repairing the damaged skin barrier from irritation or inflammation. They lock in the moisture and create a stronger barrier, that protects the epidermis from dryness and other environmental stressors. It also protects against other inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. (14)
In addition to that, hyaluronic acid further assists in hydration as it can bind water 6000 times its weight, immediately giving a hydrated and ‘plumping’ effect to the skin. Squalane is an ingredient that is rich in anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It assists in reducing conditions such as acne, rashes, and swelling. It is also proven to promote collagen production, reducing this way the effects of aging, such as the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Tocopherol (a.k.a. vitamin E) is rich in antioxidants, protecting this way from damage to the skin from UV radiation or other environmental stressors. This results in preventing premature aging. Lastly, it is worth noting that the presence of niacinamide gives an extra lift to this product. Niacinamide is a versatile ingredient that controls oil production, fights hyperpigmentation, has antioxidant properties, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles to some extent (7).
When applying this moisturizer onto your skin, you will notice that it is definitely lightweight in texture and easily absorbed. It doesn’t leave a greasy residue and it instantly gives a noticeable boost in hydration. What I noticed is that after three weeks of use, your skin will feel more elastic, softer, and dare I say it, younger.
What about the packaging and scent?
The packaging surely doesn’t reflect the high price of this moisturizer, as it is very basic in appearance. However, I liked the inclusion of the pump as it protects the cream from oxygenation and contamination. This ensures the longevity of the product but also reduces the possibility of acne breakouts. I should mention that some users have reported that they had problems with the pump getting stuck. However, I did not experience this.
As for the scent, this moisturizer doesn’t contain any artificial fragrance. But it does have a somewhat strong smell which was not for my taste. The scent has a chemical alcohol character even though it is fragrance-free. So, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are sensitive to strong scents.
Another thing I didn’t like much about this moisturizer, is its price tag. It is a bit on the high side so it’s not going to be for everyone’s budget. If you are looking for pocket-friendly options, then the ZELEN Life Moisturizer or La Roche-Posay Hydraphase SPF 20 might be better choices for you. As mentioned earlier, ZELEN Life is formulated with natural ingredients such as jojoba, calendula, and clary sage to hydrate and protect the skin during the winter. Whereas La Roche-Posay Hydraphase comes with SPF 20 sun protection.
- Ceramides and other lipid ingredients strengthen and repair the skin barrier
- Anti-aging, anti-acne, and brightening properties
- Unrivaled hydration due to its unique blend of moisturizing ingredients
Things to think about:
- Not suitable for extremes of skin spectrum- too dry or too oily skin
- Expensive price
- Strong scent
An excellent moisturizer for soothing and repairing damaged skin, or promote healing after different skin treatments. If you are willing to pay that little extra, it is a good rounded off winter moisturizer that is extremely hydrating.
- Value for money
La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense UV Face Moisturizer SPF 20 (Best for sun protection)
- Moisturizer with sunscreen for day time use
The best winter face moisturizer for:
Day time use (all skin types).
SPF, glycerin, hyaluronic acid
After your morning cleanse, it can be really cumbersome to apply two products when all you had planned for the day is relaxing at home. But since UV rays sneak their way in through those windows, you need to save your skin from those aging rays. The easiest way to do that is to invest in a sunscreen-moisturizer to save yourself some hassle on a lazy winter’s day.
This moisturizer from La Roche Posay contains sun protection of SPF 20 which, is achieved by combining the broad-spectrum chemical UV shields – Avobenzone (UVA), Homosalate (UVB), Octisalate (UVB), and Octocrylene (UVA and UVB) (8). It is also formulated with two of the best humectant ingredients- Glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which hydrate the skin and reduce dry flakiness, making it look more youthful and healthy (9).
Hyaluronic acid is also present in small and large molecule sizes, which optimizes the moisture quotient in the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which assist in wound healing and minimizing inflammations.
You will find it easy to apply this moisturizer as it is lightweight and glides easily onto the skin. However, I have noticed that it can leave some greasy residue behind if you overapply it. This is probably due to the sun protective properties that are included. Chemical sunscreens such as Octisalate, etc. can feel greasy on the skin and also be irritating to very sensitive skin types.
Additionally, very dry skin types might find this product’s hydration to be lacking from other moisturizers in the list, despite the inclusion of glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Due to that, I would say it is more suitable for combination skin types.
As for its scent, it is not overpowering nor very subtle. It is, however, artificially created and more floral in character.
If you are looking for a value product to reduce the steps in your skincare routine, then this moisturizer is for you. However, if you are thinking of using a stronger sunscreen separately, then you should consider buying a moisturizer that emphasizes other areas, such as anti-aging, hydration, or acne. For example, you might consider EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex that focuses on hydration due to its inclusion of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, etc., or SkinMedica TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream which targets aging due to its vitamin C and vitamin A.
Lastly, this moisturizer lacks antioxidant properties due to its lack of botanical ingredients and vitamins. If you are looking for a moisturizer rich in antioxidants, then consider the ZELEN Life Moisturizer. It is formulated with pure, botanical ingredients such as organic sunflower, jojoba, calendula, and clary sage.
- Very potent humectants to bind moisture on the skin’s surface
- Broad-spectrum sun protection
- Saves expenditure on two products.
Things to think about:
- SPF 20 too less if you plan on going out, you will need another layer of higher protection sunscreen for outdoors
- Some antioxidants in a day moisturizer would have been nicer
- Fragrance- people with perfume allergy, should stay away
A simple formula concentrating on what it promises, UV protection and hydration. A single step product for your home office days.
- Value for money
SkinMedica TNS Ceramide Treatment Cream (Best for anti-aging)
- Anti-aging cream and moisturizer in one
The best winter face moisturizer for:
Those with dry, and/or mature skin who are looking for prevention of aging.
Human fibroblast conditioned media (TNS), hydroxypropyl bispalmitamide MEA (ceramide), vitamin C, retinyl palmitate, olea europea fruit oil
Skinmedica TNS ceramide cream goes an extra mile in the department of aging and moisturizing.
Apart from the standard hydrating ingredients like dimethicone, panthenol, glycerin, and sodium hyaluronate, this product uses hydroxypropyl Bispalmitamide MEA. They are molecules that are created in a lab to mimic the structure and function of natural skin ceramides. They help in repairing and healing the skin’s barrier (10).
It is also supported to be similarly effective in hydrating the skin as normal ceramides. This results in a pumping effect, reducing this way the appearance of wrinkles and tiredness. Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media (TNS) in simple terms, is a blend of growth factors and cytokines that promote angiogenesis, collagen production, and reduce inflammation. Human Fibroblast Conditioned Media (TNS) have been known to reduce signs of aging and rejuvenate the skin. (15)
The inclusion of vitamin C (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) and retinyl palmitate (retinol ester – vitamin A) provides rich antioxidant action that promotes collagen building, improves pigmentation, smoothens the texture, and brightens the skin tone. (11)
Lastly, Olea europea fruit oil eats up the free radicals to reverse the sun and aging-induced damage on the skin.
When applying this cream, it was noticeably thicker in texture than the other ones on this winter moisturizer list. Due to this, I would say that it is more suitable for dry to combination skin types, as it leaves minimal greasy residue behind. For its thickness, I found it to be fairly easily absorbed and also very moisturizing.
Where this moisturizer really excels is its anti-aging capabilities. After just two to three weeks of regular use, you will notice a pleasing difference in your skin. It has the capacity to improve the appearance of wrinkles, provide a more natural glow and radiance, along with a plumping effect. Perfect!
However, while very effective, its price won’t be to everyone’s liking. If you are looking for an anti-aging cream that is more affordable, then consider the ZELEN Life Moisturizer. It is an all-rounder cream that contains lots of anti-aging organic ingredients such as jojoba, sunflower, orange, geranium, and sweet almond extracts.
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
- Evens out the skin’s tone and reduces open pores
- A really rich moisturizer
- Barrier repair for dry and sensitive skin
Things to think about:
- Higher price point
- With its multiple active ingredients, it is not suitable for beginners or very sensitive skin
This is definitely more than just a regular moisturizer. It will hydrate, soothe and repair your skin while also erasing a few wrinkles on the way. If the price doesn’t bother you, and your skin is used to having some actives in the routine, this is a great pick.
- Value for money
How we chose these products
To choose the four best winter moisturizers for you, we first shortlisted the best products, which are also accessible easily.
In our selection, we ensured that the products are high on hydration, contain great ingredients, and are from the brands that we can trust about the quality.
To shortlist, we made sure that the products are multipurpose, and the ingredient list of the chosen products are variable enough to cater to different skin needs.
We made sure that we took into consideration the skin types, the expectations from a winter moisturizer, and the gender preference while selecting a moisturizer. We also included product options for different budget brackets.
The fragrance has been a controversial topic when it comes to moisturizers, so according to taste and sensitivity, we decided to present to you the products with fragrance, as well as non-perfumed options.
Last but not least, we do believe that ingredients are not the only determining factors for a great product. To make sure that the formulation also worked for most people, we checked user reviews across multiple trusted platforms and sorted out our final four products.
I hope we were able to find one for you in this process.
Frequently asked questions
What happens to the skin during winters?
The skin undergoes various kinds of changes in winter. The skin’s barrier function is compromised, which leads to an increased chance of irritation, redness, and eczema.
The skin’s natural lipid production is also compromised, which leads to an increase in water loss in an already dry condition. This makes the skin look dehydrated, flaky, and craving for some moisture (12).
What are some other tips for using moisturizer during winters?
No matter how tempting it seems, avoid using hot water to wash your face and water. Use a moisturizing, pH neutral face cleanser, pat (not rub) the face dry, and apply moisturizer on the damp skin within 3 minutes of washing your face.
Avoid using multiple products with active irritating ingredients in one routine.
Aren’t plant oils or petrolatum comedogenic?
The concept of comedogenicity is slowly becoming redundant. That means it is not possible to predict from an ingredient or two if the product is suitable for acne-prone skin or not.
Plant oils, and even petrolatum, as ingredients in well-formulated products, can be non-comedogenic. Some plant oils like jojoba oil or rosehip oil (13) actually benefit oily and acne-prone skin.
Is a moisturizer with sunscreen different from a real sunscreen?
No, it is not. If your moisturizer contains a good SPF and UVA protection, and you use it in generous amounts, it would work just as well as your sunscreen. It would also save you some money that you would spend on buying two products.
Do I need a separate moisturizer for the face and body?
Yes, you do. Even though I said there are no comedogenic and non-comedogenic ingredients in play anymore, the formulation could still block the pores and trigger acne.
Body moisturizers are formulated just to moisturize, and less attention is paid to the aesthetics or non-comedogenicity of the product. Facial skin is also more sensitive, thinner, and richer in oil glands than most other body parts and thus needs a special dedicated product.
How would I know if a moisturizer is right for my skin or not?
There is, unfortunately, no ‘one fits all’ when it comes to skincare.
A person with a similar skin type could respond differently to the same product as you do. You may have to do some trials and errors before you reach the right product.
If your skin does not respond to a skincare product with redness, irritation, or breakout, you are tolerating the product well. Under that product, your skin should neither feel tight a few hours (or morning) after application nor greasy like an oil-well.
Long term, a good moisturizer should make your skin smoother, glowing and no dehydrated patches should crop up on your face.
A cold and dry winter definitely needs you to step up your moisturizer game. Not only is the skin drier, but it is also more prone to irritation and inflammation.
Choose a moisturizer that not only preserves the skin’s hydration but also boosts up the skin’s health while also retaining the aesthetic finish of your taste.
In this article, we tried to give some tips and options to keep your skin happy and glowy even in freezing temperatures.
Do you have a pet winter moisturizer that you love? Let us know in the comments.
And if you have a friend who is still searching for that perfect winter moisture companion, share this article with them.
If you would like us to assist you in achieving your dream skin with tips and recommendations, be sure to subscribe to our email list.
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- Purnamawati S, Indrastuti N, Danarti R, Saefudin T. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. 2017;15(3-4):75-87. doi:10.3121/cmr.2017.1363
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- Silva D, Ferreira MS, Sousa-Lobo JM, Cruz MT, Almeida IF. Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Calendula officinalis L. Flower Extract. Cosmetics. 2021 Jun;8(2):31. doi: 10.3390/cosmetics8020031.
- Lodén M. The clinical benefit of moisturizers. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2005 Nov;19(6):672-88; quiz 686-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-3083.2005.01326.x. PMID: 16268870.
- Levin, Jacquelyn, and Saira B Momin. “How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 3,2 (2010): 22-41.
- Latha, M. S., Martis, J., Shobha, V., Sham Shinde, R., Bangera, S., Krishnankutty, B., Bellary, S., Varughese, S., Rao, P., & Naveen Kumar, B. R. (2013). Sunscreening agents: a review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 6(1), 16–26.
- Anderson, P. C., & Dinulos, J. G. (2009). Are the new moisturizers more effective? Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 21(4), 486–490. doi:10.1097/mop.0b013e32832cfd3
- Rawlings AV, Stephens TJ, Herndon JH, Miller M, Liu Y, Lombard K. The effect of a vitamin A palmitate and antioxidant-containing oil-based moisturizer on photodamaged skin of several body sites. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2013 Mar;12(1):25-35. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12023. PMID: 23438139.
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- Lin, Tzu-Kai et al. “Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,1 70. 27 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
- Li Q, Fang H, Dang E, Wang G. The role of ceramides in skin homeostasis and inflammatory skin diseases. Journal of dermatological science. 2020 Jan 1;97(1):2-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2019.12.002.
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- Organic formula packed with vitamins and antioxidants
- Non-greasy and lightweight, absorbs fast to lock in moisture
- Contains soothing and repairing properties, calms acne breakouts
- Dimethicone assists in improving the skin's texture
- Contains niacinamide which helps with acne and aging
- Glycerine and hyaluronic acid assists 'flakiness', hydrates skin
- Contains SPF 20 sun protection
- Value for money
- Anti-aging properties, helps fine lines and wrinkles
- Helps repairs the skin barrier, suitable for dry skin
- Reduces open pores