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12 best moisturisers for sensitive skin, tried and tested

Parched, stressed-out complexions will be cared for with these calming, skin-protecting creams

Olivia Petter
Monday 29 April 2024 13:27 BST
Navigate the skincare minefield with these sensitive formulas for all budgets
Navigate the skincare minefield with these sensitive formulas for all budgets (iStock/The Independent)
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Having sensitive skin can make skincare a minefield. Often, it’s a case of testing out various products and waiting to see which of them don’t irritate your skin, cause flare-ups, or lead to redness or dry skin. It can be incredibly stressful, which, in turn, only makes your skin worse.

Hence why it’s so important to find the right skincare for you – and, as an integral part of anyone’s regime, moisturiser is surely one of the products we should all be prioritising.

“If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to look for moisturisers that don’t contain anything that might irritate your skin, such as fragrance,” says Hayley Walker, qualified beauty expert at Just My Look. “You should also steer clear of anything containing alcohol or sulphates, as these can all cause redness and aggravation.”

With so many variations on the market, offering copious benefits and boasting intricate ingredients, it can be difficult to identify what you’re buying. But fear not, because we’ve identified the best moisturisers for sensitive skin, encompassing all of their properties, skin types and price ranges. Enjoy.

How we tested the best moisturisers for sensitive skin

We tested these to assess short and long-term results
We tested these to assess short and long-term results (Olivia Petter)

We applied each of the creams repeatedly for two weeks and judged the short and long-term effects they had, in terms of brightening, hydrating and, of course, sensitivity, which is based on our own reviewer’s sensitive skin. We also assessed product quality and versatility, such as scent, texture and packaging.

The best moisturisers for sensitive skin in 2024 are:

  • Best moisturiser for sensitive skin overall – Liz Earle skin repair light cream: £28, Johnlewis.com
  • Best budget moisturiser – Aveeno face calm and restore oat gel moisturiser: £8.35, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best moisturiser for eczema-prone skin – E45 face moisturiser for dry and sensitive skin: £8.40, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best moisturiser for fine lines – No7 protect and perfect intense advanced day cream 50ml: £22.45, Boots.com

Liz Earle skin repair light cream

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Moisturiser for sensitive skin overall
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients : Avocado oil, borage oil, hops extract and echinacea
  • Why we love it
    • Locks in 72 hours of moisture
    • Feels luxe

This is a great option for those who favour natural skincare. Comprising avocado oil, borage oil and echinacea, this moisturiser is an ideal choice for anyone looking for a simple formula that makes a difference to hydration, while also soothing any redness.

It’s light to the touch and dries fast, but locks in 72 hours’s worth of moisture that can even be felt the following morning. It’s great value, considering this product feels and looks luxe, but its more modest price makes it accessible. Plus, it’s suitable for all skincare types.

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Aveeno face calm and restore oat gel moisturiser

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Budget moisturiser
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Prebiotic oat and feverfew
  • Why we love it
    • Light formula
    • Gentle on skin
  • Take note
    • Texture not as indulgent as luxe products

Gel moisturisers are light, making them a suitable choice for those with sensitive skin. This Aveeno moisturiser left our skin feeling nourished and hydrated with just a small amount.

It doesn’t have the same floral scents or indulgent textures as some of the other products listed here but it does what it says on the tin, and is instantly soothing. Plus, its bargain price makes it hard to resist.

  1. £8 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Aesop perfect facial hydrating cream

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Moisturiser for glowy skin
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Vitamins C and E, frankincense, tocopherol and sodium ascorbyl phosphate
  • Why we love it
    • Gorgeous scent
    • Instant brightening effect
  • Take note
    • Expensive

We love the scent of every Aesop product – and this one is no different. Thanks to a combination of botanical butter and citrus smells, this moisturiser is a total delight to apply. It feels firm on the skin and has an instant brightening effect. Packed with vitamins C and E, it’s also a great option for winter, when our skin needs a little extra care, due to the mix of colder weather and central heating. An all-round good product suitable for every skin type.

  1. £95 from Aesop.com
Prices may vary
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E45 face moisturiser for dry and sensitive skin

e45-moisturiser-indybest.png
  • Best: For eczema-prone skin
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Simmondsia chinensis seed oil
  • Why we love it
    • Efficient all-day hydration
  • Take note
    • Feels slightly oily at first

Given that its products are aimed at those with dermatitis and eczema, E45 is renowned for being a go-to brand for those with sensitive skin and you can’t go wrong with its hero moisturiser. This is a straightforward moisturiser that does exactly what it says on the tin (well, tube) without any of the frills and fuss you might find in some of the other products in this review. It absorbs quickly and easily and while it does feel slightly oily at first, that texture quickly dissipates as soon as you rub it into the skin.

  1. £8 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Odylique avocado 24-hour replenishing cream

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: For extended moisture
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Avocado, frankincense, horsetail, sea buckthorn, raw shea butter and lavender, frankincense, bergamot and ylang ylang essential oils
  • Why we love it
    • Blend of essential oils
  • Take note
    • May be a bit too thick for some

The beauty of this product is that it doubles up as a morning and night cream. We used it in the morning so that we could compare it with the other products here as a daytime moisturiser.

It’s thicker than some of the other options in this review, as night creams often are. But it’s still suitable for a morning cream, as it dries fairly quickly and doesn’t leave the skin feeling sticky or overly hydrated. Given its blend of essential oils – lavender, frankincense, bergamot and ylang ylang – this one is suitable for those with sensitive and dry skin.

  1. £28 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Dr. Barbara Sturm brightening face cream

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Luxury moisturiser
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, cress sprouts and ginseng extracts
  • Why we love it
    • Light but rich formula
  • Take note
    • Very expensive

Those familiar with Dr Sturm’s products will already know they’re adored by A-list stars – and for good reason. With molecular formulations, the brand puts science (and good skin) first. This moisturiser encompasses both of these things, containing hyaluronic acid to provide extra hydration, and cress sprouts extract to brighten the skin.

It feels very light to apply but somehow simultaneously very rich and thick. But it’s still gentle on the skin and shouldn’t cause any flare-ups. This is down to the quality of the product – it’s one of the most expensive moisturisers on the market. But buying Dr Sturm’s offerings is always an investment worth making if you can.

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Sunday Riley ice ceramide moisturising cream

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Moisturiser for brightening
  • Size: 50g
  • Key ingredients: Ceramides, pomegranate sterols and coconut, beetroot and red algae extracts
  • Why we love it
    • Doubles up as a night cream
    • Delish coconut scent
  • Take note
    • Expensive

This is definitely on the pricier end of the scale – as are all of Sunday Riley’s products – but it’s worth your money to invest in this deeply rich, coconut-scented moisturiser that works wonders on skin that is sensitive and dry. It also doubles up as a night cream, meaning you’re saving some money here, and it contains pomegranate sterols, which help to act as a barrier against dehydration.

You can feel and see the difference almost instantly when you apply it, with an immediately firmer and brighter complexion. Our skin felt soft and hydrated all day with this one, even during the cold snap.

  1. £60 from Spacenk.com
Prices may vary
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Sisley velvet nourishing cream with saffron flowers

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Moisturiser for rich texture
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Saffron flower extract, shea butter and buckwheat seed extracts
  • Why we love it
    • Luxury jar
    • Spa-like scent
  • Take note
    • Very expensive so use sparingly

You know this is a luxury product by looking at it. With its heavy set, optic white jar and silver detailing, it’s already a sight to behold. Then you open it – and the smell is like a spa.

With soothing saffron flower extract, shea butter and buckwheat seed extracts, a lot is going on in this cream, which could put off those with sensitive skin. Don’t let it – somehow, all of these ingredients combine to provide an instantly satisfying moisturiser that visibly changes the skin’s texture after just a few uses.

That said, it’s one of the most expensive skincare products around and doesn’t double up as a night cream like some of the other options here. You don’t need to use a lot, though, in order to feel the moisture all over your face. So perhaps it’s a worthwhile investment, so long as you use it sparingly.

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No7 protect and perfect intense advanced day cream

best moisturiser for sensitive skin uk 2023 for dry sensitive skin face moisturiser
  • Best: Moisturiser for fine lines
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid and No7’s matrixyl 3000+ age-defying complex, ginseng extract, antioxidant complex and rice peptides
  • Why we love it
    • A great all-rounder
    • Contains SPF

It’s rare to find a moisturiser that ticks every box, particularly when you have sensitive skin, but this one does (well, almost). Not only does its texture feel just right – not too light but not too rich that it makes your skin look sweaty all day – it also contains SPF 15, making it an ideal cream to use if you’re spending time outside. Unlike some SPF creams, though, this one doesn’t leave your skin looking pasty, or smelling like a poolside cabinet. In fact, you’d hardly notice the SPF at all, other than the fact it’s a slightly whiter cream than some of the others listed here.

Its anti-ageing properties (it contains No7’s matrixyl 3000+, its next-generation age-defying complex) also come as an added bonus – although, we didn’t notice a significant difference after a few uses.

  1. £18 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Stella McCartney restore cream

Stella McCartney restore cream-moisturiser-indybest.png
  • Best: For reusable packaging
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Cherry blossom extract
  • Why we love it
    • Refillable glass jar
    • Repairs skin barrier
    • Boosts elasticity
  • Take note
    • Pricey (but planet friendly)

There’s a lot to love about this moisturiser. First is the eco-friendly, recyclable packaging. Each glass tub comes with a refillable pouch of cream that is attached to a small pump, meaning it’s easy to apply and even easier to refill once it runs out. More beauty brands should do this.

Aside from that, the cream is a joy to apply. It contains a range of natural ingredients – cherry blossom extract, birch sap and natural origin hyaluronic acid – that help to hydrate and nourish the skin while also repairing the skin barrier and boosting elasticity. It’s not cheap – but if you can stretch, it’s worth it.

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Rodial dragon’s blood sculpting gel

rodial-best-sensitive-skin-moisturiser-indybest.png
  • Best: Moisturiser for plumper skin
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Pomegranate and collagen
  • Why we love it
    • Feels indulgent to apply
    • Provides instant hydration
  • Take note
    • Expensive
    • Fragrance may cause flare-ups

This is Rodial’s bestselling product and it’s easy to see why. Firstly, don’t let the name put you off. This is a weightless, gel-based moisturiser that smooths easily onto the skin, imparting a fruity scent that’s entirely natural. It’s worth noting that for those who’ve reacted to anything fragrance-based before, this may cause a flare-up.

The gel uses the brand’s unique dragon’s blood complex that includes a range of ingredients designed to plump and hydrate the skin while also reducing any inflammation. We love it.

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Medik8 advanced day ultimate protect SPF50+

medik8-best-moisturiser-for-sensitive-skin-indybest.png
  • Best: SPF moisturiser
  • Size: 50ml
  • Key ingredients: Blueberry seed oil
  • Why we love it
    • Offers brilliant sun protection
    • Boosts skin texture
  • Take note
    • Tube doesn't last that long

This non-greasy formula is just as good at hydrating and soothing the skin as it is at protecting it from the sun. The SPF50+ moisturiser gives you a veil of security against UV rays all year round. Thanks to the hyaluronic acid and light-activated DNA repair enzymes, it also boosts the skin’s texture.

We found that it made our skin feel smooth and fresh, and would recommend wearing it every day (even in winter) for protection from the sun.

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Best moisturiser for sensitive skin FAQs

What to look for in a moisturiser for sensitive skin

Sensitive skin has many variants, including redness, tightness and itchiness, so a considered approach is needed when choosing a moisturiser. When looking for a moisturiser that will work best for you, take into account what causes your sensitivity.

Fragrance and alcohol are common irritants for many (not necessarily for all), so look for formulas free from both if you’re struggling to find a product for you.

Don’t forget about texture. If you’re oily, you may want to keep your moisturiser as lightweight as possible, to keep skin feeling comfortable – in which case, opt for water-based gel consistencies. For those looking to tackle dry, flaky patches, a richer balm-based cream will be more suitable.

The verdict: Moisturisers for sensitive skin

In terms of price, versatility and quality, it’s got to be Liz Earle’s light moisturiser. This is a very straightforward, no-frills product with the benefits of something far more expensive. It comes in small, slim packaging too, which makes it very easy to carry around with you in a handbag, if you’re someone who likes to regularly top up your moisturiser. If you can stretch your coins slightly more, though, we’d recommend Aesop’s cream – it just smells so lovely and feels very indulgent to apply, as if you’ve just stepped out of a spa.

For more skincare recommendations, read our review of the best lip balms

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