8 Best Creams for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

By Claire Gillespie
Reviewed by Allison Truong, M.D.
December 04, 2023

Menopause doesn’t just affect your hormones, your energy levels, and your sleep habits. Many women also report significant skin changes during this stage of life, including severe dryness.

There are many reasons for dry skin during perimenopause and menopause, says board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., who is in private practice in New York City and teaches dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

For starters, the skin loses collagen (its main structural protein) and gets thinner with age, which makes it more susceptible to dryness. And then there’s sun damage—more years on the planet equal more exposure to harmful UV rays, which can damage and even kill skin cells, leading to dryness.

“Hormone levels have a major influence on the activity of our sebaceous glands, which are responsible for producing the sebum that keeps our skin moisturized,” says Rhonda Q. Klein, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatology of Connecticut in Westport. As estrogen levels diminish, the skin will become noticeably drier, Klein explains. This helps explain why you might be in the market for a hydrating skin cream.

Key Ingredients to Look for in a Cream for Dry Skin

There are a lot of skin creams on the market, which can make it difficult to pin down the right product for you. When dryness is an issue, Klein recommends always looking for humectants like hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, and glycerin, which draw moisture into the skin. Other must-haves on her dry-skin ingredient list are peptides, lipids, and ceramides, which support collagen production and reinforce the skin barrier so that it can stay nicely hydrated.

Jaliman also suggests going for creams with shea butter, which has a high concentration of vitamins and fatty acids and is known for its moisturizing, anti-inflammatory properties. Squalene is great, too, since it acts as a barrier to keep moisture locked in.

If you have dry skin, it’s best to steer clear of products containing acids like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, which are drying, says Jaliman. Alcohol and fragrance might also exacerbate dryness, particularly if you have sensitive skin.

Expert Picks

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

This one ticks Jaliman’s boxes for hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Its award-winning water gel formula absorbs quickly without scrimping on moisturizing power. ($23.99 at

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Designed for dry skin, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream contains ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. It also carries the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, meaning it has satisfied the criteria for use for those with eczema and other sensitive-skin conditions. ($28.89 at

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer

Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer contains hyaluronic acid, squalene, glycerin, and ceramides, making it a dry-skin powerhouse. ($14.99 at Walgreens)

Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore replenishes essential skin lipids (ceramides, natural cholesterol, and fatty acids) and instantly plumps up dry, dehydrated skin, which is why Klein recommends it despite the hefty price tag. ($130 at

Alastin Restorative Skin Complex

The emollient formulation of Alastin Restorative Skin Complex has ingredients and antioxidants to help volumize the skin, and also supports its ability to produce new, healthy collagen and elastin, explains Klein. ($195 at

ISDIN Uradin Lotion 10

If you have dry skin on your body, Klein recommends ISDIN Uradin Lotion 10 to give your skin an effective, immediate, and long-lasting hydration boost. ($33 at

Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment

For extreme dryness on body parts like the elbows and knees, and any areas prone to cracking from dryness, Klein recommends Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment. “It can also be used as a barrier cream to protect compromised skin from friction against other skin or clothing while it heals,” she says. ($18.36 at

Vaseline Original

An affordable perennial favorite among dermatologists is good ole Vaseline. Its occlusive properties lock in moisture all day, anywhere on the body. It’s most effective to apply it immediately after bathing or showering. ($1.59 at

Remember, your hydrating skin cream is only one part of your dry-skin care routine. Klein suggests starting with exfoliation to ensure effective penetration of the cream.

“As we age, the rate at which our skin cells turn over also slows, so more mature skin is likely to have more dead skin cells at the surface,” Klein explains. She recommends using a cleanser that exfoliates with a gentle chemical, such as lactic acid or citric acid, adding that PCA Skin Facial Wash and SkinCeuticals LHA Cleansing Gel are good picks. You can also wear a pair of exfoliating gloves in the shower to cleanse your skin using a mild, fragrance-free soap such as Vanicream Cleansing Bar.

If you’re looking for an extra moisture boost, consider adding some skin-healthy foods to your diet. Eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and walnuts, can help produce and maintain your skin's oil barrier.

Also, skin hydration relies on adequate water intake. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends drinking about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluid a day for men; and, 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women. (With adjustments depending on if the person is exercising, pregnant, or breastfeeding). Talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking daily to maintain proper hydration.

The doctors quoted in this article do not have any affiliations with the products they’ve recommended.

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