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Why Moisturizer Is So Important, Plus The Best Vegan Products On The Market

by Katie Muirhead

Aug 31, 2022

If your skincare routine is going to consist of only one product, make it a moisturizer. This staple can improve a number of common skin concerns, such as dryness, sensitivity, acne, and fine lines. No matter your skin type, there is a moisturizer that can help you achieve your most balanced, hydrated skin yet.

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Because moisturizers are one of the most basic skincare products, the sheer number of formulas on the market can feel overwhelming. But don't worry, we've rounded up the best vegan products to help you.

But first, let's take a look at how this skincare staple works, which is best for each skin type, and when and how you should apply it.

How does moisturizer work?

Hydration is crucial for healthy skin. Our skin has a natural water content that keeps it plump and balanced, as well as layers of lipids (natural oils). The latter helps to keep the water from evaporating.

When that lipid barrier gets damaged, the skin loses its hydration in a process known as trans-epidermal water loss. Sometimes, this is due to environmental stressors such as sun or wind, or irritants like harsh exfoliants. But it could even just be a natural result of aging.

Trans-epidermal water loss can lead to dry, cracked, sensitive, or reactionary skin. (Dehydrated skin can even trigger acne.) So, this is where moisturizer comes in.

Moisturizers work to replenish the water content within the skin's outer layer (the epidermis) while supporting the protective lipid barrier. Essentially, moisturizers work to deliver hydration to your skin and keep it there.

When the skin is properly hydrated it feels soft and nourished. This makes moisturizer your first step on the journey to healthy skin.

Moisturizer for different skin types

While everyone should have a moisturizer in their self-care lineup, different moisturizers will work for different skin types. The trick to finding the formula that works for you is considering the humectant-to-emollient-to-occlusive ratio.

A humectant is an ingredient that is able to draw water to itself, increasing hydration and slowing down evaporation within the skin. The most common humectants found in skin care are hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and some water-based exfoliants such as lactic acid.

Emollients are like skin conditioners. They soften and smooth the skin by filling in any gaps between the skin cells and preventing humectant loss. Emollients include oils and lipids such as jojoba oil, squalane (including plant-based), ceramides, and Vitamin E.

Occlusives sit on the surface of the skin to trap in the hydrating humectants and softening emollients (though some emollients also have occlusive properties).

They have the largest molecules and are water-repelling, making them more suitable for drier skin types. Common occlusives used in skin care include shea butter, petrolatum, and beeswax (not vegan).

All skin types will do well with humectants, but oilier skin types may not need many added emollients or occlusives (think oil-free moisturizers). Dry or sensitive skin, however, will do well with richer ingredients, such as jojoba oil and shea butter.

If your skin is acne-prone, your instinct may be to avoid occlusives or even emollients. However, it's important to remember that breakouts can be caused by dry skin. Moisturizer could actually help balance your oil production.

When and how should you use moisturizer?

Moisturizer should be used daily: morning and evening. You could use the same cream for both your AM and PM routine, or consider having specific formulas for day and night.

Moisturizers should be applied after any treatments or serums and before any oils or sunscreen. Make sure to apply it liberally to your whole face and neck.

Best vegan moisturizers

Because moisturizers are such a crucial part of skincare, most brands have at least one formula on the market. This means that there are many options available, and finding the right one for you can be overwhelming.

We've done the research to narrow down some of the best moisturizers on the market for all types of skin. Each of the products we've included is cruelty-free and vegan - we want to make it easy for you to make conscious consumer choices.

If you're looking to welcome a new moisturizer into your healthy skin routine, here are our top picks:

Best Overall:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, squalane (plant derived), ceramides, and fatty acids
Best ForAll skin types, sensitive skin, very dry skin

This ultra-smoothing moisturizer works to support your skin barrier, giving you healthy, glowing skin.

A blend of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, fatty acids, and sugarcane-derived squalane nourishes and plumps dry skin. Fine lines are minimized and the skin is left feeling smooth, bouncy, and replenished.

This formula is best for those with dry skin or who live in harsh climates. It is suitable for sensitive skin and over time can even help calm irritation and redness by supporting the skin's own moisture barrier. And while it's rich, it is even suitable for acne-prone skin.

Best Budget:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, aloe vera
Best ForDry skin, combination skin, sensitive skin

This satin soft cream delivers all-day moisture to even sensitive skin. Hyaluronic acid and aloe vera offer hydration, while olive squalane and pomegranate seed oil work to soften and replenish the skin's moisture barrier.

This affordable cream is lightweight, yet nourishing enough to be used by a range of skin types. Use it as the last step in your morning skincare routine (before sunscreen), and it can be used at night too if your skin doesn't crave a heavier night cream.

Best For Dry Skin:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, shea butter
Best ForDry skin, sensitive skin, aging skin
WeightThick, rich

This moisturizer delivers a nourishing blend of hydrating and protective ingredients to brighten and firm aging or dull skin.

Hyaluronic acid draws water within the epidermis for a plumping effect, while a lipid and peptide complex works to nourish and support the skin's moisture barrier. Shea butter then locks all that goodness in for long-lasting results.

This rich formula is a great option for skin that feels especially dry, sensitive, or has visible fine lines.

It is suitable to use alongside other active ingredients such as vitamin C and will support healthy skin in both your morning and evening skincare routine.

Best For Oily Skin:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, amino acids, pineapple enzymes
Best ForCombination skin, oily skin
WeightUltra lightweight

While this ultra-lightweight cream is oil-free, it is infused with three types of hyaluronic acid to deliver long-lasting, plumping hydration. Amino acids provide antioxidant protection throughout the day, while pineapple enzymes provide a gentle smoothing and brightening effect.

This formula is perfect for those humid summer days when most moisturizers would just melt off, and for combination or oily skin that only needs lightweight hydration.

This is a great moisturizer to wear under makeup, especially if you struggle with excess shine.

Best For Aging Skin:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsAloe, calendula, sunflower seed oil
Best ForDry skin, sensitive skin, aging skin, all skin types

This rich, nourishing cream works to replenish and support dry, aging, or sensitive skin.

Aloe and calendula work to soothe the skin while ingredients such as sunflower seed and black currant seed oil keep it soft. This protective cream will not only hydrate your skin but also help restore it to its smoothest, softest self. This formula is suitable to use with other active treatments.

To work the moisture into your skin and encourage circulation to your face, massage this cream into your face and neck in the morning and evening. The deep hydration will last all day or night and keep your skin looking smooth, even, and glowy.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, amino acids
Best ForCombination skin, oily skin
WeightLightweight gel

This lightweight gel has a refreshing, cooling effect making it perfect for those in humid climates or those with skin that only needs lightweight moisture.

Rich in antioxidant amino acids and hyaluronic acid, this protective and plumping formula will prep your skin for the day ahead.

Watermelon extract helps soothe sensitivity (and also smells amazing). This is a great choice for a morning moisturizer and is the perfect base for summer makeup.

This product listing is sponsored.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsArgan oil, rosehip seed oil, shea butter, jojoba, and olive oil
Best ForDry skin, sensitive skin, aging skin
WeightThick, rich

This rich moisturizing cream goes on thick before melting into the skin to provide long-lasting brightening and anti-aging benefits. A nourishing blend of argan oil, rosehip seed oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, and shea butter works to replenish and support the skin barrier for stronger, firmer-looking skin.

This is a great option for skin that craves heavy-duty hydration or those in particularly harsh climates.

Apply it morning and evening and enjoy the refreshing quality of its illuminating, dewy finish.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, glycerin, urea
Best ForAll skin types
WeightLightweight/ moderate

This affordable moisturizer is a great option for most skin types. Hyaluronic acid is formulated alongside natural dermal lipids, glycerin, urea, and amino acids to support lightweight hydration and protection of the skin.

This moisturizer is a great choice for oily skin, but any skin type will benefit from the fuss-free formula.

Use it during the day for a natural finish, or layer it under oil at night for more intense moisture.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsAloe vera, safflower seed oil, niacinamide, acai
Best ForAll skin types

This lightweight formula is packed with hydration-boosting and antioxidant ingredients to keep your skin balanced and rejuvenated throughout the day.

The humectant properties of aloe vera are supported by free-radical fighting acai berry and skin-soothing niacinamide.

This formula is a great standard moisturizer for most skin types.

It will keep your skin feeling smooth and calm throughout the day while helping to protect it from environmental stressors.

It is light enough to wear under makeup, and the pump bottle makes it easy to throw it in your travel or gym bag when you're on the go.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsPeptides, amino acids, marula oil
Best ForDry skin, combination skin, aging skin

This supportive moisturizer contains peptides and amino acids to bind water to the skin, visibly plumping, firming, and restoring bounce.

This cream targets dullness, dryness, and uneven texture, and will help minimize the appearance of fine lines.

This formula is a great choice for dry or aging skin and is lightweight enough to soothe and support combination skin. It doesn't feel too heavy, making it a great choice to use in your AM routine.

Layer it over a hydrating serum for an extra plumping boost.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic, clean beauty
IngredientsArgan oil, olive oil, amino acids
Best ForDry skin, sensitive skin

This unscented cream is rich and supportive enough for everyday use.

Argan oil, olive oil, and amino acids work to replenish and soothe your delicate skin barrier, helping to calm and support sensitive skin. It is surprisingly rich when first applied, but spreads easily and is quickly absorbed.

As the name suggests, this cream is a great choice for your daytime routine (followed by SPF, of course). However, it is also suitable for your evening moisturizer if it works for your skin.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsHyaluronic acid, sunflower seed oil
Best ForCombination skin, oily skin

If you have oily or combination skin that doesn't do well with heavy moisturizers, this lightweight cream could be a good option for you.

Formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate, green tea to fight free radicals, and kale and spinach to deliver nutrients to the skin, this moisturizer will support your skin without feeling greasy.

This moisturizer works well under makeup to keep your skin supported and hydrated all day. Note: a little goes a long way with this one!

The verdict

Moisturizers help hydrate and support the moisture barrier for balanced, plump, healthy skin.

With so many moisturizing products available on the market, finding the right one for your skin can take some experimentation. It's important to understand the function of different ingredients and recognize the properties that your skin needs in a moisturizer.

To wrap it up, here are some of our top picks for vegan moisturizers for a range of skin types and budgets:

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