When it comes to my beauty regimen, I'm a sucker for a good, fuss-free moisturizer. I have naturally dry and acne-prone skin, so having a strong hydrating cream that can keep my skin hydrated 24/7 without causing a flare-up is always top of mind in my skin-care routine. But I need a fragrance-free moisturizer, and it's weirdly hard to find a really good fragrance-free moisturizer. For those who have dry skin like me know that going the scented route is also trouble.
Companies often add fragrances to products to mask the smell of formulas that have a naturally unpleasant odor. However, these added scents can irritate your skin. "The skin can react negatively to fragrances in a few ways," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Allison Leer, MD. "One way is through contact dermatitis, a type of skin rash caused by exposure to certain allergens, including fragrances. Fragrances can also cause excessive dryness or oiliness, leading to breakouts in people with acne-prone skin."
Which is why you may want to find yourself a fragrance-free moisturizer (and a general skin-care routine that's fragrance-free). Fragrance-free products are categorized as those that do not contain any extra ingredients to mask a smell, and are thus less likely to cause irritation. "To be truly fragrance-free, a product must not have any added fragrance, whether natural or synthetic," says Dr. Leer.
"Unscented" vs "fragrance-free"
When looking for a moisturizer, note that "unscented" and "fragrance-free" do not mean the same thing. "Unscented is a term used with cosmetic products to inform the consumer that the product has no discernible fragrance," says board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Beth Goldstein MD. That's because a small amount of fragrance is added to hide and neutralize the odor of the base chemicals in the moisturizer's formula. However, this means that the product can still contain ingredients and fragrances that can irritate you skin.
Is fragrance-free better?
With moisturizers, it really depends on your skin's sensitivity. "Fragrance-free beauty products, especially moisturizers, are recommended for all skin types, especially those with sensitive skin. They are most prone to allergic reactions," says regenerative medicine specialist, Dr. Rosmy Barrios, MD.
For some expert-backed solutions to add to your beauty cabinet, take a peek at the moisturizers below to help keep your skin hydrated 24/7.
Best fragrance-free moisturizers
If your skin is prone to dryness and redness year-round, this moisturizer belongs in your beauty cabinet, ASAP. “It is a light cream that has a long-lasting effect,” says Dr. Barrios.”The niacinamide (a compound with anti-inflammatory properties) it contains strengthens the skin’s protective functions, making [the skin] less sensitive and dry.” The formula also contains SPF 30 to give you some extra protection.
What makes this serum such a derm favorite is how versatile the formula is. “It’s suitable for all skin types, especially dry and dehydrated skin,” says Dr. Barrios. “Wheat amino acids and lactate strengthen the activity of natural moisturizing factors and restore moisture levels in the skin. [And] as if that were not enough, this cream even brightens, reduces wrinkles, and evens out the rest of the skin.”
Itchy skin? Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream to the rescue! Its super thick formula acts like a balm for dry, flakey and irritated skin—minus the greasy residue. Just rub it on the areas you need it most and let it do its magic.
You know the times you put on an exfoliating mask or a chemical peel and your skin feels feels super sensitive after? This is called “sensitized skin,” and it can happen when you overuse a product, or even if you subject your skin to an environment it’s not used to (or even if it’s particular dry out where you live). This cream is the perfect solution for times like these—but honestly, you can apply whenever you feel like your skin’s barrier needs some extra nourishing.
The formula uses a blend of fresh thermal spring water and an anti-irritant ingredient called D-sensinose to help boost hydration and reduce any tightness and tingling sensation.
Once cold-weather season hits and the crisp air cool temps dry out your skin, this daily DML Forte Skin Care Moisturizer will your new go-to (trust me or Dr. Goldstein). It gets its hydrating powers from panthenol, a form of vitamin B5 that acts like a balm for your hands and body. The formula is also super gentle and non-comedogenic (aka, it won’t block your pores).
For board-certified dermatologist Dr. Goldstein, this Cutemol Moisturizing Lotion is top pick for dehydrated skin. The formula contains two notable ingredients for protecting your skin’s barrier, including petrolatum (a jelly-like substance that locks in moisture), and glycerin (a compound that helps draw moisture to the skin).
For those who love a five-step skin-care routine or less, this moisturizing solution from Cetaphil is a skiminimalist’s dream. It works as both a body and face moisturizer and provides 24-hour hydration from the moment you put it on. The formula is also incredibly lightweight and packed with nourishing ingredients like avocado oil, vitamins E & B3 and pre-vitamin B5 to soothe your skin’s texture.
The reason this Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream continues to be one of the brand’s top sellers is due to its careful curation of ingredients. It contains a high dose of squalane and glycerin, two moisturizing agents that help build up the skin’s protective layer. Ultimately, this helps to keep your skin soft, bright and supple all in one go.
There’s a reason why derms and beauty lovers can’t get enough of Skinceuticals products, and this Hydrating B5 Gel is no different. One esthetician W+G spoke to in July even called it a “one-and-done serum” because of its hydrating powers like hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 that protect the skin barrier.
If you want to give your skin a total reset, and look alive on an early morning Zoom call, consider adding this Olay Collagen Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer to your daily regimen. Its key ingredient is collagen peptides, which helps to increase your skin’s cell renewal process so that it looks smoother and brighter.
We love a multi-tasking product. This fragrance-free hydrating solution from Paula’s Choice also contains SPF 30, which makes it a great everyday cream. It’s a creamy formula that is stacked with antioxidants, ceramides, and “anti-aging peptides” to help smooth fine lines and add dewiness to your skin.
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