With so many different moisturizers on the market running the gamut from ultra-affordable to jaw-droppingly expensive, it can be confusing to know which are worth shelling out a little extra cash for. Is a finite face cream really worth spending $50 for, let alone over $100? According to board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, a few are.
Any “good” moisturizer typically has three components: Humectants to draw water into the skin, occlusives to seal in all that moisture, and emollients to soften your complexion. This nourishing trifecta will keep skin hydrated and healthy, and while you certainly can get all of these elements in drugstore formulas (some of which are so great, they outperform their luxury counterparts), there are a few high-end options that take the basic “big three” to the next level.
Below, Dr. Henry reveals the expensive moisturizers on the market that actually live up to their premium price points. Keep scrolling to shop them for yourself.
Cost per ounce: $40.60
Let’s kick things off with the most modestly-priced (… but still pretty expensive) moisturizer Dr. Henry recommends: Tatcha Water Cream. The ultralightweight, unscented water-based gel moisturizer is incredibly gentle, making it especially great for oily, acne-prone, and sensitive skin types, says Dr. Henry.
“Designed with their Hadasei-3 Complex, this Tatcha moisturizer houses a combination of double-fermented green tea, rice, and algae,” she explains. “Along with reducing excess oil production, the humectant propanediol ingredient provides essential moisture to the skin.” And since it’s so lightweight, and because it dries down quickly, she says that it works wonderfully as an AM and PM moisturizer. “This product is great for those seeking a more budget-friendly [luxe] option.” It’s no wonder it has 350,000 likes on Sephora’s website.
Cost per ounce: $190
While many people believe La Mer to be the crème de la crème of expensive moisturizers, it’s actually only the second most expensive dermatologist-recommended product on this list—Though, with a $380 price tag for two ounces, that’s not really something to applaud. What is, though? The results-driven formula that really is worth the hype. Crème De La Mer is a thick, rich moisturizer that’s ideal for ultra-dry skin types.
“Created with the brand’s proprietary Miracle Broth formula, the La Mer cream uses a mixture of eucalyptus, citrus oil, sea kelp, and sunflower,” says Dr. Henry. She explains that while sea kelp is a fatty acid-rich anti-inflammatory natural exfoliant, eucalyptus and sunflower are known for their antioxidant properties and rich Vitamin E formulation. Together, these ingredients ensure that dry skin is not only adequately hydrated but deeply soothed and smoothed, too.
Since this moisturizer is on the much thicker side, Dr. Henry says that some people prefer to only apply it at night. “The recommended way to use La Mer is to spread the moisturizer between your fingertips and dab it on the face and neck areas until completely absorbed,” she adds. This “La Mer Massage” method will give you the most bang for your $380 buck.
Now, if you’re like me and want to explore the miracle or La Mer despite not having primarily dry skin, you’re in luck! The La Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream Moisturizer ($380) is much more lightweight and blends evenly and easily into the skin. In short, it’s divine, especially for combination and normal skin.
Cost per ounce: $232
Craving firmer, bouncier, dewier-looking skin? Dr. Henry says the Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme cream is worth checking out. “It’s a moisturizer that aims to restore normal skin cell production and repair the surface of the skin,” she explains.
Infused with proven-effective ingredients, like hydrating and healing shea and mango extracts, brightening and firming edelweiss flower, and reviving artemia salina (which is actually from plankton), the Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme Moisturizer tackles signs of aging from all angles. “Edelweiss extract helps prevent the degradation of collagen and elastin proteins, thus aiding skin’s elasticity, while mango and shea extracts stop the trans-epidermal loss of moisture,” Dr. Henry explains. “The combined effects of the natural ingredients can work well on mature or dry skin types.”
And unlike some of the other creams on this list which are incredibly thick, Dr. Henry says the Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme Moisturizer isn’t too rich, so you can use it morning and night. “Massaging the cream into the skin and neck areas can ensure the optimal absorption of the ingredients,” she adds.
Cost per ounce: $241.18
A $400+ price tag is enough to make even those with the biggest beauty budgets balk, but Dr. Henry says this stuff is worth it. It’s designed to repair and prevent dullness, sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles, which means it offers benefits for both past and future signs of skin aging.
“This Armani cream works well with normal and oily skin types,” says Dr. Henry. “Formulated with the Mediterranean caper extract, an ingredient that contains bioflavonoids that possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, the Nera Supreme creme may help reduce acne and inflammation while rejuvenating the skin.”
Thanks to a moderately-rich formula, it can be comfortably used morning and night, too. (But that just means it will run out faster—something that’s important to keep in mind.)
Cost per ounce: $247.06
Last but not least, Dr. Henry recommends this Estée Lauder moisturizer, which has earned almost entirely 5-star reviews from hundreds of shoppers.
“It’s a lightweight, luxury product that is infused with Black Diamond Truffle which contains the superoxide dismutase antioxidant. This antioxidant helps protect the skin against free radicals that bring oxidative damage to cells, thus stopping inflammation and the signs of aging on the skin,” says Dr. Henry.
While the moisturizer is great at fighting off signs of aging, it’s also an incredibly hydrating product that’s said to leave skin looking rejuvenated after each and every application. “The Diamond moisturizer is also non-comedogenic, making it a great choice for dry, mature skin, as well as oily skin types,” Dr. Henry adds. So, while it’s undeniably pricey, it is universally beneficial.
Looking for beauty products that are more within your budget? Check out the video below to see the drugstore skin-care SKUs a dermatologist uses in her own daily routine.
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