Moisturization is an essential element of skincare—this everyone knows—but there’s something about a heavy moisturizer that tends to feel suspicious. Maybe those pretty little jars are to blame. They beg the question: is there anything actually useful in there? Or is this more like a Météorites situation—great in theory but better as a vanity table objet. The official answer is that it depends, but it’s fortunate that you’ve got at least four people who are willing to find out. Emily, Ashley, Tom, and Utibe—now a collective of incredibly moisturized individuals—rounded up the heavy moisturizers that won them over. Browse at your leisure below.
Not sure if I get to blame bad skincare education or early aughts skincare as a whole, but my face was all sorts of messed up in my teens and at the start of my twenties. Somehow not wearing moisturizer made sense to me...until one day I got nosy and gave my college roommate’s Hope in a Jar a freshman try. Turns out that was the gateway drug to lotioning up my face, and I’ve worked my way up from Hope In A Jar’s whipped, airy texture to Philosophy’s Ultimate Miracle Worker in recent years. I like it because I feel like I’m getting a heck of a lot more moisturizing in, while at the same time my skin doesn’t feel coated in grease. There’s a lot going on in that jar—retinol, glycolic acid, delicious yeast—and SPF 30 at that. It’s working for my oily skin quite well, but it comes off as one of those rare creams that works on skin types across the board. Is it a true miracle worker? Well, a jar of cream can only do so much, but it got me to wear a heavy cream, so there’s that. —Ashley Weatherford
OK, I know this isn't a "moisturizer" and because oils, by nature, don't mix with water, obviously this isn't doing your heavy hydration work. But! There are times when I'm just looking to keep all my good serums on my face and not evaporated into the ether the moment I walk outside. In the past few months, this oil has replaced all others for me. It smells like you would assume plum seed oil should smell (plummy!), which gives it a nice adjacency to other essential oil-rich formulas, without actually being an essential oil. (The main difference being that essential oils come from aromatic petals + leaves while carrier oils come from the fattier seeds, nuts, and kernels and are generally considered safer for sensitive skin types.) But the real pro here? This stuff absorbs unlike any oil I've ever seen. Just slurp—right into the skin, leaving you not greasy, almost velvety. And while it might not be depositing hard-cold-facts hydration (leave that to your water based serums, folks, I'm telling you), your skin won't say no to the antioxidants and polyphenols crammed into the formula. A total skin delight. —Emily Ferber
I’m so thrilled that I can peruse my local Duane Reade and find this moisturizer sitting on the shelves at any odd hour I happen to walk in. It reminds me of my first holy grail heavy moisturizer a lot, another drugstore classic, Ponds Dry Cream. It was super cheap, inoffensively fragranced and lasted forever, but the shine it left was mostly for show. I found myself bringing the travel-sized version around so I could re-wet my face and re-moisturize with the cream halfway through the day (Yes, college was an interesting time for me!) Vichy gives what I was really searching for back then, softened skin with consistent moisture. It’s dependable. —Utibe Mbagwu
I have a lot of moisturizers that are so light that they hardly moisturize at all—I take them as thin as I can get ‘em. Slide on and pretend it's not there. Maybe it’s just me but I'm really put off by heavy creams. I don't like the sticky texture, I don't like how they feel on my fingers, how they feel on my face... Which is just to say that if you hate heavy moisturizers like I do but you still need to do something, I have one suggestion that I think will make you happy. Renee Rouleau’s Skin Recovery Lotion is on the lighter side of heavy moisturizers—I use it when I’m in dire need. It's kind of like a comfort cream. I use it in the dead of winter if my skin feels irritated, if things aren't making the cut. It's still a bit gel-y but definitely strong. —Tom Newton
The hard truth is that something about Magic Cream’s packaging made me not want to like it. It seemed, I don’t know...not serious enough? And I need serious skincare. But the way my mind works is that I’ll give anything a try, modest reservations or not. The texture is your middle of the road heavy moisturizer, kind of like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial or Confidence in a Cream. It moisturizes, of course, and perhaps more importantly it feels good (not suffocating at all). But the most compelling reason to buy this is the glow. Again, I have oily skin, so glow’s not exactly what I’m looking for in a cream, but here’s a moisturizer that does glow well. Not shiny, but healthy-looking, you know? There’s hyaluronic acid and a few interesting oils in here, along with peptides, which pull off that whole mythical bouncy-skin effect. For full transparency, I’ve heard that people with sensitive skin aren’t particularly nuts about this cream, but my experience has been nothing but positive. I love it. —AW
It's cold in Sweden; it's not hard to imagine that the Swedes at Verso know what they're doing when it comes to a heavy-duty moisturizer. In fact, you had me at "Nourishing!" And then really knocked me over with "Niacinamide." My two favorite words. In one—wait for it—pump bottle package. If that's not a chef's kiss of a night cream, I don't know what is. It's a substantial but easily spreadable formula, and the high concentration of niacinamide works to improve skin's barrier function, eventually making it better at keeping itself balanced and retaining moisture. It's like the old saying: Give a man a face cream and he'll be moisturized for a day; improve the man's moisture barrier function and he'll be moisturized for a lifetime. —EJF
So many rich moisturizers have touched my historically parched face, and yet Weleda Skin Food is always in the periphery, waiting for me to return to what I know is best for my skin—anything that’s quick-absorbing, soothing, and locks in moisture without a thick film-like feeling, after it’s been warmed up a little. Katie Jane Hughes gifted me my first one, but knowing that Rihanna ALSO uses it has only further blessed its application onto my face, cuticles, and dried out limbs. My drawer holds backups for my backups, and I even picked up the Light version, just so I could share the Weleda gospel with one of my friends on the normal-skinned side. I highly recommend jumping on the bandwagon, just this once.
Photo via ITG