A good moisturiser is arguably the most important product in your beauty arsenal after sunscreen (I know my PRIMER colleague Sherine – who wrote an ode to cleansing just last week – might disagree). Hydrated, supple skin delays the development of wrinkles and fine lines, and also provides the perfect surface for foundation — or means you can skip it altogether.
Given the hype around high-end beauty brands over the past few years, it’s tempting to equate expense with efficacy, but that’s not always the case. In fact, the big beauty players like L’Oréal own several mass high-street brands (Coty owns Lancaster and philosophy as well as Max Factor and Bourjois), meaning the research and technology behind them is similar to their luxury portfolio.
Hydrated skin delays the development of wrinkles
Still, it can be hard to choose the right product for your skin in the array of products jostling for attention on supermarket shelves. My tip is to make sure the key active ingredient you’re after – be it hyaluronic acid for hydration, Vitamin C for brightening or collagen for plumping – is listed in the top five ingredients on the label.
The other advantage of budget moisturisers? You can use them more liberally on your face and neck, rather than preserving every last expensive skerrick. Here are my top choices.
Best For: Night
From one of the leading French pharmacy brands comes this calming, hydrating moisturiser that uses its renowned ‘Thermal Spring Water’ drawn from European hot springs. Irritation, redness and dehydration significantly improve thanks to neurosensine (a peptide that can block pain often associated with sensitivity) and Vitamin E.
Best For: Body
Hype aside, the secret to this cult moisturiser lies in its simplicity, rather than its packaging. It’s packed full of ceramides that work to rebuild the skin barrier, which in turn boosts hydration (for both face and body) and minimises irritation. Fun fact: L’Oréal bought the brand in 2017 and have significantly increased distribution without altering the price point.
Best For: All rounder
This clever formula can be used as a day, night, hand, baby, and body cream (so, five in one) and transforms dry, thirsty skin. Enriched with lanolin, vitamin E and a concoction of nourishing nut oils, this rich yet gentle cream is a must-have.
Best For: Sun defence
Perfect to wear alone or underneath make-up, this slightly tinted, zinc-oxide based sunscreen is semi-matt and great for normal to combination skin types. Packed full of all the good antioxidants and skin smoothers like Vitamin E, Vitamin C and resveratrol, this daily SPF packs a serious punch for its price.
Best For: Sensitivity
The raison d’etre of this French pharmaceutical brand is to help sensitive skin, and this lightweight lotion is perfect for flare ups or seasonal skin changes. You can use it morning and night, and after an unfortunate attack of aggravated skin I saw an improvement in redness and irritation in 48 hrs.
Best For: Combination skin
This new vegan-friendly moisturiser uses fair-trade sourced lemongrass and organically produced aloe vera to minimise shine and purify skin. With a subtle citrus scent, the gel-cream texture is refreshing and easy to wear. What’s also impressive is Garnier’s (also owned by L’Oréal) sustainability commitment: by 2025, all products will be made with zero virgin plastic, and all packaging will be recyclable, reusable, or compostable, saving 37,000 tons of plastic per year.
Best For: Oily skin
This lightweight moisturiser is like a cold drink of water for your face. It’s packed with hyaluronic acid to plump skin right away, and it feels weightless—making it ideal for oily skin and warmer weather.
Best For: Sensitive/dry skin
A little goes a long way with this hydrating pot of goodness. A do-it-all night cream that’s free from nasties and formulated with calming cotton and rice extracts to help keep dehydration and irritation at bay. Perfect for the cooler weather ahead. And if you’re after a budget -friendly lip conditioner, the brand’s new Advanced Relief Balm, $7.95, is also a winner.
Best For: Anti-ageing
For an everyday cream that helps minimise the tell-tale signs of ageing, this is your answer. The luxe texture is hydrating yet non-greasy with a refreshing scent. Pro-Retinol and Fibrelastyl work to combat fine lines and elasticity loss. Just don’t forget to apply your daily SPF over the top.
Styling and art direction: Melissa Drennan