This Derm's Advice Is Priceless Right Now

In the not-so-distant past, you likely had one, maybe two moisturizing options: lotion, or a slightly denser cream. The choice was nice, simple, and way too narrow.
Fast-forward to 2016: Oils (which hit the scene like a tidal wave a few years ago) and gels (which are currently flooding the market) have joined the old standbys. Hooray for options, right? Of course — with a small caveat.
You don't have to be a dermatologist to know that picking the wrong moisturizer can equal a major slip up. A too-heavy emulsion means breakouts and congested pores, while skimping on hydration results in tight, flaky skin. Luckily, a good dermatologist's recommendation can help strike the perfect balance, which is why we consulted one.
For tips on navigating gels, creams, and oils we look to Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, board-certified dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Ahead, her advice on selecting the right formulation (some of which may actually surprise you), plus a few editor-approved products perfect for the warm weather ahead. Hello, springtime hydration!
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The Formula: Gel to lightweight lotion

Best For: All skin types except very dry

Dr. Tanzi recommends gel moisturizers for just about everyone during the warmer months — for good reason. "Lightweight formulations, like a gel, usually have hyaluronic acid, which is a lightweight way to pull in water," she says. "It plumps and hydrates without being greasy."

She even suggests a gel for those battling breakouts. "Even acne-prone skin needs hydration; anti-acne products can make skin dry," she says.

Gels are also light enough to be applied both morning and night, always under your SPF, she says; however, there is a caveat to consider: "Of course, it depends where you live," Dr. Tanzi says. If you live in a very humid environment, stick to just SPF for day, which should provide enough hydration, and use a gel at night. Those living in very dry climates can opt for gel under their SPF, but may need a heavier cream at night.
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Clinique's classic Dramatically Different reimagined as a gel is just what the doctor ordered: packed with hyaluronic acid, the fragrance-free formula plays well under makeup or SPF.

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel, $26, available at Sephora.
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Prefer to hit the drugstore? We like Neutrogena's Water Gel. It gives skin a hit of hyaluronic acid and soaks in almost immediately.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, $19.99, available at Ulta.
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Or, for those that love the texture of a gel, but want something a little richer, look to this hybrid. It locks in the moisture your skin already has — and adds some you're missing, so your skin looks and feels healthy.

Garnier Moisture Rescue Refresh Gel Cream, $8.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Formula: Heavy lotion to cream

Best For: Dry to very dry skin

"It depends on the person, but if someone has really dry skin, they’re going to want to use a heavier cream all year round," Dr. Tanzi says. She suggests a lotion or cream that contains rich oils or shea butter, which penetrate more effectively.

People with very dry skin who are also prone to congestion, like whiteheads or milia, should also add glycolic acid to their routine. "It aids in cell turnover and can help prevent clogged pores," says Dr. Tanzi.
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For those who want to invest, may we suggest renowned makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury's magical formula? We love it because it goes on smooth and makes dry skin feel ridiculously soft — thanks to shea butter and a variety of oils — all without a greasy finish. Bonus? It packs SPF 15.

Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Cream Treat & Transform Moisturizer, $100, available at Net-A-Porter.
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Or, for something without SPF, opt for Dr. Harold Lancer's formula for sensitive skin. It has plant-based oils and extracts to calm while it hydrates, so it's great for every skin type.

Lancer The Method: Nourish Sensitive Skin, $125, available at Sephora.
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But not to worry, there are great affordable options, too. We like Cetaphil's classic cream, which is fragrance-free and consistently one of the top recommendations from derms.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, $15.49, available at Ulta.
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The Formula: Face Oil

Best For: Adding hydration to dry skin

Oil is a great hydrator, but not on it's own. "In it’s pure form, an oil doesn’t necessarily work as well as when it’s formulated with what we call 'vehicle ingredients', like a cream, which helps with penetration," says Dr. Tanzi.

Dr. Tanzi suggests using an oil as a supplement to a cream. (Think of oil more like a serum than a cream alternative.) "You can layer an oil on first and then apply cream on top to lock the oil onto the skin," she says.
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Justifying the purchase of Linda Rodin's cult-status oil is no easy feat, but that all-natural blend of 11 essentials oils like neroli, rose hip, argan, jojoba, jasmine, and apricot sure is tempting — especially if you use sparingly like Dr. Tanzi suggests.

Rodin Face Oil, $170, available at Rodin.
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Save (Kind Of)
Unfortunately, a good oil is a bit of a splurge any way you look at it (though more affordable options can be found in the beauty sections of your local health food stores). For a middle-of-the-road price we like Josie Maran's formula, which is 100% argan oil that you can also use on your hair and body. Oh, and it smells divine!

Josie Maran 100 percent Pure Argan Oil, $48, available at Sephora.
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Save (For Real)
This more-affordable option comes with a rave review from our own senior beauty editor.

Yes To Miracle Oils Primrose Oil, $12.99, available at Target.
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