Best budget moisturiser and cheap moisturisers recommended by our editors

Best budget moisturiser UK: We put the dozens of cheap moisturisers for all skin types to the test

14th December 2023 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Discover which budget moisturiser best suits your skin type with our pick of the best cheap moisturisers, creams and lotions in the UK 

Finding the best budget moisturiser involves balancing several key factors – it should, of course, be affordable for the majority of people’s budgets; it should work as expected; and you shouldn’t have to suffer irritation or spots in order to save money.

In our quest to discover the best cheap moisturisers,  serums, toners and primers in the UK we are running a TikTok series which is an ongoing effort to evaluate and rank various skincare products based on their performance and affordability.

As part of this series, we’ve begun compiling a list of moisturisers we’ve tested, and we will be continually updating this list as our testing progresses and as the rankings evolve.

This skincare series is similar to our widescale foundation group test and you can read more about that on our best foundation makeup page.

If you’re interested to learn more about how we test moisturisers, jump straight to that section.

We’re also tracking the scores for each of these products on a spreadsheet which you can find here, or by clicking the button below.


What is the best cheap moisturiser?

Is Simple Light Hydrating Moisturiser good for oily and dry skin?mamabella | mamabella

If you don’t want to go through our full list, and just want to know what is the best cheap moisturiser that ticks all of the boxes, our current tried-and-tested favourite is:

***Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser***
It has a lightweight yet hydrating formula meaning this budget moisturiser is an excellent choice for oily skin types as well as dry and dehydrated skin. It’s even gentle and light enough for mature skin.

You can read more about this cream below, or you can read our full Simply Hydrating Light Moisturiser review here, or you can discover more of the best moisturisers for oily skin here.

Best budget moisturiser: Top 10 recommended

This list is due to change as more tests are completed. These are the top 10 best cheap moisturisers as of December 2023. 


  1. Simple Daily Hydrating Light Moisturiser
  2. Holika Holika Aloe Vera Gel Moisturiser
  3. e.l.f Superhydrate Gel Moisturiser
  4. The Ordinary Moisturising Factors and HA 
  5. Good Molecules Lightweight Daily Moisturiser (formerly Silicon-Free Priming Moisturiser)
  6. Aveeno Oat Gel Moisturiser
  7. CeraVe Moisturising Lotion
  8. The Inkey List Omega Water Cream
  9. Byoma Moisturising Gel-Cream



WANT TO KNOW MORE? Best BB cream | Best budget moisturiserBest budget moisturisers for dry skin | Best budget moisturiser for oily skin and acneBest tinted moisturiser  | Best toner | Best primer | Best cleanserBest eye creamBest anti-ageing cream | Best hand cream| Best foot cream | Best face mask  | Best face exfoliator | Best face oil| Best serum| Best night cream | Best SPF | Best Vitamin C serum | Men’s skincare routine| Best stretch mark cream

Best budget moisturiser reviews

Below we’ve started reviewing the best cheap moisturisers we’ve tested as part of our skincare group test. We’ll add to this list as the tests continue.

1. Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser

£3.45Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

Simple Hydrating Moisturiser ReviewSimple

Although we used to be keen Simple fans during our teenage years, we eventually drifted towards other brands that appeared more trendy at the time.

Yet, based on our recent hydration test in our hunt for the best budget moisturiser, it seems we’ve underestimated Simple for far too long.

In five minutes, Simple’s Daily Hydrating Moisturiser boosted our skin’s moisture levels by 6.6 percentage points, translating to an impressive 23.5% increase in hydration.

While this may not be the most significant hydration boost we’ve seen in our tests, the combination of other factors propelled this Simple moisturiser to the top of the cheap moisturiser leaderboard.

Notably, its affordability stands out – priced at just £3.45 for 125ml. Additionally, it’s a fully vegan and cruelty-free product, even earning the seal of approval from PETA.

The moisturiser’s texture is pleasantly light, absorbing quickly into the skin without requiring excessive rubbing.

As its fragrance-free, it also caters to all skin types, including people with sensitive skin.

However, given its lightweight yet hydrating formula, this moisturiser would also be an excellent choice for oily skin types too. It’s even gentle enough for mature skin.

Read our full Simply Hydrating Light Moisturiser review

2. Holika Holika Aloe Vera Gel 

£4.35 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

Holika Holika Aloe Gel budget moisturiserHolika Holika

Widely known for its ability to relieve sunburn, Holika Holika’s Aloe Gel recently grabbed our attention thanks to its impressive hydrating properties.

In our hydration test, the Holika Holika Aloe Gel increased skin hydration by 5.5 percentage points, amounting to a 15.8% rise in moisture levels. This initial boost was impressive, but it didn’t stop there.

After an hour, the gel continued to work its magic, further increasing hydration by an additional 2.4 percentage points. This brought the total hydration increase to 7.9 percentage points, equivalent to a 16.9% overall rise.

This is impressive in its own right but is even more impressive when you consider that this gel costs less than a fiver.

The gel’s lightweight texture makes it great for oily skin as well as soothing irritated skin, and hydrating dry or dehydrated skin.

It absorbs quickly without leaving any sticky residue and doesn’t leave the skin feeling heavy or congested.

The only potential issue is that it does contain fragrance.

Given that this gel is designed to soothe irritated skin we’d like to think that it wouldn’t cause too many problems to sensitive skin but just bear it in mind.


3. The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + HA

£9.90 | Buy now

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

The Ordinary HA Moisturising Factors reviewThe Ordinary

Following the impressive performance of its Hyaluronic Acid serum, The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturising Factors + HA cream has solidified its position as a reliable and affordable budget skincare brand with its Natural Moisturising Factors + HA moisturiser.

In our hydration test, this cheap moisturiser increased the hydration levels of our skin by 5.6 percentage points (18%). This is less than others on this list, but much more than some moisturisers that cost 15 times as much.

When it’s first applied, this cream feels thick and we were worried that our oily skin would be screaming after a few hours but once you start massaging it in and it warms up, the cream turns into a lotion that absorbs quickly and doesn’t feel heavy on the skin.

In fact, it leaves the skin feeling soft and helps reduce redness.

This is because as Deciem, the company that owns The Ordinary, says “Natural Moisturising Factors (NMF) contains elements that keep the outer layer of the skin protected and well-hydrated.”

This group consists of multiple amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, and other compounds that are found naturally in the skin.

All of which keep the skin barrier healthy and strong.

While it may not be as cheap as the Simple lotion or Holika Holika’s Aloe Gel, the Natural Moisturising Factors + HA cream’s impressive hydration and commitment to sustainability – being both vegan and cruelty-free – place it in a strong position if you’re looking for an affordable and effective cream.


4. e.l.f Superhydrate Gel Moisturiser

£12 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

elf superhydrate gel moisturiser reviewmamabella | mamabella

Recently climbing into the top five of our best budget moisturiser rankings is the e.l.f. Superhydrate Gel Moisturiser.

This product demonstrated a significant hydration boost in our tests, increasing skin moisture by 11.5 points in just five minutes – one of the biggest increases we’ve seen. This equates to an increase of 30%.

Despite a slight decrease in hydration after an hour, in which it dropped by 2.5 percentage points, the Superhydrate gel moisturiser still achieved an overall increase of 9 points, or 25%.

This is considerably higher than the average.

The formulation is free from fragrance and anything else that could potentially irritate sensitive skin and it prides itself on being vegan and cruelty-free.

Based on our testing, particularly on oily skin types, this moisturiser stands out. Its gel texture is light and refreshing, and it’s effective even in small quantities.

Key ingredients include plant-derived squalane and snow mushroom for hydration, niacinamide for skin brightening, toning, and clarifying, along with Centella Asiatica and Vitamin E for skin protection, soothing, and nourishment.

And all this comes at the affordable price of just £12! A true all-rounder and the best moisturiser for combination skin that we’ve ever used.

5. Good Molecules Lightweight Daily Moisturiser

£9.80 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

Good Molecules Silicone-Free Priming Moisturiser Reviewmamabella | mamabella


Good Molecules has built a notable reputation in the States, and although it’s not sold directly from the UK, its products can be shipped internationally for a fee.

The brand’s popularity stems from its commitment to delivering effective, straightforward formulations at wallet-friendly prices.

Its Hyaluronic Acid serum currently holds a top 10 spot on our best serum list and following our recent hydration test, the Silicone-Free Priming Moisturiser from Good Molecules has made it into the top 10 budget moisturisers list too.

Breaking into the top 10 is no small feat, given the high performance of other products in this category.

However, the Good Molecules moisturiser showed a notable increase in skin hydration by 8.6 points (23%) within just five minutes of application.

After an hour, there was a slight decrease, but it still maintained a substantial overall increase of 7.4 points, or 20.6%.

In terms of affordability, this moisturiser stands out with 30ml priced at just £5.88 (converted from dollars).

It also scored full marks in our INCI Decoder categories, indicating it’s free from ingredients that could cause irritation or breakouts.

While it’s a shame this cheap moisturiser isn’t available from a UK retailer, even with the US shipping costs this cream is still cheaper than the majority of creams in our skincare tests.

NOTE: This cheap moisturiser was recently renamed and is now known as the Good Molecules Lightweight Daily Moisturiser. It has the same formulation though.

Buy now from Good Molecules

6. Aveeno Oat Gel Moisturiser

£16 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

Aveeno Oat Gel Moisturiser reviewmamabella | mamabella

The Aveeno Calm and Restore serum may not have cracked our top 20 face serums list, but its Oat Gel moisturiser has made a more impressive impact, securing a top 10 spot on our list of best budget-friendly moisturisers.

We’ve become quite fond of this moisturiser, especially as a go-to cream for soothing our skin and repairing our skin barrier in case we’ve overused retinol or over-exfoliated.

It has a lovely cooling effect on the skin and it feels like it’s been chilled in a skincare fridge every time it’s applied.

The lightweight nature of this moisturiser is another plus – it doesn’t weigh down the skin and is quickly absorbed, delivering its hydrating benefits deep into the skin.

Speaking of hydration, the Aveeno Oat Gel moisturiser showed a significant increase in hydration by 6.7 points (25%) within the first five minutes.

Even with a slight decrease after an hour, it maintained a high overall hydration level of 24.7%.

The product is also budget-friendly, with ingredients that pose a low risk of irritation or breakouts.

However, there are a few things to consider.

Like many jar moisturisers, it’s best to use a skincare spatula for application to avoid transferring bacteria from your fingers into the cream. Over time this can cause the cream to lead to breakouts when it doesn’t normally.

Some moisturisers come with a small plastic spatula, but you can also purchase reusable cosmetic spatulas on Amazon for about £8.

Another point to note is Aveeno’s parent company, Johnson and Johnson sells products in China. While Aveeno itself is cruelty-free, Johnson and Johnson can’t be classed as the same because animal testing is still practiced in order to sell in China.

Read our full Aveeno Oat Gel moisturiser review here

7. CeraVe Moisturising Lotion

£11 | Buy now (UK) | Buy now (US)

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

CeraVe Moisturising Lotion test and reviewmamabella | mamabella

In our best cheap moisturiser test, the CeraVe Moisturising Lotion stood out for increasing skin hydration by an impressive 25% in just five minutes.

This meant that the hydration level of the skin on our hand improved by a quarter in a relatively short period of time which is a significant achievement for a moisturiser.

While serums and essences typically outperform in terms of hydration, due to their design to penetrate deeper into the skin, moisturisers like CeraVe’s work differently. They primarily act as a barrier to prevent moisture loss.

As a result, we don’t expect such high hydration levels.

When comparing the CeraVe Moisturising Lotion to its counterpart, the CeraVe Moisturising Cream, we noted that the lotion has a lighter, more absorbent consistency.

This makes it better suited for daytime use, whereas the thicker cream might be better for drier skin types or as a night-time moisturiser.

As detailed in our guide to CeraVe products, the brand was initially developed to aid in repairing the skin barrier, which is crucial in managing conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

A key ingredient in this lotion is ceramides – essential fatty acids and lipids that are naturally present in skin cells.

These ceramides play a vital role in maintaining skin moisture and act as a defensive barrier against harmful microorganisms.

FURTHER READING: The best CeraVe products for all your skincare concerns 

8. The Inkey List Omega Water Cream

£9.99 | Buy now

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

The Inkey List Omega Water Cream test reviewThe Inkey List

The Omega Water Cream from The Inkey List is yet another example of how effective skincare doesn’t have to break the bank.

In our search for the best affordable moisturisers, this product delivered an 11.7% increase in skin hydration.

True to its name, the Omega Water Cream has a runny, lightweight consistency, allowing for quick absorption without leaving a heavy feeling on the skin.

The Inkey List attributes the effectiveness of this cream to its ‘Omega Ceramide Complex’, which includes omegas 3, 6, and 9. These fatty acids are key in preventing moisture loss and enhancing skin elasticity.

A significant component of this cream is its 5% glycerin content.

Glycerin, known for its humectant properties, acts like a moisture magnet, drawing hydration to the skin.

This is why it’s beneficial to apply this cream to damp or even wet skin, ensuring that it effectively locks in moisture.

Additionally, the cream is formulated with niacinamide, which aids in regulating oil production, reducing redness, and preventing spots.

For more insights into The Inkey List and its range of products, you can explore further details and product recommendations in our dedicated guide to the brand.

You can read more about The Inkey List and see some of its other best products here.

FURTHER READING: Spotlight on The Inkey List: Affordable skincare and hair care that actually does as it promises

9. Byoma Moisturising Gel-Cream 

£11.99 | Buy now

View the full TikTok video by clicking here

Byoma Moisturising Gel-Cream reviewmamabella | mamabella

Launched amid the 2020 lockdown, Byoma has quickly established a growing fan base for its budget-friendly, accessible skincare products, particularly focused on enhancing the skin barrier.

A healthy skin barrier is key to achieving clearer, brighter skin, and Byoma’s commitment to this is evident across its product line.

In our TikTok skincare series, we’ve put three Byoma products in total to the test: the Byoma Hydrating Serum, the Byoma Moisturising Gel-Cream, and the Byoma Moisturising Rich Cream.

The first two made an impressive debut in our top 10, with the Moisturising Gel-Cream particularly standing out.

The Moisturising Gel-Cream showed a notable increase in skin hydration by 4.7 points (14%) within just five minutes. It maintained this performance over an hour, further boosting hydration by another 4.7 points, culminating in a total increase of 9.3 points.

This resulted in a 25% increase in skin hydration after an hour, surpassing the average hour-long hydration rate of 8.4% by a significant amount.

In fact, Byoma’s Moisturising Gel-Cream managed to triple the performance of other products on our best moisturisers list.

The product earned additional accolades for its vegan and cruelty-free formula, as well as its wallet-friendly price point.

Central to Byoma’s ethos is also a strong focus on sustainability and ethical practices and the brand takes pride in using fully recyclable 100% monomaterial plastic for its packaging.

Buy now from Boots | Buy now from Ulta

How we test moisturisers

For each best cheap moisturiser test, we use a device called the Mili Pure to record the moisture level of the skin on our hands before washing them. We then apply each budget moisturiser onto the damp skin. After five minutes we take a second hydration reading. We then wait an hour and take a third and final reading.

Best budget moisturiser: Scoring methodology

To determine a product’s total score, which determines where it sits on the leaderboard, we add together the points in the Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Hydration Percentage, and INCI Score categories. We then subtract the price per 30ml, and the Irritation and Comedone Rating scores.

  • Price: This is the recommended retail price (RRP) for the product in question
  • Price (per 30ml): Based on the RRP, we determine the price of the product in question, per 30ml
  • Vegan: Fully vegan brands score 10. Brands that offer vegan products but aren’t fully vegan score 5. Brands with no vegan options score 0.
  • Cruelty-free: Cruelty-free brands score 10. Brands that don’t test on animals, but who partner with organisations or countries that do, score 5. Brands that offer no assurances about animal testing score 0.
  • Hydration points: The percentage point difference between the baseline hydration test, and the five-minute hydration test.
  • Hydration percentage: The percentage difference between the baseline hydration test, and the five-minute hydration test.
  • INCI score: Using the INCI Decoder website, we determine how many of the ingredients in a product’s formula are considered to be “icky” or worse. A product with no “icky” ingredients scores 100%, which we convert to a score of 10. A product with 10 ingredients and two of them are “icky” means the product is 20% “icky” and 80% “good.” The 80% is then converted to a score of 8.
  • Irritation Rating: All ingredients listed on the INCI Decoder website come with an irritation score, out of 5. The score for this category is taken from the highest-rated ingredient.
  • Comedogenic Rating: All ingredients listed on the INCI Decoder website also come with a comedogenic rating, out of 5. The score for this category is taken from the highest-rated ingredient.

Note: Please take the Irritation and Comedogenic ratings with a pinch of salt. The rating can change depending on the amount of that particular ingredient being used. For example, if an ingredient has an irritation rating of 5 but only features in trace amounts in the product in question, the chances of it causing irritation are lower than the rating would suggest. This should be used as a guide only. You can find out more about this here.

FURTHER READING: The best Clinique moisturiser for your skin type, budget and concerns



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