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These Gel Moisturizers Are the Super Satisfying, Hydration-Boosting Product You Need


They’re the stuff oddly satisfying skincare videos are made of—light, bouncy, and so refreshing on skin—and they’ve become a staple in our skincare routines. Enter: Gel Moisturizers. When it comes to achieving healthy, hydrated, glowing skin, face moisturizers are non-negotiable and (you bet) we’ve tried every type and texture under the sun. Rich creams can be so comfy on skin while whipped formulas are buttery and fun—but when our skin craves something nice and light, gel moisturizers make up the A-team of barely there (but super effective) hydrators. According to dermatologist Julie E. Russak, MD, FAAD: “Gel moisturizers are typically hyaluronic acid and glycerin-based, which is lightweight and good for acne-prone skin, and great under face masks when we don’t want anything heavy or oily.” 

So, what exactly makes a gel moisturizer so weightless and non-greasy? Alexandra Snodgrass, MD, FAAD says, “Most gel moisturizers have various ingredients suspended in water and alcohol. Due to this property, they rarely leave a greasy or oily residue after absorption.” And while gel moisturizers feel light on your skin, they’re far from weak. “Gel moisturizers are effective at restoring and maintaining the skin barrier, similar to other moisturizers,” Dr. Snodgrass adds. The water in gel moisturizers doesn’t dilute the formula but instead helps transport active ingredients to your skin. While they’re great for almost all skin types, (from normal to oily to combination skin), those with acne-prone or oily skinwill especially appreciate gel moisturizers. Most are made without oils and when they do have oils, they’re fast-absorbing and included sparingly. 

Ready to give gel moisturizers a try? Continue reading for 16 of the best gel moisturizers—trust us, you’ll be hooked on these super refreshing formulas.

About the Experts: 

Julie E. Russak, MD, FAAD, is a dermatologist in New York City. She is also the founder, and medical director of Russak Aesthetic Center
Alexandra Snodgrass, MD, FAAD, is a dermatologist who practices in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. 

1. NEUTROGENA Hydro Boost Water Gel

NEUTROGENA Hydro Boost Water Gel
Courtesy of NEUTROGENA

When it comes to skincare ingredients that seriously up hydration, sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid) is the holy grail. In this dryness defender, it helps deliver instant hydration to dry skin while absorbing quickly—no greasy residue left behind. We love packing this classic along on hikes and beach vacays to hydrate on-the-go. Plus, it’s oil-free, making it perfect for all skin types. Besides, who doesn’t love a good drugstore find?

2. ORIGINS GINZING Energy Boosting Gel Moisturizer

ORIGINS GINZING Energy Boosting Gel Moisturizer
Courtesy of ORIGINS

Consider this cooling gel moisturizer like a shot of espresso for your skin (before your morning cup of coffee). Infused with caffeine, ginseng, hyaluronic acid, plant glycerin, and the brand’s own “Hydra-Hug Technology” which helps fill in the spaces between skin cells to help lock in moisture, this refreshing formulation delivers a feel-good boost to tired skin while sealing in hydration for the long haul—72 hours to be exact. Consider it a pre-game for your morning brew.

3. GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer

GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer
Courtesy of GLOW RECIPE

Everything about this silky smooth, pearly pink dream-in-a-bottle had us at first swipe. Get this: 90 percent of this gel moisturizer is made up of nourishing watermelon extract (which is chock full of vitamin C and amino acids), plus hyaluronic acid, peony, and jasmine extracts. The result? Skin that’s smooth like butter, dewy, and glowy AF. Pat a few drops into skin am and pm, or add a few drops to your foundation for an added touch of radiance. P.S. This baby is perfect for achieving that gorgeous glass skin look. 

4. VERSED Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

VERSED Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream
Courtesy of VERSED

One word: Jelly. That’s the addictive texture that got us instantly hooked on this light, airy, and bouncy skin fix. Made with hydrating hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf juice, and green tea leaf extract, this daily moisturizer helps seal in moisture, fight free radicals (thank you, antioxidants!), get rid of dull skin, and calm inflammation without clogging pores. or causing breakouts (it's non-comedogenic). Even better, the bottle is made up of 50 percent post consumer recycled plastic and easily recyclable through the brand’s “Recycle Responsibly Program.”

5. BIOSSANCE Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

BIOSSANCE Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
Courtesy of BIOSSANCE

This gel-moisturizer has developed a major cult following, and for so many good reasons. First, it's pretty much invisible once absorbed into skin (we’re talking seriously lightweight), but magically leaves skin feeling like it's covered in a veil of hydration. Made with sustainably sourced, plant-based squalane, this heavy duty hydrator does it all from seal in moisture, to calm redness and inflammation, improve the appearance of pores, and soften skin texture. 

6. TATCHA The Water Cream

TATCHA The Water Cream

Fact: All skin types (even oily) need hydration. We’re loving this fast-absorbing hydrating gel moisturizer from cult-fave skincare line, TATCHA for a healthy hit of moisture. It’s made with powerful Japanese botanicals like wild rose and leopard lily that tighten pores, smooth texture, balance oils, get rid of dullness, and boost cell turnover to up your glow. Ipster kakennedy2 says, “I adore this moisturizer. Water creams like this one are just so nice to put on. I love how it liquifies under your finger almost like magic. I use this as a nightly cream.”

7. THEN I MET YOU Calming Tide Gel Cream

THEN I MET YOU Calming Tide Gel Cream

From Soko Glam founder and chief curator, Charlotte Cho (aka queen of all things K-beauty), comes this line of super satisfying (and adorably packaged) skincare. This fast-absorbing gel-cream delivers serious hydration without any heaviness. It’s so light and comfy to wear under makeup or to dab over it to nix dryness throughout the day. Plus, it’s packed with ceramides, niacinamide, and peptides to lock in moisture, brighten your skin tone, and plump and firm skin.

8. BELIF The True Cream Aqua Bomb

BELIF The True Cream Aqua Bomb

This water gel moisturizer pretty much feels like a cool, refreshing splash of water on skin. Made with a cocktail of apothecary herbs, anti-oxidant packed Lady’s Mantle, malachite, plantain, and oat husk, this skin quencher helps hydrate dry skin, fight free radicals, smooth the appearance of pores and soften skin for a smooth, glowy complexion. 

9. PURLISSE BEAUTY Watermelon Aqua Balm

PURLISSE BEAUTY Watermelon Aqua Balm

The star ingredient in this lightweight balm happens to be one of our favorite summer treats—watermelon! It’s packed with vitamins A, C, and E to hydrate, nourish, and brighten. Plus, it has aloe vera and cucumber to soothe. This baby will majorly calm your skin after a day in the sun, and it’s perfect for a quick burst of moisture with no greasiness. Ipster gogomouth says, “This moisturizer is great! I like to use it as an overnight face cream after washing my face and getting ready for bed. It smells so good! Like sweet candy watermelon. Whenever I use it, I have to repeat to myself ‘Do not eat, no matter how good it smells.’”

10. PIXI BEAUTY pHenomenal Gel

PIXI BEAUTY pHenomenal Gel

Made with aloe vera, horse chestnut, and ginseng, this multitasking gel moisturizer has everything you need to get stressed-out skin back on track. It works by helping to balance your skin’s pH level, which is super important to keep your skin calm, soothed, and happy. Ipster kelly_jmsubs says it even helped with her eczema, “I LOVE Moisturizers as my skin is dry all the time. I also have eczema on the back of my knees and the inside of my elbows along with a few other spots that come up randomly from time to time. I have put this on the spots that I have right now and it took it away almost within 1 day and left my skin underneath feeling so darn smooth!!!”

11. H2O+ Hydration Oasis Refreshing Gel Moisturizer

H2O+ Hydration Oasis Refreshing Gel Moisturizer

True to its name, this formula delivers a wave of moisture to your skin and absorbs quickly (aka no residue). It’s made with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid (a holy grail hydrator), plus ceramides and lipids that help strengthen your skin barrier. Consider it proof that a moisturizer doesn’t have to feel heavy to majorly hydrate. Ipster melodu_jo_stone says, “This stuff is amazing!! I have one patch of skin that is incredibly dry and this product packs in the moisture! I couldn’t ask for a better gel moisturizer. It’s cooling and fantastic!”

12. IT COSMETICS Confidence in a Gel Lotion Moisturizer

 IT COSMETICS Confidence in a Gel Lotion Moisturizer

There’s so much to love about this moisturizer. It’s astonishingly light but packed with skin-loving ingredients like ceramides and cactus flower extract. It goes on like a dream under makeup—you’ll barely feel it on. And ::drumroll, please:: it delivers up to 72(!) hours of hydration when you apply and helps your skin hold onto moisture in the long-term. Ipster 21cassie_mae says, “AMAZING! I have very sensitive skin and live in Florida and it is perfectly lightweight for the hot weather—gentle on my skin so as to not cause any reaction or breakouts.”

13. TULA SKINCARE Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen SPF 30 Gel

TULA SKINCARE Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen SPF 30 Gel

PSA: Your skin needs sun protection year-round. Yup, that means in the snow, rain, and (of course) under the summer sun. We know applying SPF when it’s warm out can be uncomfortable, but gel formulas like this one make wearing sunscreen dare we say, satisfying? With wild butterfly ginger root that shields skin from UV rays and blue light, and probiotics to hydrate and brighten, this multitasking gel formula will protect your skin, boost your glow, and moisturize in one step. Ipster kendra 526 says, “This is really pretty for the summertime. Smells good, goes on well. Great for a bit of a glow that also protects your skin.”

14. KATE SOMERVILLE® Wrinkle Warrior Hydration Gel

KATE SOMERVILLE® Wrinkle Warrior Hydration Gel

To majorly hydrate while improving fine lines and wrinkles, this gel moisturizer uses three different sizes of moisture-locking hyaluronic acid. It helps to plump and smooth and improve skin’s elasticity over time. Use it alone or even over makeup to soothe dry or rough patches—it spreads on easily so it won’t mess up your makeup. Ipster beauty_vagabond says, “I've never used a water cream before, but now I may never go back. This is really nice! A tiny bit goes a long way, so this jar will last and it hydrates well without being heavy.”

15. KNOURS. Skin Meditation Gel Cream

KNOURS. Skin Meditation Gel Cream

Did you know that hormonal fluctuations can make your skin sensitive? This unique gel-cream formula uses peppermint oil and a hydrating combo of ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid to keep things calm and balanced. Ipster cfallin 26 says, “I loved this brand and this product. The smell is amazing and it leaves my skin so refreshed. It has an amazing calming effect.”

16. MURAD Nutrient Charged Water Gel

MURAD Nutrient Charged Water Gel

Made by dermatologist and pharmacist Dr. Howard Murad, this line of highly effective skincare products is a go-to for targeting specific skin concerns. If you’re dealing with dryness, this stuff is for you. The oil-free formula is made with five minerals, five vitamins, and five peptides (yup, all of the above) to give your skin barrier a powerful boost and help it retain moisture both now and over time. Plus, it feels so cool and refreshing on your skin. Ipster arobertson08 says, “I apply this in the mornings before work since wearing a mask all day tends to dry out my face. I've noticed a huge difference.”

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated August 30, 2022 12:00 AM