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16 Best Water-Based Moisturizers That Take Hydration to the Next Level

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Photo by Tanja Ivanova / Getty Images

If you have combination skin, oily skin, or acne-prone skin, then you shouldn’t be a stranger to the wonders of water-based or gel cream moisturizers (you may even already have one in your skincare routine). Even if you have sensitive skin, you know that using a rich moisturizer —even if it isn’t non-comedogenic (a.k.a. pore-clogging)—may still irritate your skin barrier, or leave skin a bit too greasy, or even cause milia bumps.

Besides being lightweight, non-greasy and ideal for reactive skin types, gel cream moisturizers are usually packed full of hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, glycerin, niacinamide, vitamin E, and green tea. This means skin is left plumped up with hydration, packed full of skin-protecting antioxidants, and rich in glow-getting ingredients that give you a dewy finish.

Don’t get us wrong, there are many lightweight hydrators and skincare products that just don’t make the cut (especially if you happen to have ultra dry skin)—some can even leave a sticky finish instead of leaving you with the dewy skin of your dreams. Not to worry, though. We’ve rounded up the absolute best water-based and gel cream moisturizers (as reviewed by the beauty community) and some tried-and-true picks from our editors that have withstood the test of time, through the seasons, the sweat, and the makeup meltdowns. Whatever moisturizer you choose, don’t forget to follow up with SPF!

1. BELIF The True Cream - Aqua Bomb

BELIF The True Cream - Aqua Bomb
Courtesy of BELIF

This moisturizer from BELIF is probably one of the most well-known skincare products on the market for its beloved gel cream moisturizer’s incredible ability to give you bouncy, hydrated skin without causing a colossal breakout. You can use this any season and it’s the best makeup primer for dewy, hydrated skin all day long.

It’s an oil-free moisturizer and instantly floods skin with hydration, thanks to oak husk (a powerful humectant that brings water to the skin’s surface from humidity in the air) and antioxidants like lady’s mantle and malachite that help protect your skin’s barrier.

2. VERSED Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

VERSED Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream
Courtesy of VERSED

We love this product because it comes in a squeeze tube (if you have long nails, you’ll appreciate it). This moisturizer has a jelly-like texture and contains sodium hyaluronate to help draw in and retain moisture. Plus, antioxidants in aloe vera leaf juice and green tea help soothe inflammation and fight off free radicals.

3. TATCHA The Water Cream

TATCHA The Water Cream
Courtesy of TATCHA

The TATCHA The Water Cream is such a splurge but is so worth it. You’ll be amazed at how little product you need to use to hydrate your whole face. It really does feel as light as water when you use it and leaves skin so soft and bouncy.

Japanese Uji green tea detoxifies and helps prevent signs of premature aging like fine lines, while okinawa red algae helps skin retain water.

4. FARMACY Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

FARMACY Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer
Courtesy of FARMACY

This weightless, oil-free, and fragrance-free moisturizer uses two different kinds of humectants—hyaluronic and polyglutamic acid—to draw in moisture to your skin’s barrier. If you have oily skin or are prone to breakouts, you’ll love that Daily Greens has niacinamide to help clear clogged pores and control oil production. It also has moringa and papaya extracts that help purify skin from dirt and environmental pollutants.

5. BESOMA Good Barrier Moisturizer

BESOMA Good Barrier Moisturizer
Courtesy of BESOMA

Keep your skin barrier and microbiome in check with this product that can best be described as powerful, yet super-soothing. It’s packed with ceramides to support and protect your skin’s moisture barrier, and niacinamide to help reduce the appearance of pores while keeping them clear, particularly in commonly congested areas like your chin, nose, and t zone.

The best part? If you struggle with dark spots or acne scarring, the Good Barrier Moisturizer actually contains a small amount of bis-glyceryl ascorbate, a gentle vitamin C that helps with brightening skin tone and fading dark spots overtime. It also aids in collagen production.

6. ELF Superhydrate Gel Moisturizer

ELF Superhydrate Gel Moisturizer
Courtesy of ELF

A fabulous drugstore pick! And one that definitely goes unnoticed, so here’s to letting you in on the secret of this face cream: Not only is this moisturizer a steal at $12, it lasts forever!

It features the best ingredients to combat dryness and plump skin without being too heavy. It has squalane, niacinamide, cica extract to soothe and protect, snow mushroom which deeply hydrates, and vitamin E to help soften your skin. It’s fragrance free and layers well with both gel-based serums and lightweight face oils.

7. GOOD LIGHT Order of the Eclipse Hyaluronic Cream

GOOD LIGHT Order of the Eclipse Hyaluronic Cream
Courtesy of GOOD LIGHT

This fragrance-free hyaluronic cream contains squalane, meshima mushroom, three different sizes of hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. It’s the perfect companion for skin if your barrier is compromised or if you experience frequent redness. It can instantly restore moisture and reduce inflammation.

This is a bit of a thicker water-based moisturizer, especially when you look at it in the jar. Once it’s on your skin, you’ll begin to realize how light it feels and how it doesn’t leave behind a sticky feeling.

8. NEUTROGENA® Hydro Boost Water Gel-Cream

NEUTROGENA® Hydro Boost Water Gel-Cream
Courtesy of NEUTROGENA®

Another great drugstore face moisturizer. You can pick this up almost anywhere, including Amazon. Some say its a dupe for the BELIF Aqua Bomb moisturizer. While we agree the texture is nearly identical, this lotion does have a slight scent.

This face cream provides 48-hour hydration despite being such a lightweight formula. It layers well under your SPF and makeup as a hydrating base that won’t pill when you combine products.

9. KRAVE BEAUTY Oat So Simple Water Cream

KRAVE BEAUTY Oat So Simple Water Cream
Courtesy of KRAVE BEAUTY

If you have sensitive but oily skin, you’ll appreciate this minimal-ingredient face cream from KRAVE BEAUTY. And if you have dry patches or eczema, it will seriously be your holy grail. It uses an ingredient called trehalose to help retain moisture within your skin, squalane to condition, and oat extract to soothe and combat any redness you may have. It’s going back to the basics, but that’s one of the reasons we love it.

10. STRATIA Liquid Gold

STRATIA Liquid Gold
Courtesy of STRATIA

This is a newer moisturizer that keeps popping up all over Instagram. It’s well liked by your favorite beauty influencers, we’re sure of it. It’s lightweight of course but formulated with ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids — three ingredients that your skin’s moisture barrier craves to keep everything happy and healthy. It also has niacinamide, the all-star ingredient that can do a little bit of everything including keeping oil production balanced, pores clear, and can fade dark spots overtime.

11. BIOSSANCE Squalane & Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

BIOSSANCE Squalane & Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
Courtesy of BIOSSANCE

This BIOSSANCE moisturizer is full of probiotics to help even complexion, and reduce redness and irritation. It also features squalane, which actually mimics your skin barrier’s natural oils to keep skin hydrating and prevent it from drying out.

12. RAEL Miracle Clear Barrier Cream

RAEL Miracle Clear Barrier Cream
Courtesy of RAEL

If you have acne prone skin and frequent breakouts, this is an ideal gel cream for you. It’s a bit thicker than most gel creams but it has amazing benefits to soothe active breakouts and prevent new ones from sprouting up.

It has succinic acid, vitamin B5 panthenol, and a minerice enzyme complex which is ideal for oily skin that experiences acne and clogged pores in congested areas. A little bit goes a long way and keeps your skin hydrated for a day's time.

13. PEACH & LILY Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer

PEACH & LILY Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer
Courtesy of PEACH & LILY

You’ve definitely heard of PEACH & LILY’s iconic Glass Skin Serum, but did you know they have a matching moisturizer? If you’re after that clear, glass skin and dewy look this is a must-have in your routine. You’ll notice visibly brighter, hydrated, and more even-looking skin after just one use. The texture is weightless and refreshing, which makes it a great makeup primer, too. It’s another great option if you have oily or acne-prone skin, as it has hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and fruit extracts to keep pores clear.

14. BYOMA Moisturizing Gel-Cream

BYOMA Moisturizing Gel-Cream
Courtesy of BYOMA

Ideally, who wouldn’t love something that hydrates like a rich cream but feels like a gel? This moisturizer from BYOMA absorbs instantly, and feels cool and refreshing on your skin. It has a trip-ceramide complex to hydrate and protect your moisture barrier, niacinamide to help with oil control, and green tea extract to calm redness and irritation. It’s also great for all skin types but works especially well for combination and oily.

15. FIRST AID BEAUTY Coconut Water Cream

FIRST AID BEAUTY Coconut Water Cream
Courtesy of FIRST AID BEAUTY

This is another great option if you have sensitive skin. Basically anything from FIRST AID BEAUTY will benefit those with sensitive skin due to the brand’s dedication to using calming ingredients that soothe the skin barrier. This moisturizer helps with dryness, uneven skin tone, and fine lines. It’s infused with coconut water, a lightweight but heavy-duty thirst-quencher for dry skin. Plus, it’s fragrance free!

16. THE INKEY LIST Omega Water Cream

THE INKEY LIST Omega Water Cream
Courtesy of THE INKEY LIST

We love this moisturizer from THE INKEY LIST due to how affordable it is at $10. It’s lightweight yet ultra-hydrating–some even say it reminds them of the TATCHA Water Cream. It provides long-lasting hydration (and dewy skin) with the help of their omega fatty acid complex, glycerin, and niacinamide.

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About the author
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia is a freelance beauty writer. With experience in influencer marketing at Tata Harper Skincare and editorial at Very Good Light, she loves covering Gen Z beauty, wellness, and nail trends. Read her work on Very Good Light and Well + Good.
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Article Last Updated September 15, 2022 12:00 AM