The beauty of gel-based moisturizers (the good ones, anyway) is that their lightweight, water-based formulas replenish moisture for a plump, hydrated complexion without any of the heavy textures that can make certain skin types breakout. As many combination skin types will attest to, switching to a gel moisturizer is when clogged pores, milia, and random zits you’re likely accustomed to decide to calm the hell down, giving way to bouncy—not greasy—skin. When you find a gel moisturizer that’s super lightweight but is also packed with no-joke hydrators like hyaluronic acid plus antioxidants and other goodies, your skin is in for a real treat.
The not-so-pretty side of gel moisturizers, however, is that sometimes they are upsettingly sticky, and they often just don’t feel hydrating enough. With the following 16 products, you don’t have to worry about that stuff. The Byrdie team (which features skin types from dry to acne-prone) has tried dozens of gel moisturizers over the years, and these are our current ride-or-dies. And because we’re dedicated to providing the best recommendations, we also tapped board-certified dermatologists Geeta Yadav and Rachel Maiman for their picks.
Keep scrolling for the best gel moisturizers for healthy, hydrated skin.
Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb
Beauty editors far and wide are into this Korean gel-based moisturizer, which has no oil but instead a slew of antioxidant-rich ingredients with fantastical names, like lady’s mantle, an apothecary herb meant to minimize your pores, and oat husk, meant to attract moisture. Fans of the product rave about its lightweight texture and the cooling feeling it imparts upon application. Yadav is also a fan of the product’s good-for-all-skin-types-formula, calling out its use of hydrating hyaluronic acid as well as ceramides, which helps to prevent transepidermal water loss. If you’re looking for a moisturizer that delivers moisturizing benefits instantly and through the next day, you’ve found it in this one.
Mario Badescu Hyaluronic Dew Cream
Famed for its acne-busting treatments, this gel-based moisturizer from Mario Badescu stays true to the brand’s commitment to providing oily, acne-prone skin with products that won’t contribute to flare-ups. “This formula combines two types of sodium hyaluronate and squalane to deeply hydrate, moisturize, and replenish the skin,” says Yadav. “It also absorbs quickly with no greasy residue, making it ideal for oily and acne-prone skin types.”
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
The single best-loved drugstore moisturizer of any kind is probably this gel-cream hybrid from Neutrogena (seriously, everyone from professional dermatologists and celebrities like Kristen Bell to Byrdie’s associate general manager Lindsey is obsessed). For under $20, you get a plumping dose of hyaluronic acid that leaves your skin impossibly soft. As Lindsey wrote in a review in 2016, “This stuff works. My skin has never been plumper or more hydrated.” It’s also a great pick if you have dry skin. “In many cases, very dry skin types don’t get relief from gel moisturizers—they’re often not rich enough to truly nourish and soften parched skin,” says Yadav. “However, this formula is quite indulgent and contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and olive oil-derived fatty acids to quench thirsty skin while drawing in lasting moisture.”
Sisley Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream
On the other end of the price spectrum is this ultra-luxe French face cream that has a texture unlike any other gel-based moisturizer on the market. The second the product hits your skin, it transforms from a whipped feel into a literal splash of water and soaks in so fast you won’t know what hit you. Its carefully concocted array of flower extracts and antioxidants leaves the skin looking bright, awake, and youthful. Pro tip: use this cream regularly and in conjunction with the brand’s Black Rose Oil for an endless amount of skin compliments.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer
You won’t have much luck finding a gel moisturizer cuter than this K-beauty gem. But it’s not just a pretty pink face—the super-light formula was created specifically for oily to combination skin types and is packed with hyaluronic acid and radiance-boosting botanicals. Yadav raves about how refreshing the formula is, especially because of its watermelon extract. “This ingredient is very hydrating, soothing, and smells delicious!” she says. “It also contains humectant hyaluronic acid to draw water into the skin.” Win.
Murad Nutrient-Charged Water Gel
Those struggling with drier skin will dig this under-the-radar water-based moisturizer, which might go on a teensy bit thicker than some of the others on this list, but instantly becomes weightless as it sinks into your skin. Peptides and a combo of vitamins E, B3, B5, B6, and B9 are among the ingredients in its super-hydrating formula. Most impressive: it’s meant to increase your skin’s moisture retention for up to five days. Talk about hydrating.
Peach & Lily Glass Skin Water Gel Moisturizer
If glass skin is the goal, this moisturizer is the vessel that’ll get you there. Maiman is a huge fan of the K-beauty product, noting that “the silicone-free formula combines a proprietary blend of multiple molecular weight hyaluronic acid, as well as pre- and probiotics to help nourish and support the skin’s microbiome and skin barrier.” The result? A hefty dose of hydration that leaves skin weightless, luminous, and non-greasy.
Dermalogica Sound Sleep Cocoon
Looking for a night cream that won’t break you out by morning? This feather-light formula has a super-powered ingredient list featuring vitamin E, glycolic acid, and vitamin C all meant to help your skin’s natural nighttime regenerating process so when you wake up, you are glowing, not greasy. We’re partial to the formula’s ability to target more than just dry, dull skin—it also promises to fight hyperpigmentation, free radical damage, and wrinkles, too.
Glowoasis Glowburst Intense Hydration Boosting Cream
Thirsty skin is no feat for this barely-there gel-based moisturizer, which is boosted with nutrient-dense ingredients such as free radical-fighting resurrection plant, hydration-restoring desert rose leaf extract, and purifying blue agave leaf extract. Unlike other gel-based creams that often feel like they’re sitting on top of the skin, this one features liposome technology that penetrates to the deepest layer of skin for maximum efficacy.
Laneige Water Bank Hydro Gel
Combination skin types will find everything they could want in this refreshing Korean formula. “It’s loaded with superfood-derived antioxidants, including those from beets, kale, and quinoa, in addition to hyaluronic acid,” notes Yadav. It also contains highly concentrated green mineral water, which is made of extracts from vitamin-rich kale as well as watercress, which is meant to douse skin in fast-absorbing moisture. The texture is light and the price is reasonable. You can’t go wrong.
Bliss Drench & Quench Cream To Water Hydrator
There’s so much to love about this moisturizer from Bliss—it absorbs quickly, goes on smoothly, and moisturizes intensely. That’s all thanks to the four different types of hyaluronic acid as well as the cream-to-water finish that leaves skin feeling insanely refreshed.
Sand & Sky Tasmanian Spring Water Hydration Boost Cream
Aussie-loved skincare brand Sand & Sky brings to us this thirst-quenching, luxurious-feeling gel moisturizer. The hero ingredient here is Tasmanian Spring Water, one of the purest waters in the world, as well as fermented sea kelp to help skin maintain elasticity and red algae extract for maximum hydration.
Is it a serum or a moisturizer? The lines are blurred but in all the right ways. The all-in-one serum and moisturizer combo drenches skin in hydration, antioxidants, and anti-aging peptides. “It contains a deep sea enzyme with powerful antioxidant properties that works hard to repair free radical damage and help heal skin, as well as naringenin, another potent antioxidant found in citrus that instantly soothes skin and calms redness,” says Maiman. Plus, it has acetyl hexapeptide-8, which is a fancy way of saying it fights fine lines and wrinkles by softening expression lines over time.
Tarte Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer
From its light-as-air gel texture, you’d never be able to tell that this moisturizer is doing the actual most. Packed with hyaluronic acid, vegan squalene, electrolyte-balancing ingredients, and a proprietary blend of algae and marine flower extracts meant for smoothing wrinkles, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a face cream that gives you so many unique benefits for your buck.
La Mer The Moisturizing Cool Gel Cream
If you’re a La Mer devotee but find the brand’s other moisturizers to be just a bit too heavy, you’re in luck. The brand’s cooling gel-based formula is beloved by our editorial director, Hallie. The product is formulated with teeny-tiny capsules of gel containing a secret trademarked “Miracle Broth” that uses marine extracts meant to plump and hydrate the skin. “It’s super cooling and cushion-y—really great for post-irritation or treatment,” Hallie says. At $190 an ounce, it might be the priciest gel moisturizer on the current market, but for better or for worse, that’s what it takes to see a chic little La Mer jar on your vanity.
BYOMA Moisturizing Gel Cream
We can’t decide what we love more about this moisturizer: its refreshingly lightweight feel or the under-$15 price tag. Either way, our skin stays hydrated and our wallets stay intact. The formula features a tri-ceramide complex that supports the skin’s moisture barrier (aka your skin’s first line of defense against pollutants and UV rays). It’s also vegan and fragrance-free (so it’s good for sensitive skin) and delivers the brightening powers of niacinamide along with the calming effects of green tea.