Moisturizer is a year-round must, but that doesn’t mean you should be using the same kind of product throughout all four seasons. The rich and heavy cream you count on in the colder months probably won’t perform the same way in the summer. That’s because temperatures get warmer, days get longer, and your skin naturally becomes a little oilier (at least ours does). Now, instead of curing dry, chapped skin, your go-to product could be contributing to that perennial oily sheen (maybe even those breakouts) hovering over your complexion from May till September. In other words, come mid-spring it’s time to switch out your winter moisturizer for something else, namely a water-based moisturizer.
These types of moisturizer are still hydrating, but in a lightweight and comfortable way. They moisturize without making your skin look super shiny or congested in that way some oil- and silicone-heavy moisturizers can. In fact, if you have really oily skin, some of them may even help mattify your complexion. It just depends on the ones you use, which is why we’ve assembled a list of effective water-based moisturizers fit for any skin type.
Keep scrolling for 13 products that are sure to keep your skin hydrated and healthy all summer long (without looking greasy).
This water-based moisturizing cream was made for all the ingredient-aware consumers out there. It contains 65% birch tree sap, a superbly hydrating ingredient popular in Korea. It’s free of parabens, mineral oil, artificial fragrance, and silicone, plus, it’s cruelty-free, vegan, and packaged in recyclable material. Instead, it subs in ingredients like water, birch sap, antioxidants, lavender, oils, and vitamin E. We love it. Consider us obsessed.
The Tidal moisturizer by Sunday Riley is a fan favorite (in fact, many members of the Byrdie team can attest to its greatness and basically every other Sunday Riley product on shelves). It has two forms of hyaluronic acid and tamarind extract to drench skin in hydration, plus papaya enzymes to smooth, exfoliate, and brighten.1 It’s perfect for anyone looking to diminish dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
We love this all-in-one moisturizer, makeup primer, hydrator and dark spot eraser from 3Lab. It will prep your skin before makeup, keep it moisturized throughout the day, and reduce the appearance of dark spots.
This cute, honeycomb-shaped glass jar houses a fan-favorite water cream from Farmacy. It features myriad hydrating ingredients, including honey, hyaluronic acid, cupuaçu butter, and fermented soy, to soften, moisturize, and reduce the skin’s water loss.
Tatcha’s Water Cream is a Byrdie favorite, thanks to its silky texture and hydrating formula (its fresh floral scent doesn’t hurt, either). Like everything else from the brand, it’s luxurious and effective. Just be wary if you try to avoid silicone in your skincare products, because this is formulated with various silicone derivatives.
Koh Gen Do’s water gel utilizes the same spring water found in its other products to hydrate and soothe the complexion. It also has jojoba seed oil, olive squalane, and shea butter to moisturize, with japonica juice and rosemary leaf extract to condition the skin. We like using it to prep our skin for makeup, as the texture is almost nonexistent once the product sinks in.
This water-based moisturizer is perfect for people focused on prevention. It deeply hydrates while marine peptides firm skin and improve its texture. There’s also low-pH glycolic acid to reduce wrinkles and fight the appearance of aging.2
One of our favorite French pharmacy brands, La Roche-Posay offers this gentle, water-based daily moisturizer. It’s free of preservatives, fragrance, and parabens because it was formulated for sensitive skin.
Here’s another French moisturizer for you. Clarins’s water-based gel uses succulent extract to balance and hydrate skin in spite of temperature changes, indoor and outdoor pollutants, and environmental stress. It even has beautyberry essence to brighten skin.
This insanely popular K-beauty pick controls extra sebum and hydrates with baobab tree extracts and glacial water. It actually won a best-of-K-beauty award, so rest assured it’s well received. What’s more, the formula is uniquely clear, which makes us feel like we’re basically infusing our skin with moisture as we apply it.
We’re also fans of this Shiseido gel cream, which has ashitaba, a green plant that supports the cell’s mitochondria in its energy production to revive and regenerate skin.3 It even targets fine lines, which is why it’s a good lightweight moisturizer to travel with. It boosts radiance and hydration so that we don’t look as jet-lagged as we feel.
This moisturizer is beloved by Byrdie’s editorial director, Faith. It has antioxidant-rich herbs that impart pore-minimizing benefits and aid in cell turnover, as well as malachite, which neutralizes free radicals;4 plantin, which creates a moisture seal;5 and oat husk, which attracts moisture into the deeper layers of the skin.6
Although this Peter Thomas Roth pick is formulated with various forms of silicone-derived ingredients such as cyclopentasiloxane and dimethicone, it’s worth mentioning for its supremely hydrating hyaluronic acid content. (If you’re wondering, there is a reason some of us avoid silicone in our skincare products.) It’s concentrated at 30% along with ceramides to lock in lightweight moisture. We like using it in summer when our other moisturizers feel too heavy.