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Editor’s Picks: 17 of the Best Gel Moisturizers for Lightweight, Fast-Absorbing and Non-Greasy Hydration

They're not just for oily skin.
Best gel moisturizer

If most moisturizers feel too heavy on your skin and leave you looking shiny—or even worse, broken out—then it's time to lighten up. A gel moisturizer is the answer for anyone seeking non-greasy hydration that won't clog your pores and that you can easily layer.

Unlike creams, gels are high in humectants (such as aloe and glycerin) and low in thicker occlusives (like oils and butters). This gives them a lightweight texture that absorbs into your skin right away, and is less likely to trigger acne. Compared to older formulations, you'll also see fewer potential irritants, and more ingredients that soothe, brighten and repair in addition to hydrating.

Contrary to popular opinion, gels aren't just for oily skin. Because they're so weightless, they're ideal to wear under sunscreens, face oils or even other moisturizers for an extra boost of hydration.

Here's what to look for in a gel moisturizer, and my top product picks.

What to Look for in a Gel Moisturizer

For best results, I recommend using gel moisturizers that meet the following criteria:

  • High in humectants: Gels should be primarily comprised of ingredients that help your skin to attract water. Glycerin, aloe, panthenol, gluconolactone and hyaluronic acid are all examples of humectants.
  • Low in occlusives: Ingredients like oils, butters and fatty alcohols are occlusive and form a barrier on the skin. Gels are meant to be light and fast-absorbing, so these should be in lower concentrations.
  • Low in silicones: Since they, too, create a film on top of your skin (which can trap acne-causing debris and slow down cell renewal), silicones are best avoided. I look for gels without silicones in the first five ingredients, which typically represent about 80% of the product.
  • Low in PUFAs: Oils that are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are prone to rapid oxidation, which can generate aging free radicals. I skip any products with PUFAs in the first five ingredients.
  • Low in fragrance: The number one culprit behind skin irritations is fragrance. If you can't avoid it altogether, at least go for formulas with fragrance at the end of the ingredients list.
  • Low in alcohol: While fatty alcohols are okay, drying forms (like denatured alcohol) should not be present at the top of an ingredients list, since they can strip too much moisture out of your skin. 

The Best Gel Moisturizers of 2021

Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra Grape Water Gel Moisturizer

Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra Grape Water Gel Moisturizer

Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra Grape Water Gel Moisturizer

  • Details: Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra Grape Water Gel Moisturizer delivers silicone-free hydration as it soothes your skin and strengthens your moisture barrier. It's made with 98% naturally-derived ingredients—including grape water and squalane—which give it a soft, gel-cream texture. It also contains less than 1% synthetic fragrance. 
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, grape water, squalane, fractionated coconut oil, grape juice, hyaluronic acid, aloe.
  • Best for: All skin, especially sensitive skin.

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

  • Details: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel is a transparent gel that combines two of the best ingredients for all skin types. The aloe calms and hydrates without leaving you sticky, and the propolis (a.k.a. "bee glue") has additional antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Bonus: You can use this to treat sunburns, too. This K-beauty formula is also fragrance-free, silicone-free and oil-free.
  • Key ingredients: Aloe, butylene glycol, glycerin, propolis extract, cucumber extract.
  • Best for: All skin.

Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

  • Details: Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream is a clean and affordable option developed by the team behind Who What Wear. This gel-cream contains a mix of humectants to bring water to the skin, as well as non-comedogenic oils to seal them in. It's also silicone-free and fragrance-free. 
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, squalane, aloe, green tea, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

Plenaire Droplet Lightweight Moisture Gel

Plenaire Droplet Lightweight Moisture Gel

Plenaire Droplet Lightweight Moisture Gel

  • Details: Plenaire Droplet Lightweight Moisture Gel is a clear, jelly-like moisturizer that sinks in fast, without feeling greasy or sticky. It's silicone-free, and hydrates with an array of humectants (including xylitol and other plant sugars). Silica and white peony help to mattify and control sebum production.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, plant sugars, xanthan gum, lethicin, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel

Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel

Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel

  • Details: Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel is perhaps the most elegant aloe vera gel around, from a brand that specializes in results-driven natural skincare. But aloe isn't the only beneficial ingredient; it also contains soothing plant extracts, vitamin B5 (and no oils, silicone or fragrance). This gel is also part of Kate Bosworth's skincare routine, and have you seen how flawless her skin looks?!
  • Key ingredients: Aloe, green tea extract, cucumber extract, allantoin, provitamin B5 (panthenol), glycerin.
  • Best for: All skin.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

  • Details: Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer is an oil-free, silicone-free gel comprised of 90% watermelon and other botanical extracts. The watermelon is high in amino acids to help maintain hydration, and also acts as an antioxidant to counteract environmental stressors. This one becomes very wet as you massage it in, coating skin in a silky veil of moisture.
  • Key ingredients: Watermelon fruit and extract, wheat protein, soy protein, corn protein, glutamic acid, glycerin, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin except sensitive.

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

The Skincare Edit Recommends

  • Details: Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer not only hydrates, it also works to control shine and minimize pores. This oil-free, silicone-free gel contains multiple lightweight moisturizing agents and naturally-derived emollients. Meanwhile, the niacinamide and papaya extract help to reduce oil production and keep pores clear.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, moringa water and extract, inulin, betaine, niacinamide, cucumber extract, papaya extract, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: Normal to oily skin.

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Moisturizer

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Moisturizer

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Moisturizer

  • Details: The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Moisturizer is, like all the brand's products, ridiculously affordable—but that doesn't mean you're compromising on ingredients. This fragrance-free, silicone-free and oil-free gel features humectants to hydrate, and madecassoside (derived from Centella Asiatica) to calm. The snow mushroom extract creates a cooling sensation.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, mushroom extract, madecassoside.
  • Best for: All skin.

Éminence Organic Skin Care Stone Crop Hydrating Gel

Eminence Organic Skin Care Stone Crop Hydrating Gel

Éminence Organic Skin Care Stone Crop Hydrating Gel

  • Details: Éminence Organic Skin Care Stone Crop Hydrating Gel is an award-winning gel moisturizer formulated from all-natural ingredients. It's packed with vitamins, antioxidants and brightening agents to soothe, repair and even out your skin tone. You can even customize your level of hydration by emulsifying it with water or applying it in a thicker layer. It leaves a smooth, matte finish despite being completely silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Stone crop juice and extract, aloe, glycerin, arbutin, vitamin C (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), provitamin B5.
  • Best for: All skin.

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream

  • Details: Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream doesn't just plump and hydrate your skin with lightweight humectants. It also helps to seal them in and maintain a healthy skin barrier, thanks to an infusion of ceramides and amino acids. This gel-cream also happens to be oil-free, fragrance-free and silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, amino acids, ceramides, pineapple enzyme.
  • Best for: All skin except sensitive.

Peach & Lily Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer

Peach Lily Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer

Peach & Lily Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer

  • Details: Peach & Lily Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer is a non-greasy but deeply hydrating gel inspired by the K-beauty "glass skin" trend. So in addition to plumping your skin, it blurs imperfections with a plant-based silicone alternative, and calms redness with chamomile. It's silicone-free, oil-free, alcohol-free and fragrance-free.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, calendula water, hyaluronic acid, kiwi extract, peach extract, chamomile water.
  • Best for: All skin. 

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

  • Details: Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer is a 100% natural gel-cream that's powered by a total of 37 botanical hydrators, antioxidants and skin-softeners. The most hardworking ingredients in this plant-based formula include glycerin, coconut oil and hyaluronic acid, all in a base of emollient chia seed water. Of course, it is silicone-free.
  • Key ingredients: Chia seed water, glycerin, coconut oil, rosewater, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin.

OTZI Hydro Crystal Lightweight Gel Moisturizer

OTZI Hydro Crystal Lightweight Gel Moisturizer

OTZI Hydro Crystal Lightweight Gel Moisturizer

  • Details: OTZI Hydro Crystal Lightweight Gel Moisturizer is a light, refreshing gel infused with a blend of florals with skin-softening benefits. Besides hydrating, it also gives your skin a dewy glow, courtesy of the light-reflecting mica particles running through the formula. This moisturizer is also free of alcohol and silicones, and subtly scented with natural fragrance.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, butylene glycol, pentylene glycol, fractionated coconut oil, xanthan gum, lethicin, silica, ceramides, hyaluronic acid,
  • Best for: All skin.

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream

  • Details: COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream is a no-nonsense formula based on simple, effective ingredients. That's why this oil-free gel-cream quenches thirsty skin with multiple humectants, while green tea and B5 relieve redness. It's also silicone-free and fragrance-free.
  • Key ingredients: Green tea, glycerin, vitamin B5, allantoin.
  • Best for: All skin.

Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel

Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel

Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel

  • Details: Dr. Alkaitis Organic Soothing Gel is a multitasking gel moisturizer and skin-soothing treatment, made from natural seaweeds, vitamins, herbs and flowers (and no silicones or synthetic fragrance). Developed by a chemist and molecular biologist trained in plant-based medicine, this gel can be used to both moisturize as well as relieve skin conditions like acne, eczema and rosacea. 
  • Key ingredients: Aloe, witch hazel distillate, grape alcohol, nettle extract, chamomile extract, seaweed, vitamin B complex.
  • Best for: All skin, especially oily and acne-prone skin.

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream

  • Details: Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream cools your skin on contact, and then plumps and hydrates with a mix of humectants and occlusives. They give this gel-cream a soft, fluffy texture, without the need to rely on any silicones. Like all the brand's products, it also contains plant-based probiotics to strengthen your skin's microbiome.
  • Key ingredients: Aloe, glycerin, mango seed butter, coconut oil, squalane, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin, especially oily and acne-prone skin.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream

  • Details: Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream is the lightweight version of the brand's original Priming Moisturizer—so it gives you all the smoothing, pore-minimizing benefits, but in an oil-free gel-cream. Besides humectants, it has niacinamide to minimize pores, and a marine extract that gives a matte finish.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, apple extract, marine extract, niacinamide, willow bark, squalane.
  • Best for: Oily skin.

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