Editor’s Picks: 16 of the Best Gel Moisturizers to Hydrate Your Skin Without Feeling Heavy

They're lightweight, fast-absorbing and non-greasy.
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Best gel moisturizer

If you hate the greasy look and heavy feel of most face creams—not to mention the breakouts they can trigger—you're not alone. For a long time, I couldn't find a moisturizer that my skin liked (let alone one with good ingredients), so I tended to avoid them during all but the coldest weather.

But that's no longer the case, thanks to the new crop of gel moisturizers on the market.

Unlike creams, gels are super light, often oil-free, and unlikely to clog your pores or leave you looking shiny. And compared to the original formulations from years ago, the latest gel-based moisturizers are free of questionable ingredients like alcohol, silicone and fragrance.

Here's why a gel moisturizer belongs in your arsenal, and my top product picks.

Why Use a Gel Moisturizer (and What to Look For)

Best gel moisturizer

Gel moisturizers from Benton, Glow Recipe, Versed, The Inkey List and Pyunkang Yul. 

Should you try a gel moisturizer? These are the key benefits:

  • Lightweight: Gels are high in water, not oil, and packed with humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to attract moisture into the skin. That makes the texture light and refreshing, rather than rich and buttery.
  • Fast-absorbing: Creams are slow to penetrate, since they typically contain oils and silicones that can remain on the skin surface, forming a barrier. But gels, being water-based, sink in quickly, just like water-based hydrating serums. 
  • Non-greasy: Unless you're very dry, a thick and heavy moisturizer can make you shiny (and not in a good way). With a gel, you won't look or feel like you've got anything on your skin. 
  • Non-comedogenic: Gels are less likely than creams to cause breakouts because they're low in occlusive ingredients (like oils) that are known to clog pores.
  • Long shelf life: If you're not one to use up your products quickly, gels are generally a better choice than creams since they're made with fewer oils (or none at all). Any products that are high in unsaturated oils have a short shelf life because they will oxidize (go rancid) in the presence of heat, light and air. 
  • Easy to layer: When applying multiple layers, a gel will probably give your skin all the hydration it needs underneath a face oil, sunscreen and/or tinted moisturizer. 

As always, I recommend looking for gel moisturizers that are free of or low in:

  • Fragrance
  • Silicones 
  • Mineral oil
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) 
  • Drying alcohols 

The Best Gel Moisturizers of 2021

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 from a new, affordable clean skincare line by Who What Wear. This gel-cream contains a mix of humectants to bring water to the skin, as well as oils to seal them in. It's also fragrance-free and silicone-free. 
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, squalane, aloe, green tea, jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: Normal, oily and acne-prone 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.

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

  • Details: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel combines two of the best ingredients for calming and hydrating your skin: aloe vera and propolis. Although the aloe comprises 80% of this gel, it's not at all sticky, and the 10% propolis ("bee glue") gives it additional antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Bonus: You can also use it to treat sunburns. This gel is also fragrance-free, silicone-free and oil-free.
  • Key ingredients: Aloe, glycerin, propolis, cucumber.
  • Best for: All skin, especially oily and acne-prone 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 gel made up of 90% watermelon and other botanical extracts, as well as lightweight humectants. 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, glycerin, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin except sensitive.

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser

  • Details: Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser is high in thermal water from Hungary, which is rich in naturally-occurring minerals to support healthy skin. With humectants and emollients to replenish moisture, and corundum (a type of mineral) to absorb excess oil, this satiny gel-cream leaves your skin plump, smooth and semi-matte—without using any silicones.
  • Key ingredients: Hungarian thermal water, glycerin, squalane, corundum.
  • 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.

Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream

Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream

Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream

  • Details: Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream is not an acne treatment, nor is it only for acne-prone skin. This gel-cream—developed by the renowned Pyunkang Yul Oriental Medicine Clinic in Korea—can give oil-free hydration to any skin type. Besides a blend of humectants, it also has copper peptides to reduce inflammation and strengthen barrier function. Plus, it's silicone-free and fragrance-free.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, niacinamide, Centella Asiatica, willow bark, copper peptides.
  • Best for: All skin, especially acne-prone and sensitive 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.

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, cucumber, allantoin, vitamin B5, glycerin. 
  • Best for: All 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.

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

  • Details: Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer is a weightless, 100% natural gel that's powered by a total of 37 botanical hydrators, antioxidants and skin-softeners. But 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.
  • Key ingredients: Chia seed water, glycerin, coconut oil, rosewater, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: All skin, especially oily skin.

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

  • Details: Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer doesn't just hydrate, 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, niacinamide, cucumber, papaya, hyaluronic acid.
  • Best for: Normal to oily skin.

Follain Mattifying Moisturizer

Follain Mattifying Moisturizer

Follain Mattifying Moisturizer

  • Details: Follain Mattifying Moisturizer is an oil-free gel-cream from a new, affordable skincare collection created by clean beauty retailer Follain. While most oil-controlling moisturizers are loaded with alcohol and silicones, this one pairs AHAs, BHAs and PHAs with hyaluronic acid and other humectants. There's also bakuchiol and peptides to target fine lines.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, rosewater, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, willow bark, bakuchiol, peptides.
  • Best for: Normal to oily skin.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer

  • Details: Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer delivers oil-free, silicone-free hydration as it fades dark spots, evens out tone and boosts radiance. So it could do the job of a brightening serum and moisturizer in one. Its star ingredients are niacinamide and the brand's patented grapevine sap (viniferine), plus pearlescent pigments to give you an instant glow.
  • Key ingredients: Glycerin, squalane, grapevine sap, niacinamide.
  • Best for: All 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.

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream

  • Details: Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream offers deeper hydration than most gel-creams, due its high concentration of humectants and fatty acids (like coconut water and squalane). It also has a tripeptide that stimulates cellular renewal, and rose extract to counteract irritation.
  • Key ingredients: Aloe, glycerin, coconut water, peptides, hyaluronic acid, squalane, rose extract. 
  • Best for: All skin, especially oily skin.

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