The 15 Best Gel Moisturizers of 2020 - The Skincare Edit

Editor’s Picks: 15 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

Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream

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 (glycerin, aloe and hyaluronic acid) as well as oils (squalane and jojoba) to seal them in. It's also got green tea extract to soothe your skin and fight free radicals. 

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

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 percent of this gel, it's not at all sticky, and the 10 percent propolis ("bee glue") gives it additional antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Bonus: You can also use it to treat sunburns.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer is an oil-free gel made up of 90 percent watermelon and other botanical extracts, as well as hyaluronic acid. 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.

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser

Omorovicza Balancing Moisturiser has a base of Hungarian thermal water, which is rich in naturally-occurring minerals to support healthy skin. With glycerin and squalane to replenish moisture, and corundum (aluminum oxide) to absorb excess oil, this satiny gel-cream leaves your skin plump, smooth and semi-matte.

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom

✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom

The Inkey List Snow Mushroom is, like all the brand's products, ridiculously affordable—but that doesn't mean you're compromising on ingredients, either. This basic, oil-free gel formulation uses butylene glycol (a humectant) and glycerin to hydrate, as snow mushroom extract creates a cooling sensation.

Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream

✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream

Pyunkang Yul Acne Cream

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, thanks to glycerin, niacinamide and Centella Asiatica extract. Meanwhile, the willow bark extract and copper peptides help to reduce inflammation and strengthen barrier function.

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream

✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream

COSRX Green Tea Aqua Soothing Gel Cream is, as per everything else from the brand, a no-nonsense formula based on simple, effective ingredients. That's why this oil-free gel-cream quenches thirsty skin with propanediol, glycerin, pentylene glycol and butylene glycol (humectants), while green tea and B5 relieve redness.

Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel

✓Fragrance-free ✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel

Epicuren Aloe Vera Calming Gel

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 green tea and cucumber extracts, allantoin and vitamin B5 (and no oils). This gel is also part of Kate Bosworth's skincare routine, and have you seen how flawless her skin looks?!

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream

Kinship Supermello Hydrating Gel Cream cools your skin on contact, and then plumps and hydrates with a mix of humectants and occlusives. They include glycerin, coconut water, hyaluronic acid, mango seed butter, coconut oil and squalane, giving this gel-cream a soft, fluffy texture. Like all the brand's products, it also contains plant-based probiotics to strengthen your skin's microbiome.

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Low-alcohol ✓Cruelty-free

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer

Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer is a weightless 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, propanediol, coconut oil and hyaluronic acid—all in a base of emollient chia seed water.

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer

Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer doesn't just hydrate, it also works to control shine and minimize pores. This oil-free gel contains multiple moisturizing agents, including propanediol, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid (a humectant) and naturally-derived emollients. Niacinamide, willow bark (a BHA), and moringa and papaya extracts help to reduce oil production and keep pores clear.

Follain Mattifying Moisturizer

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Follain Mattifying Moisturizer

Follain Mattifying Moisturizer

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.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer

Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer delivers oil-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.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream

✓Fragrance-free ✓Low-silicone ✓Mineral oil-free ✓PUFA-free ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance Oil-Control Gel Cream

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 like glycerin and apple fruit extract, it has niacinamide to minimize pores, and marine extract for a matte finish.

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream

✓Silicone-free ✓Mineral oil-free ✓Low-PUFA ✓Alcohol-free ✓Cruelty-free

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream

Kopari Coconut Water Moisture Cream offers deeper hydration than most gel-creams, due its high concentration of coconut fatty acids, coconut water, hyaluronic acid, fatty alcohol and squalane. It also has a tripeptide that stimulates cellular renewal, and rose extract to counteract irritation.

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