Gel moisturizers are a particular favorite for people with oily and acne-prone skin because they're lightweight, non-greasy, and quick-absorbing. But they're also suitable for people with different skin types, too, be it dry, sensitive, or combination.
In this list, we've crafted the 10 best gel moisturizers that take into account a variety of skin types and needs. At the top of our list was Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel for its suitability for most skin types, lack of irritating ingredients, and lightweight, non-greasy formula. To read more on how to buy the right gel moisturizer for your skin, feel free to browse our handy Buying Guide reviewed by a board certified dermatologist.
Dr. Levy is a board certified dermatologist practicing in NYC and Westport, Connecticut. She has expertise in treating inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. She has an interest in skincare and takes a personalized approach to all of her patients.
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Table of Contents
Gel moisturizers have a water-based formula free from oils which makes them lightweight and non-greasy, as well as hydrating and quick absorbing. Their light and non-sticky texture are popular for a variety of reasons.
Gel moisturizers are sought out by those with oily or acne-prone skin as these moisturizers are devoid of pore-clogging ingredients. That being said, they're also great for those with normal, dry, or even sensitive skin, and they can also be used to soothe sunburns. Many like to switch to a gel moisturizer during the summer as they're lighter and can even provide a cooling effect.
Though a gel moisturizer may not always hydrate as well as a cream moisturizer, it provides enough hydration for most skin types. Researchers have found that after 12 weeks of using gel moisturizers, people with dry and dull skin saw an improvement in their skin, noting that their skin seemed more fresh, radiant, and dewy.
Most gel moisturizers are tailored to help combination and oily skin, but a lot of them can suit other skin types, too. Here's how to choose the right gel moisturizer that matches your skin type.
Take a look at the most popular ingredients used in gel moisturizers and how they may help your particular skin type.
Humectants are water-grabbing ingredients that can draw moisture from the environment or from your skin's lower layers to the top layers of your skin. They help increase your skin's moisture levels and keep it hydrated for a while.
Hyaluronic acid is one of the most popular humectants. It can retain water molecules to deliver long-lasting hydration directly to the skin. Glycerin is a good substitute for hyaluronic acid and can do everything that hyaluronic acid can do for the skin, including nourishing, maintaining water balance, and promoting younger-looking skin.
Aloe vera is another wonderful humectant. It's rich in vitamins A and C, enzymes, and antioxidants, and it's best known as a treatment for sunburn and skin irritation. It helps soothe your skin and reduce inflammation.
In addition, the enzymes in aloe vera help to remove bacteria from your skin. As a result, it helps to reduce redness as well as prevent acne breakouts. If you've got irritated, acne-prone, or sunburned skin, aloe vera is a great ingredient to have in your gel moisturizer.
Hyaluronic acid is a go-to ingredient for improving skin hydration. It can give the skin an immediate plumping effect. As a humectant, however, overuse of hyaluronic acid can result in drying of the skin in the long run since it sucks water out from the top layer of the skin. Therefore, using an occlusive product occasionally can prevent this paradoxical effect.
When exposed to environmental aggressors such as pollution, heat, and UV rays, our skin tends to develop blemishes such as age spots, wrinkles, and fine lines. Those factors can also facilitate the breakdown of the skin's collagen, causing your skin to become saggy.
Look for moisturizers infused with antioxidants to neutralize the effects of those environmental aggressors as well as natural aging. Green tea extract, moringa seed extract, and aloe vera are some antioxidant-rich ingredients that can restore the radiance and elasticity of your skin.
Niacinamide and vitamins C and E are also great antioxidants that can rejuvenate your skin's condition. They not only brighten up your complexion but also contribute to blurring skin blemishes.
If you have rosacea, look for a moisturizer with niacinamide in it. Niacinamide is a great antioxidant that can help with skin redness and inflammation. Use a moisturizer with vitamin C in it to help with hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and fine lines and wrinkles.
For those with inflamed skin, you'll need ingredients with strong anti-inflammatory properties such as niacinamides, aloe vera and chamomile extract. Specifically, niacinamide can help reduce acne, calm redness, and prevent water loss in the skin. Moreover, it also helps to improve skin texture and minimize pores!
Aloe vera, as mentioned above, can provide your skin with much-needed moisture. At the same time, it's effective in treating skin irritation and rashes. Chamomile extract also has strong calming properties and is used to reduce pain and redness from sunburn.
Sometimes gel moisturizers can be drying or irritating for those with inflamed skin. I recommend more of a rich creamy moisturizer for those with eczema or inflamed skin. Once this condition settles, a gel moisturizer can be used.
The term non-comedogenic isn't FDA-regulated, meaning that there's no one definition for what it means. However, non-comedogenic ingredients are generally accepted to be ones that are less likely to block pores and cause acne.
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, looking out for this term on products will help ensure that the ingredients in your gel moisturizer are not causing further oiliness and acne breakouts. But, note that even if your moisturizer doesn't have the term non-comedogenic on it, it doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to block your pores!
Since it's up to the manufacturers to label their products as non-comedogenic or not, it's helpful to keep in mind some common non-comedogenic and comedogenic ingredients, so you can look out for them yourself.
Some popular non-comedogenic ingredients are glycerin, which is a common and effective hydrating agent; aloe vera, which has wonderful skin-soothing and antibacterial properties; and vitamin C, which is a great anti-irritation humectant.
Contrastively, some comedogenic ingredients to avoid are cocoa butter, coconut oil, linseed oil, and lanolin. Comedogenic ingredients are sometimes ranked into different levels from one to four to indicate how comedogenic they are, with four being the most harmful and one being the least. There are various online sources that provide lists you can check.
Alcohol, fragrances, mineral oils, parabens, phthalates, and sulfates can cause irritation. In general, these ingredients don't irritate most people, but they can affect those with sensitive and dry skin or those who have had issues with the ingredients in the past.
Some research shows that in the short term, sulfates and mineral oils may cause irritation or cystic acne. In the long term, mineral oils can enlarge pores, and fragrances and alcohol can promote excess sebum production.
Though we don't have conclusive evidence about phthalates and parabens having negative effects on the skin, you may deem it to be better safe than sorry. If you’re not sure what you’ll react to, we recommend doing a patch test first since everyone's skin is different.
If you have rosacea or eczema, some botanical ingredients can cause skin redness or irritation. Essential oils and fragrances can also exacerbate these conditions, so look for products free of these. For sensitive skin, products that have few ingredients are usually best.
Those who are very hygiene-conscious may prefer to use pumps or tubes as they don't require that you dip your finger into the moisturizer every time. A pump is also easy to use with only one hand, and can be less messy with more liquid-like gels.
On the other hand, those who want to apply a lot of moisturizer at a time may benefit from using jars, as they can easily scoop out the amount they need. Some jar moisturizers will come with their own applicator sticks to prevent bacteria from your fingers from contaminating the product.
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Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
Best Oil-Free, Skin-Strengthening Gel Moisturizer
Ginzing Energy-Boosting Gel Moisturizer
Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer That Reduces Puffiness
Morning Burst Hydrating Gel Moisturizer
Best Hypoallergenic Moisturizer to Soothe Sensitive Skin
Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer
Best Antioxidant-Dense Moisturizer for Most Skin Types
Hydro Boost Water Gel
Best Non-Comedogenic Gel for Oily Skin
Nutrient-Charged Water Gel
Best Nutrient-Dense Gel to Fortify Your Skin Barrier
Hada Labo Tokyo
Skin Plumping Gel Cream
Best Collagen-Based Gel for Deep Hydration
Best Mattifying and Cooling Gel Moisturizer
Invisible Finish Moisture Gel
Best Pore-Minimizing and Lightweight Gel
L'Occitane en Provence
Aqua Réotier Ultra Thirst-Quenching Gel
Best Hydrating Gel Moisturizer That Can Double as Makeup Primer
This gel moisturizer from Clinique has a smooth texture that's easy to apply and absorbs quickly. Besides moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, it's also packed with antioxidant ingredients like sunflower seeds, barley extract, and cucumber, to enhance your skin's barrier.
Some people claimed that this product doesn't suit dry, sensitive skin because it doesn't provide enough moisture. However, most people with other skin types loved that the lightweight formula left their skin moisturized without feeling greasy and thought it was perfect for everyday use year-round.
Key ingredients in this product are caffeine and ginseng, which increase the skin's elasticity, help prevent aging, and reduce puffiness and dull skin. This product also includes a variety of moisturizers, including jojoba, glycerin, squalane, niacinamide, shea butter and more. It's naturally scented from a blend of essential oils from spearmint, lemon, and grapefruit.
Some reviewers warned that the product peeled or pilled up. However, most customers loved how quickly this lightweight formula absorbed into their skin. They also added that this product can also be used as an effective way to get rid of puffiness around the eyes.
This hypoallergenic gel moisturizer includes prebiotic oat to help calm sensitive skin. It also has feverfew to help soothe dryness and cultivate a strong and hydrated skin barrier. Also non-comedogenic and free of irritating ingredients like fragrance, parabens, and dyes, this product caters to the most sensitive skin types.
Some who had acne-prone, oily, or extra sensitive skin noted that this product caused some irritation and red patches. As always, we recommend doing a patch test. However, the majority of users raved about how calming and gentle this product was, even for those with red patches, rosacea, and painful acne.
This gel moisturizer is made with 90 percent extract of watermelon, which is rich in vitamins and amino acids, to help neutralize free radical damage and keep your skin hydrated. Hyaluronic acid, jasmine extract, and peony extract further help improve your skin's elasticity and brighten it.
Some buyers didn't like the consistency of this moisturizer, noting it was sticky. On the other hand, many reported that it was refreshing, gentle on the skin, and didn't cause breakouts. People also loved the light watermelon scent and how this product made their skin glow.
This gel moisturizer is great for those with oily skin, as its water-gel formula includes two non-comedogenic, ultra-hydrating ingredients, hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Thanks to the lightweight consistency, you can either wear it alone or use it as a face primer to create a dewy makeup look.
Some reviewers mentioned that it has a heavy scent. However, most people were impressed with the moisturizing and quick-absorbing properties. They also appreciated that a little went a long way with this product.
This nutrient-dense gel moisturizer contains five vitamins, five minerals, and five peptides to stimulate collagen production, lock in moisture, and protect the skin's barrier. Moisturizers include niacinamide, glycerin, and ceramides, and urea helps smooth the skin and bring in moisture.
Some buyers said it wasn't moisturizing enough for their skin. On the other hand, many others loved the fast-absorbing and non-greasy formula. They also noted that they saw a quick improvement in their skin condition after repeated use, seeing that their skin looked smooth, healthy, and hydrated.
This gel moisturizer comes with three main ingredients: hydrolyzed marine collagen, arginine, and ceramide. Collagen helps prevent signs of aging, arginine helps retain moisture, and ceramide protects your skin from pollution and irritants.
Some customers noted that it can cause itchiness and other allergic reactions. But others said they saw an improvement in their skin using this product, with healthier and plumper-looking skin.
This matte cooling moisturizer is perfect for summer and best for those with normal to combination skin. Plant extracts and algae are included for their ability to retain moisture. As a result, this product can reduce redness, tighten skin, and improve complexions.
A few reviewers claimed that this caused breakouts and advised those who have acne-prone skin to avoid this product. However, most mentioned that it was gentle and felt comfortable on the skin. They further added that the product toned their skin and left it feeling soft, smooth, and radiant.
This ultra-lightweight formula comes with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to provide good hydration, minimize pores, and protect your skin against sun and pollution. Green tea extract also helps to reduce sebum production, which is the cause of acne, and oat extract helps to absorb excess oil from your skin's surface.
Some reviewers noted that it can cause irritation and breakouts for people with sensitive skin, so they recommended doing a patch test beforehand. However, the majority of customers liked that it was silky upon application and free from fragrance. They further added that it's very hydrating and doesn't feel greasy.
One of the key ingredients included in this product is natural Réotier spring water from the Provence mountains, which is rich in minerals like calcium to help to keep your skin hydrated and improve skin barrier functions. As a result, your skin will look healthy and radiant.
Some buyers mentioned that the product felt a bit too sticky and contained a strong fragrance. Still, most reviewers highly recommended this product for its lightweight and very moisturizing properties. Buyers also loved how it went on smoothly and quickly absorbed into the skin, adding that it's a great starting base for makeup application.
My patients with oily skin love the Tatcha Water Cream. It is lightweight, highly moisturizing, and effective at helping control oil on the skin. It also has soothing ingredients to help with facial redness and irritation.
In addition to reviewing and commenting on our buying guide, Dr. Levy also took the time to answer some commonly asked questions about gel moisturizers.
"Gel moisturizers are less greasy and less occlusive on the skin," Dr. Levy explains. "They are fast-drying and do not leave a residue on the skin.
They also blend with the skin easily, so makeup can be applied over the gel base without any white residue that a cream moisturizer can sometimes leave. Both gel and cream moisturizers provide effective hydration to the skin, so it mostly comes down to preference."
Dr. Levy says, "Gel moisturizers are great for oily skin since they tend to be more drying then cream based moisturizers. They can seep up oil in the skin and leave it feeling matte as opposed to oily. Gel moisturizers are also safe to use for acne-prone skin and can be used in combination with your acne products if you have oily skin."
Outside of moisturizers, other types of skincare products can also help protect your skin against the environment while improving your skin texture and complexion. Check out our suggestions for these skincare products.
If you still feel a bit lost, feel free to browse Amazon's Best Selling Face Moisturizers. You'll see an array of moisturizers here, from lotions and serums to face creams and gel moisturizers.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary, as well as extra tips and advice. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
No. 1：Clinique｜Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
No. 2：Origins｜Ginzing Energy-Boosting Gel Moisturizer
No. 3：Aveeno｜Morning Burst Hydrating Gel Moisturizer
No. 4：Glow Recipe｜Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer
No. 5：Neutrogena｜Hydro Boost Water Gel
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