It doesn‘t take a cosmetic chemist to figure out that not all face moisturizers are created equal. If rich creams leave your skin feeling suffocated or greasy — hello, combination skin and oily skin — it‘s high time to consider adding a lightweight, hydrating gel moisturizer to your skin-care routine.
These non-greasy formulas are watery, bouncy, weightless, and completely absorb in just a few minutes — in other words, these gel-like formulas are free of the fatty ingredients that make creams, well, creamy. “They’re the best of both worlds, with the weight that comes with being a gel and the cushion of a moisturizer,” says cosmetic chemist Ginger King, adding that they‘re suitable for most skin types, including sensitive skin.
Don’t think for a second that gel moisturizers’ lightweight nature will dock them points on the moisturizing front, either. The fact that these hydrators are water-based does not make them any less effective than their richer, lotion-like counterparts.
Instead, they offer a different medium to transport actives, according to New York City-based dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, MD. “Gel formulations are translucent because the formula is created as a water-based semisolid, which allows it to spread easily,” she explains. “The water just acts as a vehicle for the actives in the product to be used on the skin.” As a bonus, many of our favorites — both drugstore and high-end formulas — contain skin-barrier-strengthening ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, and vitamin E.
For your convenience, we rounded up 19 of the best water-gel moisturizers currently on the market for comfortable, long-lasting hydration.
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