5 Best Water-Based Moisturizers of 2018 Reviewed

Moisturizers are beneficial for all skin types.

From oily to dry, using daily and nightly moisturizers can improve texture, mask imperfections, and hydrate your skin.

It is important to know what your skin type is before choosing a moisturizer so your skin can reap the benefits.

A moisturizer with a water base will go on smooth and won’t clog pores.

Therefore, it is suitable for most skin types.

Used on dry skin, yours will feel hydrated and refreshed (1).

Water-based moisturizers are best suited for oily skin types since they contain much less oil than other moisturizers.

Moisturizers will help restore a natural moisturizing balance that hydrates dry and thirsty skin.

Water-based moisturizers can also help reduce the appearance of fine lines by coating the surface of your skin and hydrating it.

This will help increase the light that reflects off your skin, giving your skin a radiant, effortless glow.

Why You Need Water-Based Moisturizers

Facial moisturizer is one of the most common products used by women.

You may have heard your mother say you should moisturize your skin every day.

Whether she believed it would give your skin a healthy glow or just prevent wrinkles, she was right to get you into the habit.

The biggest difference between a water-based moisturizer and an oil-based one seems evident.

The main ingredient in the water-based moisturizer is water.

This should be the first ingredient listed on the product.

Your moisturizer is the protective barrier that defends your skin against the elements, weather conditions, and pollution.

Using a water-based moisturizer is beneficial for keeping your skin glowing.

Prevent dullness and flaking while hydrating your skin every time you apply.

Moisturizing daily also helps prevent chapped and dry skin.

Top 5 Water-Based Moisturizers

Neutrogena Hydro-Boost Gel-Cream


Product Overview

Neutrogena’s Hydro-Boost Gel-Cream features an ultra-lightweight formula to nourish dry, damaged, and dehydrated skin.

Whether your skin is dry due to weather conditions, temperature, or you just have naturally dry skin, this formula will absorb quickly, yet provide enough moisture to make skin glow and feel hydrated.

How It Works

This product works by acting as an intense moisturizer, but is created with a unique water gel formula.

Therefore, the cream absorbs quickly and effortlessly like a gel, but provides hydration and moisture like a heavier face cream.

This is such a great option for many people because it is challenging to wear a heavy face moisturizer throughout the day, especially under makeup, so the water gel formula provides extremely lightweight ultimate hydration without being heavy.

Ingredients & What Makes This Product Special

Hyaluronic acid, a substance found naturally in your skin, is also found in the gel-cream moisturizer.

Hyaluronic acid is like a sponge, and is able to soak up all of the moisture from the gel-cream into your skin.

Those dry skin cells are able to absorb up to 1000 times their weight in water due to the help of the added hyaluronic acid.

This leaves your skin looking much healthier, smoother, and more supple.

Olive extract is full of nutrients, and is also found in this gel.

It is filled with moisture-rich fatty acids, which are comparable to your skin’s natural moisture layer.

When you nourish your skin with olive extract, it helps to strengthen your skin’s moisture layer so you don’t experience excess loss of hydration from the skin.

This product is also fragrance-free, oil-free, and dye-free.


    • ​Its ultra lightweight gel-cream formula provides ultimate hydration, but without heaviness or a thick feeling on the skin.
    • ​It combines some natural elements, like hyaluronic acid and olive extract, to help hydrate and soften skin naturally.
    • It is very reasonably priced, cost-effective, and is great for using under makeup and on a day-to-day basis.


    • ​Depending on how dry your skin is some people find it does not moisturize enough for their skin type.
    • ​If you tend to have sensitive skin some of the ingredients in this moisturizer may be irritating to the skin.
    • ​If you are looking for a fully natural product that does not contain any synthetic or unnatural ingredients, you may want to look elsewhere.

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial 1-2-3 Step Travel Set


Product Overview

This is a unique 3-step process that is formulated to provide your skin with proper everyday hydration.

This set comes with a cleanser, toner, and face cream.

They are used in combination with one another so your skin can reap the benefits of each hydration-based step.

How It Works

Kiehl’s is known for being mild and great for sensitive skin types.

The set focuses on using a plethora of natural and hydrating ingredients that won’t irritate your skin leaving it tight and dry, or red.

Having three different steps provides your skin with different benefits – like cleansing, toning, and hydrating.

Each of these steps is essential to care for your skin properly, so your skin can effectively absorb moisture and remain hydrated.

Ingredients & What Makes it Special

The Ultra Facial Cleanser is mild and contains natural sugar-derived glycoside.

This ingredient is a type of foaming agent that acts as a gentle cleanser which will not dry out your skin or strip your skin of natural oils.

The cleanser also contains the emollients squalene, apricot kernel oil, vitamin E, and avocado oil.

All of these ingredients work in combination with each other to wash away excess oil and dirt from pores.

The Ultra Facial Toner is mild as well, and it is meant to prep your skin for the facial cream.

This toner contains no alcohol, so it is very gentle on sensitive skin.

This step also provides your skin with moisture from avocado oil, again so it doesn’t strip your skin.

The Ultra Facial Cream hydrates for 24 hours and soothes your skin for a glowing and healthy look. It helps prevent your skin from losing its natural moisture.


    • ​This kit is great for those looking for a comprehensive face care routine that can be used on a daily basis.
    • ​Each step contains its own unique hydrating and moisturizing benefits, so you get three times the hydration all with the same line of products.
    • Including a cleanser with your hydration routine is highly beneficial because you can make sure your skin is properly cleansed, and can most efficiently absorb the hydrating toner and cream.


    • ​Some users may find using all of the steps a bit daunting, especially if you have a busy schedule.
    • ​These products are a bit more expensive than some other products on the market and may not fit every budget.

Perricone MD Face Finishing Moisturizer


Product Overview

This is a best-selling corrective moisturizer rich with antioxidants.

Dr. Perricone formulated this moisturizer to help with fine lines and wrinkles, and help skin remain healthy and hydrated.

Dr. Perricone is a leader in the anti-aging industry, and in creating scientifically proven products that help reveal gorgeous skin.

How It Works

This moisturizer is lightweight, has a thick, creamy, and rich texture, and feels wonderful on the face.

You apply this moisturizer to the face and neck in a circular motion every day.

Dr. Perricone recommends using the product in both the morning and at night.

The moisturizer’s goal is to provide intense hydration to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Ingredients & What Makes It Special

There is a lot of science behind this small jar of moisturizer.

This cream uses two scientifically-proven ingredients. DMAE is specially formulated to help smooth skin by firming, lifting, and toning.

Vitamin C Ester helps brighten, smooth, and firm the appearance of your skin, and Alpha Lipoic Acid helps reduce the look of skin imperfections.

Imperfections include fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores.

Many face moisturizers do not include the added benefits of anti-aging ingredients like this moisturizer, especially of this intensity and quality.

Therefore, if you are truly looking for an effective anti-aging, yet moisturizing, cream, this product may be exactly what you need.


    • ​If you are looking for a product that provides intense moisture, but also has anti-aging benefits, this product could be a fantastic option.
    • ​The fact that this product was formulated scientifically by a trusted doctor adds credibility to the effectiveness of the product.
    • Its three key ingredients are proven to help with fine lines, wrinkles, and skin imperfections, and if used correctly most users are likely to see results.


    • ​One of the biggest concerns regarding this product is the cost. At $75 for a 2-ounce jar, it is not budget-friendly for many people. Since you also have to use this product in both the morning and at night, it also may not last as long as other options.
    • ​This moisturizer includes fragrance in the ingredients, which is a concern for many individuals, especially those with sensitive skin. Unspecified fragrance can contain a host of synthetic chemicals that are irritating for many people.

Boscia Revitalizing Black Hydration Gel


Product Overview

A cooling gel-based moisturizer is all you need for happy, healthy, and hydrated skin.

This super lightweight moisturizer absorbs excess oils, detoxifies the skin for impurities and debris, and can calm tired and inflamed skin.

How It Works

This product is formulated with an ultra-light gel moisturizer so it can absorb quickly, hydrate the skin, and not feel sticky or heavy.

The benefits of a gel-based moisturizer are great for people looking for intense skin repair and hydration, that can be applied in the morning under makeup, and that is not thick and uncomfortable on the skin.

The gel’s goal is to refine the texture of your skin, minimize the appearance of large pores, and brighten your complexion for a radiant and healthy look.

This gel is also fantastic if you have oily skin.

It contains activated charcoal, which absorbs excess oil from the skin.

Also, it detoxifies your skin and pores, as well.

Ingredients & What Makes It Special

There are many ingredients that make this moisturizer healthy, beneficial, and functional.

Firstly, this product is formulated without parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic dyes, petrochemicals, phthalates, GMO’s, and triclosan – making this gel a safe and healthy moisturizer for your face and body.

If you are looking for a product that will not damage your skin due to harsh chemical and toxic ingredients, this gel is a great option.

It also contains artichoke leaf extract, which helps with elasticity and tightens pores for a smoother and more youthful look.

As stated above, activated charcoal absorbs excess oil so you don’t have to worry about oils clogging your pores and making your skin break out.

Glycolic acid smoothes the texture of your skin, and Vitamin C will help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, protect against free radical damage, and brighten your skin tone.


    • ​Free from synthetic chemical ingredients that are harmful to the body and skin.
    • ​A super lightweight gel-based moisturizer that can be used under makeup without a heavy feeling.
    • ​Natural ingredients like charcoal, artichoke leaf extract, and Vitamin C keep skin youthful, healthy, and bright.
    • ​Natural ingredients like charcoal, artichoke leaf extract, and Vitamin C keep skin youthful, healthy, and bright.
    • Absorbs excess oil from skin.


    • ​Price is a bit higher than average and may not be budget-friendly for some.
    • ​Not enough contents in the bottle for prolonged daily use.
    • ​Some people do not find the black gel appealing (colored by the charcoal).

Eau Thermale Avène Mattifying Fluid


Product Overview

Another hydrating gel-based moisturizer, this lightweight formula will help control shine, oil production, and leave your skin glowing…in a good way!

It provides your skin with a relaxing and soothing blend of powerful ingredients that keep your skin healthy and beautiful.

Avène is known for their background in hydrotherapy and dermatology.

With over 270 years of experience behind the company, you can feel confident know you are purchasing a product made with high standards and great ingredients for sensitive skin.

How It Works

This product is meant to control shine from the over-production of oil within the skin.

The lightweight gel is perfect as a makeup base, and will keep your skin looking matte all throughout the day.

Even though this product is meant to mattify the skin and control shine, it is not drying.

Rather, it provides ultimate hydration.

For best results, it is advised to use this product in both the morning before you apply makeup and in the evening when you cleanse your face for the night.

Ingredients & What Makes It Special

Their patented Glutamic Acid is the active ingredient that controls shine in this hydrating gel.

It is great for absorbing excess oil.

Microcapsules are included in this gel to absorb even more excess oil to help leave your skin with a matte and shine-free finish.

Avène also includes their special Thermal Spring Water that is specifically used to help smooth, soften, and calm skin.


    • ​Many users state this keeps their oily skin under control and shine free.
    • It can help reduce breakouts for many individuals since it keeps oil production under control.
    • ​Feels weightless on the face and under makeup.
    • ​Good to use in both the morning and the evening.
    • ​The pump bottle is effective at preventing unhealthy bacteria from contaminating the moisturizer.
    • Absorbs into the skin quickly.


    • ​This gel moisturizer includes fragrance, which is a concern for many individuals, especially those with sensitive skin. Unspecified fragrance can contain a host of synthetic chemicals that are irritating for many people.
    • ​Other synthetic chemicals are used in this product.
    • ​Some people find this gel is too drying due to the oil-absorbing properties.
    • ​Other users find this product may actually make their skin oilier and more prone to break out.

Benefits of Water-Based Moisturizers

There is more to a water-based moisturizer than simply keeping the skin hydrated.

There are many benefits of using this type of moisturizer over one that is oil-based.

Water-based moisturizers are better for oily skin since they do not add additional oil to the skin or cause extra shine.

Be sure to use a water-based moisturizer every morning and night to have the most effective skin regimen possible.

Here are the benefits of using a water-based moisturizer.

Hydrate Your Skin

One of the biggest benefits of water-based moisturizer is its hydrating effect.

This is especially beneficial for those who work in harsh temperatures or who deal with dry, flaky skin.

Dry skin can become irritated easily, making it all the more important to use a daily moisturizer to keep it healthy and hydrated.

Moisturizer will also banish dry, rough patches from your face.

Water-based moisturizers should be used every day to gain as many hydration benefits as possible. Reapply as necessary.

Emollients for Eczema

Emollients are the hydrating ingredient found in water-based moisturizers.

Emollients reduce water loss in the skin by covering it with a protective layer of moisture.

Applying a water-based moisturizer/emollients daily will help prevent atopic eczema and contact dermatitis.

Both of these conditions cause inflammation, redness, blisters, and dry skin (2).

Using an emollient prevents the skin from drying out and reduces eczema flare-ups.

Fight Premature Wrinkles

Vitamin E is a natural nutrient to the skin.

Antioxidants found in vitamin E prevent free radicals from damaging skin cells.

Free radicals are often linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory properties which keep the skin from turning red or experiencing irritation.

Because Vitamin E fights free radicals and promotes new skin cell growth and regeneration it is considered a natural anti-wrinkle ingredient (3).

Lock in Water

Humectants are a water-rich ingredient in the water-based moisturizer that locks moisture into your skin.

Certain humectants are able to hold up to 1000 times their weight in water.

Doing so will lock moisture to the surface of the skin to give it a dewy glow.

This ingredient is added to water-based moisturizers specifically to prevent water loss while protecting the outer layer of your skin.

Protect Skin from Sun Damage

Many water-based moisturizers contain SPF or sunscreen.

UV sun rays can cause serious damage, such as sunspots, blistering, sunburns, and even skin cancer.

Using sunscreen as a part of your daily skincare regimen in your moisturizer not only protects your skin from the sun but also helps prevent premature signs of aging (4).

Sunscreen will also lower your likelihood of getting uneven skin and red vein eruptions, and prevents skin blotchiness.

The sunscreen found in water-based moisturizers will serve as a barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful heat.

Light Formula

Some moisturizers, while hydrating, can leave your skin feeling heavy and oily.

Water-based moisturizer is formulated to feel weightless on the skin.

The lightweight texture of water-based moisturizers also allows it to absorb faster into the skin.

This is good for oily skin since it does not burden it with oil or make it appear greasy.

Some oil-based moisturizers do not sink into the skin and take some effort to blend in.

This wastes product and tugs the skin.

Having a water-based moisturizer with a light formula means you will waste less of the product while applying it to your face.

Great for Acne-Prone Skin

Water-based skincare has a light texture and is usually formulated without scent.

This makes it perfect for sensitive skin since it will not clog your pores.

Those with skin conditions such as acne, redness, and rosacea often have to use products that dry out their skin.

A water-based moisturizer will rehydrate the skin without weighing it down (5).

Act as a Makeup Primer

Because water-based moisturizers leave your skin feeling so smooth and silky, they make a great primer for your foundation base.

This is a great alternative to other skin primers on the market.

Traditional makeup primers are made with silicone, which clogs your pores.

Many traditional primers also cause breakouts on sensitive skin.

Because they are designed to absorb your body’s natural oils to create an even base for your foundation, makeup primers cause your body to produce even more oil and leave you shiny by midday.

Using a water-based moisturizer as a replacement will not only hydrate your skin, when used as a skin primer it will leave your skin looking flawless and unblemished.

How Water-Based Moisturizers Work

One of the biggest benefits of using a water-based moisturizer is that it makes your skin appear smooth and soft.

But how does it work?

Stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, and weather conditions such as bitter winter air or perspiration caused by heat all contribute to the dehydration of your skin.

People think that moisturizers hydrate the skin because of their cream formula.This isn’t exactly the case.

This isn’t exactly the case.

Moisturizers hydrate the skin by creating a barrier on the skin that prevents water and the skin’s natural moisture from escaping (6).

Water-based moisturizers are comprised of three main substances.

Emollients, which create the layer over the skin that helps prevent loss of hydration.

Humectants, which prevent water loss.

And finally, preservatives, which will help prevent your moisturizer from being contaminated by bacteria.

Those with dry skin will benefit most from an oil-based moisturizer, but those with oily skin will love the hydration that comes from a water-based moisturizer.

A water-based moisturizer does not penetrate as deeply as an oil-based moisturizer but is still able to provide a hydrating layer to the skin without clogging pores or causing discomfort.

How to Use Water-Based Moisturizers

The best way to apply moisturizer is to tap it gently onto damp skin.

Start by washing your face with a cleanser and then blotting your face dry with a towel.

Next, apply your moisturizer onto your damp skin.

The water that is already on your skin will then be locked in by the moisturizer’s protective barrier.

This will maximize the hydration you receive.

Use a quarter-sized drop of water-based moisturizer to help prevent your skin from feeling greasy. Use more as necessary.

Apply dots of moisturizer across your nose and cheeks, as well as gently around your under-eye area.

The less pulling and tugging you do while applying moisturizer, the more your skin will thank you in the long run.

When using multiple serums and moisturizers in your skincare regimen, it’s important to layer them in a way that is most beneficial for all your products.

For example, you wouldn’t want to put an under eye wrinkle serum on overtop of a hydrating moisturizer, as the serum wouldn’t be able to penetrate the moisturizer to get to the skin.

Follow the regimen whether you’re using a day or night cream.

Just be sure to wash your face and towel dry day and night before applying your cream.

Remember that moisturizer loses its effectiveness when exposed to air, so opt for airless packaging.

What to Look for in Water-Based Moisturizers

To maximize the benefit to your dry skin, choose a water-based moisturizer as your base.

Look for water as the first ingredient listed on the product.

Reputable moisturizers will always contain a humectant and an emollient.

These are the ingredients that soften and hydrate your skin.

Look for non-comedogenic ingredients to ensure your moisturizer will not clog your pores or cause any redness or breakouts on acne-prone or sensitive skin.

An SPF of 20 or above is a great ingredient to have in your daily moisturizer.

This will help keep your skin protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Look for moisturizers that include Vitamin E in their ingredient list. Vitamin E will lock in moisture.

Vitamin E is also a natural antioxidant which will block free radicals from the skin.

This can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and help keep skin looking young and supple.

Vitamin C also contains antioxidant properties and is an excellent ingredient in water-based moisturizers (7).

Stick to moisturizers that are packaged in an airless container.

This will help preserve the effectiveness of the moisturizer.

What to Avoid in Water-Based Moisturizers

Those with sensitive skin may find that water-based moisturizers cause discomfort.

Avoid irritating your skin by choosing water-based moisturizers formulated without dyes, alcohol, or fragrance.

This is because fragrance may cause swelling and allergic reactions for sensitive skin, and alcohol can have a drying effect which is the opposite of what you want when using a moisturizer.

Other harmful ingredients you should avoid are triclosan, parabens, and dioxane.

Dioxane is a dangerous ingredient designed to increase water solubility.

It is also classified as a carcinogen to humans (8).


Water-based moisturizers are a great option for oily or sensitive skin but do not penetrate as deeply as an oil-based moisturizer.

Because of this, water-based moisturizers may not be ideal for mature skin.

Always check the packaging for harmful or unnecessary ingredients before purchasing a water-based moisturizer.

Avoid thickening ingredients, as these take up the room better reserved for functional ingredients.

Stay away from pot packaging that exposes your moisturizer to air.


Water-based moisturizers are a great and gentle option for keeping skin looking young and healthy.

This type of moisturizer is great for sensitive skin.

It will not clog pores, cause irritation, inflammation, or breakouts.

Water-based moisturizer absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth.

Prevent premature wrinkles and lock in water by adding a water-based moisturizer to your daily skincare regimen.

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