Having oily or acne-prone skin doesn't mean that you should skip on moisturiser – adequate hydration is important for all skin types. Water-based moisturisers, also known as gel moisturisers or gel facial creams, will supply much-needed moisture and nourishment to oily complexions without feeling too heavy, greasy, or uncomfortable. They're also great for sensitive and other skin types, especially during warmer, humid seasons.
If you're in the market for a new water-based moisturiser, our buying guide will share what to consider while purchasing. This will help you to narrow down what's out there to find the ideal option for your skin type and beauty concerns. Then, go through our top 10 suggestions of the best water-based gel moisturisers to buy online in the UK and pick a few to try out.
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Table of Contents
Compared to rich and heavy oil-based moisturisers, water-based moisturisers have a higher concentration of water which gives them more of a lightweight gel texture that is quickly absorbed by the skin. Additionally, water does a great job at transporting other actives, facilitating better skin penetration and absorption. Gels are also capable of retaining water, limiting moisture loss.
Free of fatty ingredients that normally make up cream moisturisers, another benefit of gels is that they deliver hydration without blocking the pores. This is excellent for oily skin types, and also those prone to acne. Water-based creams are great for all skin types during the warmer seasons when lighter products are preferred, especially under foundation or other makeup.
Gel creams are popular in K-beauty, too. Check out the best Korean moisturisers here.
All skin types can benefit from water-based moisturisers, especially during the warmer seasons thanks to their cooling effect. Hyaluronic acid is a common moisturising ingredient used in gel creams, as it is great at attracting and retaining moisture in the skin without being too heavy or clogging the pores.
The humectant is capable of penetrating deep into the skin's layers, delivering moisture at every level, filling out any cracks or fine lines to restore plumpness, and leaving the skin with a healthy dewiness. It is an ingredient that is suitable for all skin types, but particularly oily complexions since it supplies moisture without leaving the skin feeling too greasy or with an unwanted shine.
Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides are also naturally found on the skin and are great for moisturising and preserving the skin's lipid layer. Plant-based ingredients such as watermelon extract, coconut milk and coconut water can also be used to supply moisture and nourishment with their naturally occurring, skin-loving vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Looking for a little coverage? These are our favourite tinted moisturisers for oily skin.
On top of delivering hydration, water-based moisturisers often contain other active ingredients to nurture and protect the skin. Calming ingredients such as aloe vera, jasmine, peony extract, ginger root, cucumber fruit extract, and prickly pear are great to have for sensitive skin types as they provide a soothing effect against any inflammation or irritation.
For anti-ageing care, ingredients like cactus flower extract are packed with various vitamins, antioxidants, and electrolytes to combat ageing and collagen loss, all while protecting the skin against UV damage. Ginseng is another collagen-boosting ingredient that can help the skin to maintain its elasticity.
For strengthening the skin barrier, sunflower seed and barley extracts are antioxidant-rich with skin-conditioning properties. If you have acne-prone skin, coffee or Korean red pine extract are ideal for keeping acne-causing bacteria at bay, preventing breakouts before they even have a chance to occur while reducing inflammation at the same time.
Although water-based moisturisers have a higher water-to-oil ratio, it doesn't mean that they are completely oil-free. So if you have a particularly oily complexion, it's worth searching for formulas that specify they are oil-free to avoid any unpleasant greasiness that can lead to clogged pores, blackheads and blemishes.
If your skin is prone to acne, it is advisable to opt for non-comedogenic formulas which are formulated and tested to prevent pore-clogging. While a product that does not specify it is non-comedogenic does not necessarily mean that it will clog the pores, this is just an extra step to avoid breakouts or worsening your skin condition.
Don't miss our makeup artist-reviewed list of non-comedogenic foundations!
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Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturiser
Dermatologist Tested, Oil-Free and Non-Comedogenic Moisturiser for Restoring Hydration and Skin Barrier
Confidence in a Gel Moisturiser
Keeps the Skin Quenched for 72 Hours While Reducing Fine Lines
Hydra Genius Liquid Hydrating Moisturiser
With Aloe Water and Hyaluronic Acid for Hydration and a Healthy Glow
Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturiser
A Fruity Lightweight Gel That Plumps Skin With 90% Watermelon Extract
Hydration Boost Lightweight Gel Cream
An Oil-Free Formula Enriched with Hyaluronic Acid for Light and Lasting Hydration
Dramatically Different Moisturising Gel
A Refreshing Drink for Oily Skin That Improves Complexion Over Time
GinZing™ Oil-Free Energy Boosting Gel Moisturiser
A Zingy Oil-Free Formula to Invigorate the Skin for a Fresh Glow
Clarifying Water Gel Hydrating Face Moisturiser
A Water-Light Hydrator to Purify, Refine and Clear Acne-Prone Skin
Pureness Soothing Gel Moisturiser
Great for Sensitive Skin Thanks to Minimal, Natural and Clean Ingredients
Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly
24-Hour Hydration Repair and Pollution Defence With a Water-Jelly Texture
The unique hyaluronic gel matrix in this cult water-based moisturiser from Neutrogena will give your skin a burst of hydration that quickly sinks in and hydrates the epidermis, forming a reservoir of water that makes the skin more supple.
Coupled with a continuous release system, lasting hydration is guaranteed to restore the skin's barrier over time. Though it is intensely hydrating, this gel has a surprisingly fresh and light texture that feels comfortable on the skin. This particular option is formulated for normal to combination skin, but there is also a version for dry skin types as week as a night cream, too.
IT Cosmetics are known for their amazing makeup products that contain skin-loving ingredients. Since then, they've released a whole range of skincare products aimed at solving specific beauty concerns, and this Confidence in a Gel Moisturiser has got everyone talking!
The main goal of this water-based moisturiser is to deliver long-lasting hydration (72 hours) while being comfortable on the skin. Infused with glycerin, ceramides, and cactus flower extract for an anti-ageing effect, it also works to smooth over fine lines. If you want a flawless, radiant base for makeup application, this is the moisturiser you'll want to reach for.
The water-like texture of this moisturiser gives the skin a revitalising boost of freshness. But although it is incredibly refreshing and lightweight, it is capable of providing intense and long-lasting hydration, like a cream. The result is healthy, glowing skin.
While most gel moisturisers are suitable for oilier skin types, this one is formulated for dry and sensitive skin. Hyaluronic acid deeply moisturises with a 72-hour release guaranteeing constant hydration, and calming aloe water comforts any irritation. If you have dry skin and are searching for a highly moisturising yet lightweight gel, this is it.
Watermelon is an amazing skincare ingredient as its high water content means it is immensely hydrating, plus it is also packed with nourishing and protective vitamins and amino acids. So, it makes sense that Glow Recipe has released a range of products celebrating the humble watermelon, and this cooling Pink Juice Moisturiser is one that's loved by many.
Watermelon extract makes up 90% of this formulation, alongside hyaluronic acid for even more hydration to fill out the cracks and fine lines on the skin for plump results and the perfect makeup base. Jasmine and peony extracts are also used for their calming effect and ability to keep hyperpigmentation at bay.
This hydration booster from Revolution Skincare is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin attract and retain moisture throughout the day while also preventing and reducing the appearance of the visible symptoms of skin dehydration, such as fine lines.
Oil-free and without any potentially irritating ingredients such as alcohol, fragrance, or parabens, it is capable of delivering cooling hydration for all skin types, including those who are prone to sensitivities. A really affordable, low-risk way to try out a water-based cream.
Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturising Gel is a popular pick for combination to oily skin types as it is capable of supplying 8 hours of greaseless hydration. With a weightless texture, it has a nice slip that instantly sinks into the skin, giving it a satisfyingly hydrated feeling with a luminous glow.
Hyaluronic acid is the main hydrator, acting as a natural moisture magnet to regulate the skin's levels. Moreover, it also contains barrier-enforcing ingredients such as sunflower seed cake, barley extract, and cucumber fruit extract that can help to improve your complexion over time.
Loaded with ginseng and coffee, Origins' popular gel moisturiser is designed to wake up tired complexions by hydrating and revitalising the skin to promote radiance. Hyaluronic acid is the main hydrator in this oil-free formula, which the skin readily drinks up upon application with no oily residue left behind.
If you have oily skin that is lacking that healthy lustre, the ingredients in this gel will restore its glory. Hydra-Hug™ technology further works to keep moisture locked in, giving you up to 72 hours of lasting hydration. Plus, it smells divine!
Maintaining clear skin means keeping the layer of bacteria on your skin in a balanced state by ensuring that good bacteria remain healthy, while acne-causing bacteria are kept at bay. This water-light gel by Murad contains Korean Red Pine Extract which disrupts unwanted bacterial growth that can lead to irritated skin.
Simultaneously, salicylic acid provides a mild exfoliation to refine the pores and hyaluronic acid attracts and retains moisture. Ginger root extract is added to provide comfort, soothing any redness or irritation. We love this moisturiser for oily and acne-prone skin, but drier types may require a few layers for adequate hydration.
Particularly for those with oily and sensitive skin, a gel with minimal ingredients is all you need. Formulated with only half the ingredients of top-rated moisturisers, this one from bareMinerals is pure and gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin types.
Chock full of naturally derived coconut water and coconut milk, the skin's moisture balance is kept in check, while soothing prickly pear calms inflammation and also serves as an antioxidant. On the downside, this moisturiser is one of the priciest on our list.
Using a unique water-jelly texture to deliver and lock in hydration, Clinique's Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly is also capable of enhancing and strengthening the skin's moisture barrier, making it more resilient to change and other environmental aggressors.
The oil-free formula penetrates quickly and deeply into the skin without leaving any residue. It also has a Clean Shield Technology™ to further defend the skin, keeping it looking and feeling healthy, and with a luminous glow. Nevertheless, it is not non-comedogenic despite being designed for oily skin, and it may not be hydrating enough for drier complexions.
Written and Researched by Audrey Tan
No. 1：Neutrogena｜Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturiser｜50 ml
No. 2：IT Cosmetics｜Confidence in a Gel Moisturiser｜75 ml
No. 3：L'Oreal Paris｜Hydra Genius Liquid Hydrating Moisturiser｜70 ml
No. 4：Glow Recipe｜Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturiser｜60 ml
No. 5：Revolution Skincare｜Hydration Boost Lightweight Gel Cream｜50 ml
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