Unlike their oil-based counterparts, the best water-based moisturizers have lighter-weight consistencies and typically don't leave behind a greasy residue on your skin. These water-based creams are usually entirely free of oil as well, and instead use a blend of emollients and humectants to attract and restore moisture to your skin. That said, they're a great choice for pretty much any skin type, from oily and acne-prone to sensitive and dry. The best water-based moisturizer for you, though, will mainly come down to your budget and formula preference — think lightweight lotion versus rich cream versus cooling gel — and you'll find six really great, varied options on the list ahead.
If you have dry or dehydrated skin and find that your water-based moisturizer feels almost too lightweight, layer a hydrating serum underneath or a nourishing oil on top. Beyond that, these moisturizers wear really nicely under makeup, since they help smooth over any flaky patches and create a nice, even texture.
Scroll on to shop six of the best water-based moisturizers on the market right now, from face creams to body lotions.
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1. The Overall Best
This cool moisturizer from Japanese beauty brand Cure is all about water. In fact, it's made with 75% activated hydrogen water droplets, and when you massage the cream onto your skin, the tiny capsules that hold the water burst open, delivering a plentiful dose of hydration to your skin. This moisturizer has a delightful texture — it's not quite a cream, yet not as jelly-like as a gel — and once absorbed, it's completely imperceptible, though your skin will still feel comfortable and nourished.
Other highlights: If you have dry skin, i'll smooth over any rough or flaky patches, and if you have oily skin, it won't produce any midday shine. It makes a perfect base for makeup, too, and can be used as a daily moisturizer, night cream, and body lotion. Basically, Goldilocks would love this moisturizer because it's just right.
2. The Affordable One
If you're looking to spend less than $15, go with e.l.f.'s SuperHydrate Moisturizer. This lightweight, fast-absorbing gel cream is vegan and cruelty-free, like all e.l.f products, and contains lots of nourishing and soothing ingredients like squalane, niacinamide, and centella asiatica (as well as skin-plumping snow mushroom). For just $12, you really can't go wrong.
3. The Lightweight One
Most of the moisturizers on this list are creams, but La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Sensitive Fluide is more of a lightweight lotion. The key ingredients in here are moisturizing glycerin and soothing vitamin B3 (niacinamide), in addition to water, of course. In fact, this gentle formula only contains a handful of ingredients altogether, making it a great pick for people with sensitive skin. It's fragrance-free and oil-free, too.
4. The Rich One
On the other end of the texture spectrum, this rich cream from Vichy has a nourishing, cloud-like texture and will make your skin feel juicy and plump. It contains nourishing shea butter, hydrating hyaluronic acid, moisturizing glycerin, and Vichy's own mineral-rich volcanic water. The brand says it'll hydrate your skin for up to 48 hours, so naturally, it makes a really wonderful night cream.
5. The Refreshing One
Enriched with cooling aloe vera and other soothing botanicals, including the “Queen of the Night” cactus succulent, Boscia's Cactus Water Moisturizer has a refreshing gel texture that feels wonderful on dry, irritated skin (amp up the cooling effects by storing it in the fridge). It leaves skin smooth and soft, wears nicely under makeup, and won't make your skin feel heavy or greasy, so it's a lovely choice for oily skin as well.
6. The One For Your Body
Multiple dermatologists have raved about Neutrogena's affordable HydroBoost line, from which this body cream hails. It's a fragrance-free gel-cream for all over your body, and it uses hyaluronic acid to alleviate dry skin by attracting moisture. It sinks in really quickly, so you can get dressed immediately after applying it, which should ideally be right after showering. And if you haven't already tried the Hydro Boost Water Gel face moisturizer, it's another wonderful, affordable, water-based face cream worth considering.