Best Water Based Moisturizers In 2020

Does oily, weighted-down skin feel synonymous with a good daily moisturizer? Good moisturization is an essential part of your skin routine, but for those with combination or acne-prone skin, it’s tough to find a product that leaves skin nourished and supple without feeling like you’re wearing a face full of cream.

Enter the new crop of water-based moisturizers! These new, light-weight formulas are wonder creams (or, more likely, gels) for any girl tired of looking more shiny than dewy.

What are Water Based Moisturizers?

​A water based moisturizer is a cream or gel that uses water instead of the traditional oils found in moisturizers. Moisturizers with a water base are ideal for skin types that are prone to oiliness or oily patches because they sit on the skin lightly and often include oil-fighting substances that keep skin from producing excess oil.

Therefore, instead of adding oil to an already oily complexion, these products add the hydration skin needs to look plump and healthy while reducing the production of oil that makes skin look greasy.

​Do I Need a Moisturizer if I Have Oily Skin?

​Many women who are prone to oily skin simply skip moisturizing because, well, why put cream on top of oil? However, the idea that moisturizers can only benefit dry skin is a common misconception even amongst beauty gurus.

Moisturizers don’t just work to hydrate parched skin; they also smooth the texture of skin to reduce the appearance of imperfections and prepare the skin with an even base upon which to apply make-up.

If you’re using additional skin care steps, such as a vitamin serum or anti-aging products, a moisturizer creates an even consistency across skin for the product to absorb into.

It can also increase other beauty products ability to sink into skin and therefore enhances their effectiveness. In short, a good moisturizer can act as a “boost” for other products, which will in turn increase your skin’s overall appearance.

Even if you aren’t planning on using any additional products on top of moisturizer, a hydrating skin will enhance the appearance of skin texture and help it to appear more supple and smooth.

Oily and combination skin can suffer from dull patches that can’t be treated with oil-reducing products alone (which might, in fact, make dead skin look even worse), a moisturizer can be helpful in reducing an uneven texture that appears as unhealthy skin.

​Finally, many water based moisturizers are non-comedogenic, which means that they won’t clog pores. Finding a water based moisturizer that also includes oil fighting properties can go a long way towards reducing the appearance of large pores.

How Do I Wear a Water Based Moisturizer?​

​Water based moisturizers are one of the simplest products to incorporate into your skin care routine. After using the cleanser of your choice and a toner, smooth you water based moisturizer over skin in an even layer—and, remember, don’t forget to apply a layer to your neck.

Often over-looked, the skin on your neck is thinner and dryer than the skin on your face, so even if you are prone to oiliness, this area most likely needs a bit more moisture than your face. Making sure to apply a water based moisturizer to the neck will prevent aging in the area where the skin is most prone to it.

​What Changes You’ll Notice After Using a Water Based Moisturizer

​The biggest change those prone to oily skin will notice is that you feel the need to wash your face less. This is because the pore is clearing properties in a water-based moisturizer that “sop up” excess oil will leave your skin feeling lighter and help your make up to stay put instead of migrating along with oil.

​Reducing the number of times you wash your face has a positive cyclical effect on oily skin. This is because every time you wash your face, skin gets dried out and is prompted to produce more oil.

So, if you feel the need to wash your skin less, ultimately your skin will begin to produce less oil in an attempt to replace the natural oils that cleansers have stripped.

​How Do I Choose a Water Based Moisturizer?

​One of the advantages of adding a moisturizer to your routine is the additional benefits many moisturizers include, such as anti-aging antioxidants or vitamins.

This is especially useful for those with oily skin who don’t want to add yet another layer to their routine that can make skin feel heavy. It’s also ideal for those of us who are simply in a hurry and like a good multi-tasker!

Some different properties to consider when choosing a water-based moisturizer to make sure you have the product that’s working the best for your individual skin include:

​How long do you want to moisturize for?

Many water-based moisturizers work for a specific period—some last for 6 hours while the benefits of others can stretch out for an entire 48 hours. Depending on when you next plan to use the product and how long you’d like it to last, you should consider the product’s duration.

Are you looking for additional protection from the environment?

If you spend a lot of time outside or live in a city, look for a product that is rich in antioxidants and includes an SPF.

​Are you looking for a product to prevent aging?

Wrinkles plus oily skin are an especially difficult problem, but a water based moisturizer infused with age fighters is a good option.

​Are you looking to brighten skin or even its texture?

Look for a product that incorporates added vitamins such as E or C to smooth and brighten skin. Also, consider a water-based moisturizer with a skin refining ingredient such as glycolic acid.

​Side Effects of Water Based Moisturizers

​Those with sensitive skin may find a water based moisturizer irritating, especially if applied to cracked or dry skin. To reduce the likelihood that your moisturizer causes irritation, make sure to check the label for additional dyes, perfumes or alcohol.


​Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

​Neutrogena’s new Hydro Boost Collection improves the hydration level of skin by strengthening skin’s moisture barrier to keep hydration in, while also replenishing moisture lost throughout the day.

Hydro Boost Water Gel uses a combination of olive extract (filled with fatty acids similar to those naturally found in skin’s moisture shields) and purified hyaluronic acid (which acts as a “sponge” over dry skin cells to hold in water).

This powerful product contains ingredients that hold up to 1000 times their weight in water to generate smooth, supple and hydrated skin.


  • The gel formula absorbs into skin quickly to create a smooth canvas for makeup.
  • The moisturizing benefits of this product provide instant relief for dry skin. It can even relieve dryness caused by eczema and rashes.
  • Doesn’t leave the sticky residue of most extremely hydrating moisturizers.
  • The lightweight formula leaves skin feeling clean.


  • Not ideal for the use of the eye area.
  • Some users felt that the gel left a stinging sensation in the eyes.

Garnier SkinActive Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream

Garnier SkinActive Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream

​This affordable gel-cream is packed with a special blend of nutrients formulated by dermatologists and nutritionists. Light, antioxidant rich fruit water derived from grape water extract protects skin from the elements while vitamin E works to moisturize and condition skin without weighing it down.

SkinActive Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel-Cream is ideal for skin in need of protection from environmental elements or excessive dryness. Its 24-hour moisture lock is also great for those looking for long-term hydration.


  • Results can be seen within 1 hour after application.
  • Great for defending skin against pollution and daily stressors.
  • Replaces heavier oils with vitamin E while maintaining the hydration of an oil-based moisturizer.


  • Left a slightly filmy residue on the face after application.
  • Has a scent that is too strong for some users.
  • This product is not engineered for sensitive skin.

Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream

Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream

​This cream has been a favorite in Korean cosmetic markets for some time now. Its exotic blend of Polynesian Lagoon Water (a combination of pure ocean water and 30 different types of marine plant extracts) creates a protective film over skin that locks in moisture while defending from the elements.

Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream has a light texture that makes it ideal for combination or acne prone skin.


  • This is a spa quality product at an affordable price.
  • Provides all day moisturizing.
  • This formula is light enough for oily skin types.
  • Great for summer when a lighter moisturizer is needed.


  • Some users found the moisturization of this product too light for their skin.
  • Has a strong scent some users found unpleasant.

H20 Plus Oasis 24 Hydrating Booster

H20 Plus Oasis 24 Hydrating Booster

​This is an excellent product for those looking to moisturize without heavy creams while also fighting fine lines. H20 Plus Oasis 24 Hydrating Booster acts as a time-release supplement to an additional moisturizer.

It's Sea Mineral Complex, Omegaplankton and moisturizing marine complexes (including wakame, sea fennel, and sea lettuce) prepare skin to retain up to 60% more moisture throughout the day. Additionally, it improves skin’s natural ability to retain moisture.


  • Good for skin that is prone to be oily or breakout.
  • Can be worn by itself or used to amplify the benefits of another moisturizer.
  • Users found this product ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Increases skin’s glow without a greasy appearance.


  • The serum-based formula needs to be shaken carefully before use, so it can take a little extra time to apply this product correctly.

Vichy Mineral 89 Fortifying, Hydrating & Plumping Daily Skin Booster

Vichy Mineral 89 Fortifying, Hydrating & Plumping Daily Skin Booster

​This high-end French brand is known for innovative, quality skin care. Vichy Mineral 89 Fortifying, Hydrating & Plumping Daily Skin Booster is a formula that combines 89% Vichy Mineralizing Thermal Water (a formula rich in the minerals that help skin retain its moisture level) and Hyaluronic Acid.

This combination helps to protect skin against daily stressors while combating the signs of fatigue. Like other moisturizers on our list, this product softens skin and enhances a hydrated, supple appearance.

Additionally, Vichy Mineral 89 Fortifying Moisturizer is engineered without the use of harmful chemicals or other ingredients that can harm sensitive skin.


  • This product is 100% free of parabens, alcohol, fragrance, artificial color and silicone.
  • Only a small amount is needed (2 drops!), so this product lasts a long time.


  • This is the priciest formula on our list.
  • Some users found this product felt sticky on the skin after application.

In Conclusion

We love the variety of water-based moisturizers on the market today. As you can see from our round-up, there are amazing options for those looking to protect skin from the environment, prevent aging, go plant-based or simply reduce an oily appearance.

Our favorite moisturizer in the group has to be Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel because its affordable price point delivers the feather light moisture of high-end products while also delivering a huge dose of moisture to parched skin.

The combination of olive extract and purified hyaluronic acid do an excellent job of both producing more moisture and holding in the moisture skin already has. We also love that it can be combined with other products in the same line to increase hydration around eyes or to boost moisture before bed.

​This product, previously available only in Asia, is so light it’s easy to layer under sunscreen and foundation without looking thick or greasy.

Additionally, the gel-based formula dries quickly, so no is standing around and fanning your face before applying make-up—plus, the gel formula is fun to use!

For an additional spa-like experience, try popping this light blue gel in the fridge for a few minutes before applying. It will additionally de-puff skin and create a pleasant cooling sensation.

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