Rich and heavy creams in summer? No, thank you - here's our pick of the 5 best gel moisturisers for lightweight nourishment

Moisturise without any heaviness

Four of the gel moisturisers featured in this guide from The INKEY List, LANEIGE, Murad and Caudalie
(Image credit: Lucy Abbersteen)

Ask any skincare enthusiast to name the essential products one should have in their routine and moisturiser will probably be one of the first to come up. I have quite oily skin, which means I use the best gel moisturisers in my skincare routine more often than super nourishing, rich creams. But also, come summer the last thing you feel like doing is applying a thick moisturiser in the heat, so they're also a good choice for most skin types when the temperature rises.

Because of their lighter consistency, gel or water-based moisturisers are particularly good for oilier skin types that would be overloaded by any heaviness but still need nourishment. Don’t be fooled, though: these formulas still pack in great amounts of hydration and active ingredients to be a key player in your daily routine when worn underneath your best facial sunscreen.

At this time of year, when most of us find our skin gets hot, parched and a bit uncomfortable, they can be very beneficial in supercharging your skin's hydration levels—particularly when you pair them with hydrating serums including ingredients like hyaluronic acid. In the warmer months, even drier skin types may benefit from a thicker gel moisturiser over a cream during the day. I’ve tested lots of them in my time, so I’ve shared my thoughts on the ones I think are worth the money below.

Four of the gel moisturisers featured in this guide from The INKEY List, LANEIGE, Murad and Caudalie

(Image credit: Lucy Abbersteen)

How I tested the best water-based moisturisers

I have skin that's closer to oily than combination, meaning gel moisturisers are the formula type that my skin likes best, generally speaking. I have, therefore, tried quite a few of them over the years. To ensure that this guide was truly an edit of the very best on the market, I chose those that I knew performed well as well as testing new-to-me formulas for consideration. I look at all of the following factors when deciding what makes a product one of the best gel moisturisers. (You can read more about how we test products at Marie Claire on the dedicated page.)

  • Consistency of the formula
  • How the skin looks and feels immediately after applying
  • How my skin felt through the day after using
  • Key skincare ingredients
  • Price
  • Packaging

The best gel moisturisers for lightweight skin nourishment

1. Caudalie VinoHydra Gel Moisturiser

Caudalie VinoHydra Gel Moisturiser

(Image credit: Caudalie)

Caudalie VinoHydra Gel Moisturiser

Best for combination and sensitive skin

Specifications

Key ingredients : Hyaluronic acid, organic grape water, squalane, aloe vera, glycerin

I’m a huge fan of Caudalie products and its new trio of moisturisers is well worth checking out. This one is the lightest of the three, designed for combination and sensitive skin, but still loaded with hyaluronic acid, glycerin and squalane to soften skin alongside soothing aloe vera. The consistency is lovely—instantly quenching, it’s genuinely enjoyable to apply and it feels like you’re flooding the skin with hydration. I've found it ideal on the days when the British summer seems to be behaving itself.

2. The INKEY List Omega Water Cream

The INKEY List Omega Water Cream

(Image credit: The INKEY List)

The INKEY List Omega Water Cream

Best for oily skin

Specifications

Key ingredients : Omega ceramide complex, glycerin, niacinamide

Promising to leave behind no greasiness (which I’ve verified on my own skin), affordable ingredient-led brand The INKEY List’s gel moisturiser is a great one for several reasons. Its omega ceramide complex works to improve skin’s elasticity and firmness while reducing water loss, keeping your skin looking and feeling nourished and healthy. Glycerin works to draw moisture into the skin, while niacinamide targets things like excess oil production and blemishes. All that in a nice little £11 tube.

3. Murad Nutrient Charged Water Gel

Murad Nutrient Charged Water Gel

(Image credit: Murad)

Murad Nutrient Water-Charged Gel

Best for mature skin

Specifications

Key ingredients: Peptides, B & E vitamins, minerals including copper and zinc

Brilliantly plumping and hydrating, this excellent formula from Murad contains five vitamins, five minerals and five peptides, so there’s loads of good stuff for your skin. It’s completely non-greasy and a dream to apply, but the key need-to-know here is that it increases the skin’s moisture retention for up to five days. Ideal if your skin is very prone to dehydration, like mine.

4. LANEIGE Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Gel Moisturiser

LANEIGE Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Gel Moisturiser

(Image credit: LANEIGE)

LANEIGE Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Gel Moisturiser

Best for dehydrated skin

Specifications

Key ingredients : Blue hyaluronic acid, mint leaf extract

I’ve previously written about how much I like this water-based moisturiser from K-beauty brand LANEIGE (famous for its Lip Sleeping Mask). Here, hyaluronic acid is supercharged by undergoing a double fermentation process with algae to become blue hyaluronic acid, smaller molecules that deliver long-lasting hydration in the skin. A less techy explanation of what it’s actually like to use is that it feels like quenching the skin with water in a slightly more solid form. Hopefully that translates but, in short, it’s a gorgeous moisturiser.

5. Beauty Pie Japanfusion Power Elixir Moisturiser

Beauty Pie Japanfusion Power Elixir Moisturiser

(Image credit: Beauty Pie)

Japanfusion Power Elixir Moisturiser

Best for dry skin

Specifications

Key ingredients : Pombe yeast extract, Jabara extract, polyphenols, antioxidants

This entire Japanfusion range from Beauty Pie is brilliant, designed to achieve well-hydrated, moisturised, dewy and plump skin, and the moisturiser is a great softening buy. Packed with polyphenols and antioxidants, which provide some environmental protection to the skin, it’s on the thicker side for a gel formula—perhaps more of a gel-cream. I therefore think it’d be a particularly good one for skin that’s prone to dryness or anybody who wants a moisturiser that’s thicker than some of the watery-consistency buys mentioned here.

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.