Gel moisturizers are typically categorized as being a “summer” skin-care product. It’s a reflex for most of us to reach for a heavy-duty moisturizer once the slightest of chills start to creep into the air. This is based on the assumption that the creamier the moisturizer, the better chance you have of reaching Rihanna levels of hydration. But, I’m here to argue that you should keep your gels around even—and especially—in the winter.
There’s a common misconception that gel products are less moisturizing than their creamy counterparts. That’s not true, Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a board-certified dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, stresses. “Rather, gels use water as a medium to deliver ingredients while containing little oil; [they also] lack a high concentration of synthetic oils, which can clog pores,” she says. You can still get moisture without the greasy feeling that comes along with heavy-duty creams. Hyaluronic acid, which is present in most gel products, is one of the “most powerful and effective humectants” according to Dr. Levin, because it has the ability to hold 1000x its weight in water. And, if the assumption that drinking water is what helps make your skin magically stop breaking out and turn it ultra-smooth—as models and celebrities and other people with perfect skin would have you believe—then why not add some topically, also? At the very least, more H20 definitely isn’t going to hurt your skin.
Water creams, gel creams, clear creams, or whatever other see-through synonyms for "gels" brands think up, haven’t always been as good as they are now, Dr. Levin tells us. “Previously, gel moisturizers were commonly alcohol-based and, therefore, could strip natural oils from the skin, making them suitable for only oily and acne-prone skin types,” she explains. “Cosmetic chemists have reformulated gel moisturizers to be highly packed with hydration but still lightweight.” Most, if not all, include similar ingredients like the previously mentioned hyaluronic acid, as well as glycerin, ceramides, and antioxidants, all of which are great for varying skin types, not just a select few. The lightweight nature of gel moisturizers are often a turnoff for those looking for more hydration, but it can actually be a good thing because it's what allows users to layer other products underneath (serums and essences) or on top (sunscreens, oils) without feeling completely weighed down.
Even though they are compatible with all skin types, we also know gel moisturizers aren’t going to be beloved by everyone. You know your skin better than anyone, and if it slurps up that La Mer moisturizer J.Lo adores, then we’re not here to disrupt your regimen. But, we’re getting six more weeks of winter whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow this Friday or not. So, if you’re still looking for a solution to your parched skin, there’s plenty of time to test them out for yourself. Ahead, check out some of our favorites.
Tatcha, The Water Cream, $68, available at Sephora.
Missha, Super Aqua Ultra Water-Full Clear Cream, $26, available at Soko Glam.
Innisfree, Youth-Enriched Gel Cream with Orchid, $29, available at Innisfree.
Dermalogica, Calm Water Gel, $48, available at Ulta.
Mamonde, Floral Hydro Cream, $32, available February 7 at Ulta.
Glamglow, Waterburst Hydrated Glow Moisturizer, $49, available at Glamglow.
Glow Recipe, Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer, $39, available at Glow Recipe.
Sunday Riley, Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream, $65, available at Sephora.
Belif, The True Cream Aqua Bomb, $38, available at Sephora.