This One Ingredient in Your Moisturizer Could Be Making You Break Out

As a lifelong beauty enthusiast, I've always considered myself pretty knowledgeable about my combination skin type and the kinds of products that work best on it. I rotate through an artfully crafted regimen of cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and oils to combat the various zones of oiliness, dryness, and even the occasional sensitivity on my face. When I recently met with acclaimed celebrity dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, he pointed to a small (but mighty) breakout I was experiencing and suggested a skincare swap I wasn't expecting. "You should think about using an oil-free moisturizer," he said plainly. "You want to hydrate, but oils can block the pores." I was shook.

Although it's no surprise that oil can clog the pores and lead to breakouts, I thought I was immune to such foolery since the slippery substance is among my favorite skincare ingredients. I love double-cleaning with an oil cleanser and even rely on a number of different types, especially during the winter months when the skin around my mouth gets straight-up parched. "Nowadays, technology allows for you to have great results without oils, and I think that's a good move for you," Gross explained.

Content creator Sasha Mei with clear, dewy-looking skin

(Image credit: @sasha.mei)

Water-based moisturizers are a popular alternative to their oil-based counterparts. Simply put, they employ water as the main ingredient into which other water-attracting humectant ingredients are mixed. This helps to achieve hydration from within the skin as opposed to sealing in moisture from the outside. "It gives what's called internal hydration, so it doesn't sit on your skin like oils do. It gets inside the skin and brings water into the skin. Not only do you get hydration, but you get some plumping and this beautiful, dewy radiance without the possible side effects of excess oils," said Gross.

I was hesitant to fully jump on the oil-free train, but when the trusted dermatologist of stars like Zoë Kravitz and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley makes a suggestion, you listen. And so began my deep dive into this foreign skin territory. Ahead, see 20 water-based moisturizers to quench the thirstiest skin.

Best Overall Water-Based Moisturizer: Tatcha The Water Cream

2. Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Moisturizer

3. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

4. Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Cream Moisturizer

5. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion

6. Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 25

7. Saturday Skin Waterfall Glacier Water Cream

8. The Inkey List Omega Water Cream

9. Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer

10. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion With SPF 30

11. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream

12. Koh Gen Do All in One Moisture Gel

13. Shani Darden Skin Care Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer

14. Goldfaden MD Detox Hydrating Gel

15. Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

16. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Sensitive Skin Face Moisturizer

17. Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer

18. Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb

19. Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

20. Kiehl's Since 1851 Calendula Serum-Infused Water Cream

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.

Associate Beauty Editor

Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.