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.

Moisturized Skin



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.

1. Tatcha The Water Cream

Conversations about water-based moisturizers truly start and end with this OG offering from Tatcha. The water-burst technology is supported by Japanese wild rose to balance the skin and refine pores, and Japanese leopard lily keeps oil production in check. The result is plump, clear skin.

2. Fresh Rose & Hyaluronic Acid Deep Hydration Moisturizer

Instead of using oil-based humectants, this hydra-gel moisturizer employs damask-rose extract and hyaluronic acid to not only deliver moisture but also keep it locked in the skin.

3. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

This oil-free water-gel offering from Neutrogena feels refreshing and cool on application. Don't let the lightweight consistency fool you—hyaluronic acid and olive extract make it a deeply moisturizing option.

4. Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Cream Moisturizer

K-beauty brand Laneige is beloved for its oil-free offerings, and this one is no different. This hyaluronic-based water cream hydrates while protecting the skin's barrier.

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

Marine algae, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, and coconut extract join forces to promote firm, hydrated skin by enhancing moisture content and plumping fine lines and wrinkles. If you want to look like you drink a gallon of water every day, this is a must-have.

6. Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 25

This hydrating gel moisturizer contains anti-aging and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and B3 vitamins that penetrate the skin to condition from the inside out.

7. Saturday Skin Waterfall Glacier Water Cream

This aptly named water-cream option by Saturday Skin uses mineral-rich Alaskan glacier water as its main ingredient. From there, a peptide formula and soothing moss keep the skin calm and balanced.

8. The Inkey List Omega Water Cream

For an effective water-based moisturizer at a very reasonable price point, look no further than The Inkey List's Omega Water Cream. This lightweight moisturizer is perfect for oily-skin types looking for a little added hydration.

9. Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer

This lightweight gel emulsion employs watermelon extract to soothe the skin while hyaluronic acid carries water deep beneath the surface. It also smells good and looks so pretty sitting on your vanity.

10. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion With SPF 30

Hero ingredients hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and niacinamides make sure this noncomedogenic formula moisturizes all day long. Plus, the added SPF protects from the sun's harmful rays.

11. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream

I mean, the name itself says everything you need to know about the heavenly concoction. A 30% concentration of hyaluronic acid at three different molecular sizes has the ability to hydrate the skin for up to 72 hours. Ceramides also help to lock in even more moisture.

12. Koh Gen Do All in One Moisture Gel

Although not totally oil-free, this nourishing mineral water–based gel delivers lightweight hydration via herbal extracts and a conscious blend of jojoba oil, olive squalene, and shea butter to protect the skin and preserve moisture.

13. Shani Darden Skin Care Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer

This moisturizer sinks into skin almost immediately after you apply it, leaving skin feeling hydrated without weighing it down. 

14. Goldfaden MD Detox Hydrating Gel

This oil-free hydra-gel is the perfect combatant to both dryness and breakouts. It contains beta hydroxy acids, mallow extract, and a special blend of skin-defending extracts and antioxidants that offer as much protection as they do hydration.

15. Boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer

Sophie Turner is a fan of this ultra-lightweight moisturizer, which deploys cactus water to nourish and impart heavy-hitting hydration without clogging the pores.

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

The soothing prebiotic thermal water base is one of only a handful of ingredients in this formulation, which makes it perfect for sensitive skin.

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

This moisturizer is infused with three different types of hyaluronic acid, making it extremely hydrating. It absorbs quickly for a lightweight finish.

18. Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb

It's not called "aqua bomb" for nothing. This moisturizer is super hydrating. It's packed with lady's mantle (a skin softener), glycerin, and ceramides. 

19. Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

Squalane and probiotics help nourish and protect the skin's natural moisture barrier. 

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

This unique serum-moisturizer hybrid is full of calendula-flower extract, which helps soothe skin. 

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

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