I’ve been on the search for the best moisturizers for oily skin for a long, long time. I love testing new skincare, but I don’t love when it makes my skin worse. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of changing up your skincare routine often, so I’d recommend if you try any of these to use them for a few days up to a couple of weeks before switching it up to the next one for best results. It takes your skin a little bit to adjust to a new product.
After years of trying out products from a bunch of different brands here are some of my favorite I’ve found so far, some more affordable than others.
This post is mostly for people with oily skin because I never in my life have had even remotely dry skin. Though, I feel like lightweight, gel/water moisturizers can sometimes work for everyone even as a base or morning moisturizer under your makeup.
The main problem with my skin is that it’s very oily, but I like to keep some other issues in mind when picking a moisturizer: dullness, fine lines, and pores. I look for moisturizers that have ingredients that make my skin glow, have anti-aging properties, and are non-comedogenic meaning they won’t clog my pores. Keep in mind when trying these that my skin is not acne prone and not that sensitive. Below are some of my favorite gel/water moisturizers that are oil-free, lightweight, absorbent, and overall good skin food.
ORIGINS GINZING GEL MOISTURIZER, $28.
I want to hug this little jar, that’s how much I love it. This is perfect all year round. It moisturizes enough to hydrate the skin without clogging your pores or feeling heavy on the skin. It’s sinks beautifully into the skin and leaves you feeling soft and smelling like a box of oranges. It also last forever so those $28 go a long way. As you can see, I’m almost out and it’s heartbreaking.
I used to use Origins Make a Difference Plus Treatment (not the moisturizer because I wanted a gel formula) and I loved it. It smelled amazing, it did what it said and I knew I had been set on an Origins journey that would never end. I was in love and still am with this brand. I ended up trying to GinZing moisturizer when I originally went back to buy another Make A Difference Plus because it was almost $20 cheaper. Although I really love the Make A Difference treatment, I love that I can use GinZing day and night and not overdo it because using a hydrating treatment that often probably would have made me even more oily.
I use GinZing specifically as a morning moisturizer. I prefer to use serums, treatments or thicker moisturizers at night because I don’t have to add any makeup on top of them. I’m telling you this is a holy grail morning routine moisturizer. It really is energy boosting to your skin, it’s packed full of ginseng and coffee bean to really wake your ass up. The citrus peel oil’s in this brighten your skin and makes for a perfect base for your daily makeup. It also has jojoba oil, which is very moisturizing and doesn’t clog pores, and my skin drinks it up no problem. When I nail my skincare routine and top if off with this, I truly feel like I’m doing something wonderful for my skin. I can usually see a difference in the radiance of my skin within a couple of days. I can’t rave enough about this product; it’s so affordable, lasts forever, and smells absolutely amazing. You will constantly rebuy this after you try it.
TATCHA THE WATER CREAM, $68.
A lot more expensive than any of the other moisturizer I’ve tried is, Tatcha The Water Cream. I constantly hear people raving about this on YouTube and now I completely understand why. This stuff smells luxuriously soft and fresh. It also has a bougie little gold spatula to scoop out product, and to keep grimy finger germs out of the container.
This moisturizer is water based so it’s very thin and you’ll feel like you need to use a lot more product than you actually have to. You’re told to use no more than a pea size amount, but I use way more that that because I’m extra. I also like bringing it all the way down my neck because mid-20s, ya know? This stuff takes a long time to dry so it’ll feels tacky for a while, but still leaves you feeling really refreshed.
Infused with Japanese wild rose this moisturizer is calming as hell, it minimizes your pores and brightens with Vitamin A, C, and E. The best part is the Japanese Leopard Lily, which helps produce collagen aka it’s everyone’s best friend, and similar to the Origin’s moisturizer, it’s non-comedogenic. If you’re a person with larger pores this stuff tightens and glides right over them so don’t worry about it lingering on your face and causing problems. I usually can never see a difference in my pores, but I can honestly say this stuff combined with Pixi Glow Tonic is gold to my complexion.
I haven’t purchased a full size yet, which is why there is no picture, but I fully intend to once I’m done with my sample because it’s an instant favorite now. I’m actually so sad I don’t have it in my collection yet. The packaging is beautiful, looks and feels luxurious. It’s crazy to think a product as thin as this can make your skin as soft as it does. Also, purchasing a full-sized product from Tatcha Skincare contributes to their Beautiful Faces, Beautiful Future with Room to Read to support women’s education around the world so you know you’re not only doing something good for your skin, but you’re supporting a brand that is giving back.
PHILOSOPHY TAKE A BREATHE GEL CREAM, $37.
Philosophy has upped it’s game with their Take A Breathe moisturizer. I had a sample of this from a BirchBox almost two years ago, and it was my favorite part of my morning. I ended up buying a full size not too much later when I flew through the sample. I was switching between this and Origins during the summer because Take A Breathe had SPF 30 and I really enjoy a moisturizer that has SPF already in it. I’m awful about putting on SPF so I appreciate when my skincare, BB cream, or foundation slips it in their formulas.
However, SPF sometimes makes a formula really oily. I feel like Philosophy’s old formula could sometimes be oily (pictured above). It kind of feels like a primer and leaves your skin very soft. It absorbs into the skin very quickly because it’s such a lightweight cream, but if you were getting ready and ended up sweating close to when you applied the moisturizer I felt like you were kind of screwed. This new release is a gel formula and somehow feels even lighter than the last.
The new Take A Breathe is an oil-free oxygenated gel. From what I understand about the process of oxygenated formulas, brand’s pump renewing elements that hurry up the body’s natural turnover of skin cells meaning your skin is brand new a lot quicker. Oxygen is supposed to make your skin less dull and dehydrated by giving it liiiiiife. Similar to the Origins moisturizer, Take A Breathe has coffee extract and jojoba extract, two of my favorites as you can now know. It also has lactic acid which is what helps your skin stay young and acne-free.
My skin LOVES AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acid). Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, all of them. I think that having oily skin weighs down my skin a lot and without the help of gentle chemical exfoliants like AHA’s my skin wouldn’t be able to clear it all away naturally. I know that a product is going to work for me when these ingredients are listed. I’m no scientist so hopefully I don’t overuse AHA’s if that’s a thing.
NEUTROGENA HYDRO BOOST WATER GEL, $18-$20.
I’ve heard this is a complete dupe for belief The True Cream Aquabomb, which is $20 more expensive so I was all about running down to the closest Target and grabbing this new Neutrogena moisturizer. This has great packaging first of all, it reminds me of the Origins moisturizer with the colored glass jar and white lid. I know what you’re thinking, everything reminds me of Origins, but I guess it’s just on my mind. I know what I like, okay.
I went to Sephora to get a sample of Aquabomb and I can say they are pretty exact besides the fact that Aquabomb smells better and lighter. Hydro Boost smells super strong and sweet, almost on the verge of cotton candy-sweet. It smells a little like the hand soap that would be in your grandmother’s bathroom if you amped it all the way up. The smell is so strong though that it goes straight to your brain if that makes any sense. It’s kind of a bummer because I’m all about smelly good things, but not when I can’t even consider using this on mornings that I have migraines. If you’re into sweet things you’ll probably really like this. It’s light-weight, it absorbs into the skin very quickly and isn’t tacky at all. If you are sensitive to smells I’d opt for the aqua bomb.
AIR REPAIR COMPLEXION-BOOSTING MOISTURIZER, $21.
I’ve never heard of this brand before getting a sample size in a BirchBox. The sample lasted me months. I mean I have a lot of different moisturizers and use different ones during the day and at night, but I’d say it still lasted a long time. I wanted to add this because it’s easy to find at a drugstore, they apparently have it at Target, and it’s a quality moisturizer for someone wants to try something new. I just squeezed the very last bit out of the tube, to be honest, I’m probably going to cut it in half and get at least another one or two applications because I just love this stuff.
It has a light, clean smell that isn’t overwhelming at all and it sinks into your skin immediately. It’s vegan and cruelty-free, and it always makes me happy when I can find products I like that don’t hurt anyone else. It’s made with hyaluronic acid, just like the Neutrogena Hydro Boost, that locks in all the moisture. It also has humectants which I’ve never heard of, but help hydrate without the oily feeling. There’s some Rose Hip in there that soothes, tones and helps fight anti-aging, as well as Borage Oil that helps with stressed out skin. For all the city people out there this moisturizer also protects against free radicals with green tea and cloudberry seed oil aka smog protectant for LAers.
I really love this stuff, way more than I thought I would when I got my sample. It wasn’t until I was squeezing the tube like an old toothpaste tube that I knew how good it was.
BONUS: MOISTURIZER MISTAKE*
CLINIQUE DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT MOITURIZING GEL, $27.
Alright, I can’t even look at Clinique the same way to be honest. I haven’t gone back to the brand since college because every single time I’m disappointed. It’s such a well-known brand, but my skin hates it.
I was shown this brand by family members and started the 3-step system in high school and it completely ruined me. The toner actually hurt to use, so clearly I was not using the right product or the alcohol was just too harsh. In college I tried the moisturizer again because I noticed they had a gel version, and it was still a no-go for me.
My skin felt more oily while using this even in the middle of a New England winter. I know that sometimes that can happen when your skin is readjusting to a product and trying to balance the oils, I also know this tends to happen to me if I’m over exfoliating because my skin is trying to balance the moisture, but it all felt wrong. I can’t even look at that yellow, square bottle ever again. It did have a pump though, that’s the only good thing I can say about this product.
I know this product is listed as a recommendation of Sephora for oily-skin moisturizer and I just needed to let people know that not all moisturizers will work the same for every person. It’s a guessing game until you test them all out. You’ll find out which ingredients your skin loves in time. If it’s a hyped product and you try it and hate it, that’s okay. That’s the reason it’s so awesome to try, review, and read/watch videos on products.
Here are all the final ones minus the most expensive one. I wanted to keep my list as affordable as I could. I know the Tatcha product is creeping on too expensive, but I’m also a true believer in investing in your skin. I mean it’s your face, it’s out to the world every day, forever, so take care of it. I haven’t tried too much in drugstore moisturizers probably just because I just prefer to invest more in moisturizers. I’m not knocking the drugstore, one of my favorite cleansers, CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, I get at Target so you can find some great products, but I’d say invest a little more in your moisturizer. I’ll put together a cleanser list soon!