As a lifelong beauty enthusiast, I’ve always considered myself pretty knowledgeable on 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 occasional sensitivity on my face. When I met with acclaimed celebrity dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, recently, 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.
Water-based moisturizers are a popular alternative to their oil-based counterparts. Simply put, they employ water as the main ingredient into which the 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, you get some plumping, and this beautiful, dewy radiance without the possible side effects of excess oils,” says Gross.
Though I was hesitant to fully jump on the oil-free train, the fact is that when the trusted dermatologist of stars from Zoë Kravitz to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley makes a suggestion, you listen. And so began my deep dive into this foreign skin territory. Ahead, 16 water-based moisturizers to quench the thirstiest skin.