When My Dry Skin Is Out of Control, I Reach for This Type of Moisturizer

Since I was blessed with dry, eczema-prone skin, it seems like I spend a lot of my day moisturizing and remoisturizing. And if you looked at my skincare stash, you'd see bottles, tubes, and droppers of half-used moisturizers, serums, creams, etc., because I'm always trying new things or changing up my dry-skin-remedy rotation based on my specific need at the moment.

When my face is mildly dry, I reach for the overnight hydrating masks so they can work their magic while I sleep. Then in the rare moments my skin isn't experiencing any dryness, I just put on a regular moisturizer. And when my skin is really experiencing an out-of-control dryness, I usually go to my gel moisturizers.

I know. A gel instead of one of those heavy-duty, thick moisturizers that REALLY lock moisture in? Listen, I have a couple of those in my beauty stash, too, but most of the time I prefer the lightweight feel of a water-based gel lotion. I find that the heavy stuff works, but sometimes it can irritate my skin or make it feel extra oily. Gel moisturizers are known to be lightweight, easily absorbed, and super hydrating. 

Because I find myself having to apply a moisturizer throughout the day when my skin is super parched, gel makes it so much easier to wear. And the coolness of the gel feels like HEAVEN on red, irritated skin. I also find that it's so much easier to apply makeup after putting on a layer of the stuff.

So if I've sold you a ticket for the gel-moisturizer train, you might be wondering which ones are the best. I've rounded up some of my fellow editors' and my favorites, plus the best-reviewed out there. Take a look below. I've even broken them down by price point.

Under $20

Formulated with plant extracts and minerals, Simple's gel cream is super light and not sticky at all. It's supposed to reduce dryness, dullness, and that tight feeling you get when you're skin is parched.

Garnier has two options of gel cream for dry and normal/combo skin types. Both formulas contain vitamin C and a fruit antioxidant complex—and they lock in moisture for 24 hours.

I keep Versed's Dew Point moisturizer in my gel-cream rotation. I normally use it as a daily moisturizer along with sunscreen, and it leaves my skin feeling so cool and refreshed. It's formulated with sodium hyaluronate, aloe leaf juice, and green tea extract.

Neutrogena's Hydro Boost gel is another one of my drugstore standbys. While on vacation in humid Southeast Asia last year, my skin was so dry and irritated because of sun exposure and all the plane travel. I popped in a local drugstore, bought the gel, and put it on every night before going to bed. Within a few days, my skin felt much happier. The gel contains hyaluronic acid and is oil-, dye-, and fragrance-free.

Under $50

Formulated for oily and combination skin, this gel not only hydrates but also minimizes pores, evens out skin discoloration, and fights the effects of aging. Ingredients include vitamin C, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, oat extract, and licorice extract.

Origins' oil-free moisturizer hydrates for a whopping 72 hours, combating dryness and preventing extra moisture loss. Caffeine and ginseng are added to reenergize skin.

This gel cream contains ingredients that hydrate, retain moisture, smooth, and protect skin from free-radical damage. It also reduces the appearance of oil, so your skin will look its healthiest.

Laneige's hydrating water gel contains antioxidants and mineral water with extracts from kale, watercress, and beet. The super-light formula doesn't have parabens or phthalates, either.

This daily moisturizer is oil- and silicone-free—it's best for normal, combination, and oily skin types. Ingredients like moringa seed extract and water, papaya extract, and hyaluronic acid work to remove impurities, exfoliate, and refresh.

Good for pretty much all skin types, including sensitive, this vitamin C gel cream not only locks in hydration for 24 hours, but it also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. You can apply this morning and night to your face and neck.

Under $100

This gel is formulated with probiotics, which are supposed to support the skin's moisture barrier and renewal process. Plus, ginger extract and red seaweed calm any redness or irritation.

Éminence's gel moisturizer leaves your skin matte and not sticky or oily. Its main ingredients include the antioxidant mangosteen to minimize environmental stress and leave your skin radiant; red clover flower extract to improve skin tone and minimize pore size; and ribose to smooth.

Another one in my dry-skin rotation, Sunday Riley's water cream has cooled my angry, dry skin on so many occasions. The lightweight formula works to brighten dark spots and discoloration, exfoliate and smooth, and lock in moisture.

Like all of Tatcha's products, this water cream has nourishing and hydrating Japanese botanicals—Japanese wild rose, Japanese leopard lily, and Hadasei-3 (a mix of green tea, rice, and algae). It's also formulated to minimize the appearance of pores and improve dull and uneven texture.

This moisturizer contains pineapple enzymes and sodium hyaluronate to combat dry, dull skin. And putting a layer on can act as a makeup primer of sorts, making it easier to apply your favorite products smoothly.

Over $100

Tata Harper's ultra-light daily moisturizer contains chia seed water, marsh samphire, and tremella mushroom, which create a layer of protection to minimize more water loss. It also contains the antioxidant banana flower and vitamin E–rich safflower oleosomes to smooth and even skin tone.

At over $300, this one's a big investment. The gel is formulated with La Mer's Miracle Broth, which contains sea kelp and other sea ingredients that are fermented. Applying to your skin morning and night will hydrate and smooth fine lines and wrinkles, leaving your skin glowing.

Next up, nine essential tips to ensure your natural skincare routine is actually effective.

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