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The best lightweight gel moisturisers to cool and quench your skin


Best gel moisturisers 2024
All moisturisers are not equal at this time of year.

It’s an oft-misunderstood fact that despite temperatures rising our complexion regularly responding with a glowy – okay fine, oily – slick, beneath the surface, skin can be distinctly dehydrated. 

“One of the less obvious challenges for skin in summer is dehydration,” says Linda Sharrem, National Skincare trainer at Caci. 

“Our skin can be oilier but still lose water with not only the heat, but those summer goodies, like alcohol we like to indulge in!” 

It means skin won’t react as it normally would, can be prone to breakouts, look dull and fine lines and wrinkles can be more prominent. Its protective barrier can also be compromised.

Sharrem says we should keep consistently moisturising in the morning and night regardless of how hot it is, but consider a seasonal texture switch from a rich moisturiser we may have used to retain moisture and protect skin in the winter,  to a lighter, water-based gel one. 

“Change your skincare regime to address the season’s elements, adding in antioxidant-rich and tyrosinase inhibitor (pigmentation) serums, and more spring and summer-appropriate moisturisers, lighter, water-based ones featuring hyaluronic acid rather than oils. We don’t want to use winter specific skincare as it can cause congestion and block pores.”

Thankfully a new-wave of sorbet-like cooling gel-cream textures free of thick, cloying butters and oils rise to the demands of summer skin. They are light and refreshing to apply, absorb quickly and won’t feel greasy or look overly shiny when your skin heats up. 

What’s more, loaded with quenching Hyaluronic Acid, a powerful humectant which helps regulate moisture levels, they’re like a tall drink of water for skin that’s seen an excess of sun. 

They also make a great base for makeup and wont cause foundation to go on patchy or pill.

Gel moisturisers work well for most skin types but typically their absence of oil and light feel makes them extremely compatible with oily and combination skin, not just in summer, but all year round.

Meet some of the best lightweight gel moisturisers:

Murad Nutrient-Charged Water Gel

This cools upon application and absorbs beautifully with no residue and contains a number of vitamins, minerals and peptides to strengthen the skin’s barrier and maintain its plump, youthful-looking appearance.

Alpha-H High Tide Water Cream

Fresh and silky feeling, this dreamy moisturiser is made with Australian Native River Mint, said to be loaded with natural amino acids and antioxidants as well as a complex of hydrating ingredients. It also has squalane, that helps to reduce trans epidermal water loss and help with skin’s natural barrier function.

Antipodes Culture Probiotic Night Recovery Water Cream

Natural skin heroes Antipodes come through with an ultra-light cream that has advanced probiotics to nourish your skin’s microbiome (thought to be the key to great skin thanks to science). As with most water-light moisturisers, it also has plant hyaluronic acid, but the addition of native Mamaku black fern seals the deal, promising firming and renewing benefits.

Caudalie Vinosource-Hydra Grape Water Gel Moisturizer


This silicone-free gel moisturiser uses an extract of grapes the brand calls  ‘grape water’ that has prebiotic properties as well as light hydration that lasts. Easy to use and suiting most skin types, it sinks in beautifully without any greasy residue and works well under makeup.

Syrene Aqua Intense Cream Gel

A slightly more nourishing version perfect for evening use, Syrene’s cream contains seaweed extract to increase elasticity and native NZ Kawakawa to soothe and calm troubled skin.

La Mer Moisturising Cool Gel Cream

Want to dial up the luxe factor? This contains the brand’s famous algae extract Miracle Broth that heals and speeds skin’s renewal process, but in a much lighter formula than the original Crème De La Mer.

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream

What doesn’t this magic moisturiser provide? A super modern lineup or all the most desirable hard working ingredients delivers lush, bouncy skin.  There’s hyaluronic acid, ceramides, minerals and amino acids to bolster the skin’s moisture barrier and antioxidants and pineapple enzymes work to brighten and improve skin’s texture and tone.

Kiehl’s Calendula Water Cream


Inspired by Kiehl’s best-selling soothing Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner, this water cream is perfect for anyone prone to redness because it contains concentrated calendula to even skin tone and boost radiance, while gently calming flushing or irritation.

Dermalogica Biolumin-C Gel Moisturiser

Offering a super easy way to take your vitamin C (topically, that is) this brightening moisturiser give skin a shot of radiance and hydration as well as heling smooth skin. It also contains five different types of hyaluronic acid to help that hydration penetrate deep into skin and support your own stores.

Goodness Water Gel Hydrating Cream

Full of natural wonders, this NZ-made gel moisturiser delivers cooling native kawakawa extract,  aloe and hyaluronic acid alongside multi-talented plant extracts prickly pear and blackberry.

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator

Potentially the most well-known of them all, Clinique’s lightweight pink gel is the perfect daily product for anyone that doesn’t like the feel of regular moisturiser, including many men we know. It’s recently been reformulated for even longer-lasting moisture, now claiming to offer hydration that lasts 100 hours.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Water Gel

Another well-loved option, this is easily accessible – it’s in most supermarkets – and delivers deep hydration with hyaluronic acid, amino acids and electrolytes. It’s also non-comedogenic so wont clog pores.


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