Humectant Moisturizers Are The True Hydrators For Parched Skin

Best Humectant Moisturizers

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Moisturizers keep getting new names. Face cream or lotion is old news. These days, we have humectants, hydrators, water-based creams, and even jelly creams. So what gives? Actually, these names refer to one specific type of moisturizer, which is a humectant moisturizer. Before we dive into the details, know that humectant moisturizers are exceptionally helpful for certain skin types and for certain seasons. If you’re not sure what the big deal is, we’ve gathered everything there is to know. Keep reading to learn about humectants and the best humectant moisturizers suitable for your skin type.

What Is a Humectant Moisturizer?

A humectant moisturizer is a moisturizer formulated with a higher concentration of hydrating ingredients, which are collectively called humectants (1).

The most common humectants you can find in a moisturizer are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, and lactic acid. These ingredients have one thing in common. They attract water and bind it to the skin (2).

So what does a humectant moisturizer do and how does it work? The primary function of a humectant moisturizer is to hydrate the skin. All thanks to humectants, it attracts water to the skin, which gives it that supple, bouncy, and soft feel.

Because of these properties, humectant moisturizers are sometimes called hydrators or water-based moisturizers. And because they’re mostly water-based, they are typically oil-free moisturizers with a gel-like texture.

Humectant moisturizers are different from other types of moisturizers like emollient moisturizers, which tend to be creamy, and occlusive moisturizers, which tend to be buttery (3).

By looking at the texture of a moisturizer, you can mostly tell if it’s a humectant-based moisturizer. They feel like jelly. And because of the presence of multiple humectants, they usually absorb super fast and disappear into the skin.

Moisturizers you buy don’t usually say humectant moisturizer on the package. But a humectant moisturizer will contain a hefty list of humectants listed very high on the ingredient list. They don’t contain occlusives like olive oil or petroleum jelly.

What Are The Benefits of Humectant Moisturizers?

Increase water content
Fix dehydrated skin
Work great for oily/acne-prone skin
Hydrate without clogging pores
Feel weightless in hot weather
Layer easily
Plump the skin

The most important benefit of humectant moisturizers is their ability to increase water content in the skin. They simply hydrate your skin. And they are the go-to fix for dehydrated skin.

When your skin lacks water from irritation, hot showers, hot weather, or certain skincare ingredients, a humectant moisturizer is the first thing you should reach for to hydrate the skin.

Additionally, humectant moisturizers serve a very specific purpose for certain skin types too. For example, humectant moisturizers are almost always oil-free. So they make the best moisturizer for oily and acne-prone skin. They hydrate without clogging your pores.

Another benefit of humectant moisturizers is their lightweight texture, which is the preferable texture during hot weather and summer.

Moreover, humectant moisturizers are incredibly easy to layer on the skin and even allow you to use a second moisturizer.

While oily skin types can use a humectant moisturizer alone, dry skin types can go ahead and use a second moisturizer on top without even worrying about skincare pilling.

And lastly, a humectant moisturizer is basically a hydrating face serum with a thicker texture. Because of that, they instantly plump the skin and reduce the look of dehydration lines on the skin.

How to Choose a Humectant Moisturizer

When you’re looking for a humectant moisturizer, make sure there’s a rich blend of humectants high up on the ingredient list. A simple hyaluronic acid alone won’t be enough to get that maximum hydration. Make use of a variety of humectants.

Additionally, though humectant moisturizers are mostly oil-free, there are exceptions. For example, a humectant moisturizer can utilize emollients like fatty acids or squalane and occlusives like shea butter to get a more creamy feel.

If you have dry skin, go for these types of options because they both hydrate and moisturize your skin. If you have oily skin, make sure your moisturizer is heavy on the humectants, easy on the emollients, and non-existent on the occlusives.

And lastly, you can power up your humectant moisturizer by looking for active ingredients in the formula. For example, if you want your humectant moisturizer to help with some skin concerns too, look for vitamin C for antioxidant benefits or salicylic acid for anti-acne benefits.

There’s one more thing I’d like to bring up here. I don’t usually mind silicones in a moisturizer. However, some moisturizers, especially oil-free ones, can contain silicones.

It’s to balance the humectants with emollients without bringing in an oily substance. But when you’re going for a true humectant moisturizer, aim higher and go silicone-free.

The Best Humectant Moisturizers

Below are the best humectant moisturizers to hydrate with amazing humectants.

Lancome Hydra Zen Glow Liquid Lightweight Moisturizer

Lancome Hydra Zen Glow Liquid Lightweight Moisturizer - Best Humectant Lotion

OK, this is my absolute favorite from this round-up. This is a liquid moisturizer that runs like milk on the skin. That’s what you get when you have a moisturizer loaded with humectants. It’s got hyaluronic acid, glycerin, squalane, lactic acid, and a whopping complex made with 11 amino acids. This is not oil-free, but it is non-comedogenic.

But that’s why it’s perfect for dry skin, or skin that’s prone to dryness and dehydration. It plumps the skin, hydrates it with humectants, and leaves the skin soft and radiant. It layers beautifully over my hyaluronic acid serum and under my SPF. And it doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin either. If this isn’t your cup of tea though, scroll down to find it.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, amino acids, squalane, aloe
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Non-comedogenic

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel - Best Drugstore Humectant Moisturizer

This is one of the most affordable humectant moisturizers out there. Though it doesn’t have a dozen of humectants, it is a minimal formula and contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin. It’s oil-free and basically weightless on the skin. This is ideal for all skin types including acne-prone and sensitive.

It absorbs fast, doesn’t have a prominent finish, and doesn’t irritate either. However, this is not silicone-free. But the texture is light enough to compensate. So keep that in mind. If you’re just starting out with this type of moisturizer, you can try this one and see how the texture works out for you. The drugstore moisturizer plays well under makeup too!

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin
Size: 1.7 oz
Good To Know: Oil-free, non-comedogenic, contains fragrance

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer

Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer - Best Humectant Moisturizer

If you have oily skin or your skin is prone to breakouts, this oil-free humectant moisturizer is the one to hydrate without clogging pores. It is so rich in humectants that it practically mimics your skin’s own moisturizing factors. Besides hyaluronic acid in different molecular weights, it packs several amino acids, which are amazing humectants.

And it has ceramides as non-comedogenic emollients. Plus, it contains pineapple enzymes, which are natural but gentle exfoliators. It doesn’t leave the skin looking shiny or oily and it simply disappears into the skin. So if you have an oily complexion, this is the best oil-free humectant moisturizer to hydrate your skin in the lightest way possible. Plus, it’s silicone-free and fragrance-free.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, pineapple enzymes, ceramides, amino acids
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, oil-free, silicone-free, fragrance-free

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator - Best Humectant Moisturizer For Face

Likewise, this one is also oil-free and fragrance-free. However, this one does contain silicone, which simply helps blur out the look of pores. The hydrator is rich in humectants like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, plant sugars, as well as urea.

It also has antioxidants like vitamin C and lady’s mantle to provide anti-aging benefits. The term ‘activated’ refers to the fact that the moisturizer provides day-long hydration and keeps rehydrating your skin throughout the day. Its invisible texture absorbs fast and refreshes your skin instantly.

Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, aloe
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free

Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer

Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer - Best Humectant Moisturizer for Oily Skin and Acne-Prone Skin

Similarly, this is a potent, heavily humectant moisturizer perfect for oily skin types. But this one contains an active ingredient, salicylic acid, to make your product work double duty. So while you hydrate your skin with hyaluronic acid with a concentration of 10%, you can actually fade acne and acne scars with 2% salicylic acid.

The oil-free formula has a lotion-like, gel texture and is powered by vitamin B5 to hydrate as well as aloe and allantoin to soothe. Oily skin will love it because the moisturizer has a mattifying effect, which eliminates the look of greasy skin.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, panthenol, allantoin, hyaluronic acid
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Oil-free, fragrance-free

Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer

Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer

This is gold for combination skin. Because even though it’s not oil-free, it’s super light on the skin and has just enough emollients to moisturize without making oily parts oilier. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid in different molecular weights. And it has polyglutamic acid, which is basically a chain of amino acids bound together.

It’s the hot new hydrator. The Korean moisturizer has a whipped texture, which is a little bit thicker than gel but way lighter than the traditional creamy feel. So you can use the humectant-based moisturizer to hydrate, balance combination skin, and achieve instantly smoother skin.

Key Ingredients: Polyglutamic acid, hyaluronic acid, squalane, plum extracts
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free

Ole Henriksen Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Moisturizer

Ole Henriksen Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Moisturizer

If you have mature, aging skin and you’re dealing with fine lines and wrinkles, an oil-free humectant moisturizer may run short on the lipids necessary to keep the skin texture soft. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with heavily occlusive, greasy-feeling options. This one has the perfect balance between humectants and emollients. It’s teeming with amino acids, different molecular weight hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, as well as ceramides and light emollients.

So the moisturizer tilts towards humectants but has a good ratio of moisture boosters too. But more importantly, it has signal peptides and neuropeptides to help with the look of fine lines and boost collagen. The moisturizer leaves the skin looking radiant and feeling supple. Ole Henriksen is famous for its fragrant products. Even though this isn’t fragrance-free, it does not have a prominent scent.

Key Ingredients: Peptides, vitamin B5, ceramides, amino acids, niacinamide
Size: 1.7 oz/ 50 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, non-comedogenic

Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb

Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb - Best Humectant Eye Cream

Most people miss out on the things a humectant moisturizer can do for the under-eye area. I’m talking about those dehydration lines that appear when you smile. And they’re sometimes mistaken for wrinkles. Either way, a humectant eye cream can do wonders in that area by plumping the skin and filling in wrinkles.

And this is the perfect humectant eye cream to slather on the under-eye area. It infuses dehydrated under-eyes with ceramides, squalane, and vitamin B5. And it offers a very easy way to quickly soften the look of lines around the eyes by attracting water to the skin. Plus, it comes with a blend of botanical antioxidants including Centella Asiatica to calm the eye area too.

Key Ingredients: Squalane, panthenol, ceramides, oatmeal, Centella Asiatica
Size: 0.84 oz/ 25 ml

So these are some of the best humectant moisturizers you can use to boost hydration. Because humectants increase water content in the skin, they thrive in water-based products. So if you’re interested in humectant products in other forms, try hydrating face serums for maximum benefits.



  1. Harwood A, Nassereddin A, Krishnamurthy K. Moisturizers. [Updated 2021 Jun 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:
  2. Purnamawati, S., Indrastuti, N., Danarti, R., & Saefudin, T. (2017). The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clinical medicine & research15(3-4), 75–87.
  3. Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, S. K., & Gambhir, M. L. (2016). Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian journal of dermatology61(3), 279–287.
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