The One Thing an Esthetician Told Me That Changed My Skin

Updated 04/19/19

As beauty editors, we get bombarded with a ton of new products every day (we know—tough life). Reviewed is a series where we report on some of the best products we've tried. Whether it's a drugstore lipstick that lasted all day or a hand cream that saved us this winter, you'll find all our favorites in this column. Enjoy!

On a sensitivity scale of 0 to 100, my skin would easily slide in around 120. It's severely temperamental and has to be treated with the utmost care, or else my it'll let me have it. Because I break out from practically everything, I'm always side-eyeing new skincare products in fear that they'll break my skin's fragile, fragile heart. We're in a committed relationship, after all, and I need to look out for it. So, as you can probably presume, I'm reluctant to add new products to the mix, in fear that my dearly beloved face will end up with unsightly pimples a few days afterward—one of those products being fancy, rich moisturizers.

Look, I know how imperative moisturizers are, but my skin was broken up with them for a while. I won't name names, but even creamy moisturizers with raving reviews did my skin so, so dirty. I tried bottle after bottle and found that after a week, I'd wake up with unsightly pimples. Many day creams and night creams just overwhelmed my pores, and I couldn't figure out why. After a while, I gave up and swapped out moisturizers for face oils instead—but then my latest facial appointment happened.

Instead of relaxing during a facial, as one does, I take the time to interview the expert working on my face about my skin—because I want answers. During this particular appointment, I lucked out with an extremely knowledgeable expert who answered all my questions and more. I shared my tumultuous testimony dealing with cream-based moisturizers with her, and just like that, she changed my skin's game for good. After taking a look at my skin underneath a microscope, she confirmed that I have abnormally small pores, so cream-based moisturizers were actually clogging my pores—hence the pimples.

Dense creams were essentially suffocating my skin, and I needed a chiller option. Enter gel-based moisturizers.

Maya Allen
SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel $82
Shop

She introduced me to this gem, and I haven't looked back since. It's hard to believe that I hadn't considered a gel-based moisturizer before this. They're breathable, lightweight, and just as hydrating as cream-based options. In fact, many gel-based moisturizers contain water and other moisturizing ingredients that your skin will absorb so fast you'll forget you're wearing moisturizer at all.

So let's talk about those ingredients. SkinCeuticals’ formula, specifically, is full of vitamin B5, which gives my vitamin-deficient skin the daily dose of nutrients it needs. Plus, the formula has hyaluronic acid, which is why the moisture bonds to my skin so well. After cleansing, I squirt out a dime-size amount and slather it on my face, neck, and décolletage, which drink the stuff right up. My face feels so supple and smooth after application, a feeling equivalent to dipping my face in a bucket of cool, refreshing water after a hot summer day.

After giving my skin this shot of H20, I let the moisturizer seep in for a few minutes and follow up with my go-to face oil. At this point, a little goes a long way for my insanely dry skin.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this stuff, but it wouldn't be right if I didn't give you a few other gel-based moisturizers I can vouch for. With summer right around the corner, consider swapping out your heavy creams for colder months with something a little lighter no matter your skin sensitivity level. The below best gel moisturizers are close runners-up to my favorite.

Dermalogica Calm Water Gel
Dermalogica Calm Water Gel $48
Shop

This weightless, water-based gel is blended with hyaluronic acid and healthy fruit extracts to soothe dry skin and amp up moisture levels.

Rose Deep Hydration Moisturizer
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Moisturizer $40
Shop

Baby-smooth skin is ahead of you with this rose water–infused gel cream that also contains rose flower oil to seal your skin's moisture for hours on end.

Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel $27 $5
Shop

If your skin leans on the oiler side, this gel is for you. Free of oils and full of nourishing ingredients, this gel-based formula brings an allover glow and youthful radiance. 

Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Hydra-Gel Eye Patches
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream $52 $22
Shop

I mean, if "cloud cream" doesn't intrigue you, then I'm not sure what else to say. Maybe the fact that this hydrating gel contains 30%-concentrated hyaluronic acid for maximum hydration will.

Essential Energy Moisturizing Gel Cream
Shiseido Essential Energy Moisturizing Gel Cream $48
Shop

If you're looking for something that will work against fine lines and promote radiance, you've found your match with this lightweight gel, which brings firmness and elasticity to the skin.

1851 Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel-Cream
Kiehl's 1851 Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel-Cream $30
Shop

Give your skin a shower with this breathable gel that'll have an instant cooling effect and offer lasting hydration.

The Water Cream
Tatcha The Water Cream $68
Shop

This hardworking water cream is packed with botanical ingredients such as Japanese wild rose and leopard lily to smooth fine lines and drink up excess oil./p>

M-61 Hydraboost Ha Gel Moisturizer $72
Shop

Think of this hydrating gel like a vitamin-packed punch of peptides, nutrients, and vitamins all in one.

All in One Moisture Spa Gel
Koh Gen Do All in One Moisture Spa Gel $59
Shop

The brand describes this as a "gel-type lotion" that works as a serum, emollient, and lotion to boost your skin's glow and moisture levels.

If you're devoted to cream-based moisturizers, dabble on the lighter side with a gel formula and watch your skin become addicted. I am forever changed.

Related Stories