My Skin Doesn’t Like Thick Moisturisers, But I Swear By These Alternatives

If there's one thing skin experts want you to know (besides the fact that you should be wearing SPF every single day), it's that hydration is essential for every single skin type. Whether your complexion is dry, sensitive, oily or acne-prone, without adequate hydration, you're going to experience some major skin upset.

When I was a young beauty assistant, upon learning this valuable information, I started adding moisture-rich creams to my routine. My skin had been fine without them, but I was absolutely adamant that if I wanted my skin to be healthy in the long term, I had to follow the expert advice and make sure I was moisturising morning and night. But as time went on, I learned a very hard lesson. It turns out hydration comes in many forms, and rich, creamy moisturisers don't always equal more hydration.

After a few months of using the most moisture-rich creams I could find, I started breaking out—something I'd never had to deal with before. My skin looked greasy, congested and frankly, the most unhealthy it had ever been.

After explaining the thought process behind my moisturiser switch-up to every skin expert who would listen, I was informed that things aren't quite that simple (a tidbit of wisdom that, I have come to learn, rings true in just about every faction of skincare). While skin hydration is paramount, that's not to say every skin type needs thick moisturiser every single day. Hydration, it turns out, can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, serums and essences. While all skin types need hydration, as a general rule, those with oilier skin (like mine) are far less likely to get on with rich moisturisers, which risk clogging our pores and exacerbating our oiliness. Instead, we should opt for lightweight moisturisers, whether that's a serum, gel cream or lotion. In fact, unless your skin is particularly dry, come summer, we all might benefit from opting for a lighter texture in our moisturisers.

Over the past six or so years, I have dedicated a huge amount of time to hunting for the best lightweight moisturisers—the kind that deliver the essential hydration your skin needs to function without being thick and greasy. I'm talking clever formulas with super-light textures that leave skin feeling refreshed rather than suffocated. So whether you're looking to swap out your usual moisturiser for a lighter version for summer or your skin has always disliked traditional moisturisers, keep scrolling for the 15 best lightweight moisturisers out there. Trust me—your skin will thank you.

1. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Omega-Rich Cloud Cream

Jam-packed with omegas and fatty acids to keep your skin barrier operating at its optimum, this cloud-like cream keeps your skin looking plump and glowing come morning.

2. Tatcha The Silk Cream

I'll admit I didn't know the price of this cream when I first started using it. In all honesty, I thought it was around the £50 mark. When I learned it was £115, my jaw hit the floor. However, unlike so many super-luxurious face creams around, this moisturiser is worth its price tag. It is, to be blunt, the best moisturiser I have ever used. It feels like silk (obviously), draping over the skin like a veil of plumping, radiance-boosting hydration.

3. Augustinus Bader The Ultimate Soothing Cream

Speaking of wildly expensive moisturisers, enter Augustinus Bader. Truthfully, my oily skin simply does not get on with the brand's cult-favorite The Rich Cream. When I first tried this stuff, which aims to support the skin barrier and soothe the skin, I thought the rich-feeling texture wouldn't be for me. However, upon applying the cream, it turned into a milky lotion that my irritation-prone skin lapped up. With the brand's iconic TFC8 complex, my skin now reaps all of the benefits of The Rich Cream, just without the richness.

4. Kate Somerville Goat Milk Moisturising Cream

If you're not sure what your skin needs, I promise you're not alone. Even those of us in the industry go through periods when we're unsure of what our skin is asking for. Whenever I experience such a time, I reach straight for this stuff. More of a milky lotion than a cream, Goat Milk conditions the skin while delivering extremely gentle exfoliation for added radiance. 

5. Révive Moisturizing Renewal Hydrogel

I feel like now is a good time for me to address the fact that not all of these moisturisers are affordable. The truth is, while there are tons of great affordable moisturisers on the market, when it comes to lightweight formulas that harness high-tech hydration, I'll admit that you get what you pay for. Do you need to spend the big bucks? Absolutely not. However, if you're looking to invest and you have the money to spend, the lightweight luxury options are very good indeed. This gel formula, for example, contains 4D hyaluronic acid, which works to hydrate and plump skin at every possible layer.

6. Caudalie Vinosource Grape Water Gel Moisturiser

If it's a simple, soothing, refreshing moisturiser you're after for everyday use, I urge you to give this stuff a go. With aloe vera and Caudalie's trademark grape water, it plays the role of the most satisfying, cooling beverage for parched skin.

7. Rose Inc Hydration Replenish Microencapsulated Moisturiser

When I first came across this product, I assumed it was a base for makeup (Rose Inc is a brand that focuses on makeup more than skin, after all), but I was so wrong. It works to strengthen the skin barrier while delivering a burst of fresh hydration to the skin. The best bit is that it leaves skin looking almost impossibly glowy, making it a great base for makeup, too.

8. Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

If you want to talk about skincare brands that know how to work high-tech formulas into beautifully light and wearable textures, then the conversation starts and ends with Biossance. This particular moisturiser is one of my favourites of all time. Containing powerhouse ingredient squalane to deliver deep moisture and a probiotic to help balance the skin, this moisturiser really knows what your skin wants.

9. Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer

Another gel cream (can you spot a theme here?), this stuff is my go-to for summer days, and not just because of the name. It doesn't contain any oils, so it doesn't clog pores. What it does contain, however, is a load of hydrating hyaluronic acid, skin-protecting antioxidants, and pineapple enzymes to boost glow in the long term.

10. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Fluid

Remember when I said you don't have to spend a load of money on lightweight moisturisers to see good results? This stuff is case in point. A lightweight fluid that sits somewhere between a lotion and a serum, it is designed to deliver maximum hydration to the most dry, irritated, and sensitive of skin types without any of the unnecessary weight.

11. Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate

Surprisingly, this is the only serum on this list. For most of the year, I use hydrating serums in place of moisturising creams. And while I like all of the hydrating serums I use, Ultimune is one step above the rest. With heaps of hydrating plumpers, this serum is also full to the brim with antioxidants to help boost glow and protect skin from potentially damaging external aggressors (and premature ageing).

12. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream 

Few skincare products make a long-lasting dent in my memory. Sure, there are old classics that have permanent residency (like Ultimune), but when it comes to lesser-known brands, my moisturiser du jour can very quickly become yesterday's news. This cream, however, has remained etched in my memory since the first time I tried it five years ago despite the fact that I went four years without it. Living up to its name, it drenches the skin in the most cooling and plumping hydrating formula.

13. Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream

This gel cream is described as either a hydrating serum or a layerable moisturiser, and that pretty much sums up exactly what I want out of my moisturiser. It utilises barrier-loving ceramides to help soothe skin and restore hydration in the areas your skin needs and niacinamide to aid radiance. It's a real multitasker.

14. Sunday Riley C.E.O. Afterglow Brightening Vitamin C Cream 

I have already waxed lyrical about this moisturising cream. It's full of vitamin C to deliver essential antioxidant protection to your skin while leaving your face visibly brighter and more radiant from the get-go. It's silky, cooling, and wonderfully hydrating.

15. Elemis Pro-Collagen Morning Matrix

At Who What Wear, we've already shared our love of Elemis products. Its latest launch is the ultimate daytime moisturiser that nourishes the skin without being heavy.