The 20 Best Lightweight Moisturizers, According to Marie Claire Editors

Bring on the humidity.

model with glowing skin after using a lightweight moisturizer
(Image credit: Getty Images/Lorenzo Palizzolo)

Rich and creamy moisturizers have their time and place—and that’s by no means during the warmer months. On the contrary, hotter temperatures and unbearable humidity signal the need for one of the best lightweight moisturizers. Featherweight formulas, silky textures, and SPF-packed hydrators should be front and center, especially if your skin falls on the oily or acne-prone end of the spectrum.

"Increased temperatures and elevated humidity tempt skin to pump out more skin oils,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of DERMAdoctor Dr. Audrey Kunin. “Applying a heavy moisturizer in these conditions creates a perfect storm to smother pores and increase the risk for breakouts."

Board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology Naana Boakye, MD, MPH, FAAD adds that some people should consider using a lightweight moisturier all year round. "If you typically have more oily skin, you should consider a lightweight moisturizer," she says. "Heavier moisturizers are thicker and have more occlusive ingredients, whereas lightweight moisturizers have more humectants. "

To scoop up one of the best lightweight moisturizers before summer is in full swing, keep scrolling. The Marie Claire editors have tirelessly tried dozens of formulas in search of the top 20. 

What to Look For in a Lightweight Moisturizer

  • Ingredients

A lightweight moisturizer will feel thinner on the skin, but it shouldn’t need to sacrifice hydration. "Heavier moisturizers are thicker and have more occlusive ingredients, whereas lightweight moisturizers have more humectants," explains Dr. Boakye. Indeed, your formula should feature emollients and humectants like glycerin, urea, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides in order to ensure hydration.

You should also consider the marketing on the product. Dr. Boakye explains, "If you aren’t sure if a moisturizer is lightweight, you can look for terms like weightless, gel, serum, or oil-free."

Finally, a handful of moisturizers also have SPF to provide added protection from the summer sun—an element that's crucial no matter your skin type or the time of year.

  • Texture

The ideal feel of your product is always subjective, but as a rule of thumb steer clear from rich creams. You want to look for gels, water creams, or in some cases, an uber-hydrating serum that can double as a moisturizer. This element is so important, Dr. Boakye explains, because "when it comes to the warmer, more humid summer months, our skin tends to sweat and produce more oil with the rising temperatures, so lightweight moisturizers are typically better suited for this time since they absorb faster and feel lighter on the skin. Many lightweight moisturizers are water-based rather than oil-based, so they feel less occlusive on the skin than a heavier moisturizer."

If you have extremely dry skin no matter the weather, she says that you may want to stick with your rich moisturizer. Simply pay attention to your skin and see how it reacts to the weather and to different formulas. Remember: There's no such thing as one-size-fits-all skincare.

The Best Lightweight Moisturizers

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Meet the Experts

Dr. Naana Boakye
Dr. Naana Boakye MD, MPH, FAAD

Dr. Naana Boakye MD, MPH, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Bergen Dermatology in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. A graduate of Temple University and George Washington University, she studied epidemiology and takes a holistic approach when treating her patients.

Audrey Kunin
Audrey Kunin, MD

Audrey Kunin, MD is a board-certified dermatologist, author, and educator. She has appeared on television and written books on wellness and skincare. A Kansas City native, she is currently based in Florida.

Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, Delish.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.