Rich and creamy moisturizers have their time and place—and that’s by no means during the summer 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,”
To keep your skin clear, glowy, and, of course, hydrated, swapping out your thick cream for a lighter gel cream should be top priority. 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 13.
What to Look For in a Lightweight Moisturizer
A lightweight moisturizer will feel thinner on the skin, but it shouldn’t need to sacrifice hydration. Your formula should still feature emollients and humectants like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides. A handful of moisturizers also have SPF to provide added protection from the summer sun.
The ideal feel of your product is always subjective, but as a rule of thumb steer clear from “rich creams” or “emollients.” You want to look for gels, water creams, or in some cases, an uber-hydrating serum that can double as a moisturizer.
The Best Lightweight Moisturizers
- The Best Lightweight Moisturizer Overall: Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre
- The Best Brightening Lightweight Moisturizer: A.P. Chem MicroDose Magical Moisturizer
- The Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Redness: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream
- The Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Acne: Peace Out Daily Blemish Repairing Moisturizer
- The Best Lightweight Moisturizer to Wear Under Makeup: Tatcha The Water Cream
The Best Lightweight Moisturizer Overall
“I have skin the falls on the dry, sensitive end of the spectrum, so if I’m going to use a lightweight moisturizer, it needs to *really* maximize on hydration. Enter: Embryolisse, which is the only thin moisturizer with the ability to keep my dry, sensitive skin hydrated all day long. It completely eliminates my need for a primer and sinks into my skin in five seconds flat. Pro tip: Apply a thin layer as a lip mask before bed—you’ll have the smoothest lips of your life.” — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Silky; Great under makeup
Cons: A little oily
Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Under Makeup
"Tatcha's water-based moisturizer is way more than just a pretty package for your vanity. The formula is infused with Japanese wild rose, which has been long used by geishas to create a flawless canvas for their makeup. I’ve found that the botanical holds true to its claim: One small dollop of this stuff leaves your skin looking absolutely poreless and imparts a dewy, shine-free glow that sits beautifully under foundation." — Hana Hong, Former Beauty Assistant
Pros: Blurring and dewy finish; Wears well under makeup
Cons: Too greasy for some
Best Splurge-Worthy Lightweight Moisturizer
"Behold, the holy grail of hydration. I’ve waxed poetic about this bouncy, intoxicating formula to anyone who will listen, and I stand by my obsession: the creamy texture melts into a gel upon application, and I can feel my skin drink it in. I started using two years ago when my complexion was acting up, and it brought my face’s texture back to normal. And it smells like a Bulgarian rose garden, to boot. I’ve gone through countless jars, and it’s worth every damn dollar. Please bury me with a jar of it so I can use it in the afterlife." —Taylore Glynn, Former Beauty & Health Editor
Pros: Gorgeous texture; Smooths skin; Luxe feel
Best Lightweight Moisturizer With Hyaluronic Acid
"If hyaluronic acid isn’t a part of your daily skincare routine yet, it should be. The ingredient is key for moisture: it’s a substance found naturally in our skin that holds a thousand times its weight in water to keep it hydrated and plump. Peter Thomas Roth’s version is light as a, well, cloud—so, it’s perfect for sticky summer days. And if you’re prone to eczema or just have sensitive skin like me, the fragrance-free formula won’t irritate at all. Wins all around."— Hana Hong, Former Beauty Assistant
Pros: Contains hyaluronic acid; Good cream for eczema and sensitive skin
Cons: Not super long lasting
The Best Lightweight Moisturizer With SPF
“Don’t sleep on this formula. I was—for years—and the regrets are plentiful. It’s my new go-to summer moisturizer, so bear with me while I sing its praises. Not only does it contain SPF 50 (great for daily wear!) and come packed with hyaluronic acid, but it also offers protection from blue light and pollution. It’s one of the lightest textures I’ve ever had the pleasure of wearing and delivers a refreshing cooling sensation that’s highly welcome in the summer heat.” — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Cooling; Contains SPF
Cons: A little greasy for some
The Best Brightening Lightweight Moisturizer
“I despise when my skin feels dull—I like to be glowing 24/7. On days when my skin looks and feels like it needs a little pick me up, I instinctively reach for this brightening formula. It leverages the benefits of eight adaptogens, including shiitake, in order to revitalize my complexion. Polyglutamic acid, which is loved by formulators for its ability to prevent moisture loss, is a star in the formula, so hydration remains at all-time high. The best part? It feels quite literally weightless on my skin.” — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Non-comedogenic; Balancing
Cons: Some say hydration wears off mid-day
The Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Redness
"I have dry skin, so this is considered a light moisturizer for me. That means that it's the one I use in the summer when my skin is generally less flaky and requires less upkeep. It's the one I go back to every year because it's no-frills. It calms my skin, sinks in quickly, doesn't react with my SPF or any of my makeup, and doesn't clog my pores on my sweatier days. It's designed to strengthen your skin barrier and I've noticed that my skin looks less red the more I use it. I can always tell when I use it under makeup because my skin just looks healthier underneath—a.k.a. it's my dream summer skincare product.” — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Pros: Calming; Strengthens Skin Barrier
Cons: Comes in a pot as opposed to a more sanitary pump
Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin
"On hot and humid summer days, you won't catch me layering on thick creams—it's a recipe for an oily disaster. That said, I do have pretty dry and easily irritable skin, so I need something that's still going deliver results. For me, that's always going to be this Dr. Sturm cream. It feels totally weightless on the skin, but still delivers hydration and a gorgeous glow. Plus, the purslane is extremely soothing on my rosacea-prone skin." —Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Soothing for sensitive skin; Nice texture
Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Acne
“One of my favorite no-fuss moisturizers is this one from Peace Out (the brand behind the very best pimple patches). I have dry, somewhat sensitive skin, and this one moisturizer has worked in both the winter and summer months for me. I noticed that it also calmed the redness and scaring left from past breakouts, giving my skin a more even texture overall.” — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Editor
Pros: Evens texture; Contains natural retinol alternative; Reduces hyperpigmentation
Cons: Slightly smelly
Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Combination Skin
"I have combination skin, so I constantly need to stay on top of ensuring that my face well-hydrated without getting too oily. I swear by this option from Neutrogena. Its formula incorporates salicylic acid, so it always keeps my skin matte and acne-free without drying it out." — Gabrielle Ulubay, E-Commerce Writer
Pros: Drugstore price; Matte finish; Is a salicylic acid moisturizer
Cons: Very fragrant
Best Lightweight Moisturizer With SPF
"The Olay Luminous Whip face moisturizer is my go-to product for summer. The lightweight formula makes my skin feel hydrated throughout the day while allowing my skin to breathe. And the SPF protects my face from the harsh summer sun. With just a quick dab of this, I’m set for the day. Bonus: it also smells really good!"— Kathleen Thieme, Former Beauty Intern
Pros: Whipped texture; Contains sunscreen; Affordable
Cons: Strong smell; Can be a little flaky
Best Lightweight Moisturizer for Very Dry Skin
"I have the driest skin, so I’m wary of lightweight moisturizers, but Belif True Cream Aqua Bomb delivers the goods! The fluffy gel-cream texture is perfect for hot weather because it doesn’t leave a sheen or make my skin feel sweatier, but it still keeps me hydrated for a good six hours, which is a feat.”—Jennifer Goldstein, Former Beauty & Health Director
Pros: Extremely lightweight; Long lasting hydration
Cons: Contains fragrance so not ideal for sensitive skin
Best J-Beauty Lightweight Moisturizer
"This cream is a literal dream come true for me. When I had the softest, smoothest, and most delicious matcha pudding ever in Kyoto last summer, I said to my family, “Gosh, I wish my face looked like this.” Lo and behold, Peach and Lily heard my prayer. Since I’ve started using this, my face has become just as smooth and soft as the pudding I had in Kyoto. This cream is so incredibly light that it melts instantly into my skin, and its niacinamide-infused formula helps brighten my dark acne marks resulting from frequent sun exposure. In fact, this matcha pudding cream is so perfect for my summertime skin that I’ve already ordered myself a second helping."—Nina Huang, Former Beauty Intern
Pros: Brightens dark acne marks; Soft texture
Cons: Too heavy for some
Maya Allen is the former Digital Beauty Editor at MarieClaire.com where she covered makeup, skincare, haircare, wellness, you name it! She has a 15-step skincare routine, owns over 200 red lipsticks, and enjoys testing the latest and greatest in beauty. On most weekends, you can find her at her happy place, which is her makeup vanity. There, she’s usually blasting her speakers while singing along to lyrics at the top of her lungs, and making sure her highlighter is on point.
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