e.l.f. Discovery

Gel vs. Cream Moisturizer: What’s the Difference?

By Brooke Sager

Whether you have a bare-bones skincare routine or one that’s 10 steps long, a face moisturizer is arguably one of the most important products in your regimen. Face moisturizers work to keep the surface layers of the skin hydrated—and that hydration is e.l.f.ing important! When your skin is well-hydrated, it appears healthier, plumper and more radiant, and your complexion feels softer and more comfortable.

When it comes to picking out a face moisturizer, the myriad of options on the shelves can be overwhelming. Two of the more popular options out there are water gel moisturizers and cream moisturizers—but which one should you choose?

Both types of moisturizer are highly effective at hydrating your skin—that’s why our e.l.f. SKIN Holy Hydration! Collection features both formulas: our new Holy Hydration! Gel-Yeah Moisturizer and our fan favorite Holy Hydration! Face Cream. However, it’s important to note that each one boasts unique benefits and key differences, including texture, main ingredients and water content.

When choosing a gel moisturizer versus a cream moisturizer, it really comes down to your skin type and its needs, and your personal preference.

If you’re in the market for a new face moisturizer, start with this comparative guide to gel moisturizers and cream moisturizers to help you discover which product is right for you. Happy, hydrated skin, here you come!

What is a Gel Moisturizer?

A gel moisturizer is a water-based facial cream that helps moisturize skin to help stave off dryness. These formulas are super lightweight and have a higher water content than their cream counterparts, giving them a more watery texture and a light, non-sticky feel on the skin. The gel formulas absorb easily into skin, and they can be used during the day and at night on a freshly washed face.

Many gel moisturizers are also loaded with hydration-boosting ingredients to help improve your skin’s moisture balance without weighing it down. Our gel moisturizer is enriched with allantoin to help relieve irritation, plus squalane and cactus water to help hydrate, smooth and soothe your skin for a complexion that looks soft and plumped up.

Gel moisturizers also create a smooth, hydrating base for your makeup application, thanks to their lightweight texture and fast absorption. To use, apply a dime-sized amount to freshly cleansed skin, pat gently to help it sink in, then apply your favorite foundation or cc cream as normal.

Pro tip: Chill your gel moisturizer in the fridge and apply it to your face after a day in the sun for a cooling, refreshing boost!

What is a Cream Moisturizer?

A cream moisturizer is a facial cream that features a thicker consistency to help hydrate the skin. Formulated with a blend of oil and water ingredients, these face products are richer in texture and are ideal for moisturizing and nourishing extra-thirsty skin.

Cream moisturizers also contain a higher concentration of emollient ingredients, which create a film-like barrier on your skin’s outer layer to help hydrate, soften and soothe dry skin. A rich cream moisturizer can be your skin’s BFF, delivering hydration to the face that wears comfortably (i.e., thick without being too heavy).

If you’re looking for a great cream moisturizer, our Holy Hydration! Face Cream is packed with nourishing and hydrating ingredients that deliver a powerful boost of moisture for a bouncy, super-soft complexion. If you want to help replenish lost moisture while you catch some zzz’s, try our decadent Holy Hydration! Nourishing Night Cream, which works to soothe and nourish skin for a soft, dewy complexion.

How Do I Know Which One’s Right For My Skin Type?

Trying to decide between a gel moisturizer versus a cream moisturizer to round out your skincare routine? It’s important to select the best face moisturizer for your skin type—one that will deliver the perfect amount of moisture—to help keep your skin looking and feeling healthy.

If you have combination or oily skin, you have met your e.l.f.ing match with gel moisturizers. Slathering your face with a rich cream can feel heavy on your skin, like it’s coated with a thick, sticky film. Enter water gel moisturizers: they absorb quickly and have a light, bouncy texture for a non-greasy feel—aka, it’s oily skin’s dream come true!

If you’re in the dry skin club, a hydrating face cream with a little more richness might be exactly what your extra-thirsty skin is craving. Cream moisturizers have a thicker, creamier texture that feels luxurious on dry skin. Plus, their higher concentration of emollient ingredients work to lock in moisture and help moisturize and soften dry skin.