The 10 Best Waterless Moisturizers of 2023 to Hydrate and Heal Dry Skin

Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer will give you soft, plump, and radiant skin

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Best Waterless Moisturizers

InStyle / David Hattan

There is generally one golden rule of skincare (and life) accepted by all experts: Drink plenty of water. We don’t disagree, but the South Korean-led practice of waterless skincare (also known as anhydrous beauty) makes the case to nix it entirely from the ingredients list. 

And surprisingly, when agua disappears from your moisturizer, it may actually do a better job at hydrating your skin. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? Dr. Hope Mitchell of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg, Ohio, explains that since waterless skincare products use natural oils and soothing plant-based butters in place of water, they “may be more effective because the active ingredients have not been diluted” during development. 

Plus, with water increasingly becoming a luxury, we won’t dismiss how anhydrous beauty helps reduce our water footprint. Switching to an environmentally conscious, waterless moisturizer is a win-win for our planet and our skin.

Our favorite waterless moisturizer is Glow Recipe's Pink Juice for providing a heavy dose of hydration, despite its lightweight texture, using plant-based antioxidants and vitamin-rich watermelon extract.

Best Overall

Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer


What We Love: The oil-free formula feels lightweight and delivers deep hydration using antioxidants and amino acids for brighter-looking skin.

What We Don’t Love: It includes a small amount of added fragrance, which may not make it suitable for sensitive skin.

Despite the internet’s obsession with dewy skin, most people (like myself) with oily complexions try to avoid the glazed donut look. We do, however, welcome any product that gives us a cherubic glow, minus the shine. Glow Recipe, a buzz-worthy brand famous among TikTok and celebrities, answers our quest with this waterless moisturizer. 

It has a feather-weight feel that glides on almost like a serum and absorbs quickly to avoid feeling greasy. The recipe is chock full of good-for-your-skin ingredients like hyaluronic acid (a super hydrator) along with jasmine and peony extract (plant-based antioxidants). 

But the hero ingredient — watermelon — is the real star. When added to skincare products, it quenches thirsty skin and pumps it full of essential vitamins A, C, and E, while calming irritation. You’re left with plumper looking skin that is also better protected from fine lines, dark spots, and other effects of free radical damage.

Fragrance is the last ingredient listed, and although it's a small amount, keep it in mind if you have especially sensitive skin.

Price at time of publish: $39

Key Ingredients: Watermelon, hyaluronic acid, jasmine, and peony extract | Skin Type: Combo to Oily | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Splurge

Lancer Skincare Omega Hydrating Oil with Ferment Complex

Lancer Skincare Omega Hydrating Oil with Ferment Complex


What We Love: This quick-absorbing product softens dry complexions and nourishes all skin types using fermented oils and fatty acids.

What We Don’t Love: The fermented oils give it a slight scent.

We commonly see Lancer Skincare behind the most-envious red carpet accessory — fabulous skin. While we can’t promise you’ll achieve the same radiance as Issa Rae or Venus Williams (that kind of glow comes from a couple of Emmy noms and Wimbledon wins), this hydrating oil can definitely help you land more luminous skin. 

One of our favorite things about this product is that all skin types can benefit from using it, but especially those with super dry or sensitive skin. Parched complexions will bask in the hydrating, all-natural inclusion of fermented oils, like argan, olive, and licorice. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group says that “the fermentation process for some oils can enhance the yield of bioactive ingredients, making them more beneficial.” 

Although the lightweight formula is jam-packed with a variety of oils, each one melts into skin quickly, so oily skin types won’t notice an increase in shine. You might even wake up to one less blemish, or notice a decrease in redness thanks to the addition of turmeric, an anti-inflammatory ingredient

Note it does have a mild scent from the fermented oils that’s not totally unpleasant, but we thought it was worth mentioning. 

Price at time of publish: $80

Key Ingredients:  Jojoba oil, olive oil, vitamin C, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Budget

Jinsa Essentials Botanical Waterless Organic Lotion

Jinsa Essentials Botanical Waterless Organic Lotion


What We Love: It’s a less expensive option that has some of the same moisturizing ingredients as pricier brands, like coconut oil and vitamin E.

What We Don’t Love: It may feel a little greasy on oily-prone skin. 

Since water is an affordable ingredient, leaving it out of anhydrous beauty products tends to raise their price tag. Jinsa Essentials makes a more affordable product that uses the same natural ingredients as pricier options, such as coconut and shea oil, to moisturize parched skin. It even includes castor seed oil, an ingredient thought to prevent wrinkles and increase hair growth. 

The formula also contains vitamin E to protect your dermis from free radicals, soothe inflammation, and help it retain moisture. FYI: These ingredients are also a friend to healthy hair. Run it through your strands to combat split ends or heat damage.

A few reviewers say the moisturizer feels a little greasy, so if you have oily-prone skin proceed with caution or check out another option on this list.

Price at time of publish: $23

Key Ingredients: Shea, organic olive, and safflower oils | Skin Type: All | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best for Sensitive Skin

Dermalogica UltraCalming Barrier Repair

Dermalogica UltraCalming Barrier Repair


What We Love: It prevents flare-ups and soothes irritated skin using oat and evening primrose, and strengthens the skin barrier with vitamins C and E. 

What We Don’t Love: This might not provide enough coverage if you have extremely dry skin. 

Whether your office heater is on full blast or you’re suffering from a bad reaction to a resurfacing treatment,  we found a solution for you. Dermalogica, the brand often recommended by Oprah, makes a soothing moisturizer to help repair and protect your skin barrier. 

The clear gel instantly feels velvety and delicate against sensitive skin upon application. In fact, the texture is so light, you could even slather it on as a primer before applying makeup. 

Their proprietary UltraCalming Complex includes oat, a gentle ingredient wonderful for soothing irritated skin, and botanical actives, which heals uncomfortable tightness or itchiness. And with the inclusion of vitamins C and E, your dermis will become stronger, protecting it from harmful environmental damage, like pollution. 

Working together, this formula leaves you glowing, but our super dry-skinned readers may need an additional serum to feel fully hydrated. 

Price at time of publish: $49

Key Ingredients: Oat, evening primrose, borage seed oil, vitamins C and E | Skin Type: All | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best for Dry Skin

Whamisa Organic Flowers Double Rich Lotion

Whamisa Organic Flowers Double Rich Lotion


What We Love: This creamy lotion uses a blend of rich, plant-based butters and oils for intense hydration that doesn’t weigh down skin.

What We Don’t Love: The scent might be too sweet for some.

I used to gravitate toward thick moisturizers because I thought heavier formulas equaled more hydration, but all I ever got was uncomfortable, oily-looking skin. Whamisa’s featherlight lotion can soothe even the flakiest dry skin without feeling like you’re wearing a mask. 

The mix of olive oil, along with shea and cocoa butters, make the lotion feel soft and creamy to the touch, but don’t be fooled — the hydration they provide is next-level amazing — while jojoba oil helps prevent the overproduction of sebum and won’t clog pores. In place of water, it uses our favorite post-sunburn savior, aloe vera extract, to calm your complexion.

If you feel a little brighter after using the moisturizer, it might not just be because of your glowy skin. The brand touts its use of Damask rose essential oil, which has antioxidant benefits for your complexion and some research says it elevates your mood. The rose oil will give the product a sweet smell, so take a pass if that’s not your thing.

Price at time of publish: $41

Key Ingredients: Jojoba oil, olive oil, avocado oil, shea butter, cocoa butter | Skin Type: Normal to dry | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best for All Skin Types

Kate McLeod Face Stone Solid Face Moisturizer

Kate McLeod Face Stone Solid Face Moisturizer

Kate McLeod

What We Love: All skin types have something to gain from this hydrating plant-based moisturizer that only uses nine ingredients.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers are not fans of the scent. 

Remember when you saw the Kate McLeod Daily Stone Lotion Bar everywhere? Get ready to expect the same fanfare from its moisturizer. Similar to the beloved lotion, this solid bar looks tough, but it melts right into your skin. 

Along with a blend of nine hydrating oils — the most prominent being the skincare superhero, rosehip oil — and emollients like kokum butter, this non-comedogenic formula quenches dry skin in a spa. 

Thanks to the bar’s all-natural ingredient roster, you may notice an earthy smell while applying around your nose, but most importantly, sensitive skin types won’t have to worry about any added fragrance. sensitive skin users don’t need to worry about any added fragrance.

We also love their dedication to nature and sustainability via their refillable bamboo jar to stow the bar inside, which looks beautiful in any #shelfie.

Price at time of publish: $45

Key Ingredients: Rosehip, tamanu, and blue tansy oils | Skin Type: All | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Bar

Dew Mighty Bloom Jelly Serum Bar

Dew Mighty Bloom Jelly Serum Bar

Dew Mighty

What We Love: It’s a refillable product that the brand says can replace up to eight products in your skincare routine.

What We Don’t Love: The product may not last as long as a traditional moisturizer.

Free up some shelf space using this incredibly multitasking product: It acts as a cleanser, lotion, and face oil. The brand even says it can replace up to eight beauty products, but even if it’s just our moisturizer, we’re happier for it. 

The jelly bar’s formula includes the dermatologist-approved and skin-brightening ingredient vitamin C, along with. squalane to lock in moisture, licorice extract to calm irritation, and fatty acids to give your skin a supple appearance. 

It’s good for your complexion, and the refillable packing is good for the planet. One thing worth noting is that some customers say they use up the bar fairly fast. 

Price at time of publish: $41

Key Ingredients: Jojoba seed oil, squalane, vitamin C, licorice | Skin Type: All | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Moisturizing Cleanser

One Love Organics Skin Savior Multi-Tasking Wonder Balm

One Love Organics Skin Savior Multi-Tasking Wonder Balm


What We Love: The balm hydrates your skin while breaking down makeup and cleansing your skin.

What We Don’t Love: The jar isn’t hygienic. 

One Love made a balm that cleanses your skin, helps remove makeup, and is a super hydrating moisturizer. Did we mention you can also use it as a face mask?

This nourishing balm includes hydrators like mango butter along with jojoba and coconut oils for skin you won’t want to stop touching, while the fatty acids and antioxidants from the chia seeds strengthen the skin barrier. We also appreciate that the brand left out fragrances for our friends with sensitive skin.

The balm-to-oil formula allows you to slather it all over your face or just dab on especially dry patches. 

Price at time of publish: $49

Key Ingredients: Organic coconut, jojoba and chia seed oils, mango butter | Skin Type: All | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Sustainable

Loli Beauty Date Nut Brûlée Nourishing Miracle Balm

Loli Beauty Date Nut Brûlée Nourishing Miracle Balm


What We Love: This all-in-one balm uses fatty acids for plumper, brighter skin, acts as a cleanser to melt off makeup and can help repair damaged hair.

What We Don’t Love: The glass jar isn’t travel-friendly. 

Peel back this product’s yogurt-lid container and find a formula full of hydrating and healing ingredients for practically every skin concern, from dry elbows to damaged hair. 

Date nut oil, rich in brightening vitamin C magnesium, zinc, and iron, and hydrating anti-agers fatty acid omega 7 and 9, are the leading ingredients to balance the skin’s tone and texture. 

But that’s not all: The vegan formula opts for sunflower seed wax (as opposed to beeswax) to avoid clogging your pores or leaving behind a residue. You’ll also benefit from added tamanu oil—a healing ingredient that helps diminish acne scars and may even clear up your blemishes.

Clean beauty lovers will appreciate this earth-conscious brand’s sustainable practices. The MADE SAFE label on the back of its reusable glass jar signifies scientists and researchers vetted all the ingredients listed to ensure they aren’t harmful to you or the environment. 

Price at time of publish: $48

Key Ingredients: Sunflower wax, date nut, olive, and tamanu oils | Skin Type: Dry, sensitive | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Moisturizing Serum

Trademark Beauty Argan Oil Daily Elixir

Trademark Beauty Argan Oil Daily Elixir

Trademark Beauty

What We Love: It only uses one ingredient to hydrate dry skin and it absorbs quickly.

What We Don’t Love: One dropper produces a lot of product. 

Celebrity aesthetician, Joshua Ross of SkinLab in Manhattan Beach, CA tells us that “a great way to introduce waterless moisturizers into your routine is to use single-note facial oils as a moisturizer.” He says to “always look for oils that stem from seed because they mimic the oils the skin naturally produces.” 

While different oils give you different results depending on your concern, he recommends to “always look for seed oils because they mimic the oils the skin naturally produces.” His favorite? Argan oil

And don’t be dismayed that the serum only contains one product: Argan oil is a total powerhouse for arid skin, as it contains the skin-softening antioxidant vitamin E and moisturizing rich fatty acids. It’s also non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog pores or lead to greasy-looking skin.

It is suitable for all skin types, so feel free to go nuts (post a patch test of course). But, be careful how much you use since customers say it comes out of the dropper quickly. 

Price at time of publish: $20

Key ingredients: Cold-pressed argan oil | Skin Type: Dry | Cruelty Free: Yes

What to Keep in Mind


“Generally, water is replaced with more emollient ingredients, such as glycerin,” says Ross, who adds that this natural hydrator is one of his all-time favorite ingredients.

Oils are also a popular replacement for water, especially squalane and rosehip. “Squalane is skin-loving and can help to moisturize without being overly greasy,” says King, who also highlights that rosehip  is a natural source of vitamin C that protects skin. 

Additionally, Dr. Mitchell suggests to opt for high concentrations of potent organic ingredients. “Try to find items made with aloe vera juice or botanical oils,” she says, like the Whamisa Organic Flowers Lotion Double Rich on our list.


Part of the reason you see water in so many of your products is that it’s affordable. Waterless moisturizers tend to run up the bill more than traditional ones since it takes a higher concentration of the more expensive ingredients. 

It’s not all bad, though. Without water diluting the formula, the products are more potent. Meaning, it’s possible you could use less of it, and the moisturizer may last longer.

Your Questions, Answered

What is waterless skincare?

Waterless skincare is just as it sounds — a skincare product made without water. 

“Products that contain less water or none at all generally have a higher concentration of active ingredients and remain effective for a longer period of time,” says Dr. Mitchell, which also means they’re less drying — which is the whole point of applying a moisturizer.

Products formulated without water offer consumers a whole lot more active ingredients, says Ross, as water is often used as a filler ingredient, and sometimes can even make up most of the formula.

As a substitute for water, you’ll typically find a variety of butters, oils, waxes, and oil-soluble actives, which Dr. Nazarian says make waterless products especially effective at clinging to oils (like makeup and dirt) without drying skin. 

Who might benefit from using a waterless moisturizer?

“Dehydrated skin types can especially benefit from waterless skincare because they usually replace the water with a more hydrating ingredient,” says Ross, nodding to the soothing plant oils and butters that are often found in waterless formulas. 

Dr. Nazarian agrees, adding anyone can enjoy the advantages of using a waterless moisturizer, especially during the driest parts of the year. “The greatest asset to waterless products is its ability to prevent evaporation of the skin's natural water into the surrounding environment,” she says. 

And if you’re trying to target a specific skincare concern, Ross says that having a more potent product full of actives without water, the most common filler ingredient, you’re likely to see better results faster. 

They’re also a good choice if you’re, “looking for an all-natural, organic, or preservative-free option,” says Dr. Mitchell.  

How do you use a waterless moisturizer?

“When using these products, ensure that you are applying your waterless lotions after any products that have high water content,” recommends Dr. Nazarian. “The products with the higher water content, and lower oil content, should be applied first within your regimen, with waterless lotions and moisturizers applied afterward.” 

Why Shop with Us

Irene Richardson is a writer with over five years of experience covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she researched dozens of waterless moisturizers, read reviews, and consulted four experts in the skincare industry—board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Hope Mitchell and Rachel Nazarian, M.D.; cosmetic formulator, Ginger King; and celebrity esthetician, Joshua Ross of SkinLab

InStyle uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Boskabady MH, Shafei MN, Saberi Z, Amini S. Pharmacological effects of Rosa Damascena. Iranian journal of basic medical sciences. Published July 2011. Accessed February 16, 2023.

  2. Pribowo A, Girish J, Gustiananda M, Nandhira RG, Hartrianti P. Potential of Tamanu (calophyllum inophyllum) oil for atopic dermatitis treatment. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. Published December 26, 2021. Accessed February 16, 2023.

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