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Gels, Gels, Gels! Why Gel Textures in Skincare Mean Good News for Your Skin!

When I think of gels in skincare, I think of those gel eye creams back in the day, that were supposed to combat puffiness but would dry down on the skin, going all crusty and dry lol Gels have come SUCH a long way however, because they not only cool the skin, feel feather light, help your makeup last longer (because they don’t contain slippery lipids) and can moisturise skin on a deeper level thanks to effective delivery systems. If you look in your beauty cabinet, you might actually be surprised how many gel textured skincare products you already own!


Gels are mostly water. Once on the skin, a portion of the water contained in the product evaporates, as well as some of the water already in your skin (trans epidermal water loss – TEW) and hence they were always recommended for oily skins. Chemists have been working hard to change this, because in gels, actives like hyaluronic acid (and other sugars) melt into the skin very well and can be easily bound to other ingredients (e.g. glycerin and urea). This means that humctants (hydrators) can reach the epidermis and restore dehydrated skin, so they are beneficial for all skin types. New generation gels can also contain silicone, which stop TEW, without the heaviness and greasiness of some lipids.

Try: Tatcha’s the Water Cream. So, so refreshing! The formula is right up there when in comes to innovative and modern gel formulations. It also feels really hydrating (without any greasiness or stickiness) and soothing. Tatcha describes it as having a ‘water burst’ formula. The ingredient list includes antioxidants (green tea, rice bran and red algae ferment), glycerin, silicon (dimethicone), sodium hyaluronate, Japanese leopard lily (gently exfoliates) and wild rose, which is supposed to tighten pores (it has a naturally astringent effect) and is an anti-inflammatory. Oh and 24k GOLD. Just because 😉 Also try: Rationale’s Catalyst Gelcreme. I use this gel cream in the evening as it contains AHAs and BHAs (exfoliants) plus peptides and ceramides. I reviewed the whole Catalyst range here.

I am *almost* out of my Catalyst Gelcreme, so am using a photo from the review I posted of the gelcreme a little while ago 🙂


Gels are also brilliant because they are now starting to contains actives, which work to correct skin issues. Because of their light texture, this means that you can layer products on top of each other, perfect if you are a fan of the Korean 10-step skin routine or if you are simply trying to get the most out of your products. Gels can contains a host of active ingredients, including peptides, flavonoids (anti-oxidant plant extracts) and vitamins C or A (retinol). Some ‘anti-ageing ingredients like Q10, need to be bound with lipids to be effective, and this can be done also be done using a gel. The coenzyme Q10 is bound to a lipid ‘transporter’. Lipids are really important for mature or sensitive skin, because they re-enforce your skins protective barrier (allowing it to function correctly and at ‘full capacity’). Gels containing lipids was once a dream, but now it’s more than possible! Gels hold lipids well, and then ‘melt’ into the skin without a problem. Active gels should be applied before any cream product.

Try: Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum.  I’ve never tried a serum with this kind of texture before (see photos’s below). It’s a thicker gel, but isn’t sticky at all. You need to work it into the skin a little because it is on thicker side of serums, so you end up giving yourself a good massage in the morning! I believe it’s a little thick because it contains a few hydrators; ceramides, silicone (dimethicone), glycerin but also a lot of antioxidants; vitamin C, E, coenzyme q10 (I believe the transporter lipid/emollient used is palm oil), ferulic acid, tumeric extract and soya seed extraxt (amongst others). It is also soothing thanks to beta-glucan and bearberry extract. This is a brilliant morning anti-oxidant serum for sensitive skin! You can even use it under and around your eyes but because of it’s texture, don’t use it under concealer (it makes the concealer to ‘slippey’).

Also try: Futurederm’s Time Release Retinol 0.5%. I reviewed this retinol gel agggges ago, but it is still one of my favourite retinol treatments. This retinol gel has never aggravated my skin and it’s thanks to the retinol being micro-encapsulated, which means it’s released into the epidermis slowly (over 8 hours). It sinks into the skin almost instantly, and the vitamin A is balanced with skin soothing ingredients like aloe vera, witch hazel and willow bark extract. It’s super light, non-greasy and non-sticky of course!


‘Lifting gels’ come in the form of serums or masks. They provide an instant effect, albeit temporary. How do they work? A little bit like egg whites (if you ever used egg whites as a DIY tightening mask for pores!). After application, the water in the gel evaporates, leaving behind an invisible layer of polymers which tighten the skin, by stretching it out lightly. The effect only lasts until you cleanse/wash your face, but it does help make makeup last longer, so it’s a great pick me up!

Try: Tatcha’s Deep Hydrating Lifting Mask , Skin Physics Superlift 3D Deep Hydration Lifting Mask. 

So you can see the ‘textures’ of some of the gel products mentioned, from L to R; Rationale Catalyst Gelcreme (the most opaque of all of the textures), Tatcha the Water Cream and Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum.


Chemical exfoliants either come suspended in a liquid or a gel. Any ‘cream’ product that’s an exfoliant, will be more gentle (sometimes containing lipids too) and less active than a gel, just because in a cream, the exfoliants are ‘thinned out’ be the addition of other ingredients. Enzyme exfoliants (e.g. from fruits) also usually come in a liquid or gel form.

Try: Rationale’s Catalyst Gelcreme and Catalyst Serum


There’s a reason a lot of soothing products come in gel form. This is because there are a less ingredients in a gel than there is in a cream, and hence less chance of an ingredient irritating an already compromised skin barrier. Soothing gels will contain ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, cucumber and minerals. They may also contain a lipid or two (though then the soothing ingredients are diluted slightly).

Try: Whamisa Organic Flowers & Aloe Vera Fermented Hydrogel Sheet Mask

Acne Treatments

Gels are perfect transporters for acne fighting ingredients and moisturisers for oily skin. Creams can be to heavy and oily, but even acne prone skin needs hydration because most acne fighting ingredients can be drying if not irritating. Gel spot treatments usually contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Gels also generally leave skin matte, so again, major plus for oily skin! Silicones in the newer generation of gel skincare products, leave skin feeling smooth and non-sticky.

Try: You need a prescription for the Differin 0.1% retinol cream, but it is super effective. It’s prescribed mainly for acne, but you can ask your doctor for a prescription if you would like to use it as a preventative, anti-ageing treatment. I remember buying this cream years ago and I’m sure it was rather cheap, however, when I purchased the cream recently, it had gone up to $70! What the… It is described as a cream, but it is a gel cream. It is super light, non-greasy, non-sticky and absorbs incredibly quickly.

Try Also: Benzac AC gel. You can pick up this spot treatment at any pharmacy/chemist. I use the one which contains 10% benzoyl peroxide (the active ingredient in the AC gel) but it also comes in a 5% or 2.5% strengths. I’d also describe the texture as a gel cream.

Above L to R: Differin and Futurederm’ s Time Release Retinol 0.5%. The Time Release Retinol may not look like a gel, but it is. It is airy, super light and transparent upon application.


Ahhh the good ol’ eye gel! They do work well against puffiness, but they are much more effective these days and are finally non-drying! Gels cool skin and because of a high concentration of soothing or tightening ingredients (like cucumber or caffeine) work to constrict blood vessels and thus darkness around the eyes. Gels are light compared to creams, which is crucial to fight puffiness. Ingredients like caffeine are water soluble and hence are much more effective when used in a gel formulation. Remember to keep your eye gel in the fridge, which will help it work faster to de-puff! Cold temperatures also help to constrict blood vessels and feels so so good in summer 🙂

Try: Tatcha’s Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum, a gel serum that has a ceramic applicator, which I LOVE. It means that even if it isn’t kept in the fridge, it feels cooling and you get to massage your poor eyes in the morning, giving them relief!

Also try: The Body Shop’s Elderflower Unperfumed Eye Gel looks like a great bargain, if you are looking for something uncomplicated and simple 🙂

Tips: Remember that gels should be applied before any ‘cream’ products. If you use a gel moisturiser at night and wake up with dry, tight and uncomfortable skin the in the mornings, use a night cream in the evenings and leave your gel moisturiser for mornings (and use a sunscreen over the top! The products should layer beautifully). Or, layer your products by using a night cream on top of a gel treatment/moisturiser. If you have very sensitive skin but would still like to use some more active anti-ageing products, apply a serum in the evening after cleansing and a gel moisturiser over the top. The gel should soothe skin and will dilute the serum ever so slightly (because of the high water content in a gel) and they will be slowly released into the epidermis of the skin.

That’s it Beauties! Let me know if you found this post helpful and let me know of any other superb gel skincare products that you may recommend 🙂 I really, really want to try the Lagom Cellus Sun Gel, a gel sunscreen, genius!

Catch ya next time,

Beauty Bee~

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