Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel review

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is one of those moisturizers I would have snubbed until a couple of years ago. No, not because it’s drugstore. Olay Total Effects is one of my fave moisturizers, and it’s drugstore, too.

No, it’s because it has NO antioxidants. Its formula only hydrates skin. It has no anti-aging properties. But after a few years in London, I have a new found appreciation for moisture. You can use the best anti-aging products in the world, but if your skin isn’t well-hydrated, it’s all for nothing. Without proper hydration, your wrinkles look 10x worse.

In Italy, I could get away with minimal moisture and lots of retinol. Moving to London changed that. That first winter on my Italian skincare routine turned my skin into a flaky, Sahara-like mess for a month. What brought it back to health was switching that formula: lots of hydration and minimal retinol. Now, I’m back to a better ratio, but I’ve learned my lesson: a simple, Uber-moisturising formula has its place in a good skincare routine.

This moisturiser promises to give your skin plenty of moisture. Does it deliver? Should you buy it? I’ve put it to the test (and looked at the science) to find out:

About The Brand: Neutrogena

Founded in 1930 by Emanuel Stolaroff under the name Natone, the brand quickly grew and expanded into retail markets. Fast forward 14 years and Stolaroff bought from Belgian chemist Edmond Fromont the rights to distribute his patented formula of a mild clear soap that removed impurities without drying out skin, in the US.

The company changed its name to Neutrogena corporations in 1962. Since then, the brand has expanded its line to offer anti-acne and anti-aging properties that are effective without breaking the bank. In 1994, Johnson & Johnson bought Neutrogena for a whooping $924 million. The move helped the brand expand into newer markets, including India, South Africa and China. Today, you can find it in 70 countries all over the world.

Neutrogena claims to put science at the heart of everything it does. I have to give it kudos for being one of the few drugstore brands to use retinol and other anti-aging actives before anyone else did. The formulas are still quite basic, as you would expect from drugstore skincare, but they work.

Key Ingredients In Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel: What Makes It Work?


Sodium hyaluronate its a form of hyaluronic acid that attracts and binds to the skin up to 1000 times its weight in water. Plus, it works well both in high and low humidity conditions.

When skin has that much moisture, it plumps up. This alone is enough to make your fine lines look smaller – temporarily. Hydration also makes skin soft and gives the complexion a dewy glow (think Korean skin).

Related: Why You Need Hyaluronic Acid In Your Skincare Routine, No Matter Your Skin Type


The base of this cream is made up of silicones. It’s not as bad as you think. Silicones do a lot of good things in skincare:

  • Enhance texture: They allow the cream to glide on smoothly, without tugging or pulling.
  • Fill in fine lines and wrinkles: It’s a trick to make them look temporarily smaller.
  • Softens skin: It makes it feel silky soft to the touch.

They don’t even suffocate skin: silicones have a particular molecular structure made up of larger molecules with wider spaces between each molecule. They create a barrier that keeps moisture in but still allows skin to perspire.

Related: Are Silicones Really Bad For Skin?

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The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Water: The main solvent in this moisturiser, it helps dissolve the other ingredients in the formula.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that draws moisture from the air into your skin and binds it there. The extra hydration makes your skin softer and smoother, plumps up fine lines and wrinkles, and brightens the complexion.
  • Trehalose: A plant sugar with water-binding properties that increases skin’s moisture content and keeps it hydrated.
  • Ethylhexylglycerin: It makes skin softer, hydrates it, and has mild preservative properties that help the cream be safe and effective for longer.
  • Cetearyl Olivate: An emulsifier that helps water and oily blend together, enhancing the texture of the moisturiser.
  • Polyacrylamide: It acts as a film-former and suspending/binding agent in skin care products.
  • C13-14 Isoparaffin: A petroleum-derived ingredient with a wax-like texture that makes skin softer. It also enhances the texture of the formula.
  • Sodium Olivate: An emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Laureth-7 Carbomer: It helps water and oils mix together, improving the texture and feel of the formula.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: It helps to adjust the pH of products.
  • Chlorphenesin: A weak preservative that prevents bacteria contamination. It also keeps skincare products from smelling very bad.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that kills bacteria and germs before they can spoil your product.
  • Parfum: It makes the product smell good, but it’s irritating.
  • CI 42090: It gives the cream a blue tint. Like all colourants, it can irritate very sensitive skin.


This moisturiser has a gel-like texture. It’s lightweight, spreads easily into your skin and absorbs fast without leaving a greasy residue behind. It feels more like something oily skin will love, but dry skin can use it too.


This moisturiser has a clean and subtle fragrance. It doesn’t really smell like something fancy. I get the feeling the scent is here just to cover up the natural smell of the ingredients, which isn’t always the most pleasant.

Fragrances can irritate sensitive skin, so if you have sensitive skin, this is for you. Given how subtle it is, I feel Neutrogena wanted to create a scent with only a minimal risk of irritating skin. But if your skin reacts badly to anything, don’t risk it.

How To Use It

Like all moisturisers, you can use it morning and night. In the morning, use it in between serum and sunscreen. At night, it’s the last step of your skincare routine. If you want to use a facial oil, use it after this moisturiser. It’s fairly hydrating, so a few drops will be enough.


The moisturiser comes in a blue jar. It looks pretty and the colour reminds me of hydration. But it’s not the most hygienic. You need to clean your hands well before dipping them into the jar or you may insert bacteria in it that may make the formula go bad.

You may have also heard that jar packaging exposes ingredients to light and air that makes them go bad sooner. That’s true for antioxidants. But they’re not here. In fact, there’s nothing in here that’ll go bad when exposed to light and air, so this isn’t a concern for this product.

Performance & Personal Opinion

If an antiaging cream is what you want, look away. But if you’re simply looking for a way to keep your oily skin soft and hydrated in the summer heat, Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is it. But, use an antioxidant serum underneath it. Antioxidants are too important to be left out of your skincare completely.

Now, for the details…The cream has a lightweight, gel-like texture that absorbs immediately and dries to a slightly matte finish – the perfect base for makeup.

It doesn’t feel greasy. It doesn’t make your skin shiny. It doesn’t cause breakouts. If you’re the kind of girl who hates moisturizer, this may just make you change your mind (but, use that antioxidant serum first! – Yes, it bears repeating…).

So what does it do? It makes your skin softer and smoother and plumps up fine lines and wrinkles – just like any hydrating moisturiser should.

Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin


How Does Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Compare To Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream Moisturiser?

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel and Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream Moisturiser have very similar, almost identical formulas. They both use Hyaluronic Acid and glycerin to deeply hydrated your skin and silicones to create a protective barrier on the skin that holds moisture in and fills in fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller. The main difference? The cream version uses thickeners that give the formula a richer texture that makes it more suitable for dry skin.

How Does Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Compare To The Other Neutrogena Moisturisers?

  • Neutrogena Clear & Defend Oil-Free Moisturiser (£5.49): An oil-free formula to hydrate oily skin without adding more oil to it. It’s enriched with chamomile and aloe vera to soothe skin, making it a good option for oily skin that’s also sensitive. There are a few drops of exfoliating salicylic acid to unclog pores. Use it only every other night. Available at Boots and Sephora.
  • Neutrogena Clear & Soothe Moisturiser (£6.20): A very basic, hydrating formula with turmeric and panthenol to soothe skin. I find the formula underwhelming, but if you want a no-frills formula that hydrates skin without breaking the bank, this’ll do the job. Available at Boots and Sephora.
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost City Shield Hydrating Lotion (£13.49): A simple, hydrating moisturiser with SPF that makes skin softer and smoother. It protects from UV rays only if you apply it generously – like you would a sunscreen. I find the formula very underwhelming, but if you want some SPF in your moisturiser, this’ll do. Available at Boots.
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Sleeping Cream (£12.99): I don’t recommend this moisturiser because it has a big dollop of lemon peel extract. It has no benefits for your skin and it’s irritating.
  • Neutrogena Skin Detox Dual Action Moisturiser (£9.99): There’s NOTHING here that can detox skin. This is a job for your liver. Again, this is another basic formula that moisturises skin. It does have a couple of antioxidants that fight pollution before it generate the free radicals that give you wrinkles. But, that’s it. Available at Look Fantastic.
  • Neutrogena Refreshingly Clear Oil-Free Moisturiser (£5.00): An oil-free moisturiser with glycerin to hydrate skin, aloe vera to soothe, and salicylic acid to exfoliate and unclog pores. Use it only every other day. Available at Boots and Sephora.

What I Like About Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

  • Lightweight, fast-absorbing gel texture.
  • Hydrating, it makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Plumps up fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller.
  • Non-comedogenic.
  • Affordable price.

What I DON’T Like About Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

  • Fragrance can be irritating.
  • Jar packaging is not hygienic.
  • Doesn’t have anti-aging benefits.

Who Should Use This?

Everyone can use this moisturiser, but it’s more suitable for oily skin due to its ability to deeply hydrate skin without adding more oil to it. Just be careful if you have sensitive skin – fragrance can irritate it.

Does Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Live Up To Its Claims?

Neutrogena® Hydro Boost Water Gel instantly quenches dry skin and keeps it looking smooth, supple and hydrated day after day. True. But dry skin may need to seal it with an oil or the extra moisture will evaporate out again.
Our award-winning and best selling water gel formula absorbs quickly and instantly delivers intense hydration. True.

Is Neutrogena Cruelty-Free?

Neutrogena is not cruelty-free. It tests products on animals, either themselves or through a third party, in order to be able to sell in China.

Price & Availability

£12.99/$24.99 at Feel Unique and Ulta

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you’re on a budget and need a hydrating cream that won’t clog your pores or give you breakouts, this is a good option to consider.


Dupes & Alternatives

  • Cetaphil Facial Hydrating Lotion (£14.50): It uses glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea to deeply hydrate skin and plump it up without causing breakouts. Available at Boots.
  • Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream ($52.00): I know this is more expensive. But it also has ceramides to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier against environmental aggressors and antioxidants to prevent premature aging. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, Sephora, and Ulta.


Aqua, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Trehalose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Cetearyl Olivate, Dimethiconol, Polyacrylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Sodium Olivate, Laureth-7 Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum, CI 42090. [PR-0000947]