If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Robb Report may receive an affiliate commission.
Welcome to Robb Recommends, a regular series in which our editors and contributors endorse something they’ve tried and loved—and think will change your life for the better.
Just in time for winter, the indie-darling skin care brand Protocol Lab has launched Water Lock, a matte night cream designed to protect your skin from dehydration as you slumber—dry air be damned. It was created to cater to people with oily and combination skin who can’t participate in “slugging”, the viral skin care sensation in which Vaseline or something similarly occlusive traps any serums or active ingredients on the skin while you sleep, thereby enhancing their efficacy.
As an oily-skinned person, I typically have reservations towards overly occlusive products, since they can feel suffocating, no matter the time of year. And when I first applied Water Lock, I had that initial moment of regret, like I was going to need to wash it off quickly. I fought that urge and decided to let the product settle in for a minute. Lo and behold, this one absorbs nicely and, while you can still feel its presence on the skin, it wears light and matte (exactly as advertised for all skin types).
The hero ingredient in this gel balm is aloe vera, which pairs with water for its base. So it’s got all the anti-inflammatory and soothing powers you want in a night cream, but Protocol Lab didn’t starve it of other benefits: there is complexion-perfecting niacinamide, anti-aging retinol, and moisture-retaining glycerin. In my weeks of early-autumnal testing (during which the nighttime temperatures wavered from 70 degrees and balmy to 40 and parched), I never felt like it was too hefty on the skin, and it never transferred to my pillows, either.
Moreover, I woke up without my skin ever feeling sweaty or grimy after those warmer nights, nor parched and dull after the cold nights.
Water Lock is a perfect foil for your daytime SPF moisturizer, since you certainly don’t need to wear this occlusive product while the sun is up. Its accessible price point allows you to invest in other high-performance skincare products like serums, which you can apply after cleansing and before applying Water Lock. I’ve even been using it on pesky hangnails that refuse to heal.
This product is also an exciting next step for Protocol. The brand made a huge splash when it launched with its four-product “Renewing” line in 2022. While I used each of those to the last possible drop or dollop, I have to give a specific shout-out to the Vitamin C Superserum, which stays fresh throughout its shelf life—an imperative for such a photo-sensitive and easily oxidized ingredient. Honorary mention goes to the buttery-smooth Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide Hydration Cream. The brand has three launches planned for the near future, and there’s no telling what the brand’s research-forward ethos will turn up next.
Water Lock wasn’t what I would have predicted for the fifth member of this lineup—perhaps an exfoliating serum or simple lip balm is where most brands would have gone—but I love the unpredictability. And what a welcome addition it is to their assortment, and to my regimen.