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The Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin (Yes, Even Oily Skin Needs It!)

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Written by Jenna Cartusciello

Finding the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin sounds like an oxy-moron. Don’t creams and lotions clog pores and create the perfect conditions for a breakout? Actually, moisturizer is a crucial step in an anti-acne skincare routine.

“You have to moisturize,” says Andrea Suarez, board-certified dermatologist and skincare expert. “You need to get over the fear of moisturizing if you have oily skin and if you have acne! It’s so important because it helps reduce water loss out of the skin and it helps clue your skin barrier into restoring itself. It also helps you tolerate active ingredients … allowing them to work better [and] faster.” So, no matter your skin condition, a good moisturizer is one of the best things you can do to help clear a breakout. But what product makes the most sense? Suarez recommends moisturizers that have no fragrance but do have ingredients proven to restore the skin barrier. With her guidance in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin. Read on!

The 15 Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin

Finding the Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin

Whether you have oily skin or not, moisturizer is your best friend. “Think of your skin as a brick wall,” says Dr. Suarez. “The skin cells are the bricks, and the ceramides, cholesterol and lipids in between the skin cells are the mortar, keeping everything together. The integrity of this brick-and-mortar structure is really important because it keeps moisture in the skin so the skin is firm, plump and hydrated. It also keeps irritating things out.”

Dr. Suarez then explains that problems happen when the brick-and-mortar structure experiences damage. “When that integrity is compromised — maybe from using too many irritating products, maybe because you have a genetic tendency towards dry skin or maybe [you have] age-related changes and loss of ceramides, you become prone to irritation,” she continues. A damaged skin barrier and the irritation that follows sets the groundwork for a breakout.

In effect, it’s incredibly important to use moisturizer, no matter where you are in your acne journey. While the right formula might change depending on your skin’s natural moisture level (dry, normal or oily), every product we recommend is non-comedogenic, or non pore-clogging.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin

Before buying a moisturizer, it’s important to think about the primary ingredients, active ingredients, texture, your skin type and the price.

Primary Ingredients

Inspecting ingredient labels is never fun, but it’s a crucial step to achieving the results you want. Non-comedogenic hydrators that work well for just about any skin type include hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, aloe vera, squalane and dimethicone. Ingredients like lanolin and petrolatum are also great hydrators for dry skin because they help seal in moisture, but they may not work well for oily skin.

Active Ingredients

Some moisturizers contain active ingredients, or acids that help treat various skin concerns. Products geared toward treating acne may have salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acid, retinol, azelaic acid or niacinamide. With the exception of niacinamide and lactic acid — gentle exfoliants well-tolerated by most skin types — we recommend that your moisturizer contains no active ingredients. Instead, consider incorporating these exfoliators into your skincare routine via a serum, cleanser or wash-off face mask. That way, you have full control over how often they come in contact with your skin. Dr. Suarez suggests using one active ingredient at a time, and applying it a few nights a week when you first start.

“[Active ingredients] can be very drying,” says Dr. Suarez. “They can create some irritation because they exfoliate the skin, which in and of itself is going to cause more water loss. So, they take some time to get used to and for those side effects to subside. The last thing you want to do is try multiple ingredients all at once. You can end up getting very dry, irritated and inflamed skin.”

Fragrance

Generally, we recommend using moisturizers that contain no fragrance. Allergies to fragrance are the leading cause of contact dermatitis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). The easiest fragrance to spot on an ingredient label is parfum (fragrance), but masking fragrances and agents — scents designed to conceal unpleasant smells — are harder to catch. Masking fragrance may not cause you any harm, but if you have very sensitive skin, opt for products labeled “fragrance free” as opposed to “unscented.”

Skin Type

Does your skin naturally produce a lot, a little or barely any oil? Your answer will help inform your decision on what moisturizer to buy. If you have oily or combination skin, a lotion or a gel-based formula may provide the hydration you need without feeling heavy. Oil-free creams may also work for you, especially in cold weather. If you have dry skin, a lotion or cream should offer you ample hydration. Note that you may need a heavier or lighter formula depending on the weather.

Price

The price of your skincare regimen can add up quickly, so we’ve prioritized recommendations that are cost effective. The products we have included cost between $10 and $40, and the majority cost between $10 and $20. The price per ounce is important as well, so we make sure to point out when a bottle is smaller or larger than normal.

What Are the Different Types of Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin?

Gel

Gel moisturizers have a weightless, bouncy feel, which many people with oily or combination skin enjoy. The jelly-like formula easily spreads across skin and leaves a cooling, soothing sensation. Ingredients that create a gel consistency in a moisturizer include aloe vera, sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid.

Cream

Cream-based formulas are the heaviest moisturizers on the market. They work well for dry, flaky skin and may contain squalane (a non-comedogenic, anti-inflammatory oil), shea butter, cetyl alcohol, glycerin and ceramides. Some creams are a hybrid between cream and gel, which may be ideal for combination skin.

Lotion

Lotion-based moisturizers are a little thinner than creams, so they spread more easily across the skin. They also tend to have a blend of the ingredients used in both gels and creams, including cetyl alcohol, glycerin, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Note that most lotions are intended for use on both the body and face.

1

Best Overall: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Pros

  • No-nonsense ingredients
  • Ceramide-rich formula
  • Not greasy

Cons

  • May be too moisturizing for oily skin
  • Mild scent may be off-putting
  • Pump may malfunction

Moisturizer for acne-prone skin should have a simple, no-nonsense formula, which is why the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion is our top pick. This product contains three types of ceramides, or the fats and lipids that help keep skin cells together, and hyaluronic acid, a non-comedogenic hydrator that is naturally found in our skin. We like that this formula is easy to apply and it doesn’t feel greasy.

However, this lotion may be slightly too moisturizing for oily skin types. A few buyers also dislike the mild scent of the product — this may be a result of the formula having no masking fragrance. Some customers have also had difficulty with getting the pump to work correctly.

2

Best Drugstore: Cetaphil Deep Hydration Skin Restoring Water Gel

Pros

  • Not greasy
  • Lightweight feel
  • Hydrating, serum-like ingredients

Cons

  • Tacky finish
  • Not hydrating enough on dry skin
  • Unscented smell may be off-putting

If you’re looking for a formula that’s more lightweight than the CeraVe Daily Lotion but still provides ample hydration, we recommend Cetaphil’s Deep Hydration Skin Restoring Water Gel. This formula contains non-comedogenic and non-greasy hydrators like hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid to keep skin moisturized throughout the day. It applies easily and may help reduce irritation and reactive skin over time.

The downsides? We noticed that this formula has a slightly tacky finish, probably because it doesn’t contain heavier, less serum-like moisturizers. In addition, this may not be hydrating enough on dry skin. Some buyers also dislike the scent.

3

Best Budget: e.l.f. Holy Hydration Face Cream

Pros

  • Cruelty free and vegan
  • Affordable
  • Fragrance free

Cons

  • Not as hydrating as competing products
  • No dispensing system
  • May look greasy

You may know e.l.f. as a cosmetics brand, but the company also sells high-quality skin care products. We like the Holy Hydration Face Cream because it’s affordable, fragrance free and contains great hydrators like hyaluronic acid and squalane.

Though this formula has a creamy consistency, a few buyers have noticed that it isn’t as hydrating as they had hoped. We also wish this product came with some sort of spatula, pump or dispensing system that prevents you from dipping your fingers directly into the bottle.

4

Best Splurge: Hear Me Raw The Hydrator With Prickly Pear

Pros

  • Great for oily skin
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients
  • Can be used as an overnight mask

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Smell may be off-putting
  • Lactic acid can cause irritation

If you’re hoping to give your skin a real treat, try The Hydrator from Hear Me Raw. It uses ingredients you don’t often see in skincare that have excellent benefits, including prickly pear to help your skin retain water and maqui berry to reduce inflammation. It also contains lactic acid, a mild exfoliator that softens and smooths skin. This formula feels like a lightweight cream that spreads easily across the face and dries quickly, leaving a matte finish.

While this formula is great for oily skin, the lactic acid may be irritating for first time users. The unique ingredients could also cause irritation, and it may be hard to pinpoint the culprit.

5

Best for Dry Skin: Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream

Pros

  • Clean ingredients
  • Cooling sensation
  • Ultra hydrating

Cons

  • Shiny finish
  • May be too hydrating on oily skin
  • Pricey

Looking for the thirst quencher that beats the rest? We recommend the Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream. It contains ultra-hydrating ingredients like squalane (the second ingredient!), glycerin and two types of hyaluronic acid, and it has a cool, soothing sensation when applied. We love that this product is sustainably made and recognized by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as having “clean ingredients.”

The downsides: This formula has a shiny finish that takes a while to completely sink in, so you may need to apply a mattifying powder or sunscreen on top. In addition, the product may be too hydrating on oily skin and it’s on the pricier side (though Honest Beauty runs sales often). While pumps are not as easily recyclable, we wish this product came with some sort of spatula so you didn’t have to place your fingers in the container.

6

Best Budget for Dry Skin: Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Ultra-hydrating ingredients
  • Fragrance free

Cons

  • May need to reapply
  • Quality issues when buying through Amazon
  • No pump or applicator

If you’re looking for a similar alternative to the Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream, we suggest trying the Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Gel Facial Moisturizer. Formulated with glycerin to penetrate the skin cells and dimethicone to seal in moisture, this lightweight formula is fragrance free and great for sensitive, acne-prone skin.

However, you may need to reapply this moisturizer throughout the day to maintain hydrated skin. A few buyers have also experienced quality issues when purchasing through Amazon. We wish this product had a pump or applicator so you don’t have to use your fingers.

7

Best for Oily Skin: Rovectin Calming Lotus Water Cream

Pros

  • Lightweight hydration
  • Soothing
  • Satin to matte finish

Cons

  • May have to reapply
  • May not be hydrating enough on dry skin
  • Steady price increase

Oily skin needs to “breathe” more than dry skin, meaning a lightweight moisturizer is ideal. With this in mind, we recommend the K-Beauty Rovectin Calming Lotus Water Cream for acne-prone, oily skin. It contains lightweight hydrators like glycerin and sweet almond oil, and lotus water (the main ingredient) may help soothe and purify the skin to clear your complexion.

The downsides: This formula may not be hydrating enough on very dry skin or in the winter months. In addition, a few loyal customers are upset by the steady price increase.

8

Best Budget for Oily Skin: CeraVe Ultra Light Moisturizing Gel

Pros

  • Fast absorbing
  • Contains brightening niacinamide
  • Weightless feel

Cons

  • Not ideal for dry skin
  • Price increase in recent years
  • May cause irritation

If the CeraVe Daily Lotion is too heavy for you, consider the brand’s Ultra Light Moisturizing Gel instead. This formula has fast-absorbing hydrators like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin and dimethicone so that it feels weightless. We also like that it contains niacinamide to help brighten the skin and even out complexion.

What could be improved: Since this product is lightweight, it isn’t hydrating enough for dry skin. A few customers have experienced tingling and burning, so we recommend applying some to your inner wrist first for 15 minutes as a test.

9

Best for Combination Skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Face Moisturizer Gel-Cream

Pros

  • Oil free
  • Soothing hydrators
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Tacky finish
  • May be too moisturizing on very oily skin
  • No pump or spatula

While the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream used to contain a few unsavory ingredients (colorants and fragrance), the new and improved formula is excellent. It’s fragrance free and oil free, and it contains soothing hydrators like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and dimethicone.

However, this formula is a bit sticky once dry. A few buyers think that it’s a little too moisturizing on very oily skin, so you may need to use only a small amount. We wish this product had some sort of pump or spatula so you don’t have to dip your fingers into the container.

10

Best Budget for Combination Skin: Differin Restorative Night Moisturizer

Pros

  • Soothes irritation
  • Tried-and-true hydrating ingredients
  • Great after using exfoliants

Cons

  • May not be hydrating enough
  • Shiny finish
  • Not a lot of product for price

If you struggle with dry and oily skin, we recommend the Differin Restorative Night Moisturizer. It helps soothe irritation and reduce breakouts, thanks to ingredients like hyaluronic acid, triglycerides and sunflower seed oil. This product is great after using a potentially irritating exfoliant such as retinol or salicylic acid.

However, this formula may not be thick enough if your skin is very dry. It may also leave a shiny finish, and you don’t get a lot of product for the price.

11

Best for Mature Skin: La Roche-Posay Lipikar Daily Repair Moisturizing Lotion

Pros

  • Fragrance free
  • Helps restore skin’s lipids
  • Approved by NEA

Cons

  • Pump may malfunction
  • May need to reapply
  • Contains BHT

If you struggle with adult acne and still need to take care of dry, aging skin, try La Rocke-Posay’s Lipikar Daily Repair Moisturizing Lotion. It contains gentle hydrators like shea butter and glycerin to help restore moisture and replenish the skin’s natural lipids. We also like that it’s approved by the National Eczema Association.

The downsides: A few customers have received bottles with a broken pump when buying online. Others felt that they needed to reapply multiple times per day. In addition, this product contains BHT or butylated hydroxytoluene. There is some research to suggest that it is carcinogenic and creates irritation, though more testing is needed.

12

Best Budget for Mature Skin: Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin

Pros

  • Contains multiple ceramides
  • Maintains moisture throughout the day
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not great for oily skin
  • Shiny finish
  • Some customers had irritation

If you’re menopausal or postmenopausal, your skin will benefit greatly from an ultra-hydrating moisturizer. The Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer fits the bill. It contains excellent hydrators such as squalane, glycerin and hyaluronic acid to help skin cells maintain moisture throughout the day. It also contains multiple ceramides to help repair the skin barrier, which may reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while reducing the risk of adult acne.

What could be improved: A little goes a long way, so this formula may not be great for oily skin types. It also has a shiny finish, so you may need to mattify it with powder. A few customers have experienced irritation when using this product so we recommend performing a patch test on your inner wrist first.

13

Best to Repair Skin Barrier: CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

Pros

  • Contains 3 different ceramides
  • Deeply penetrating moisturizers
  • Can be used morning and night

Cons

  • Similar to less-expensive CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
  • A few customers had bad reactions
  • May cause slight tingling feeling

If you have flaky, dry skin, more pronounced fine lines, redness and acne, there’s a very good chance your skin barrier is damaged. To help repair it, we recommend the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. It contains three different ceramides to help heal the “glue” between your skin cells, along with deeply-penetrating hydrators like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. And while intended for use at night, this moisturizer can also work during the day if you have extremely dry skin.

Unfortunately, a few buyers found that this formula exacerbated their redness and irritation, so make sure you do a patch test before trying. Some customers felt that this formula wasn’t much different than the CeraVe Deep Hydration Moisturizing Cream, which is much less expensive.

14

Best Anti-Inflammatory: CosRx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Beauty Mask

Pros

  • 68% of formula is rice extract
  • Contains brightening niacinamide
  • Helps restore natural moisture

Cons

  • Contains palm oil
  • May leave tacky finish
  • Steady price increase

If you want to reduce redness, inflammation, flaky skin and acne as quickly as possible, try the K-Beauty CosRx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Spa Beauty Mask. Rice extract makes up 68% of the ingredients, and it helps soothe the skin and restore its natural moisture. We also like that this product contains brightening niacinamide.

Unfortunately, this product contains palm oil, a non-sustainable ingredient that has led to major deforestation. The formula may also leave a tacky finish depending on the serums you use underneath it, and some customers dislike the steady price increase.

15

Best Oil-Free Formula: Paula’s Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer

Pros

  • Great for oily skin
  • 3 different ceramides
  • Anti-inflammatory

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not for dry skin
  • A few customers had irritation

Oil-free moisturizers are great for oily and acne-prone skin, but only if they offer enough hydration. We like the Paula’s Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer because it still provides enough hydration to reduce the chance of a breakout. Ingredients like three different ceramides help restore the skin barrier while licorice, pumpkin and blueberry reduce inflammation.

What isn’t ideal: Paula’s Choice products are expensive, so it may be hard to create a sustainable routine with this moisturizer. It’s also too light for dry skin and a few customers experienced irritation.

People Also Ask

  • Q: Can moisturizer help acne?

    A:Yes! Moisturizer is key to helping your acne heal. “Don’t neglect moisturizer,” Dr. Suarez says. “That’s going to help [repair] your skin barrier and reduce dryness."

  • Q: Which is the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin?

    A:Overall, we recommend the CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion. If this formula is too hydrating, consider the Rovectin Calming Lotus Water Cream.

  • Q: What ingredients should I avoid in a moisturizer for acne-prone skin?

    A:Acne-prone skin is exacerbated by irritating ingredients such as fragrance, essential oils and chemical exfoliators. We recommend avoiding these ingredients in your moisturizer (though you can use chemical exfoliators in other steps of your skincare routine).

  • Q: What ingredients in moisturizer are great for acne-prone skin?

    A:According to Dr. Suarez, ingredients like panthenol, ceramides and silicones help the moisture barrier recover and reduce transepidermal water loss. Niacinamide is another great ingredient to look out for because it helps reduce inflammation and oiliness.

  • Q: How much do moisturizers for acne-prone skin cost?

    A:Moisturizers cost anywhere between $10 and $200, though the products we recommend cost between $10 and $50.

Why trust Us

At Us Weekly, we aim to inform readers to make smart purchasing decisions, saving you both time and money. Our editors are obsessed with finding products in a variety of categories from fashion and beauty, to home and fitness.

We try various products, so we can recommend our favorites, and we also summarize feedback and data from other customers. Data, like product reviews and ratings, helps us recommend the best product choices for individual price points and needs.

On top of that, we highlight unique product features for special use cases, ingredients preferences, and more. We strive to make sure you are discovering new products that can make your life easier, while keeping you up to date with the best product choices for types of items you already know and love.

Author photo

By Jenna Cartusciello

Affiliate Commerce Writer Jenna loves recommending great products to her friends and family, so helping the rest of the internet on their quest to find the best stuff makes tremendous sense! Though she mainly writes in-depth buyer’s guides these days, Jenna still enjoys crafting the occasional health article. In her spare time, she loves immersing herself in creative writing. Her favorite authors (for anyone who is willing to geek out with her) include Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and Jennifer Egan.

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