15 Best Moisturizers for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
While using moisturizer on oily skin may seem counterintuitive, it's actually one of the best things you can do for your complexion—if you choose the right product.
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Yes, oily skin needs moisturizer!
There are many possible reasons your skin is oily. The list includes stress, humidity, your genes, and fluctuating hormone levels, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Of course, oily skin can clog pores, leading to breakouts. You may think the last thing you need is a face moisturizer because it seems like it would exacerbate this problem, but nothing could be further from the truth. What you do need, however, is the best moisturizer for oily skin—one that’s specifically formulated for your needs.
“Many of my patients who deal with oily skin are hesitant to use a moisturizer because they think they need to ‘dry out’ their oily skin,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska. “By skipping moisturizer, you’re allowing your oily skin to become too dry, which kicks your oil glands into overdrive and [causes them to] produce even more oil. ”
Choosing the right moisturizer will help your skin stay hydrated and balanced. The key? Avoid moisturizers with heavy oils like olive oil, soybean oil, coconut oil, argan oil, and lanolin, which may clog pores. “When looking for moisturizers for oily skin, it is best to choose ones that are noncomedogenic and don’t cause an increased amount of sebum and acne,” advises New York City dermatologist Michele S. Green, MD.
With that in mind, here are the top-rated, expert-recommended moisturizers on the market for oily, acne-prone skin. Just note that if you’re looking for a hybrid moisturizer with SPF, you should use it only on days when you won’t be outside too much; make sure to cover up with a proper face sunscreen for extended outdoor time. (Consider adding a sun hat and a pair of sunglasses with UV protection, too.)
Skinbetter Science’s AlphaRet Overnight Cream
For oily skin, this AlphaRet Overnight Cream is a winner, says Marnie Nussbaum, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “It is an encapsulated retinol, which minimizes potential irritation and inflammation typically associated with retinoids,” she explains. “It also contains 10 percent glycolic acid to assist in exfoliation, unclog pores, and help with fine lines and wrinkles.”
Both retinoids and glycolic acid work double duty to decrease excess sebum and minimize fine lines, Dr. Nussbaum says. Sebum, by the way, is an oily, waxy substance produced by your sebaceous glands. When your skin is oily, it churns out an excess amount of the fat-like molecules that make up sebum, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. This Skinbetter moisturizer can keep those issues at bay while also helping you tap into the fountain of youth.
- Anti-aging properties for mature skin
Simple Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream
Is your oily skin also sensitive? This gentle gel cream from Simple might be the one for you—especially if you’re looking for something super affordable, too. It’s an ultralight moisturizer that improves skin hydration without weighing down skin or making it feel greasy, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department of Mount Sinai Hospital. This Amazon best seller doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, artificial colors, or perfume, so it’s well suited for dehydrated, dry, or sensitive skin.
- Gentle on sensitive skin
La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Daily Moisturizer for Oily Skin
If you have oily skin, a matte finish is your BFF because it leaves your skin looking smooth and fresh. This oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizer from La Roche Posay uses sebulyse technology to target excess oil, according to Hadley King, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City. “It is also formulated with micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid and microspheres and perlite that absorb humidity and sebum, leaving a matte finish,” she explains.
This one also gets a nod from Dr. Green. “Sebulyse is a unique ingredient that aids in mattifying your skin, so that it appears less oily and reduces the appearance of your pores,” she says. “The key here is that this moisturizer helps in preventing a shiny or oily appearance on your skin.”
- Reduces the appearance of pores
- Has a mattifying effect
Cetaphil PRO DermaControl Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30
Oily skin needs protection from the sun, too, and this lightweight, noncomedogenic Cetaphil PRO moisturizer offers hydration combined with broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection. “It uses ‘micro-pearl technology’ to absorb surface oil, reduce shine, and leave a matte finish,” says Dr. King. And she’s not the only one who loves it: More than 11,000 Amazon reviewers gave five stars to this multitasking formulation, which has been shown to provide ample moisture to skin that’s been dried out from acne products. Another popular Amazon product in this category—a $12 acne gel with over 12,000 perfect ratings.
- Doubles as sunscreen
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
Moisturizers come in many different forms—creams, ointments, lotions, emulsifiers, and gels—and this alcohol-free, oil-free gel is well-suited for oily skin types. “It contains glycerine and hyaluronic acid, which are both humectants,” explains Dr. King, “so they can hydrate the skin without the need for emollients that may feel too heavy for oily skin.”
This fan-favorite moisturizer for oily skin, which has more than 42,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, gets another vote of confidence from Tiffany Jow Libby, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Brown Dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine. “I love gel-cream formulations for oily skin, as they provide enough moisture without contributing to excess oil formation,” she says. “This is a lightweight moisturizer that feels calming and refreshing when applied to the skin.”
- Alcohol free, oil free
Biopelle Tensage Soothing Cream
It doesn’t seem fair that people who are still dealing with breakouts also have to deal with aging skin, but it’s a frustrating reality. And if it’s your reality, you’ll want this Biopelle Tensage Soothing Cream, according to Joel L. Cohen, MD, director of AboutSkin Dermatology and DermSurgery in Colorado. “It is a noncomedogenic, oil-free moisturizer that is great for sensitive and acne-prone skin types,” he says. “It also contains growth factor benefits derived from a snail secretion (no snails are harmed in the process), along with Boselli serrate extract and hyaluronic acid to help improve signs of aging and provide soothing relief and hydration for the skin.” For more must-haves that turn back the clock, check out this list of the best anti-aging eye creams.
- Anti-aging benefits
- Gentle on sensitive skin
Alastin Hydratint Pro Mineral Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
OK, so this one isn’t technically a moisturizer, but it’s a great moisturizing option for those with oily skin, says Marina Peredo, MD, founder of Skinfluence Medical PC and an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “With SPF 36, this formula works as your daily sunscreen—but it actually doubles as a powerful-but-light moisturizer,” she says. “It also has several great antioxidants that protect the skin.” Another plus? It has a universal tint that complements a variety of skin tones, providing light coverage so wearers can skip the foundation but still get a gorgeous natural makeup look.
- Doubles as sunscreen
- Contains antioxidants for skin protection
Senté Dermal Repair Cream
Redness and irritation are often the unfortunate results of oily, acne-prone skin. That’s where this miracle product comes in. This Senté cream is one of the best moisturizers for oily skin because it’s hydrating without being greasy, says Diane Orlinsky, MD, a Maryland-based dermatologist, and “it helps reduce inflammation and instantly soothes and plumps the skin.” Its patented Heparan Sulfate (HSA) technology supports long-lasting deep hydration, which can help stabilize oily skin so it doesn’t overproduce sebum as a response to surface dehydration.
- Calms inflammation
- Great for red, irritated skin
CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream
A moisturizer should do more than just hydrate skin—it should also repair the skin’s barrier so water stays in and irritants stays out, according to Peter A. Lio, MD, a clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “For those with oily skin who want more of a matte effect, CeraVe Baby cream is amazing,” he says. “It has almost a ‘powdery’ finish that is just delightful, and seems to be very good for oily skin that still needs barrier help.” And yes, it’s made for babies, but it’s great for people of all ages.
- Safe for all ages
- Repairs skin’s natural barrier
Say goodbye to fine lines and wrinkles with this moisturizing hydrogel. “Many love the gel formulation, which is extremely hydrating but light and absorbs quickly into the skin, and it’s great for those with oily skin types,” says New York City–based dermatologist Amy B. Lewis, MD. Plus, Neocutis recently added a proprietary peptide technology that targets elastin and tightens the skin. “Now my favorite BioGel boosts both collagen and elastin, giving firmer skin with better tone and elasticity,” raves Dr. Lewis. And she’s excited about this for good reason—collagen and elastin are the proteins that give skin its youthful qualities but decline as we age. This formulation can give you just the boost that you need. Add one of these affordable face serums for a plump, radiant complexion.
- Treats fine lines and wrinkles
- Firms skin
Yes to Tomatoes Daily Balancing Moisturizer
If you’re looking for a moisturizer that won’t break the bank, say yes to Yes to Tomatoes Daily Balancing Moisturizer. This drug-store fave was formulated especially for oily and acne-prone skin, and it’s lightweight and blemish-busting. The secret sauce? Tomato extract, watermelon extract, and powerful oil-absorbers all work together to moisturize your face for a smoother look and feel without adding shine. One reviewer raves, “This stuff is AMAZING. It cleared up my skin within two weeks like no product has ever done before.”
- Treats blemishes
Acure Incredibly Clear Mattifying Moisturizer
With nearly 3,500 five-star reviews, this Amazon bestseller contains lilac extract and chlorella, and it’s 100 percent vegan, making it perfect for the eco-conscious beauty lover. It’s also easily absorbed and provides a mattifying finish for oily and acne-prone skin. Reviewers call it “epic” and love that it doesn’t upset “cranky skin” and layers beautifully under makeup. Using a product like this is one of the beauty secrets of women who always look put together.
- Vegan formula
- Gentle on sensitive skin
Avène Hydrance Light Hydrating Emulsion
Imagine if your moisturizer could blot oil away. Well, there’s no need to imagine—just pick up this lightweight formula from Avène. “It also has oil-blotting capabilities and helps reduce excess oil, so it simultaneously hydrates dry skin and absorbs excess oil,” says Dr. Green. Plus, she adds, this lightweight formula was specially designed for sensitive skin. If your skin tends to get aggravated by skin-care products, you can kiss that worry goodbye, at least when it comes to this moisturizer.
- Absorbs excess oil
- Lightweight formula
- Gentle on sensitive skin
LovelySkin LUXE Mattifying Antioxidant Moisturizer
Who doesn’t want lovely skin? This brand makes good on its promise with an oil-free, antioxidant-packed moisturizer that helps to sop up damaging free radicals linked to aging. What’s in it, exactly? Antioxidant powerhouses vitamin C and resveratrol, as well as Dead Sea minerals. What’s more, a special dermatologist-developed molecule called afaLUXE helps provide proper exfoliation without drying out the skin. Lovely, indeed! Here are more anti-aging creams dermatologists trust the most.
- Exfoliating formula
- Anti-aging benefits
Epionce Renewal Lite Facial Lotion
If you’re looking to streamline your products and have your moisturizer do a little multitasking, Epionce Renewal Lite Facial Lotion is just what the dermatologist ordered—literally. Dr. Schlessinger often recommends this moisturizer to his patients with oily skin because it’s lightweight and can also help brighten skin and smooth wrinkles. Ever wonder why you always get acne when the weather cools down? We investigated.
- Multitasking, lightweight formula
- Brights skin and smooths wrinkles
PCA SKIN Clearskin
This is another winner if you’ve got oily skin and are looking to stop acne breakouts in their tracks, says Dr. Schlessinger. It not only helps balance oil production, but it also reduces excess shine, calms inflammation caused by breakouts, and purifies pores to prevent future breakouts. Apply a nickel-sized amount morning and night, and before you know it, you might join the reviewers who call it “a miracle in a jar” and a total “skin saver.” Next, take a look at the other cult-favorite products that are 100 percent worth it.
- Clears breakouts
- Calms inflammation
- American Academy of Dermatology: “How to Control Oily Skin”
- Joel Schlessinger, MD, dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska
- Michele S. Green, MD, dermatologist in New York City
- Marnie Nussbaum, MD, dermatologist in New York City
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the dermatology department of Mount Sinai Hospital
- Hadley King, MD, dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University
- Tiffany Jow Libby, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Brown Dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine
- Diane Orlinsky, MD, dermatologist in Towson, Maryland
- Marina Peredo, MD, founder of Skinfluence Medical PC and an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine
- Joel L. Cohen, MD, director of AboutSkin Dermatology and DermSurgery in Greenwood and Lone Tree, Colorado
- Peter A. Lio, MD, clinical assistant professor in the department of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine
- Amy B. Lewis, MD, dermatologist in New York City