The 19 Best Moisturizers for Oily Skin to Keep You Hydrated and Shine-Free

, The 19 Best Moisturizers for Oily Skin to Keep You Hydrated and Shine-Free
, The 19 Best Moisturizers for Oily Skin to Keep You Hydrated and Shine-Free

If you have oily or acne-prone skin (or both), you know the struggle of finding the best moisturizers for oily skin. It takes work, and you’ve probably had some trial and error that landed you right here. You want a lotion that will effectively hydrate your skin and protect your skin barrier—especially if you have retinol or other exfoliating regimens—but not leave your face looking like an oil spill at the end of the day. And that’s an easy line for a moisturizer to cross.

We called on two reliable derms: Dr. Jerome Potozkin, MD, founder and practitioner at PotozkinMD Skincare & Laser Center in California, and Dr. David Kim, MD, MS, cosmetic dermatologist at Idriss Dermatology in New York City, to share their best tips for moisturizing oily skin, plus the criteria for picking one you’ll count on for years.

Why is it important for people with oily skin to moisturize?

“I think a lot of people with acne-prone or oily skin tend to use harsh face wash, and it can strip much of the oil that’s necessary to keep your skin barrier intact,” says Dr. Kim. “So just because you’re super oily doesn’t mean that you don’t need to moisturize, because you still want protection.” Dr. Potozkin says that if you have acne-prone skin, it’s even more imperative that you moisturize because you’re likely being treated with products like Accutane, tretinoin, or salicylic acid-containing products that can dry the skin out. 

If you strip your skin of its natural oils, your sebaceous glands work harder and end up over-producing oil. So, if you have a harsh routine including exfoliating face washes, acne medication, or exfoliating serums, and don’t add a moisturizer on top, your skin will naturally produce more oil. It sounds counterintuitive to put moisturizer on already oily skin, but it could be precisely what your skin is craving.

“The goal is to find the moisturizer that’s gentle enough for you to use it without feeling like it’s suffocating your skin,” Dr. Potozkin tells SELF. “You want it to absorb quickly so you barely know it’s there.”

What skin-care ingredients are good for people with oily skin?

“Gel-like moisturizers that are really light in texture are good options for people with oily or acne-prone skin,” Dr. Kim tells SELF. “I also prefer a lotion formula versus cream, because cream is oil-based.”

“Many oil-free moisturizers have silicone or similar ingredients in them, which is what I look for, because silicone seals in moisture,” he says. He also mentions additional actives like hyaluronic acid, which has become ubiquitous in most skin-care products these days but nonetheless is a powerhouse hydrator for all skin types. You might also want to look for acne-fighting BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid, niacinamide (which helps quell excess oil production), and broad-spectrum SPF—especially if you have an acne regimen. 

What should people with oily skin avoid when looking for moisturizers?

“If you have oily skin, thicker creams and ingredients like mineral oil are big no-no’s,” says Dr. Potozkin. You might have to check the ingredients label, but most moisturizers these days will say “oil-free” on the front of the packaging. You might also want to avoid additional vitamin E in your moisturizer. We love vitamin E; it’s an antioxidant that’s already found in the skin and helps to protect the skin barrier, but too much of it can clog your pores and worsen acne. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll always want to avoid fragrances, dyes, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.

Ahead, see 19 of the best moisturizers for oily skin that meet our dermatologist criteria. You’ll find lightweight water creams from Tatcha, nourishing gel lotions from Neutrogena and Skinfix, night creams from CeraVe, and more to add to your skin-care routine.

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