The 13 Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin of 2023 That Soothe and Protect
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Skin riddled with acne and congestion still needs hydration.
Finding the right moisturizer to top off your skincare regimen can be a struggle, especially for those of us who experience acne. That unicorn product that will keep your complexion hydrated, but won’t trigger an increase in oil production resulting in an acne flare-up, feels ever elusive. To banish blemishes and blackheads for good, using a moisturizer that won’t clog pores or cause irritation is key.
Not all acne-prone skin is created equal. In fact, skin that frequently experiences blemishes or breakouts run the gamut of skin types, from oily to dry to sensitive or even totally balanced. But across the board, one thing that all acne-prone skin needs, regardless of skin type, is moisture.
Related:The 16 Best Acne Serums of 2023 for Clearer, Brighter Skin
Best Overall: Paula's Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer
What We Love: This oil-free moisturizer is lightweight and calms redness.
What We Don’t Love: The largest size is only two oz.
Paula’s Choice Oil-Free Moisturizer earned the top spot on our list due to its acne-friendly ingredient list and ability to hydrate breakout-prone skin using oil in the formula. The brand’s anti-acne line is specifically formulated for those with acne-prone skin, and this powerhouse product will hydrate skin, minimize pores and heal redness all at once.
The moisturizer contains acne-first ingredients like niacinamide, which improves skin tone and reduces irritation, along with naturally soothing pumpkin and antioxidant-rich blueberry to address angry red skin caused by acne. Plus, ceramides work to strengthen the skin barrier.
Price at time of publish: $29
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, ceramides, sodium hyaluronate | Size: 2 oz
Best Budget: The Inkey List Omega Water Cream
What We Love: This simple formula is a great option for all skin types.
What We Don’t Love: It takes some time to fully absorb into the skin.
This lightweight water-based gel moisturizer offers non-greasy hydration that lasts all day.
At the forefront of the ingredient list stands the brand’s omega ceramide complex, which is rich in omegas three, six, and nine to hydrate and repair the skin barrier, while also improving the skin’s elasticity and firmness. There’s also a high glycerin content, which works to pull moisture into the skin, without over-moisturizing or leaving a greasy finish. Plus, niacinamide helps regulate oil production and neutralize redness.
Price at time of publish: $11
Key Ingredients: Omega ceramide complex, glycerin, niacinamide | Size: 1.7 oz
Best for Dull Skin: Sunday Riley C.E.O. Afterglow Moisturizer
What We Love: It simultaneously hydrates the skin and improves dullness.
What We Don’t Love: Vitamin C can be irritating for very sensitive skin.
Many of us with acne-prone skin also struggle with uneven or dull skin tone. The good news is that with a bit of brightening vitamin C within a balanced moisturizer, like Sunday Riley’s, you can address all your skin concerns in one fell swoop.
This moisturizer utilizes free radical-tackling vitamin C along with moisturizing, antioxidant-rich polysaccharides for a mid-weight cream that feels luxurious on skin, even if it can look a little greasy by the end of the day. It makes for a luminous foundation for makeup application, while still keeping the skin soft, plump and moisturized, courtesy of the formula’s sodium hyaluronate, which is stronger than hyaluronic acid, and binds water for increased and longer lasting skin hydration. To top it all off, healing allantoin ensures acneic skin stays happy and healthy — not red and angry.
Price at time of publish: $65
Key Ingredients: Advanced vitamin C, sodium hyaluronate | Size: 1.7 oz
Best for Mature Skin: Fresh Black Tea Advanced Age Renewal Cream
What We Love: This moisturizer harnesses a retinol-like ingredient, BT Matrix, to firm skin.
What We Don’t Love: The herbal ingredients naturally make the cream somewhat scented.
Acne doesn’t have an age limit, as anyone with congested mature skin will tell you. Crafted with an impressive non-comedogenic blend of ingredients that won’t trigger blemishes, the Fresh Black Tea Anti-Aging Moisturizer replenishes the skin via ceramides that work to fortify the skin barrier and squalane to protect the skin and prevent future moisture loss. BT Matrix, the hero ingredient, is a retinol-like combination of antioxidant-rich black tea and rambutan leaf extracts to support a weakened skin structure caused by the natural decline of collagen within the skin as it ages. The result? A wonderfully moisturizing and oil-free anti-aging cream.
Price at time of publish: $95
Key Ingredients: BT Matrix, ceramides, squalene | Size: 1.6 oz
Best for Oily Skin: Tatcha The Water Cream
What We Love: As the name suggests, it provides water-based hydration for oily and combination skin.
What We Don’t Love: The jar packaging isn’t the most sanitary.
Tatcha has perfected the highly coveted “glowy not greasy” finish with their effective products filled with high-quality ingredients, and The Water Cream is no exception. Free of any pore-clogging ingredients, this moisturizer works wonders for combination and oily skin, thanks to its lightweight gel-cream formula, which also helps to control excess shine.
Japanese leopard lily works to slow down oil production and calm inflamed skin, all while supporting the natural turnover of the skin for a balanced complexion. The brand’s signature Hadasei-3 complex, a trinity of nutrients including algae, green tea, and rice, strengthens the skin barrier to help seal in moisture. Think of it as a tall glass of water for your skin.
Price at time of publish: $70
Key Ingredients: Japanese leopard lily, Japanese wild rose, Hadasei-3 | Size: 1.7 oz
Best Hydrating: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel
What We Love: This lightweight option hydrates skin without weighing it down.
What We Don’t Love: It’s not ideal for those with extremely dry skin.
Pavitt also loves Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel for its non-comedogenic formula and ability to quickly quench thirsty, depleted skin. Unlike heavier creams that leave skin looking saturated by oil, this water-gel texture feels bouncy and light. With a hyaluronic acid base to attract moisture, which in turn plumps and hydrates skin, the moisturizer sinks into the dermis fast without leaving a trace of shine or heaviness behind. Your skin will look nothing short of totally smooth and healthy, making it a great option to wear under makeup or for those with oily or combination skin.
Price at time of publish: $30
Key Ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate, glycerin | Size: 1.7 oz
Best for Dry Skin: EltaMD AM Therapy Face Moisturizer
What We Love: The formula delivers a glowy and dewy finish for thirsty skin.
What We Don’t Love: It’s recommended for morning use only, so you’ll need a different one for nighttime.
For those who struggle with acne in addition to dryness, EltaMD’s formula is moisturizing and non-comedogenic. Developed with moisture-locking hyaluronic acid, skin-smoothing allantoin, multi-tasking niacinamide, and deeply conditioning vitamin E, this moisturizer provides long lasting hydration, leaving the skin looking extra plump and radiant.
New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian recommends looking for moisturizers rife with hyaluronic acid and allantoin — lucky for us, this one is powered by both.
It’s ideal for morning use, courtesy of its caffeine-infused formula to awaken the skin and it even has a slight cooling sensation upon application that feels delightfully energizing.
Price at time of publish: $41
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, allantoin, hyaluronic acid, caffeine | Size: 1.7 oz
Best Splurge: Hourglass Cosmetics Equilibrium Restorative Hydrating Cream
What We Love: This non-comedogenic formula is also vegan and cruelty-free.
What We Don’t Love: We’d prefer a pump container over a jar.
Not only does Hourglass make some of our favorite concealers and blushes, but the brand has also ventured into the luxe skincare space. Their Equilibrium product lineup features a non-comedogenic moisturizer, ideal for those who are acne-prone and want to keep blemishes at bay. The Equilibrium Restorative Hydrating Cream is loaded with all the good stuff: A cell-balancing complex that nourishes the skin, restorative niacinamide, and hydrating squalene.
The product’s combination of skin barrier-supporting and anti-aging properties includes a signature blend of lipids that accelerates the natural cell turnover process and replenishes the skin for a youthful glow, along with niacinamide to soothe the skin and minimize the look of wrinkles. Lastly, squalene functions as a fast-working and hydrating antioxidant.
Price at time of publish: $94
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, squalene, cell balancing complex | Size: 1.9 oz
Related:The 16 Best Acne Serums of 2023 for Clearer, Brighter Skin
Best for Sensitive Skin: Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer
What We Love: This dermatologist-loved moisturizer gently and thoroughly conditions skin.
What We Don’t Love: It can be difficult to find.
A top choice from two of our expert dermatologists, Vanicream’s Moisturizing Lotion is a simple, no-frills product that offers unbeatable value and efficacy. “It has no parabens, fragrance, or lanolin,” explains Dr. Nazarian on the reasons she loves this option, as those additives are notorious for irritation and can be harmful to the skin. “It is also oil-free, which is great for acne-prone skin.”
The formula is fueled by hydration heroes, including squalene, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, just to name a few. For those with sensitive and acne-prone skin (two complexion characteristics that often coincide), this ceramide- and hyaluronic acid-rich formula could be the daily moisturizer you’ve been looking for.
Price at time of publish: $15
Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides | Size: 3 oz
Best Treatment: Tula Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer
What We Love: This moisturizer contains both hydrating and acne-fighting ingredients.
What We Don’t Love: For super dry skin, you might want to add another layer of hydration on top.
We love it when our products perform as multitaskers. Take Tula’s Breakout Star Moisturizer, for example, which is a hydrating moisturizer that is also specifically formulated to double as an acne treatment for past, present and future blemishes.
Armed with two percent salicylic acid, the lightweight cream gently exfoliates the skin’s surface and deep-cleans pores to remove congestion and stop pimples from forming. Meanwhile, azelaic acid gets to work on brightening hyperpigmentation and dark acne scars left behind by blemishes.
On the hydration side, apple and watermelon fruit extracts replenish moisture and support the skin barrier. This moisturizer serves as an advantageous last step in any routine to combat acne and hydrate the skin all at once.
Price at time of publish: $52
Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide | Size: 1.7 oz
Best Lightweight: BeautyStat Probiotic 24HR Moisture Boost Cream
What We Love: This formula is packed with probiotics.
What We Don’t Love: We wish there was a larger size.
Sophie Pavitt, a New York City-based esthetician specializing in clients with acne, is a proponent of non-comedogenic formulas and counts BeautyStat’s Universal Pro Bio Moisture Cream as one of the best. “Most of my acneic clients are using more active ingredients, such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxides, and retinol, so they will need barrier-supporting moisturizers more than ever.”
Lucky for them, BeautyStat is here to help with their Pro Bio Moisture Boost Cream that won’t clog your pores and is jam-packed with hyaluronic acid and vitamin F to lock in moisture and hydration. Vegan ceramides also work overtime to repair and strengthen dry skin. Despite all the rich ingredients, the formula is surprisingly lightweight and easily absorbs into skin, leaving it looking and feeling supple.
Price at time of publish: $70
Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, vitamin F, plant extracts | Size: 1.7 oz
Best with SPF: CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30
What We Love: This daily moisturizer-sunscreen hybrid hydrates and protects against UV rays.
What We Don’t Love: Since it’s for morning use with SPF, you will need a different moisturizer to incorporate into your night routine.
“If your skin feels too ‘greasy’ in the morning then, you can use a moisturizing SPF in place of a traditional moisturizer so you don't have to double layer,” says Pavitt. And this oil-free option from CeraVe checks all the right boxes.
Part moisturizer, part sunscreen, this lotion defends against harmful rays with SPF 30 and unlike many other facial sunscreens, it won’t clog pores or trigger acne flare-ups. With ingredients like three essential ceramides to repair the skin barrier, hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture, and soothing niacinamide, your skin will be reaping the benefits long after the day is over.
Pro tip: If you’re using strong ingredients like retinol, it makes the skin more susceptible to sun damage, meaning that SPF is a non-negotiable part of your daily regimen.
Price at time of publish: $21
Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, ceramides | Size: 3 oz
Related:The 8 Best Acne Body Washes of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Best Drugstore: Cetaphil Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid
What We Love: It eases redness, layers under makeup perfectly, and is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin.
What We Don’t Love: It’s so good you’ll want to use it twice a day, which means you’ll go through the bottle quickly.
A top recommendation from board-certified dermatologist, Dr. DiAnne Davis, this wallet-friendly pick rivals luxury options in the journey to keep pores clear of gunk and grime and the skin soft and supple. This oil-free and dermatologist-tested lotion promises to hydrate skin for 24 hours. With an ultra-light texture, this hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer leaves skin feeling balanced and protected against dryness, irritation and tightness. Plus, it’s formulated with sensitive skin in mind, free of any oil, fragrances, and acne-triggering ingredients.
Price at time of publish: $21
Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin | Size: 3 oz
What to Keep in Mind
Finding a formula that is non-comedogenic, meaning that it won’t clog your pores and cause further congestion (and more pimples), is essential when shopping for a moisturizer for acne-prone skin.
It’s just as helpful to know what not to use, and Dr. Nazarian specifically says to “avoid silicones and lanolin, which can irritate skin and worsen acne.”
Other common pore-clogging ingredients to stay far away from include shea butter, coconut oil, algae extract, and cornstarch. If you aren’t sure whether an ingredient is helpful or hurtful, you can check acneclinic.org before rolling the dice and slathering a new cream all over your face.
No matter if you have super dry skin or a visage that looks like an oil slick, we all need — at the very least — a bit of extra moisture. “Without a moisturizer, your sebaceous glands may start to produce more oil to hydrate the skin, and this can potentially lead to acne breakouts,” says Dr. Davis.
Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalene, glycerin, and ceramides to moisturize and balance the skin’s hydration levels. “I love recommending ingredients such as ceramides to help maintain hydration,” says Dr. Davis.
Your Questions, Answered.
How often should I apply moisturizer?
“Acneic clients should moisturize their skin daily,” says Pavitt.
“If you are cleansing your face daily, which you should be, then you should be moisturizing your face as well,” adds Dr. Nazarian. “The process of cleansing, even gentle cleansing, removes some of the skin surface hydrators, and therefore moisturizing is a vital and necessary step in every skin care regimen.”
Is using a moisturizer good for acne?
“Even with acne, having an effective moisturizer can rebalance the skin, decrease oil production, and improve the health of your skin while strengthening the barrier,” explains Dr. Nazarian.
Finding a moisturizer that coincides with your skin type is a vital part of an acne-healing journey. For those with oily skin, a gel or lightweight formula might be best, while those with dry skin might want a thicker formula that supplies a heavy dose of hydration.
What step is moisturizer in a skincare routine?
Moisturizer should be applied towards the end of a skincare regimen, after cleansing, and serum or spot treatment applications. A moisturizer should be applied before sunscreen or makeup in a morning routine.
Why Shop With Us
Jasmine Hyman is a commerce producer and writer for Dotdash Meredith’s beauty and travel publications. Her work has appeared in People, Byrdie, Brides, and more. To find the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin, Jasmine spent hours researching different brands, products, and ingredients. She also consulted board certified dermatologists Dr. DiAnne Davis and Dr. Rachel Nazarian, as well as NYC-based esthetician Sofie Pavitt.
Related:The 15 Best Foundations for Acne-Prone Skin of 2023
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