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    The 16 best moisturizers for acne-prone skin in 2024, according to dermatologists

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    Tackle blemishes while maintaining hydration with the best face moisturizers for acne-prone skin.

    Amazon; Sephora/Business Insider

    Everyone needs a good face moisturizer in their skincare regimen, no matter how many hydrating serums and active ingredients you use. It’s a crucial skincare step for all skin types — especially dry skin and acne-prone skin — that thirst for the extra moisture to protect the skin barrier. There’s a misconception that those with oily skin should avoid moisturizer, but doing so can actually cause your skin to produce more oil. For acne-prone skin, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nkem Ugonabo shares with Business Insider that she likes lightweight moisturizers that are non-comedogenic to avoid clogged pores on the skin but are hydrating enough to keep moisture levels in balance. 

    After sifting through all the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin, speaking with an expert, and testing a few selections ourselves, we’re ready to crown the Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer as the overall best option. This lightweight moisturizer works well on all skin types and won’t irritate with the nourishing formulation of ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and squalene. With the low price tag, you can stock up on this moisturizer without breaking the bank, and the quickly-absorbing formula keeps skin flake-free in the winter and greasy-free in the summer. For when you’re having particularly stubborn breakouts, Kiehl’s Expertly Clear Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin with Salicylic Acid is a great treatment gel that dries out active pimples. 

    If you’re looking to revamp your skincare routine, keep reading to discover more of the best face moisturizers for acne-prone skin that match your specific skin type and desired consistency.

    Our top picks for the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin

    Best overall: Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer – See at Amazon

    Best drugstore: e.l.f. SKIN Blemish Breakthrough Acne Calming Water Cream – See at Amazon

    Best for breakouts: Kiehl’s Expertly Clear Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin with Salicylic Acid – See at Sephora

    Best for sensitive skin: SKIN1004 Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream – See at Amazon

    Best for combination skin: Shani Darden Skin Care Hydration Peptide Cream – See at Sephora

    Best for dry skin: Aestura Atobarrier 365 Cream – See at Amazon

    Best hydrating: Laneige Water Bank Blue Hyaluronic Intensive Moisturizer with Peptides + Squalane – See at Sephora

    Best mattifying: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Mattifying Moisturizer for Oily Skin – See at Amazon

    Best for oily skin: Dieux Skin Air Angel Gel Cream – See at Sephora

    Best lightweight: COSRX AC Collection Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer – See at Amazon

    Best luxury: Erno Laszlo Soothing Relief Hydration Emulsion – See at Amazon

    Best for melanated skin: Grown Alchemist Skin Renewal Day Cream – See at Amazon

    Best for mature skin: CLEARstem HYDRAGLOW™ Stem Cell Moisturizer – See at Amazon

    Best for dull skin: Peace Out Daily Blemish Repairing Moisturizer – See at Sephora

    Best tinted: Ami Colé Skin-Enhancing Tinted Moisturizer – See at Sephora

    Best with SPF: PanOxyl AM Oil Control Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen – See at Ulta

    Best overall

    Stock up on this dermatologist-approved moisturizer that our expert, Dr. Ugonabo, also recommends for those with acne-prone skin. This moisturizer for acne-prone skin gets the “best overall” award from us for its simplistic formula that’s free of parabens, fragrances, and pore-clogging ingredients like lanolin. All skin types can benefit from using this moisturizer, especially if the rest of your routine is already filled with nourishing ingredients (squalene, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides) with a creamy texture that softens the skin’s barrier without product overload. You can apply this moisturizer twice daily (or whenever your skin thirsts for relief) without fearing irritation or looking like a greasy donut. 

    Best drugstore

    One of the more bothersome (beauty-centric) feelings is unpacking from a long day of travel only to realize you’re almost out of your favorite moisturizer (or worse; you left it at home). Whenever in doubt, and if you’re looking for an inexpensive option, go to your closest drugstore or pharmacy and seek out e.l.f. Specifically, reach for this lightweight moisturizer that applies like a water cream to quickly absorb into the skin while leaving the face soft. A balance of salicylic acid, niacinamide, and tranexamic acid makes up this green-colored acne moisturizer to control excessive sebum production, prevent new blemishes, and even out the skin tone.

    Best for breakouts

    Reduce blemishes with this targeted treatment infused with salicylic acid for surface acne, niacinamide for post-acne marks, and glycerin for moisture. After giving this acne treatment a test drive, this contributing writer can confirm that the thin texture may feel drying on some skin types and recommends using an additional moisturizer (like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane) during cold months. During your day or night routine, apply a thin layer of this lightweight gel on the areas most affected by acne.

    Best for sensitive skin

    When it comes to the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin, you’ll hear a lot about skin barrier health because it’s really that important. For sensitive skin types easily irritated by thick creams or certain ingredients, pick up a bottle (or two) of the Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream from the Korean skincare brand Skin1004. The lightweight formula is non-sticky and sits smoothly on the skin without clumping or pilling with other layered products. Skin will feel nourished and stay moisturized, while the Centella asiatica extract (a known acne-fighting ingredient) cares for blemishes on and beneath the surface.

    Best for combination skin

    After testing this moisturizer in the dead of winter, Business Insider’s Associate Style & Beauty Editor, Gabrielle Chase, was impressed after two uses (morning and night) of this creamy moisturizer. “This medium-weight, non-greasy formula is completely oil-free, so it’s safe to wear if you’re prone to hormonal breakouts like I am. It also didn’t congest the clogged pores on my nose in the slightest. You may need to use a few extra pumps to get a longer-lasting effect, but it’s gentle enough to layer on,” shares Chase. This moisturizer from Shani Darden softens the skin with Hydrosella, peptides, and squalene for an oil-free formulation that leaves skin perfectly balanced between moisturized and soothed for acne treatment.

    Best for dry skin

    “I’ve been wearing this to treat my dry skin almost daily for the past year, and it’s the only face cream that helps my face feel hydrated for days at a time,” says Gabrielle Chase, associate style editor. A key ingredient in the Aestura Atobarrier 365 Cream is its high-density ceramides, which when synthesized, can boost your skin’s ability to retain moisture. It also contains palmitic acid, which builds up the lipid barrier of your skin to protect it from bacteria.

    “If you’re like me and prone to hormonal acne flare-ups, this cream is safe and comfortable to wear even when breaking out,” says Chase. For chronic acne, Aestura has a Theracne collection infused with hylauronic acid and zinc.

    Best hydrating

    If your acne skincare routine includes salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or retinol, your complexion is probably thirsty for hydration. Combat dehydration with this moisturizer from Laneige that nourishes skin to minimize irritation and strengthen the complexion. Hero ingredients squalene and hyaluronic acid offer skin-softening abilities to promote a healthy skin barrier with each use. The rich texture absorbs quickly with the water-like consistency that melts into the skin as it’s massaged across the face.

    Best for mattifying

    Since oily skin is prone to acne, you’ll want to avoid heavy skincare products that clog your pores and leave your skin looking shiny. That’s where this mattifying moisturizer from La Roche-Posay comes in with the formulation of zinc pidolate to neutralize excessive oils on the face without drying out the skin. Skin will feel hydrated after each use, and blemishes can heal without causing more.

    Best for oily skin

    The last thing oily skin types need is an oily moisturizer clogging pores and causing more blemishes in its wake. And to confirm what you’ve probably heard before, yes, oily skin types need moisturizer. That’s why this gel cream from Gen-Z’s beloved brand Dieux Skin is one of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin and is a top pick in our guide on the best moisturizers for oily skin. Its jelly-like texture wraps skin in glycerin, ceramides, and amino acids to plump and firm skin without flooding an already oily complexion. Our testers praised this moisturizer for its lightweight texture that quickly absorbs into the skin while keeping the complexion hydrated and flake-free, even in below-freezing temperatures.

    Best lightweight

    COSRX takes acne care seriously — looking at you Acne Pimple Master Patch, a Tik-Tok obsessed product —so it’s no shock that their moisturizers are also made for acne-prone skin. This lightweight formula is one of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin because of its ability to help soothe and treat acne without a thick formula coating the skin. The brand’s formulation of Centella Asiatica recovers the skin without irritation, while the lightweight formula calms sensitive skin.

    Best luxury

    Treat yourself to an upscale skincare routine with this luxury skincare from the truly iconic brand Erno Laszlo, which has been connecting the science of skincare and skin health since 1927. All skin types can benefit from this lightweight cream that minimizes dryness with the ceramide-rich formulation. However, sensitive skin types will especially appreciate the soothing natural ingredients of red sage, ginger, and Bisabolol (German chamomile). Housed in a thick glass bottle with an easy-touch pump, you’ll want to keep this luxury skincare item on display like the star-studded clientele of Erno Laszlo probably did (and do).

    Best for melanated skin

    According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), melanated skin is prone to dark spots and hyperpigmentation due to blemishes and other forms of acne. If you’re dealing with post-acne marks from picking at pimples or sun spots from extended sun exposure, add this rich facial cream to your daily routine. Grown Alchemist designed this moisturizer for all skin types; however, those with melanated skin will appreciate the added niacinamide to reduce dark spots along with the moisturizing reishi mushroom and antioxidants to protect skin from free radicals produced by UV rays. Skin will feel nourished throughout the day as the skin barrier is replenished with nutrients after consistent use.

    Best for mature skin

    Not only is the CLEARstem facial cream a favorite of this contributing writer, but folks on TikTok are also praising this formula as one of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin. Its thin and lightweight formula soothes redness as the bakuchiol promotes cell turnover for a brighter, more even texture. While anti-aging isn’t real, the added bakuchiol (retinol alternative), squalene, and ceramides brighten and plump the skin, giving the appearance of a youthful complexion.

    Best for dull skin

    Dull skin can happen to anyone, especially if you don’t care for your skin after exposing it to everyday environmental stressors like smoke, humidity, and UV rays. Remedy this with a hydrating moisturizer, like this one from Peace Out Skincare, to lock in moisture for a healthy barrier, protected from the elements. After the first use, you’ll notice skin feeling softer and more hydrated thanks to the added ceramides and squalene. And with continued use, redness and blemishes are reduced with the help of the added bakuchiol. Don’t forget to wash your face daily to keep skin dullness away. Pair this moisturizer with the Peace Out Skincare Blemish Balm, one of the best pimple patches for recurrent pimples, for an acne-fighting duo.

    Best tinted

    Makeup infused with skincare, like this tinted moisturizer, has gained popularity in the beauty industry, with more and more shoppers opting for a combination product to streamline their routine. This moisturizer from Black-owned beauty brand Ami Colé, is formulated with enriching ingredients like baobab seed extract to hydrate the skin, pumpkin seed extract to calm the skin, and hibiscus flower extract to protect the skin from free radicals (unstable atoms that damage the skin). With six skin-enhancing shades, this moisturizer works for various skin tones while covering blemishes without a cakey texture clogging pores.

    Best with SPF

    Reach for this oil control SPF moisturizer on the extra hot days that may leave you sweating off your regular sunscreen. The combination of broad-spectrum sunscreen with skin-loving ingredients makes this moisturizer a go-to for those who prefer fewer skincare layers but still need sun protection. Remember, everyone needs sunscreen daily, and this moisturizer protects from UV rays without leaving behind a white cast. Acne-prone skin will appreciate the quickly absorbing formulation of hyaluronic acid and antioxidants to keep skin nourished without irritating any existing blemishes.

    What to look for

    Ingredients:

    Dr. Ugonabo recommends looking for facial moisturizers infused with ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, as these ingredients offer nourishment while keeping the skin hydrated. The best moisturizers for acne-prone skin provide deep moisturization to repair the skin while exfoliating ingredients treat blemishes, dark spots, and acne marks. 

    And for those with oily skin, “It might be helpful to use a matte moisturizer that contains [acne-fighting] ingredients such as salicylic acid,” shares Dr. Ugonabo. Avoid using comedogenic skincare ingredients, like coconut oil, lanolin, or silicone, along with alcohol, which can dry out the skin, according to the AAD.

    Consistency:

    Facial moisturizers are available in a plethora of consistencies and textures that you’ll want to be conscious of when picking a face cream for acne-prone skin. Gel and gel cream options like the Dieux Skin Air Angel Gel Cream are made to quickly absorb into the skin while leaving the epidermis supple and soft. Meanwhile, rich creams like Shani Darden Skin Care Hydration Peptide Cream are on the thicker side to provide deep moisture for dry skin without clogging pores. 

    Since this skin type is prone to both dryness and oiliness, it’s important to find a lightweight moisturizer that won’t clog your pores but is creamy for nourishment and hydration of the skin barrier. If you’re prone to excessive oil that keeps the blemishes coming, use a mattifying formula (like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat) made with some form of non-drying astringent to absorb oil on the skin. Sometimes, your acne-prone skin is on the dry side, and you’ll want a moisturizer with a dewy formula (like Skin1004 Madagascar Centella Soothing Cream) that’s formulated with ceramides to nourish the outer layer of the skin for that glass skin look. 

    FAQs

    What type of face cream is best for acne-prone skin?

    Facial moisturizers are usually described as three different types: Emollients, humectants, and occlusives. It’s important to pick the right type of moisturizer as the different formulations can impact the varying skin types. 

    An emollient moisturizer, like the Erno Laszlo Soothing Relief Hydration Emulsion, is best used for dry skin types that need extra soothing and hydration. If you have acne-prone skin, you’ll want to avoid using occlusive moisturizers that often have a thicker, greasier texture on the skin. These products are most regularly used to lock in moisture as opposed to adding moisture. Finally, according to the Cleveland Clinic, humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are more lightweight than occlusives, making them ideal for oily skin types that need moisture without the greasy texture. 

    How often should you apply a moisturizer if you have acne-prone skin?

    Depending on the specific product you’re using, you’ll want to apply a moisturizer for acne-prone skin at least twice a day. This skincare rule is the same regardless of your skin type or concerns, and yes, that means oily skin, too. That’s why it’s vital to use a moisturizer that is good for daily application. 

    Can too much moisturizer make acne worse?

    When applying your moisturizer for acne-prone skin, be mindful that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you overuse your moisturizer (especially if it’s thick in consistency), you risk clogging your pores, wasting product, and damaging your skin barrier with the product overload. Dr. Ugonabo adds, “It’s imperative that acne-prone patients look for non-comedogenic moisturizers, meaning that won’t clog their pores, so this way it doesn’t contribute further to their acne.”

    Excessive product can lead to heightened sebum production and greasy skin, making acne breakouts worse. On the other hand, if you don’t use moisturizer at all, your acne can get worse. “Moisturizing is still important for acne-prone skin as it helps build a healthy skin barrier,” confirms Dr. Ugonabo. Think of skincare as the Goldilocks story; you don’t want to use too much or too little of any product. 

    Is hyaluronic acid good for acne?

    Hyaluronic acid is most likely already in the formulation of your favorite products for several good reasons. This skincare ingredient has been studied for its reparative and hydrating benefits for acne-prone skin and aging skin. As a form of humectant, hyaluronic acid in acne skincare helps moisturize the skin without clogging pores, reducing blemishes in return. All skin types can benefit from using a hyaluronic acid moisturizer or hyaluronic acid serum to add deep hydration without leaving behind a greasy texture.

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