Add these moisturizers to your regimen to hydrate—without irritating your skin.

By Katie Chang
Updated December 16, 2019
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Out of all the information swirling around about how to treat acne-prone skin, the biggest myth is that moisturizers can make the situation worse. “This is not true,” says Morgan Rabach, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of New York-based LM Medical. “In fact, overly dry skin can sometimes lead to breakouts.” Mary Allan, who spent two decades formulating products for Jurlique and Dermalogica before launching her eponymous line last year, agrees: “Keeping skin hydrated will help keep skin calmer, and counteract the drying effect of acne treatment products.”

When looking for the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, Rabach says it’s best to stick with oil-free formulas since “even some ‘non-comedogenic oils’ can cause acne for people with really oily skin." Allan says that heavy oils like avocado, carrot seed, and coconut oil can indeed clog pores, but she recommends lighter oils, like hemp seed, blueberry seed, and argan oil, which can help restore balance to stressed skin.

Most important? Read your labels. “So many products on the market contain comedogenic ingredients, even when they’re intended for acneic skin types,” Allan says. She recommends looking for products with salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, vitamin C, and retinol.

Here, six expert-backed moisturizers for acne-prone skin.

Best Moisturizers for Acne: La Roche-Posay Effaclar MAT Mattifying Moisturizer
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

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La Roche-Posay Effaclar MAT Mattifying Moisturizer

Thanks to the addition of mineral-based ingredients perlite and silica—both are known for their unparalleled oil-absorbing properties—skin is left visibly smooth with this French moisturizer favored by Rabach. Even better? It doubles as a long-lasting primer under makeup.

To buy: $32; ulta.com.

Best Moisturizers for Acne: Mary Allan PM Sleep Renew Nocturnal Retinol Cream
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

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Mary Allan PM Sleep Renew Nocturnal Retinol Cream

Hyaluronic acid, one of the key ingredients in this potent night cream, is a must for dealing with acne. “Since our skin needs both water and oil for optimal health, hyaluronic acid adds the ‘water element’ without clogging the pores,” Allan says. And don’t be put off by the sunflower seed oil. Allan assures it “doesn’t clog pores and keeps skin calm.”

To buy: $110; maryallan.com.

Best Moisturizers for Acne: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

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Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Just a dab of this ultralight, silky gel packs a deeply hydrating punch with the help of hyaluronic acid, which “pulls water to the skin’s surface from within the dermis,” says Rabach. It’s also refreshing upon application, and terrific for quick touch-ups throughout the day.

To buy: $15; amazon.com.

Best Moisturizers for Acne: Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

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Paula’s Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer

After battling acne for years, Paula Begoun took matters into her own hands and developed this lightweight, multi-tasking lotion. Blueberry and pumpkin help tone down redness, while niacinamide helps combat dryness. Many of Allan’s private clients who suffer from acne swear by this stuff.

To buy: $29; amazon.com.

Best Moisturizers for Acne: Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

5
Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30

No matter your skin type, daily sunscreen is an absolute must. This lotion comes recommended by Rabach as it’s free of fragrance and oil, soothes with oat kernel extract, and shields against the sun’s damaging rays with physical (not pore-clogging chemical) sunblock.

To buy: $13; amazon.com.

Best Moisturizers for Acne: Bioderma Sébium Pore Refiner
Credit: Courtesy of manufacturer

6
Bioderma Sébium Pore Refiner

If enlarged, congested pores plague you, then reach for this innovative product. In addition to a patented complex that helps regulate sebum production over time, this treatment—you can use it solo or layered under a moisturizer—also features agaric acid, which Allan says helps tighten pores.

To buy: $20; dermstore.com.