Best moisturizer for acne

Megan Oster

Hydrating acne-prone skin

It seems natural to assume that you shouldn’t use moisturizer if your skin is oily and prone to acne breakouts. You might even consider it a foe of clear skin and wonder if moisturizer will make your skin even oilier.

However, as long as you use the right kind of moisturizer, it can help minimize blemishes. The trick is finding one with the right ingredients and characteristics that will hydrate your skin without clogging your pores.

Why you need a moisturizer for acne

Does using a moisturizer create acne breakouts or make existing breakouts worse? It depends.

But you do need to moisturize, especially if you have acne-prone skin.

While excess oil does lead to acne breakouts, this is different from what you find in moisturizers. Sebum oil is a waxy substance secreted by your sebaceous glands. It plays a vital role in maintaining your skin barrier’s function. However, when sebum production becomes excessive, it can lead to clogged pores and acne. 

But if you use the right type of moisturizer for acne, it won’t exacerbate your breakouts. This is because hydration is different from sebum. Hydration occurs when your skin absorbs water. Adequately hydrating your skin with an appropriate moisturizer won’t cause more blemishes. It actually will improve and preserve your skin.

A lack of hydration can actually cause more blemishes. Water makes up 60%-75% of your body’s composition. If your skin gets dehydrated, your oil production goes into overdrive to compensate, which can cause breakouts. Furthermore, many acne treatments on the market today can dry out your skin. This means those who use them are at an increased risk for breakouts. 

Should you use a moisturizer for acne at night?

You should never skip moisturizing your skin, either in the morning or at night. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, opt for a lighter formula in the evening. And try to use a water-based formula to hydrate your skin without clogging your pores.

What you should look for in a moisturizer for acne

Certain formulas are more likely to cause acne breakouts than others. These contain emollients and occlusives that clog your pores and lay heavily on your skin. Make sure you avoid moisturizers that contain the following ingredients:

  • Lanolin
  • Paraffin
  • Mineral oil
  • Cyclomethicone
  • Petroleum jelly and petroleum-derived ingredients
  • Siloxane
  • Castor oil

Modern iterations of moisturizers for acne have formulas that banish breakouts as they hydrate your skin:

  • Water-based formulas are light and deliver a strong dose of hydration. 
  • Oil-free moisturizers minimize breakouts.
  • Non-acnegenic formulas are critical for those with acne-prone skin
  • Non-comedogenic formulas won’t clog your pores. 

The best moisturizers for acne

Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer with 0.5% Salicylic Acid Acne Medication: available at Amazon

This moisturizer is a good fit for acne-prone skin because it contains 0.5% salicylic acid. It’s an oil-free formula that is non-greasy and non-comedogenic. 

Aveeno Clear Complexion Salicylic Acid Acne-Fighting Daily Face Moisturizer: available at Amazon and iHerb

This formula contains salicylic acid, which dermatologists recommend to prevent and eliminate acne breakouts. In addition, this non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic and oil-free moisturizer also features Aveeno’s Total Soy Complex. This complex smoothes the texture of your skin and creates an even tone. 

Clean & Clear Essentials Dual Action Facial Moisturizer: available at Amazon

Formulated as part of your daily skincare routine, this moisturizer nourishes your skin by warding off and treating acne breakouts. It’s made with salicylic acid to target blemishes effectively and uses glycerin to hydrate. 

Neutralyze Renewal Complex - Maximum Strength Acne Moisturizer: available at Amazon

The heavy-hitting, clinically proven ingredients of this moisturizer contains time-released 1% mandelic acid, 2% salicylic acid, medical-grade B.H.A. and A.H.A. complex and nitrogen boost technology. These ingredients work together to accelerate cell turnover and exfoliate your skin. It also has oil control technology that curbs excess oil production while delivering a steady dose of hydration. 

Differin Oil-Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30: available at Amazon

The micropearl technology in this moisturizer creates a matte finish by absorbing surface oil. Since the formula is non-comedogenic, it won’t clog your pores. You’ll get hydrating, non-irritating sun protection courtesy of Oleosome technology.

Paula's Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: available at Amazon and Sephora

This night cream will nourish your skin without making it shiny or oily. The non-greasy moisturizer absorbs quickly. It contains ceramides to repair your skin barrier and niacinamide to minimize pores. It also uses pumpkin and blueberry to supply antioxidants.

Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions Daily Moisturizing Lotion: available at Amazon

Specially formulated for oily, acne-prone skin, this lotion features naturally derived salicylic acid. The moisturizer is 99% natural and utilizes witch hazel, lemongrass and goldenseal extract to soothe your skin. It’s dermatologist-tested and clinically proven to minimize oil and prevent breakouts. 

Era Organics Tea Tree Oil Face Cream: available at Amazon

This face cream uses tea tree oil to treat blemishes, cystic acne, blackheads and redness. It’s rich in botanical, food-grade ingredients like goldenseal, pomegranate seed oil, St. John’s Wort, salicylic acid and zinc, which nourish and balance your skin. Those with sensitive skin can also use this gentle moisturizer since it’s free of hormone disruptors and parabens. 

TreeActiv Acne Treatment Face Cream Moisturizer: available at Amazon

Suitable for people of all ages, this proactive vitamin E-infused acne cream doubles as a moisturizer and spot treatment. It removes oil while unclogging your pores to banish existing breakouts and prevent future breakouts. In addition, the jojoba, sunflower oil, grapefruit and green tea will keep your skin hydrated. 

Proactiv+ Acne Moisturizer: available at Amazon

While the formula of this moisturizer works like a cream, the consistency is more like a gel. This moisturizer features a skin brightening complex which helps even skin tone and improves appearance. It mattifies your skin by absorbing excess oil while hydrating with the potent moisture complex.


Megan Oster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.


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