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Look, we totally get it—if you happen to be dealing with the plight that is perpetually oily skin, moisturizing is likely the last thing you want to do. After all, your goal is to remove excess oil, not add more, right? Breaking news, though: Oily skin still needs moisture, and if you skip moisturizer, it's believed that your oil glands may potentially go into overdrive, producing more oil. As Alanis so eloquently said, isn’t it ironic?
"Many of those with oily skin do not realize that they still need to moisturize to help with the overall health, texture, and appearance of their skin," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein. "Not to mention that many moisturizers contain sunscreen, antioxidants, and anti-pollutants for an extra-protective barrier. For oily skin, and especially those who are acne-prone, it’s important to look for moisturizers labeled as oil-free or non-comedogenic.” The bottom line: You need to use a moisturizer regularly, no matter your skin type. The nuance lies in finding the right formula for you, particularly if you have an oily complexion.
Ahead, the best drugstore moisturizers for oily skin that fit the bill.
Best Overall: Cetaphil DermaControl Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF 30
Not only is this option super lightweight and non-comedogenic (aka it won’t clog pores), it also touts micro pearl technology, which works to absorb excess oil on the surface of the skin and leave a matte finish. It has the added benefit of delivering your daily dose of necessary broad-spectrum SPF 30 sun protection, too. And, in true Cetaphil fashion, it’s hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, so you don’t have to worry about irritation if you also have sensitive skin.
Omar Noor, MD, FAAD, of Rao Dermatology is also a fan. "An individual, man or woman, has to appreciate that not all products work at the same intensity level and therefore can be too rough or irritating to their skin," he says. "This is why I like Cetaphil's Pro Dermacontrol Oil Absorbing Moisturizer. It is a balance of effectiveness while still having an elegant vehicle to deliver that effectiveness."
Best Mattifying: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Oil-Free Mattifying Moisturizer
Yes, this is an oil-free formula, but the benefits for oily skin don’t stop there. The formula features a unique sebulyse (say that three times fast) technology, which the brand claims both mattifies your complexion and helps tighten pores, as well as a form of zinc, which it credits to further neutralizing shine. The result: skin that feels hydrated but looks matte. Try making this your morning moisturizer, since it helps create the perfect canvas for makeup.
It's also got an expert's seal of approval, specifically Dr. Adam Friedman, associate professor of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine. He loves this La Roche-Posay moisturizer for oily skin, as well as the former Cetaphil pick. "Both are designed specifically for oilier skin, with ingredients that can bind or break up sebum like diisopropyl sebacate, silicates, and starches to help reduce shine rather than contribute to it," he says. "Both are produced by companies that have a long-standing history of supporting their marketing claims with scientific evidence, which is my general rule for recommended products: Go with the brands that can put their money where the science is."
Best Gel: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
Gel moisturizers are an innately great pick for oily skin types; they contain a higher content of water rather than relying on richer oils and butters. This one also uses hyaluronic acid, which attracts water to and holds it in the skin, both hydrating and helping to improve skin elasticity. Super lightweight, it absorbs quickly without leaving behind any greasy residue. Follow our lead and stash it in the fridge so that it feels extra cooling and delightful when applied.
What Our Testers Say
"I think this moisturizer is a solid choice to hydrate without being heavy." — Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Neutrogena Non-Comedogenic Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Acne Face Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid
Oily skin and breakouts often (and unfortunately) go hand-in-hand. But that’s not an issue when you use this moisturizer. First and foremost, it’s oil-free and non-comedogenic, both non-negotiables when you’re battling blemishes. Aside from that, though, it has the added benefit of containing a small amount of salicylic acid, an oil-dissolving ingredient that can both help treat existing pimples and keep future ones from forming.
Best Lightweight: L'Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care Normal/Oily Skin
Granted, none of these picks are particularly heavy or rich, but if you’re on the hunt for a super featherweight formula, this one takes the cake. It’s water-based and made with aloe water and hyaluronic acid, delivering lasting yet undetectable hydration. It glides on silky smooth and melts into skin almost immediately, and also touts mattifying benefits to help remove unwanted oil.
Best Anti-Aging: Olay Regenerist Whip Face Moisturizer
Fine lines and wrinkles are often associated with dry skin, but that’s not always the case. This featherweight formula (which, fun fact, took 10 years to develop) has the same anti-aging prowess as the beloved Olay Regenerist Serum and contains a complex of peptides that, according to the brand, can have a youth-boosting effect. Still, the whipped texture absorbs into skin lightning-fast, thanks to a special technology that transforms it from cream to liquid upon contact with your skin. It leaves your complexion smooth, silky, and matte, the perfect prep step pre-makeup.
Best for Combination Skin: CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30
Ceramides are a part of a complex family of fats or lipids called a sphingolipid. They work to restore the skin barrier and lock in moisture.
If you’re oily in certain spots but dry in others, reach for this pick. It’s oil-free and non-comedogenic, a major win for the oily parts, but also has the added benefit of containing ceramides and hyaluronic acid, a win for the dry parts. Even better? You get your necessary SPF, too.
Best with Antioxidants: Avalon Organics Intense Defense Oil-Free Moisturizer
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, including the skin, but we cannot produce it on our own. For the skin, it helps to boost collagen, lighten discoloration, and fight free radicals.
To score a little more bang for your buck, seek out a moisturizer that contains skin-protecting antioxidants. We especially like this one, which touts one of the most potent and effective antioxidants out there—vitamin C. The skincare superstar not only helps neutralize pesky free radicals formed by exposure to UV rays and pollution, it can also help fade dark spots and stimulate collagen production. This particular pick contains two different forms of the vitamin, all in a fast-absorbing, oil-free formula.
Best Multi-Tasking: Garnier SkinActive Balancing 3-in-1 Face Moisturizer with Green Tea
Slather this on during the day when you need an effective mattifying moisturizer, use it overnight for a hydrating though non-greasy night cream, or leave on a thin layer for 10 minutes as a nourishing mask. Either way, you get plenty of good-for-your-skin ingredients—97% of which are naturally derived—and no mineral oil, parabens, silicones, or dyes. Plus, it contains salicylic acid.
Best with SPF: Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30
In case you missed it, wearing sunscreen daily (a broad-spectrum formula with at least an SPF 30) is an absolute must. And yes, we’ve heard the “sunscreen makes me break out” excuse, but that doesn’t fly when you can use this guy. It was dermatologist-formulated specifically for acne-prone skin. The result is non-greasy, non-pore-clogging formula that also contains micro pearl technology to absorb excess oil.
Best for Hyperpigmentation: Bolden SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer
Here's another moisturizer that packs on the SPF without leaving a greasy residue. Not only does it protect against UV damage, but the formula also helps to fade dark spots for a more even skin tone. Users say that after consistent use of this moisturizer, they saw improved texture and a brighter complexion.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Alba Botanica Hawaiian Oil Free Moisturizer
Yes, sensitivity is more likely to occur in those with dryer skin, but that doesn’t mean that oily skin can’t also be sensitive. This is both oil-free and hypoallergenic and doesn’t contain parabens, phthalates, dyes, or synthetic fragrance, all common irritants for the sensitive set. Green tea delivers a dose of antioxidants,while aloe and cucumber work to soothe skin.
Best Cream: Botanics Shine Away Mattifying Day Cream Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 15
If you crave a little bit more hydration, reach for this thicker option. Granted, it’s not oil-free, but it does mattify the skin and also contains clarifying willow bark extract (the pre-cursor to salicylic acid). It’s a great pick for days when you’re maybe feeling not quite so oily, or to use during the winter when everyone’s skin tends to skew on the dryer side.
You better believe you still need to use a moisturizer if you have oily skin, so why not make it one of the great, affordable options found at the drugstore? Case in point: Cetaphil's DermaControl Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30 offers the hydration you need (and SPF, too) but also absorbs excess oil in the process. If you’re after some anti-aging benefits, try the Olay Regenerist Whip Face Moisturizer, which has the same wrinkle-reducing prowess as the beloved serum in a lighter-than-air cream. Bolden's SPF 30 Brightening Moisturizer is our top choice for anyone trying to fade spots, while Neutrogena's Oil-Free Pink Grapefruit Acne Face Moisturizer earns our vote for those battling blemishes and oily skin.
What to Look For in a Drugstore Moisturizer for Oily Skin
It should go without saying that if you have oily skin, you do still need to use a moisturizer. However, you likely don’t need extra oil, so Dr. Marchbein recommends seeking out an oil-free formula. However, not all oils are created equal, and those that are generally considered non-comedogenic can also be a beneficial option—but more on those below.
Since oily skin is more prone to clogged pores and breakouts, make sure the moisturizer you pick is also non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t gunk up your pores. If you do choose a formula that contains oil, Dr. Marchbein says to opt for oils that fall into this category. "Testing for comedogenicity is not standardized; however, certain oils like mineral oil and jojoba are virtually non-comedogenic, while others, like coconut oil, are extremely comedogenic," she says. With that in mind, definitely skip coconut oil-based formulas.
Lighter moisturizing ingredients
Rather than richer oils (remember, you’re going oil-free!) or butter, Dr. Marchbein says to seek out hydrating ingredients that are lighter in texture and feel. "Look for ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone, shea butter, petrolatum, and hyaluronic acid in the list of ingredients, as these are deeply hydrating even in a lighter lotion formulation," she says. Many of these ingredients work by attracting water to the skin and trapping it in without feeling too greasy or heavy.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has more than a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there.
Meet the Expert
• Shari Marchbein is a board-certified dermatologist in New York City specializing in cosmetic and medical dermatology. Her academic and clinical interests include the treatment of acne, in particular adult female acne, acne scarring, and rosacea.
• Omar Noor is a dermatologist and part of the Rao Dermatology New Jersey team. His interests include skin cancer and medical dermatology with a special interest in cosmetic dermatology.
• Adam Friedman is a board-certified dermatologist, professor, and Interim Chair of Dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine. His clinical interests include acne, eczema, and psoriasis, among others.
How We Test Drugstore Moisturizers for Oily Skin
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough drugstore moisturizers from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.