Acne-Prone Skin? These 15 Moisturizers Won't Clog Your Pores

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Best Moisturizers for Acne

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

While some steps of your skincare routine are optional, there's one product that should hold a permanent place: moisturizer. According to board-certified dermatologist Marie V. Hayag, MD, of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics, even those with acne-prone skin should moisturize morning and night—especially when using a potentially drying treatment like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

But for the pimple-prone camp, it can be tough to find one that doesn't clog your pores, cause irritation, or make your skin feel uncomfortably tight or greasy. So, how do you know which cream, gel, or lotion is right for your complexion?

"Look for moisturizers that are labeled as oil-free or non-comedogenic, as they are less likely to clog pores," says Dr. Hayag. Water-based products containing humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid instead of oils are ideal. Ingredients such as aloe, vitamin E, and green tea are great, too.

Meet the Expert

Marie V. Hayag, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital. Located in New York City's Upper East Side, her practice specializes in everything from topical treatments to cutting-edge procedures.

Keep scrolling for the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin.

Best Overall: Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion

Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion

Amazon

What We Like
  • Non-comedogenic

  • Oil-free formula

  • Prevents breakouts

  • Hydrates with humectants

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Murad is a tried-and-true brand you can count on when it comes to caring for acne-prone skin. With that said, our number one pick is the Skin Perfecting Lotion, an ultra-lightweight and refreshingly uncomplicated formula.

It hydrates with hyaluronic acid, heals and soothes with allantoin (comfrey plant extract), and keeps future breakouts at bay with a very mild dose of retinol. We also like that this oil-free moisturizer contains urea, a weird-sounding but very effective humectant that helps minimize the build-up of dead skin cells.

Active Ingredients: Allantoin | Skin Type: Acne-Prone | SPF: None | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Budget: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

5
Cerave Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Oil-free formula

What We Don’t Like
  • Not hydrating enough for drier skin

On a budget? Go with CeraVe. This dermatologist-approved lotion is oil-free and non-comedogenic, offering lightweight hydration with essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin.

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides | Skin Type: Normal to Dry | SPF: None | Size: 12 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Drugstore: Cetaphil Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion

 Cetaphil Fragrance Free Moisturizing Lotion

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Replenishes skin barrier

What We Don’t Like
  • Not oil-free

From the pharmacy aisle, we're all about Cetaphil. This generously sized pump bottle is chock full of skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide (vitamin B3), vitamin E, and glycerin. While it does contain a small amount of plant-derived oil, the idea is that it balances your complexion to help it produce less oil.

Active Ingredients: Vitamins E and B5 | Skin Type: Dry and Sensitive | SPF: None | Size: 16 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Splurge: Val by MVH Clarifying Hydration

Val by MVH Clarifying Hydration

MVH

What We Like
  • Oil-free formula

  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients

  • Targets acne-causing bacteria

What We Don’t Like
  • Could come in larger size

If you're open to splurging, you might consider this clarifying moisturizer from Dr. Hayag's brand. "It contains bisabolol, which is an anti-inflammatory and soothing," she tells Byrdie. "It also contains green tea extract, which is not only a potent antioxidant but also an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agent. Plus, the texture of this moisturizer is quite soft and silky."

Active Ingredients: Cyclomethicone | Skin Type: Combination and Oily | SPF: None | Size: 1 ounce | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best With SPF: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

4.9
UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

 Courtesy of EltaMD 

What We Like
  • Provides broad UV protection

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Invisible finish gives a natural look

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

When it comes to moisturizers with sun protection, board-certified dermatologist Martha H. Viera, MD, FAAD, says, "You need to avoid heavy oils that can clog the pores." She recommends EltaMD UV Clear, a non-comedogenic formula that provides invisible SPF 46 protection.

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide and Niacinamides | Skin Type: Acne-Prone and Sensitive | SPF: 46 | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Treatment: Tula Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer

Tula Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Airtight container

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Tula Breakout Star contains BHA (beta-hydroxy acid) superhero salicylic acid, which Dr. Hayag says is one of the best ingredients for treating acne. "It is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and helps exfoliate the skin," she tells Byrdie.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 2% | Skin Type: Acne-Prone | SPF: None | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best K-Beauty: CosRx AC Collection Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer

CosRx AC Collection Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Oil-free formula

  • Heals acne

What We Don’t Like
  • Propolis may trigger allergies

From the Korean beauty brand that we're all growing to love, CosRx Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer is a clutch for balancing acne-prone skin. It offers light hydration and contains anti-inflammatory ingredients with healing properties like propolis, green tea, aloe, and allantoin.

Active Ingredients: Aloe Vera Leaves Extract 71.2% | Skin Type: Sensitive, Oily, Combination, and Combination | SPF: None | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best A.M.: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture with Sunscreen

Neutrogena Oil-Free Daily Long Lasting Facial Moisturizer
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly 

  • Contains SPF for UV protection

  • Lightweight in feel

What We Don’t Like
  • Slightly tacky when first applying

In the morning, reach for Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture. This non-irritating, lightweight lotion goes on sheer and offers broad-spectrum SPF 15 protection from the sun's harmful rays.

Active Ingredients: Avobenzone 1.5%, Octisalate 5%, Octocrylene 3%, and Oxybenzone 4% | Skin Type: Sensitive | SPF: 15 | Size: 2.5 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best P.M.: Paula's Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer

Paula's Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer
What We Like
  • Oil-free formula

  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients

  • Replenishes skin barrier

What We Don’t Like
  • Not hydrating enough for drier skin

For your evening skincare routine, we recommend Paula's Choice Clear. Infused with ceramides, humectants, licorice root extract, and niacinamide, this oil-free moisturizer pulls out all the stops to calm, hydrate, and replenish acne-prone complexions.

Active Ingredients: 0.5% Salicylic Acid 0.5% | Skin Type: Acne-Prone | SPF: None | Size: 2 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Mattifying: Caudalie Vinopure Moisturizing Mattifying Fluid

Caudalie Vinopure Moisturizing Mattifying Fluid

Sephora

What We Like
  • Matte finish

  • Balances oil production

  • Non-comedogenic

What We Don’t Like
  • Could come in larger size

We're also loving Caudalie Vinopure, a mattifying lotion that simultaneously hydrates and absorbs greasiness to balance acne-prone skin. The secret? Olive-derived squalene, the type of oil your skin naturally produces. The idea is that when your skin is replenished with squalene, it won't produce as much.

Active Ingredients: Java Tea Extract and Grape Seed Polyphenols | Skin Type: Acne-Prone | SPF: None | Size: 1 ounce | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Hydrating: Tatcha The Water Cream

5
Tatcha's water cream, which comes in light turquoise and gold packaging

 Courtesy of Tatcha

What We Like
  • Oil-free formula

  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients

  • Balances oil production

What We Don’t Like
  • Unhygienic container

From everyone's favorite Japanese skincare brand, The Water Cream is a stellar hydrator for thirsty, acne-prone skin. Boasting an oil-free formula, it contains a nourishing and soothing blend of green tea, algae, hyaluronic acid, and botanical extracts.

Active Ingredients: Japanese Camellia Oil (Tsubaki) and Hadasei-3 | Skin Type: All | SPF: None | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

tatcha water cream

Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca

What Our Testers Say

"There was no heavy or sticky residue, and once the cream was absorbed, my skin felt comfortable." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester

Best Retexturizing: ROSEN Skincare Tropics Moisturizer

Rosen Skincare Tropics Moisturizer

Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Lightly exfoliates

  • Minimizes uneven texture

  • Boosts complexion

What We Don’t Like
  • Unhygienic container

  • Not oil-free

Rosen Tropics Moisturizer oh-so-gently exfoliates with pineapple enzymes to tackle dead skin buildup and uneven texture. What's more, the weightless formula offers light hydration while delivering a more radiant complexion with radiance-boosting kojic acid.

Active Ingredients: Pineapple Extract and Kojic Acid | Skin Type: Oily and Acne-Prone | SPF: None | Size: 2 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Soothing: Avène Tolerance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream

Avène Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Cream

Amazon

What We Like
  • Soothing

  • Restores skin barrier

  • Oil-free formula

What We Don’t Like
  • May cause breakouts for acne-prone skin

If you're dealing with red, reactive skin, your best bet is the Avène Tolerance Control. The kicker is the brand's mineral-rich thermal spring water, which has been shown to soothe inflammation while offering healing and hydrating benefits.

Active Ingredients: D-Sensinose | Skin Type: Sensitive | SPF: None | Size: 1.3 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Blackheads: Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer

Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturiser

 Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Great winter moisturizer

  • Gets rid of acne quick, especially whiteheads

  • Prevents breakouts

What We Don’t Like
  • The smell

Blackheads bumming you out? Thanks to a blend of bamboo charcoal and salicylic acid, you can count on Origins Clear Improvement to unclog your pores and dissolve sebum while preventing more blemishes from forming.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 1% | Skin Type: Normal, Dry, Combination, and Oily | SPF: None | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Gel: Base Butter Radiate Face Jelly

BASE BUTTER
What We Like
  • Balances oil production

  • Minimal ingredients

  • Natural formula

What We Don’t Like
  • Might irritate sensitive skin on first use

If you're partial to gels, Radiate Face Jelly has your name on it. While this natural moisturizer contains some plant oils, it's formulated to balance oil production without clogging your pores. You can expect a dewy, hydrated complexion without a greasy, shiny finish.

Active Ingredients: Aloe Vera Leaf Juice | Skin Type: Oily, Acne-Prone, and Combination | SPF: None | Size: 2 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

The best overall moisturizer for acne-prone complexions is Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion (view at Sephora), a super-lightweight, oil-free formula that hydrates, heals, soothes, and helps prevent breakouts. Looking for a better value? You can't go wrong with CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion (view at Amazon), which comes in a generously sized pump bottle and boasts lightweight, non-comedogenic hydration.

What to Look for in a Moisturizer for Acne

Non-Comedogenic

Dr. Rabach stresses the importance of using a non-comedogenic moisturizer if you have acne-prone skin. “This means you can confidently moisturize your skin knowing that the ingredients will not add to clogging your pores, thus making the acne worse,” she says. “Ingredients that are often avoided in these formulations are oils and other emollients like petrolatum that can clog the pores.” 

Humectants

Dr. Rabach says it’s also important to look for water-based moisturizers with humectants such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, as these will draw water into the skin to keep skin moisturized. More importantly, they don't have occlusive properties, which form a protective coating on the skin's surface (which can lead to clogged pores and exacerbate acne). “Usually, these types of moisturizers feel light and aren’t too thick or heavy,” she says. 

Soothing

Finally, Dr. Rabach says that acne-prone skin needs a lot of TLC, so it’s best to look for soothing formulations. With that said, she says that they should be free of fragrance, dyes, and botanicals (as these can cause skin allergies or irritate the skin) as well as alcohols, which can be too drying.

FAQ
  • What are the specific benefits of moisturizers for acne-prone skin?

    Moisturizers formulated specifically for acne-prone skin are typically oil-free or otherwise non-comedogenic, meaning they're unlikely to clog your pores. Additionally, many contain anti-inflammatory ingredients that help soothe irritation and minimize redness.

    Some creams and lotions are also formulated to help clear and prevent breakouts. "It's especially important to moisturize if you're using acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid because they can be drying and irritating to the skin," adds Dr. Hayag.

  • How often should you apply moisturizers for acne-prone skin?

    "Generally, I recommend that those with acne-prone skin moisturize twice a day," says Dr. Hayag. While you might be tempted to use a lotion or cream less often to avoid clogging your pores or creating a greasy look, you shouldn't have this issue with oil-free and non-comedogenic formulas.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Theresa Holland is a skincare enthusiast and freelance commerce writer specializing in cosmetics. For this story, she interviewed two board-certified dermatologists for product suggestions and insight into formulations. She combed through ingredients lists, pored over user reviews, and referenced several peer-reviewed articles before making her final selections. From the above list, Theresa has personally tried Murad, CeraVe, Cetaphil, Neutrogena, Avène, Tatcha, and EltaMD. You can find more of her bylines on MyDomaine.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Morgan Rabach is a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical PLLC, a dermatology and facial plastic surgery practice that she started with her sister, Dr. Lesley Rabach. In addition to her private practice, she is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
  • Martha H. Viera, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist. Her practice in Coral Gables, Florida, focuses on non-surgical skin rejuvenation treatments.


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 moisturizers for acne-prone skin from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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