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Skincare these days can be a lot of work, with so many products and steps, how do you know what is right and wrong? One step that has never wavered in the beauty world is moisturizing. We all need it, whether you're oily, irritated, sunburned, or just a combination. But when acne is in the picture, it can feel like a moisturizer will just add fire to the flame. However, dermatologists agree that not only is moisturizer an essential step in every skincare routine but can even help calm and prevent acne—if you choose the right formula, that is.
When looking for a moisturizer for acne-prone skin, there are a few things to look for. According to double-board certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Houshmand, oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizers are among the best picks for acne.
Below, discover our curated list of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin.
Best Overall: Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer
Formulated with 1% salicylic acid, you can expect this moisturizer to show breakouts who's boss. But that's not all it's formulated with. It also boasts bamboo charcoal, an ingredient able to absorb 100x its weight in impurities (woah), which is key when it comes to keeping the pores clear and preventing blackheads.
Best Drugstore: Vichy Normaderm Beautifying Anti-Acne Treatment
“Vichy’s Normaderm Anti-Acne Treatment is an oil-free moisturizer that is perfect for normal, combination, oily, and blemish-prone skin types,” says Dr. Houshmand. “It contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid, which help exfoliate and minimize the appearance of blemishes.” It's been clinically tested to address existing blemishes, but also help prevent new ones from forming—all at a drugstore-friendly price point.
Best Budget: Neutrogena Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer SPF 15
Dr. Houshmand is also a fan of this budget-friendly favorite. She says that it doesn't irritate inflamed, acne-prone skin, because it's “very lightweight, non-comedogenic, and alcohol-free.” What's more, it contains SPF 15 for sun protection. Cheers to double-duty benefits without breaking the bank.
Best Mattifying: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat
This moisturizer is a favorite among dermatologists for a reason. It mattifies the skin but doesn't dry your face out in the process. It's also oil-free and non-comedogenic, so it's rich enough to provide proper hydration while preventing additional breakouts. Oh, and thanks to a mild exfoliating ingredient, this moisturizer also helps tighten pores and clarify your skin's texture. A winner all around.
Best Pore Minimizer: Bioderma Sébium Pore Refiner
Another Dr. Houshmand-favorite for acne-prone skin, this concentrated cream helps tighten the look of pores so they're less visible. Key ingredients include glycolic and salicylic acids which work together to exfoliate the skin and reveal a brighter-looking complexion.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Renee Rouleau Skin Recovery Lotion
Your skin can be sensitive and prone to breakouts, and it's no surprise that it can be difficult to address both issues at the same time. Many acne-fighting ingredients and formulas can be harsh and drying, which can turn already-irritated or red skin into a tailspin.
If that's what you're experiencing, we recommend this gem by Byrdie-favorite Renee Rouleau to calm things down. It's got water-binding ingredients to soothe and hydrate the skin so it feels infinitely more comfortable and less sensitive in the plight against zits.
Best With Tea Tree Oil: Dr. Jart+ Teatreement Moisturizer
Tea tree oil may not be an FDA-approved ingredient for acne (salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur are) but that's not to say that it's not an effective choice against breakouts. It's a natural ingredient, and studies show that it can help address mild to moderate acne. Derms like it too because its anti-inflammatory properties can make a big difference on acne-prone skin when applied topically.
This pick by Dr. Jart is a great one to try; it boasts the brand's Teatreement Solution, which is a blend of tea tree leaf extract, tea tree leaf oil, and 4-terpineol, to reduce the look of blemishes. That's combined with a soothing mix of extracts from green tea, chamomile, and aloe vera to soothe and hydrate.
Best With SPF: RoC 5 in 1 Daily Face Moisturizer SPF 30
“This moisturizer containing SPF 30 is great for patients with oily, acne-prone skin,” Dr. Houshmand says. A true multitasker, this cream is clinically proven to reduce dull tones, wrinkles, discoloration, density loss, and of course, dryness. The price point for this cream is also fair, considering the active ingredients and benefits. The lightweight formula is recommended and encouraged to be used daily.
Best Gel: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Oil Free Mattifying Gel
First Aid Beauty is known for its ingredient list providing what your skin needs and this oil-free mattifying gel is no exception. This gel is packed with lecithin and zinc PCA, which regulates your skin's oil production and hydrates your pores, the perfect combo for acne-prone skin. In other words, if you're looking for a topnotch gel moisturizer that promotes clearer, healthier-looking skin, this is it.
Runner-Up, Best Gel: Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer
Another lightweight, oil-free formula (see the trend here?), this moisturizer contains an ingredient trifecta to clear blemishes, reduce excess oil, and hydrate the skin. You can credit 0.5% salicylic acid, 3% seboclear to absorb oil, and a 10% hyaluronic acid complex for hydration without an oily finish.