The 16 Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin of 2023

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Best Moisturizers for Acne

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

If you struggle with breakouts, there are some skincare products you should avoid but one you should never skip: moisturizer. Still, finding a moisturizer for acne-prone skin that doesn't clog pores, cause irritation, or make skin feel uncomfortably tight or greasy can be challenging. "Look for moisturizers that are labeled oil-free or non-comedogenic, as they are less likely to clog pores," advises dermatologist Marie V. Hayag, MD of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics. 

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Thanks to its lightweight, oil-free formula, Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion is our top choice in moisturizers that won’t clog your skin. If you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly option, CeraVe’s Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a solid choice, offering lightweight hydration and essential ceramides.

Finding a good moisturizer for acne-prone skin is especially important if you're using a treatment containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which can dry out the complexion. According to Dr. Hayag, water-based products containing humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid are ideal. She also recommends looking for soothing ingredients such as aloe, vitamin E, and green tea. 

So, how do you know which cream, gel, or lotion is best? We spent hours researching the most popular and best-selling products available today, combed through customer reviews, and sought guidance from Dr. Hayag to find out.

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

Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel

Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel
What We Like
  • Non-comedogenic

  • Oil-free formula

  • Hydrates with humectants

What We Don’t Like
  • Gel formula takes a while to absorb into skin

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 Clarifying Water Gel, an ultra-lightweight, non-comedogenic formula.

It hydrates with hyaluronic acid, heals and soothes with ginger root extract, and keeps breakouts at bay with a very mild dose of salicylic acid. We also like that this oil-free moisturizer contains Korean red pine extract, a natural antimicrobial that inhibits the spread of acne-causing bacteria.

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

Price at time of publish: $46

Best Budget

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

5
Daily Moisturizing Body and Face Lotion for Normal to Dry Skin

Ulta

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

Price at time of publish: $13

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

Price at time of publish: $14

Best With SPF

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

5
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

Dermstore

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

Price at time of publish: $37

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

Price at time of publish: $52

Best Splurge

111Skin Y Theorem Day Cream Light NAC Y2

111Skin
What We Like
  • It's lightweight

  • Leaves skin glowing

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't
  • Has a strong fragrance

Sure, it's expensive, but just one pump of 111Skin Y Theorem Day Cream Light NAC Y2—a lighter version of the brand's best-selling day cream—is enough to moisturize your entire face. Ingredients include hyaluronic acid to boost hydration, niacinamide to decrease inflammation, and antioxidants, which create a barrier to shield skin from irritants. Plus, the product contains a proprietary complex called NAC Y2, which 111Skin promises can reduce the effects of environmental damage. The formulation won't clog pores, but it will plump skin and blur the appearance of fine lines.

Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamides and NAC Y2 | Skin Type: Oily, Acne-Prone, and Combination | SPF: None | Size: 1.69 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Price at time of publish: $240

Best K-Beauty

CosRx AC Collection Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer

Cosrx AC Collection Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer

Dermstore

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

Price at time of publish: $19

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

Price at time of publish: $12

Best P.M.

Paula's Choice CLEAR Oil-Free Moisturizer

Paula's Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer

Amazon

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

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Mattifying

Caudalie Vinopure Moisturizing Mattifying Fluid

4.8
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

Price at time of publish: $35

Best Hydrating

Tatcha The Water Cream

5
TATCHA The Water Cream: Oil-Free, Optimal Hydration Moisturizer For Pure Poreless Skin

Amazon

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

Price at time of publish: $66

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

Target

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

Price at time of publish: $20

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

Price at time of publish: $36

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

Price at time of publish: $39

Best Gel

Base Butter Radiate Face Jelly

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

Price at time of publish: $29

Best for Mature Skin

Kate Somerville Oil-Free Moisturizer

best moisturizers for oily skin

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Fragrance free

  • Helps balance combination skin

  • Also targets fine lines

What We Don't Like
  • Some users say it's not as effective on severe or persistent acne

This oil-free moisturizer is specifically formulated for acne-prone skin, absorbing quickly to provide moisture without shine. Amino acids help target fine lines, while algae extracts work to tighten mature skin.

Active Ingredients: Amino Acids and Algae Extract | Skin Type: Normal, Oily, Combination | SPF: None | Size: 1.7 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Price at time of publish: $29

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.

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.
  • 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.

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—like our best overall pick, Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel—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. We like the CosRx AC Collection Moisturizer, which contains soothing aloe vera and green tea extract.

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.

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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  5. Koch, Wojciech et al. Applications of Tea (Camellia sinensis) and its Active Constituents in Cosmetics. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,23 4277. doi:10.3390/molecules24234277

  6. Sung, Soo-Hyun et al. External Use of Propolis for Oral, Skin, and Genital Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 8025752. doi:10.1155/2017/8025752

  7. Radha MH, et al. Evaluation of biological properties and clinical effectiveness of Aloe vera: A systematic review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine.

  8. Mekas M, et al. An Evaluation of Efficacy and Tolerability of Novel Enzyme Exfoliation Versus Glycolic Acid in Photodamage Treatment. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2015 Nov;14(11):1306-19.

  9. Sarkar R, et al. Cosmeceuticals for Hyperpigmentation: What is Available? J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2013 Jan-Mar; 6(1): 4–11. doi: 10.4103/0974-2077.110089.

  10. Merial-Kieny C, Castex-Rizzi N, Selas B, Mery S, Guerrero D. Avène Thermal Spring Water: an active component with specific properties. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2011;25 Suppl 1:2-5. doi:10.1111/j.1468-3083.2010.03892.x.

  11. The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Do Face Masks Really Work? The "Magic" Behind Face Masks — and How to Get the Most Out of Them. Penn Medicine.

    Woodruff, A, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of a 2% salicylic acid cleanser for improvement of acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

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