We know it might seem counterintuitive, but acne-prone skin needs to be moisturized, too. However, nothing can be worse than slathering on face cream and looking shiny for the rest of the day—or worse, clogging our pores and sparking yet another breakout. Thankfully, oil-free moisturizers exist—trust us when we say they’re a godsend.
We've rounded up our favorite products that’ll leave your face silky smooth and shine-free, no matter your skin type or concerns. These virtually weightless lotions and gels pack in all the hydrating power of traditional creams, delivering the moisture our skin needs while keeping sebum production in check. The result: soft, supple skin, but without the heavy, greasy feeling. Plus, unlike their oil-based counterparts, they magically absorb in an instant, saving you time in between skin-care and makeup application.
After consulting with a board-certified dermatologist, and evaluating products based on their formula, skin feel, and value, we narrowed down our picks. We also considered what skin type each formula is most effective in treating, including oily, acne-prone, and combination skin.
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer
Plumps fine lines and wrinkles
As the name suggests, this moisturizer is as light as a cloud. It contains actual hydrolyzed silk, which makes skin soft and smooth without the heavy feeling that some moisturizers can leave behind. Don’t be fooled by its light-as-air texture, though, as it also packs in some serious hydration power. Formulated with the brand’s Hyaluronic Acid Complex at a 30% concentration, as well as Pentavitin, a potent hydrating ingredient, this cream will keep your skin dewy and moisturized for up to 72 hours. Bonus? Not only does it leave the skin supple and plump, but it’ll help keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay.
Price at time of publish: $54
Active Ingredients: 3 molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid, hydrolyzed silk, pentavitin | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + HA
Reviewers note it doesn't absorb well
It’s typically unheard of to find a quality moisturizer for a super low price, but—as always—The Ordinary proves us otherwise. This treatment is composed of a powerful combination of moisturizers, including 11 different amino acids, dermal lipids, and hyaluronic acid, that help with dryness without leaving behind a greasy residue. Aside from being oil-free, it’s also free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, alcohol, silicone, and fragrance—and it’s vegan and cruelty-free.
Price at time of publish: $6
Active Ingredients: Amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Balanced, oily, combination, dry, sensitive | Size: 1 ounce, 3.3 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel
The cult-favorite moisturizer has some pretty impressive ratings—and for good reason. A powerful remedy for thirsty skin, the water-based gel deeply hydrates with hyaluronic acid, yet absorbs ultra-fast, leaving behind a smooth, plump finish that makes a great base for makeup. In addition to being oil-free, it’s also non-comedogenic and dye-free, meaning it won’t cause any irritation or breakouts, making it the perfect option for those with sensitive, oily, or acne-prone skin types.
"I’m always wary that new products will break me out—especially with a fragrance as strong as this one—but even after a week of use, I didn’t have any new out of the ordinary acne," said our product tester.
Price at time of publish: $20
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Balanced to oily | Size: 0.5 ounces, 1.7 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Dry Skin
Ole Henriksen C-Rush Vitamin C Gel Moisturizer
Provides antioxidant benefits
Just because a product is oil-free doesn’t mean it’s necessarily only meant for oily or acne-prone skin types; dryer complexions can also benefit from a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer. According to studies by the brand, this gel boosts the skin’s hydration levels by 140% for up to 24 hours — essentially a fresh-squeezed juice for your face. It’s powered by three sources of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid, 3-0-ethyl ascorbic acid, and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) to boast brightening, anti-aging, and antioxidant benefits.
Price at time of publish: $39
Active Ingredients: 3 sources of vitamin C, rose of winter extract | Skin Type: Balanced, oily, combination, dry, sensitive | Size: 1.7 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Combination Skin
Shani Darden Skin Care Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer
When celebrity esthetician Shani Darden launched her eponymous skincare line over the summer, we knew it was gonna be good. Her Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer truly delivers—light as air but super hydrating, this fast-absorbing formula is perfect for balancing combination skin. It nourishes dry patches, but the shine-free, non-greasy formula won’t clog the pores of your oilier regions. In addition to hyaluronic acid, it’s also formulated with red algae extract and hydrolyzed collagen.
Price at time of publish: $48
Active Ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed collagen, red algae extract | Skin Type: Balanced, combination, oily | Size: 2.5 ounces, 0.5 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Oily Skin
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Oil-Free Mattifying Moisturizer
Bottle doesn't last long
If you’re plagued with oily skin, you’ll need a non-greasy daily moisturizer that’ll keep shine under control. This one does just that, using the brand’s Sebulyse Technology to target excess oil and other oily skin woes. The formula features LHA (lipohydroxy acid), which tightens enlarged pores and micro exfoliates to refine the skin’s texture. Made with zinc pidolate, it also neutralizes any signs of shininess. It's a lightweight lotion that leaves behind a perfect matte, yet hydrated finish.
Price at time of publish: $32
Active Ingredients: Lipo-hydroxy acid, perlite, silica, glycerin, dimethicone, salicylic acid, La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1.35 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30
Offers UV protection
Can sting eyes
If you’re dealing with acne-prone skin, you're probably well aware of the greasy, heavy feel that many moisturizers with sunscreen leave behind (which can lead to irritation and, unfortunately, more zits). That’s why Differin’s Oil Control Moisturizer with Sunscreen is an absolute must for anyone prone to breakouts. This lightweight, non-greasy formula thoroughly hydrates skin and uses SPF 30 Oleosome, a non-irritating form of sunscreen that still offers protection against UV rays. The moisturizer also features micro pearl technology and absorbs pesky surface oil that might creep up during the day, keeping the skin matte and shine-free.
Price at time of publish: $12
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone | Size: 4 ounces | SPF: 30 | Cruelty-Free: No
Tatcha The Water Cream
Works well under makeup
More than just a daily moisturizer, Tatcha’s beloved Water Cream also boasts anti-aging, skin-refining benefits. According to the Tatcha, this cream is powered by a number of Japanese nutrients such as wild rose and leopard lily that deliver water-light hydration while tightening pores, smoothing skin texture, controlling excess oil, and improving cell turnover. It also contains the brand’s Hadasei-3 complex, an anti-aging powerhouse combination of green tea, rice, and algae and helps keep the complexion youthful and radiant.
Oh, and this clean, non-irritating, noncomedogenic, and non-sensitizing formula is also infused with a casual touch of 23-karat gold, leaving behind a serious (and shine-free!) glow. "I'm happy to report that Tatcha’s The Water Cream kept my oily skin feeling fresh, light, and hydrated all day and through the night," our product tester said.
Price at time of publish: $69
Active Ingredients: Japanese wild rose, Japanese leopard lily, hadasei-3 complex | Skin Type: Combination, oily | Size: 1.7 ounces, 0.34 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best With SPF
Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen
Offers UV protection
A 2-in-1 moisturizer and sunscreen, this lightweight cream offers SPF 30 protection sans chalkiness, and niacinamide to help even out skin tone. The formula, with ingredients like Kalahari melon, baobab, hyaluronic acid, and aloe, helps to hydrate the skin. It won’t pill under makeup or cause any flashback, making it the perfect makeup base. We can’t fail to mention that it’s vegan, cruelty-free, reef-safe, and refillable, making this a conscious choice for both the animals and the environment.
Price at time of publish: $38
Active Ingredients: Kalahari melon, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, aloe, baobab | Skin Type: Balanced, oily, combination, dry | Size: 1.7 ounces, 1 ounce | SPF: 30 | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer
Protects against environmental damage
This refreshing moisturizer is the secret to glowing, radiant skin. The daytime version of the brand’s fan-favorite Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, this bouncy gel—which includes watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants—hydrates, soothes irritation and calms redness, as well as protects against environmental stressors. The result: an instantly dewy, radiant complexion that’s visibly more hydrated. It’s suitable for all skin types, either as a non-greasy moisturizer for oily/combination skin or a hydrating serum for dry skin.
"Glow Recipe is one of those brands that rarely gets it wrong, and the Watermelon Pink Juice Moisturizer is no exception," our tester said. "It’s super fresh, a delight to apply, feels good on the skin, and provides long-lasting hydration without any grease."
Price at time of publish: $39
Active Ingredients: Watermelon, hyaluronic acid, jasmine extract, peony extract | Skin Type: Dry, sensitive, balanced, oily, combination, acne-prone | Size: 2.02 ounces, 0.84 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Hyperpigmentation
Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Moisturizer with Niacinamide
Fades dark spots
Great for winter
Bye, bye, dark spots! Caudalie’s oil-free Vinoperfect Brightening Moisturizer with Niacinamide visibly evens out the skin tone and fades the look of dark spots thanks to skin-brightening powerhouses niacinamide, viniferine—an extract of grapevine sap that’s 62% more effective than vitamin C—and white peony extract. Suitable for normal to dry skin types, it offers lightweight but deep hydration, thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid and olive squalane, and boosts radiance and glow with natural pearlizers.
Price at time of publish: $65
Active Ingredients: Patented Vine Sap-Derived Viniferine, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Balanced, dry | Size: 1.7 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Large Pores
Glossier Priming Moisturizer Balance
May not be hydrating enough for some
A favorite of Byrdie email editor Karli Bendlin, Glossier’s top-rated Priming Moisturizer Balance was developed with oily skin in mind. Its shine-controlling formula with marine extract keeps the skin balanced while niacinamide and willow bark extract reduce the appearance of enlarged pores and help smooth skin. You'll get soft, plump, and hydrated skin with a powdery matte finish—the perfect base for makeup.
Price at time of publish: $25
Active Ingredients: Apple fruit extract, marine extract, niacinamide, willow bark extract, bamboo extract | Skin Type: Oily, combination | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Clean Formula
Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer
Can leave a sticky residue
Farmacy’s Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer is like a tropical smoothie for your skin, and it smells like one, too! The formula, an impressive four different forms of hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid, acts as moisture magnets, keeping skin supple and hydrated without ever feeling heavy or greasy. Moringa seed extract and moringa water help refresh the skin and protect against pollution, while willowherb clears pores of impurities and fights shine, and papaya extract acts as a gentle exfoliant, according to the brand. In addition to being clean, it’s also vegan-cruelty-free, gluten-free, and comes in recycled packaging.
Price at time of publish: $42
Active Ingredients: Moringa seed extract, moringa water, papaya extract, 4 types of hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid, kale, cucumber, eucalyptus, willow herb, niacinamide | Skin Type: Balanced, combination, oily | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin
Osea Seabiotic Water Cream
Lightweight, silky texture
Hydrates for up to 72 hours
Soothes inflamed skin
Sensitive skin? Seabiotic Water Cream is your best bet. This oil-free moisturizer leans on bisabolol (an extract of chamomile) to soothe inflamed, reactive complexions, and you can count on the lightweight, silky formula to keep you skin hydrated for up to 72 hours. The only thing we don't like about this product is its unhygienic container—you have to dip your fingers in every time you use it.
Price at time of publish: $54
Active Ingredients: Seaweed, squalene, bisabolol | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.6 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Kate Somerville Oil-Free Moisturizer
Plumps and smooths
Tones and tightens
Unlikely to irritate sensitive skin
High price per ounce
Added fragrance (whether synthetic or from essential oils) can be irritating, especially for those with particularly sensitive skin. That's one reason we love this unscented moisturizer from Kate Somerville—but definitely not the only reason. The lightweight formula calls on amino acids to plump your skin and smooth the appearance of fine lines, while algae extract works to tone and tighten the skin.
Price at time of publish: $76
Active Ingredients: Amino acids, algae extract | Skin Type: Oily, sensitive, acne-prone, mature | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | SPF: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream is, hands down, the best oil-free moisturizer you can buy. The lightweight yet exceptionally quenching formula absorbs quickly and keeps your skin moisturized for up to 72 hours. But if you're on a budget, you can't go wrong with The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors HA.
Meet the Expert
Ava Shamban, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of SKIN FIVE by AVA MD and the AVA MD full-service dermatology centers. She is an expert in cosmetic and medical dermatology, and specializes in managing acne and oily skin types.
What to Look For in Oil-Free Moisturizers
An ultra-moisturizing ingredient, hyaluronic acid couldn’t be a better fit for those looking to keep their face dewy without oil. Because it holds so many times its weight in water, its effects are instantaneous, leaving you glowing after application. Ava Shamban, MD, tells Byrdie that "it is a superstar at alleviating dry skin.”
Some of our favorite formulas containing this all-star ingredient include Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream and The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors HA.
Listed in the ingredient list of oil-free moisturizers as rose water or rose extract, this flower has numerous skincare benefits. It helps to moisturize dry skin, and if you experience redness, you’ll potentially receive benefits in that realm, as well. Dr. Ava Shamban says that “rosewater fights inflammation, helping to reduce redness and blotchiness.”
To add this soothing, redness-reducing ingredient to your routine, go with Tatcha The Water Cream or Ole Henriksen C-Rush Brightening Double Crème.
Known as B3, and also often referred to as a “powerhouse ingredient,” niacinamide offers hydration, can help your skin glow, and can even aid in preventing acne. Because it evens your skin and prevents signs of aging, it’s a key ingredient in assorted skincare products, and moisturizers are no exception.
Caudalie Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer is one of our go-tos containing niacinamide. And if you use products such as retinol, it may combat the dryness and irritation associated with that.
A top antioxidant for anti-aging, vitamin C fits in the ingredient list of an oil-free moisturizer. If you’re thinking you can just have an extra squeeze of lemon in your morning water instead, though, be aware that actually won’t work—cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat Cosmetics Ron Robinson says that it’s best applied topically, and the results won’t be the same from simply ingesting it. As the name suggests, Ole Henriksen C-Rush Brightening Double Crème is among the best formulas containing this powerful antioxidant.
How do I know if my moisturizer is oil-free?
You’ll know if your moisturizer contains oil or not by looking at the ingredient list. If it lists any type of oil, then it isn’t oil-free. This isn’t limited; whether you’re talking jojoba or emu, any moisturizer ingredient that ends in the word “oil” will contain oil. Don’t want to have to read tiny labels? Opt for a moisturizer that declares it’s oil-free in its marketing materials or right on the front of the product.
Does oil-free moisturizer dry out the skin?
No, an oil-free moisturizer should not dry out the skin. Ideally, your oil-free moisturizer will contain several different moisturizing ingredients, and you’ll never even notice that no oil is involved. If you find that the one you choose doesn’t hydrate your skin as much as you want it to, you might want to try a different product or one that caters more specifically to the needs of your skin type.
Will oil-free moisturizers cause acne?
Oil-free moisturizers shouldn’t cause acne, but there’s always a chance that an ingredient won’t react with your skin the way you want it to. Oil is one factor that can contribute to acne, but there are countless more, from hormones to environmental stressors, that can lead to breakouts. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that your oil-free moisturizer is the culprit if you experience a breakout but do take note if it is the only thing in your routine that has changed.
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