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- Best overall moisturizer for acne: Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
- Best vegan moisturizer for acne: Herbivore Aquarius Pore Purifying Clarity Cream
- Best natural moisturizer for acne: Saje Claritea
- Best splurge: Tata Harper Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer
- Best formula with probiotics: Beekman 1802 Bloom Cream
- Best dermatologist-developed formula: The A Method H2 Biome
- Best budget-friendly buy: CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion
- Best 2-in-1 formula: Origins Clear Improvement
- Best gel formula: Knours Meditation Gel Cream
- Best gentle formula: Priori Barrier Restore Complex Ceramide Moisturizer
When you’re dealing with acne, using a moisturizer might feel like adding fuel to the fire. But take it from certified esthetician Sharlena Hassani: “No matter who you are, no matter what your skin type, you need a moisturizer in your routine,” she says.
The key, of course, is finding the right moisturizer for acne-prone skin. We took a deep dive into the options, researched exactly what to look for and what to avoid, and asked a few experts for their best tips.
Read on for everything you need to know about properly hydrating acne-prone skin, along with our recommendations for 10 moisturizers that are worth trying.
“The most obvious symptom of acne-prone skin is how much it’s visibly affected by triggers,” explains Hassani. “Certain products and foods (like dairy) cause aggressive flare-ups that are usually more inflamed, red, and tender. For those with acne-prone skin, this is usually an on/off occurrence that happens throughout your teens and into adulthood.”
People with acne may decide to shy away from moisturizing products because they’re worried about clogging their pores, creating more oils, or causing additional breakouts. Hassani dubs this as a common misconception, noting that it’s the opposite of what actually happens.
“Skipping the right moisturizer for your skin can actually make you oilier,” Hassani says. “When the surface of the skin becomes dehydrated, the skin overcompensates by producing even more oil. Using the proper moisturizer for your skin is essential to balancing the skin’s natural production of oil.”
Plus, if you’re using acne treatments that include benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or other similiar ingredients, your skin may already be a little dry and irritated.
“The right moisturizer is also there to combat any negative side effects of using other active ingredients in your routine, like dryness or redness, which is typically associated with acne treatment actives when used alone,” says Hassani.
“Aside from helping with acne-prone skin, consistent daily use of a good moisturizer will lead to firmer, younger-looking skin, and even fewer breakouts,” she adds.
So, what exactly goes into the right moisturizer for acne? You’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
Look for lightweight, oil-free moisturizers
Labels like “non-comedogenic” and “oil-free” are important because it means that the moisturizer doesn’t have any ingredients that might clog pores. Lightweight products that absorb quickly can curb the sensation of feeling overly greasy, especially if your skin is already on the oily side.
Opt for ingredients designed to soothe inflammation
“Those with acne-prone skin should look for a moisturizer packed with antioxidants and peptides,” Hassani advises. “Antioxidants help to preserve and protect the skin from environmental damage, the same way lemon juice protects a sliced apple from oxidizing and turning brown. Peptides are chains of amino acids that are the building blocks of important proteins (like collagen, elastin, and keratin) in the skin.”
Other powerhouse ingredients to look out for? Ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid can all help reduce pimples and possibly boost hydration.
Skip coconut oils, petroleum, and fragrance
Coconut oil can clog pores, while petroleum products may feel overly greasy and lead to breakouts. Fragrances, meanwhile, can be irritating and drying to skin that’s already sensitized. It’s best to skip fragrance altogether.
Consider a price point
Finally, remember to look for formulas that fit your budget. A moisturizer is a skin care staple, and it might be worth bumping your price point up. But a high price tag isn’t always indicative of higher quality.
There are tons of moisturizers on the market, and we searched high and low for those that are specifically designed to be gentle and hydrating on acne-prone skin. We also prioritized brands that emphasize sustainability and clean ingredients. Read on for 10 options that will suit every budget.
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20-50
- $$$ = $50-$100
- $$$$ = over $100
Best overall moisturizer
- Price: $-$$$
- Key ingredients: squalane, probiotics, red seaweed, ginger extract
This gel moisturizer combines probiotics, squalane, and botanicals to improve hydration and calm red, irritated skin. Squalane is a natural antioxidant that works double duty on the skin, mimicking its natural oils and sealing in moisture for a boost of hydration.
Close to 1,000 reviewers have tons of praise for this EWG-verified, vegan, and cruelty-free lotion. Plus, it’s available in a travel size at a really great price point, so you can test it out before going all-in on the full size.
Best vegan formula
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: blue tansy oil, white willow bark BHA
The Aquarius Pore Purifying Clarity Cream may be “Smurf” blue, but don’t let that worry you. This non-comedogenic, vegan formula is specifically designed to address pore congestion and excess oil thanks to a few key ingredients.
Herbivore describes willow bark BHA as “nature’s alternative to synthetic salicylic acid,” which may improve breakouts. Plus, blue tansy oil can help soothe inflamed skin.
The cream itself looks dense in the jar, but it goes on smooth and feels lightweight on the skin. It’s also made with zero synthetic ingredients, which means no dyes, fragrances, or preservatives. As a bonus, the jar is 100% recyclable, too.
Best natural moisturizer
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: tea tree, apricot kernel, raspberry seed oils
This brand new moisturizer from Saje is part of a line specifically formulated for oily or acne-prone skin. A blend of all-natural, plant-based ingredients is designed to clarify the skin, balance oil production, and soothe irritation.
The lotion is smooth and lightweight with a fresh, mildly herbal fragrance. Plus, it meets the Saje Natural Standard, which signifies the company’s commitment to 100% natural products. That means no parabens, SLS, artificial colorants, synthetic fragrances or fillers, and no ingredients from the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Toxic 12, a list of questionable chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics.
- Price: $$$$
- Key ingredients: chia seed water, marsh samphire, tremella mushroom, hyaluronic acid
Tata Harper’s hyaluronic gel moisturizer is an incredibly lightweight gel moisturizer formulated for oily and combination skin. The brand’s gel water technology combines chia seed water, marsh samphire (otherwise known as glasswort, often used as an anti-aging additive in skin care), and tremella mushroom for a silky, lighter-than-air texture that gently restores moisture in the skin.
Plus, the formula is chock-full of antioxidants — think banana flower, juniper berry, barley leaf, clary sage, magnolia bark extract, and many more, which help
Many of these ingredients are grown on founder Tata Harper’s own Vermont farm. You’ll just want to keep in mind that this product is fairly spendy — but, on the plus side, a little goes a very long way.
Best moisturizer with probiotics
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: goat’s milk, niacinamide, ceramics, peptides
Beekman 1802 is known for its unique use of premium goat’s milk in its skin care products, and this moisturizer is no exception.
Goat milk helps nourish and balance the skin’s microbiome, which is an entire mini-ecosystem inhabited by trillions of microorganisms. Balance is key in the microbiome. When it’s compromised, your skin reacts in any number of ways — breakouts, dryness, oil slicks, sensitivity, and other issues may arise.
Goat milk has the same pH as human skin and high lactic acid content, which makes it an incredibly gentle hydrator and natural exfoliator. Bloom Cream pairs this hero ingredient with niacinamide to boost the skin barrier, plus ceramides and peptides to boost and retain moisture. It’s a silky, quickly-absorbed lotion that nurtures the microbiome for happier, clearer skin.
Best dermatologist-developed formula
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: lactobacillus bulgaricus, hydrogen, curcuminoids, hyaluronic acid, shea butter
The A Method is a skin care line created by celebrity dermatologist Tina Alster. The H2 Biome moisturizer is part of the brand’s Blemish Control System, which includes products that work to soothe, recover, and balance the skin.
This probiotic cream is a daily moisturizer designed to revitalize the skin via ingredients like probiotics and curcuminoids (derived from turmeric), both of which hydrate and help reduce oxidative stress. This stress is the result of an imbalance in the body between free radicals and antioxidants, and it’s associated with everything from wrinkling to various
Meanwhile, lactobacillus bulgaricus, a probiotic bacterium frequently used in yogurt, balances the skin and promotes an optimal environment for collagen production.
It’s a lightweight, fragrance-free formula that glides on smoothly and absorbs just about instantly. As part of the Blemish Control System, Dr. Alster advises applying a thin layer of H2 Biome wherever your skin tends to dry out. It’s also a stand-alone moisturizer that can be used daily on the entire face.
Best budget-friendly buy
- Price: $
- Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide
This drugstore staple is non-comedogenic and free of fragrances and oil. Active ingredients like ceramides and niacinamide offer hydrating benefits and
The formula also includes glycerin, which works to soothe skin that may be extra sensitive due to acne and any treatments you’re using. And here’s a bonus—this gentle lotion offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection, so it’s great for daytime use. Another perk? The price point can’t be beat.
Best 2-in-1 formula
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: salicylic acid, squalane, bamboo charcoal, witch hazel extract
The Origins Clear Improvement moisturizer is awesome: With active ingredients like salicylic acid and squalane, it works to clear blackheads and prevent new breakouts. The pore-clearing formula is designed as an acne treatment and oil-free moisturizer, all in one.
Squalane offers a much-needed boost of hydration, while 1 percent salicylic acid helps improve and prevent breakouts. Note that using Clear Improvement alongside other topical acne treatments may dry out your skin, so you should give this one a go on its own.
Best gel formula
- Price: $$
- Key ingredients: peppermint oil, squalane, ceramide NP
This lightweight, soothing gel cream is packed with gentle ingredients for gentle hydration. Squalane balances oil production, improves elasticity, and locks in moisture, while ceramide NP protects the skin’s natural lipid barrier to maintain that moisture.
Peppermint oil helps manage facial flushing if your skin is prone to redness, and it delivers a delightful, gentle cooling sensation — think of it as a few seconds of mindfulness in your daily skin care routine.
All Knours products are also EWG verified, meaning they meet the organization’s strict standards for health with zero chemicals of concern in the ingredient list.
Best gentle formula
- Price: $$$
- Key ingredients: Vitamins A, C, E, lactic acid, ceramides
Dawn Turner, a medical esthetician and co-founder of PRIORI Skincare, calls the Restore moisturizer “ideal for problematic skin.” The lightweight formula is infused with an antioxidant vitamin blend to help repair irritated and compromised skin.
Lactic acid and ceramides add moisture and help restore a healthy skin barrier, and an anti-irritant complex serves as a soothing, hydrating anti-inflammatory. Combined, the ingredients are designed to help treat acne and reduce future breakouts.
This silky-smooth, oil-free hydrator is non-comedogenic and free of fragrances, colorants, and parabens.
What ingredients are harmful for acne-prone skin?
Hassani advises against moisturizers with coconut oil or petroleums. Coconut oil tends to clog pores, and petroleum-based moisturizers (think petroleum jelly) may trigger breakouts.
Your best bet is a lightweight, non-comedogenic product with no added fragrance. Both synthetic perfumes or fragrances (and even some essential oils) can be irritating to acne-prone skin.
How often should I use a moisturizer?
You should use your moisturizer after cleansing in the morning and before bed. Remember to pat your face light prior to application — don’t rub — so that you leave some water on your skin. Then, you can apply your moisturizer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, this will help lock in hydration.
How can a moisturizer help acne?
If you’re dealing with acne, the right moisturizer serves 2 roles. First, it can help regulate oil production, which may help decrease breakouts. Second, it can help combat some of the negative side effects of the active ingredients in your acne-fighting products, like cleansers or spot treatments.
When should a moisturizer be applied in my skin care routine?
Moisturizing should be one of the final steps in your skin care routine. It should be the last thing you apply before putting on SPF. At night, it’s the last step before bed. But if you’re using a topical acne treatment directly on blemishes and it’s drying out your skin, dab it on after moisturizing.
While it may seem counterintuitive, acne-prone skin needs moisturizing too. You should look for a lightweight, non-comedogenic option with gentle ingredients designed to hydrate, and use it after cleansing or anytime your skin is feeling tight and dry.
The right moisturizer will actually help manage your skin’s oil production, so don’t skip this step. It may take a little trial and error to find the best moisturizer for your skin, but it’s worth it.
Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.