How to pick a moisturizer for oily and acne-prone skin (and yes, you need one)

If your skin is perpetually oily or actively breaking out, slathering on a moisturizer may seem like the last thing you should do. The goal, after all, is to strip skin of excess oil rather than adding more to it, right?

Wrong. A daily, year-round moisturizer is a must for everyone, say experts, including those with oily or acne-prone skin. Hydration helps to maintain the health of the stratum corneum (your outermost layer of the skin), which protects against harmful pollutants and chemicals while curbing further dryness and irritation. Skipping this crucial step can backfire: Dehydration sends the sebaceous glands into overdrive, increasing the potential for more pore congestion and breakouts. (And if you haven’t noticed, those rough, red, flaky patches can actually make your blemishes look worse.)

That’s not to say you can use the same moisturizer as your more sebum-challenged friends. Rather than rich, occlusive creams, opt for lightweight lotions labeled “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic,” which means there are no pore-clogging oils, waxes or silicones. “Fragrance-free” is also key. Particularly when you’re using acne medications, highly fragranced moisturizers may burn or sting when applied and trigger inflammation and redness. 

What you can do instead: Choose products formulated with ingredients proven to smooth skin and keep in the clear. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most patients experience fewer breakouts after four to eight weeks of using an acne-friendly moisturizer.

One that won’t leave you high and dry: Humane Oil-Free Moisturizer. The ultra-light lotion contains hyaluronic acid, which draws in moisture without trapping oil in the pores. Soothing aloe vera gel combats redness and irritation, while antioxidant-rich botanicals (like grape seed and cucumber extracts) help to fight free radicals.