The best spot treatments and salicylic acid serums can (this is the key word, you guys) be transformative for acne. But if you happen to fall into a special category of people who deal with both acne and sensitive skin, popular pimple products are likely going to be too drying. Enter the best salicylic acid moisturizers, a hydrating alternative that can successfully treat blackheads, dissolve oil, and create a clearer complexion all while keeping skin happy and hydrated. “Salicylic acid can come in many different forms—chemical peels, gels, face washes—but a moisturizing form can be helpful to those who can’t tolerate stronger formulations,” notes board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mara Weinstein.
To help you decide which hydrator is right for you, we’ve searched far and wide for the best moisturizers with salicylic acid. Whether you want to reduce blackheads while simultaneously brightening your skin’s tone or are on a mission to get rid of bumpy, itchy KP on your body, there’s something for everyone on this list.
The Benefits of Salicylic Acid
“Having salicylic acid in your moisturizer helps clear up blemishes, prevent breakouts, and rebalances your skin,” explains Dr. Weinstein. “Salicylic acid has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and keratolytic properties, which means it can help chemically exfoliate the skin so that your pores and hair follicles don’t get clogged. It’s great at dissolving oil and can be a game changer for oily skin.”
It’s going to be most successful at treating comedonal acne (think: your blackheads and your whiteheads), but Dr. Weinstein adds that it can also help “calm the redness associated with each inflammatory pimple.”
How to Incorporate a Salicylic Acid Moisturizer Into Your Skincare Routine
While a salicylic acid moisturizer is a great way to address mild to moderate acne, it’s only a fraction of the overall equation. Dr. Weinstein recommends rounding out your morning skincare routine with a gentle face wash and a non-comedogenic sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. In the evenings? “I recommend a gentle cleanser, followed by a hyaluronic acid lightweight moisturizer or a salicylic acid moisturizer. Then, I always also recommend a low strength retinol or retinoid—especially for acne-prone skin,” she adds.
The Best Moisturizers With Salicylic Acid
- The Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Moisturizer: Aveeno Positively Radiant Clear Complexion (opens in new tab)
- The Best Lightweight Salicylic Acid Moisturizer: Lancôme Hydra Zen Gel Moisturizer (opens in new tab)
- The Best Luxe Salicylic Acid Moisturizer: Lancer The Method: Nourish Oily-Congested Skin (opens in new tab)
- The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Body: CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin (opens in new tab)
- The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Uneven Skin Tone: Naturium Encapsulated Salicylic Acid Moisturizer (opens in new tab)
The Best Drugstore Salicylic Acid Moisturizer
“This is a great acne-fighting daily facial moisturizer for breakout-prone skin. The product is formulated with 0.5% salicylic acid, a proven and powerful acne-fighting ingredient,” explains Dr. Weinstein. “I’m also a fan as it contains Total Soy Complex to help visibly even out skin tone and complexion.” As for the texture? Unlike the majority of salicylic acid moisturizers, this drugstore option is going to have a rich and creamy feel. But, thanks to the oil-free formulation, it still feels weightless once it’s rubbed into the skin.
Pros: Dermatologist-approved; Affordable; Creamy texture
Cons: May dry out the skin at first, so start with once a day application
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer With Vitamin C
If you want to tackle a handful of skin concerns with one, single product, this derm-developed, Dr. Weinstein-approved product is for you. Not only does it contain salicylic acid to address blackheads, whiteheads, and large pores, but the non-comedogenic formula also contains vitamin C to brighten and even out skin tone. Fall into the sensitive skin camp? The hyaluronic acid and hydrating Vichy volcanic water will ensure your skin stays balanced, moisturized, and non-irritated.
Pros: Dermatologist-Approved; Lightweight
Cons: Might pill
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Large Pores
If you’re a firm believe in the power of plants, then I strongly encourage you to take a peek at this Naturopathica moisturizer. It leverages science-backed salicylic acid, which we know is an effective method for treating blackheads, with an herb called bixa orellana seed powder. A mouth full, yes. But, it’s been shown to improve the look of pores and skin texture. Rosemary essential oil is also in the mix. While it can be hydrating, soothing, and comes along with a nice smell, essential oils can cause some people, especially those with sensitive skin, to break out even more. Try a patch test if you’re concerned.
Pros: Leverages the power of herbs; Improves skin texture
Cons: Essential oils may cause irritation
The Best Lightweight Salicylic Acid Moisturizer
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice luxurious skincare in exchange for medical-grade, highly effective formulas. And thanks to Lancôme, you don’t have to. This pretty pink jar encapsulates a rich, albeit lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that’s ideal for acne-prone, oily, and combination skin types. In addition to the obvious salicylic acid inclusion, this features an antioxidant called peony rose extract that’s amazing at calming down the skin. You’ll feel a semi-cool effect when you apply this product, and notice that redness calms down both immediately and over time.
Pros: Redness reducing; Feels luxe
The Best Matte-Finish Salicylic Acid Moisturizer
For years I struggled to control my oil production—I was a slick and greasy disaster with blackheads to boot. The only thing that helped me get my skin under control was this moisturizer. Because of the gradual release of hyaluronic acid, the skin stays hydrated, retains moisture, and doesn't feel the need to overproduce oil. While the product promises a matte finish, it definitely errs more on the velvet matte side and feels entirely breathable.
Pros: Regulates oil production; Hydrates
Cons: Pills with certain skincare
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Body
Anyone dealing with keratosis pilaris, aka KP, or who generally has rough and bumpy body skin, needs to have this product on their radar. It’s a leave-on treatment as well as a lightweight moisturizer that sloughs away dead skin cells, evens out skin texture, and provides a non-sticky, non-oily layer of hydration. If your bumpiness has accompanying itchiness (so! fun!), fear not. The inclusion of green tea and chamomile will help to soothe irritation.
Pros: Soothes skin; Good for KP
Cons: Strong smell
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Blurring
Prefer the feel of a thick, rich cream but know it’s not the best idea for your acne-prone complexion? I beg you: Try this moisturizer. It feels thicker than most upon application, checking off that sensorial experience, but rubs into a lightweight gel that won’t suffocate your pores. Even though it’s not ~technically~ a primer, I can confirm that it blurs the appearance of pores and creates a super-smooth texture that is ideal for foundation.
Pros: Blurs pores; Smooths skin
Cons: A little oily
The Best Hydrating Salicylic Acid Moisturizer
Unlike some of the other salicylic acid moisturizers that are solely focused on fighting blackheads, this one comes with a host of other anti-aging benefits. A range of AHAs (namely glycolic and lactic acid), salicylic acid, and niacinamide were blended together in an effort to reveal smoother, brighter, and more youthful looking skin. On the other end of the spectrum is a peptide complex that’s intended to firm, plump, and hydrate.
Pros: Anti-Aging; Hydrating; Brightening
Cons: Stronger options to fight acne
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Blackheads
I can’t say enough positive things about this moisturizer. It’s specifically designed for oily and congested skin (peep the name), but if I’m being candid, it’s a great option for anyone who prefers a lightweight texture. Hyaluronic acid doubles as a powerful hydrator and plumper, without clogging pores or adding excess oil to the mix. In fact, the product does just the opposite. A mix of salicylic acid and tea tree oil chemically exfoliates dead skin cells to keep pores gunk-free.
Pros: Hydrating; Brightening
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Texture
Prone to body acne, but still need hydration? This drugstore staple is a must-have. Formulated with both salicylic and lactic acid, it’s able to gently exfoliate, smooth out rough patches (especially those stubborn bumps on your arms and lower legs), and prevent new acne from popping up. In the same vein, it’ll reinforce your skin barrier with hydrating ceramides and hyaluronic acid. It goes on super smooth and rubs in quickly, leaving a soft, silky sheen behind.
Pros: Affordable; Hydrating
Cons: Can feel heavy
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Uneven Skin Tone
While salicylic acid can help get rid of current breakouts and prevent new ones, it’s also important to consider how your going to deal with the red marks and discoloration left behind from pimples. While there are a handful of ways to treat hyperpigmentation, using a moisturizer with brightening ingredients is something to consider. Enter this Naturium option. It features something called dioic acid, an ingredient thats sole goal is to even out skin tone.
Pros: Helps lighten darks spots and hyperpigmentation
The Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizer for Mature Skin
If you’re part of the 15 percent of adults dealing with acne, you may want to consider a cream that’s going to do double duty: Address acne and anti-aging concerns. That’s exactly what this rich cream does. The beta-hydroxy acids (aka salicylic acid) is going to reduce the look of pores and fight blackheads galore, while the alpha-hydroxy acids will remove dead skin cells, create a brighter complexion, and plump fine lines. If your skin runs on the drier or more sensitive side, you might want to combine this with another non-comedogenic moisturizer.
Pros: Anti-aging benefits; Brightening
Cons: Might not be hydrating enough for some
Meet the Dermatologist
Mara C. Weinstein Velez, M.D., FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist who completed a prestigious Laser, Cosmetic and Dermatologic Surgery fellowship at SkinCare Physicians in Boston, with clinical faculty from the Harvard and Yale Departments of Dermatology. She is thrilled to be part of the Dermatology Department at the University of Rochester Medical Center and to serve as one of the only Fellowship-trained Cosmetic and Laser Surgeons in Western NY. She earned her bachelor's degree from Princeton University and completed her Dermatology residency training at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH. Dr. Weinstein has been invited to present at national professional meetings, published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and co-authored chapters in dermatologic textbooks including Surgery of the Skin, Treatment of Traumatic and Burn Scars and Procedures in Cosmetic Dermatology. She has been working in clinical research for over 4 years as both a sub-investigator and principal investigator and has participated in over 15 clinical research trials for state-of-the-art laser devices, minimally invasive cosmetic treatments and new acne medications. Dr. Weinstein has received numerous awards and achievements, including the Excellence in Teaching Award, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the Women's Dermatology Society (WDS) Mentorship Award, and was most recently selected to be a part of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) Future Leaders Network. She serves on the Board of Directors for the WDS and holds positions on Diversity, Networking, Fundraising and educational committees for national societies