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The 20 Absolute Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin

These are the products dermatologists and aestheticians recommend to their clients.

acne prone skin
Yuchen LiaoGetty Images

Can we give this a light update, expand the list to 25 and tweak the meta to: TK Best Moisturizers for Acne- and Oily-Prone Skin of 2020?

I promise you, those breakouts you're dealing with are not your forever, though dealing with acne can feel endless. It's a complicated problem to have, and it can be difficult to discover the culprit—hormones, genetics, and diet, among other factors, can all come into play. But one thing's for sure: Your skin has to stay hydrated throughout the process, and a good moisturizer is the answer.

"People will avoid using moisturizer for two reasons: They have oily skin and feel that it's not necessary, or they are afraid that moisturizer will give them acne blemishes," explains Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician and trusted skincare expert. "Both are not accurate. Wearing moisturizer does not cause breakouts. Acne happens when the cells that line the inner pores fail to fall off properly, clogging the pore. This happens whether you moisturize or not."

In fact, skipping out on moisturizer can actually have an adverse affect on the skin. "Did you know that not using a moisturizer can cause even more breakouts?" Rouleau points out. "Bacteria breeds in oil. When moisturizer is avoided, the skin dehydrates and sets off a response to produce more oil. This newly produced oil accumulates on the skin, resulting in a breeding ground for bacteria, which makes existing breakouts last longer and leaves a hospitable environment for new breakouts to form."

Now that you're schooled on all the magic a really great moisturizer—and moisturizer application!—can do for your acne-prone skin, it's time to explore expert-endorsed options. Below, the 13 best moisturizers for acne-prone skin.

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To Unclog Pores
Pore Clearing Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid
Origins sephora.com

What it is: An acne treatment and oil-free moisturizer in one formulated with one percent salicylic acid to help clear and help prevent breakouts and blackheads.Skin Type: Normal, Dry, Combination, and OilySkincare Concerns: Acne and Blemishes, Dryness, and PoresFormulation: Lightweight LotionWhat Else You Need to Know: This moisturizer delivers all-day, oil-free hydration to acne-prone skin, as it helps to clear skin of existing acne breakouts and prevent new ones from forming. It’s made with one percent salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and unclog pores, as well as bamboo charcoal. Non-acnegenic and dermatologist tested.

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Organic Option
Acne Advanced Clarifying Hydrator
Eminence Organic Skin Care dermstore.com

Achieve a nourished complexion with Eminence Organic Skin Care's Acne Advanced Clarifying Hydrator. Enriched with lotus extract and salicylic acid, this lightweight lotion gently reduces breakouts and oiliness so you can look your best at all times. Key Ingredients:Encapsulated Salicylic Acid: beta-hydroxy-acid; delivers time-release protection against acne breakouts by encouraging exfoliation and unclogging poresLotus Extract: a combination of blue and sacred lotus extracts diminishes skin shine and reduces the look of blemishes and imperfectionsZinc Hyaluronate: encourages skin hydration while improving the appearance of acne-related issuesArbutin: helps to reduce the appearance of acne-related hyperpigmentation and scarringKey Benefits:Treats acne while preventing future breakouts acidAbsorbs excess oil for immediate shine reductionImproves the appearance of acne-related scarringBalances skin for a more even looking complexionLeaves skin clear and feeling clean, cool and refreshed

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All Day Moisture
AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
EltaMD dermstore.com

EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer is a sheer, non-comedogenic formula to help keep skin moisturized all day. It helps stimulate your skin cells to increase moisture absorption and retention, while willow bark non-irritatingly stimulates turnover for smoother skin. Complete with niacinamide, this skin moisturizer boosts skin color and tone for a more radiant appearance.Moisturizers: Face MoisturizerIdeal for these Skin Types: Oily SkinDry SkinCombination SkinNormal SkinSensitive SkinAcne-Prone SkinMature SkinPreferences: Sulfate-FreeCertified Cruelty-FreeDermatologist ApprovedParaben-FreeOil-FreeFragrance-FreeNon-ComedogenicPhthalate-FreeCleanKey Ingredient(s): Vitamin CNiacinamideHyaluronic AcidDimethiconeApplication Area: Face

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Soothing Treatment
Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer
Peter Thomas Roth ulta.com

Peter Thomas Roth's Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer is a lightweight and oil-free matte gel moisturizer that helps clear up, hydrate and soothe the look of dry, flaky, overly treated acne-prone skin.2% Salicylic Acid clears acne blemishes and helps prevent future breakouts.10% Hyaluronic Acid Complex and Aloe Vera provide fast-absorbing hydration without clogging pores. 3% Seboclear-MP helps reduce excess oil and the look of enlarged pores. Skin is left with a non-oily, hydrated matte finish.Key Ingredients & Benefits:2% Salicylic Acid - Over-the-counter level clears acne blemishes and helps prevent future breakouts.10% Hyaluronic Acid Complex - Provides fast-absorbing hydration without clogging pores.3% Seboclear-MP - Helps reduce excess oil and diminish the look of enlarged pores.

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Boost & Brighten
Breakout Star Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer
TULA Skincare dermstore.com

TULA Skincare's Breakout Star Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer hydrates the skin and helps keep breakouts at bay. Formulated with 2% salicylic acid, this powerful BHA purifies and exfoliates the skin to boost a clearer complexion. Watermelon soothes and replenishes moisture, while azelaic acid and niacinamide brighten spots from previous blemishes.Key Benefits:FDA-approved 2% salicylic acid treats and prevents breakoutsBrightens marks left by past blemishesLightweight and hydrating

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Moisture Bomb
The True Cream Aqua Bomb
Belif amazon.com

This cream "bursts" into a lush, moisturizing gel on contact, reduces redness, and cools an irritated visage. And it can boost your skin's hydration levels by a whopping 70 percent, without the heaviness of a standard cream. 

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Fruit-Forward Formula
Pomegranate Moisturising & Balancing Cream-Gel
Korres dermstore.com

Antioxidant-packed pomegranate is this formula's secret to help you achieve a fresh-faced glow without the irritation that can come with it. The fruit's extract helps reduce the appearance of pores, while salicylic acid gently unclogs them by exfoliating away dead cells. 

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Tall Glass of Water
The Water Cream
Tatcha sephora.com

You know that refreshing feeling or that first splash of cool water on your face in the morning? Consider this gel formula that sensation, bottled. It imbues a boost of hydration that plumps the skin, and Japanese wild rose tightens pores and smooths the skin to reduce the appearance of under-the-skin bumps. 

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A Matte Finish
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Face Moisturizer
La Roche-Posay dermstore.com

A cult favorite amongst derms everywhere, this soothing and mattifying formula is anti-shine, which means your complexion won't look slick by mid-afternoon. 

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Oil Absorber
Emulsion Hydra-Mat
Embryolisse dermstore.com

"Maintaining a hydrated skin barrier without adding excess oil is always a fine line with acne-prone skin," New York-based dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum explains. "I highly recommend moisturizers that are water-based and more of a gel-cream consistency rather than a thick emollient or ointment. Look for products that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin and squalene which are hydrating with out clogging pores versus petrolatum or mineral-oil based products. I love Embryolisse Hydra-Mat emulsion as it soaks up excess oil while maintaining hydration."

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Blackhead Eraser
Proactiv Complexion Perfecting Hydrator
Proactiv ulta.com

"This is a wonderful choice for acne-prone skin because it's lightweight, and doesn’t occlude or block pores, and it contains 0.5 percent salicylic acid," New York-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD, shares. "Salicylic acid is an ingredient that helps prevent future acne pimples and also treats current pimples by dissolving blackheads and whiteheads. Salicylic acid is a bacteriostatic ingredient and targets the bacteria that live on the skin and play a role in acne formation. This product also contains licorice root extract and Kojic acid: both improve the pigmented and dark marks that acne leaves behind; essentially the “stains” on the skin from old pimples."

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Antibacterial Ace
Clarifying Face Cream
DR. BARBARA STURM nordstrom.com

"I created my Clarifying Face Cream with acne-prone skin specifically in mind," skin expert Dr. Barbara Sturm shares. "I tell many of my clients who have problematic skin that it is a common misconception that skin prone to acne and breakouts should be dried out. In fact, it is even more important to moisturize it as most breakouts are exacerbated by inflammation and dryness.""A complex of balloon vine, viper’s bugloss and sunflower seed 0il strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier and helps to restore its natural barrier function. One of my favorite ingredients, purslane, provides a soothing and calming effect to irritated skin. Zinc removes excess sebum to counteract the formation of blemishes, while bistort root extract provides a radiant finish. The cream works as an anti-bacterial and helps target inflammation before it occurs. When used as part of your daily skincare routine, it will result in a more even and more clarified complexion."

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Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with Sunscreen
Differin amazon.com

"The Differin Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF 30 is great for those with acne-prone skin because it has a lightweight formula that contains Micropearl technology, which absorbs surface oil for a matte finish, while also providing protection against harmful UV radiation including UVA/UVB rays," says New York-based dermatologist Melissa Levin, MD.

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Instant Calm
Skin Recovery Lotion
Renée Rouleau reneerouleau.com

"When the skin's barrier has been damaged from drying acne products, keep your skincare routine simple by only using a gentle cleanser and a calming moisturizer," Rouleau explains. "Twice a day, morning and night, you’ll want to cleanse and immediately follow with the application of a moisturizer. If your skin is in an inflamed state due to harsh acne treatments, less is more right now.  The skin needs water not oil. Use an oil-free, water-soluble lotion like my Skin Recovery Lotion, which is great for repairing the skin's moisture barrier packed with bisabolol, a soothing and calming plant-based anti-irritant derived from chamomile."

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Acid Trip
Sebium Mat Control
Bioderma dermstore.com

"Bioderma Sebium global is a great moisturizer for acne prone skin," New York-based dermatologist Lily Talakoub, MD, says. "The biggest mistake acne prone consumers make is that they skip moisturizing for fear of more breakouts. However if the skin is not hydrated and gets dry it will actually produce more oil. This moisturizer contains AHA esters, salicylic acid, and citric acid to reduce blemishes while zinc gluconate, combined with enoxolone, soothes and reduces redness caused by inflammation."

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Gatorade for the Skin
Water-Infusing Electrolyte Moisturizer
Paula's Choice dermstore.com

This formula comes out of the bottle in an air-light whip, and it melts on contact with your skin. It's ingredients are just as refreshing: electrolytes recharge tired looking skin, and calcium and potassium strengthen the moisture barrier.  

17 of 25
Natural Blemish Eraser
Clarifying Moisturizer
Tata Harper sephora.com

Reducing the amount of sebum your skin produces can help prevent pores from becoming clogged and filled with bacteria. Saw palmetto helps balance this sebum to mattify the complexion, while tazman pepper berry reduces redness.   

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Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

If rosacea makes your acne appear worse, this formula eradicates even the most stubborn traces of redness. And sugarcane-derived squalane softens the skin so your complexion feels pillowy and moisturized. 

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Inflammation Queller
Puracne Treating Gel
G.M. Collin amazon.com

"This gel contains a complexity of ingredients to eliminate breakouts and induce a healthier complexion," aesthetician and global educator for G.M. Collin Karen Asquith explains. "Salicylic acid, the gold standard to treat acne, provides a keratolytic and comedolytic effect while visibly decreasing inflammation. Niacinamide improves the appearance of enlarged pores, helps regulate sebaceous lipid and acne, and imparts a more even-looking skin tone.

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Complexion Green Juice
Joanna Vargas Daily Serum
Joanna Vargas dermstore.com

"My Daily Serum is a lightweight gel formula, created to address breakouts and hydration issues without clogging pores, and with no harsh chemicals,"Vargas explains. "It works for all skin types and makes you look like you’re glowing from 10 miles away. Inspired by my love of green juices, it contains oat grass juice for the lymphatic system, chlorophyll for oxygenation, Vitamins A,C,E and F found in leafy greens, and hyaluronic acid which holds 1,000 times its weight in water. My favorite ingredient is Galactoarabinan, which is derived from the larch tree, because it causes more cell turnover than a glycolic, and is anti-inflammatory, so it won’t cause irritation, even in sensitive skin. The serum also contains minerals that control the oil production in the skin."

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Cool As A Cucumber
Cucumber Recovery Serum
Snow Fox Skin Care amazon.com

 "I suggest Snow Fox's Cucumber Recovery Serum, as it is a non clogging moisturizer with 200,000 molecular weights of hyaluronic acid," skincare expert and founder of Snow Fox Skincare Phoebe Song shares. "High concentrate HA serums that have low or non comedogenic properties won't clog pores. It's paired with a cucumber recovery tonic, which has a concentrated rose water base. Rose water is great for rebalancing the natural pH of skin, which can help reduce inflammation and regulate oil production."

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Drugstore Deal
Dove DermaSeries Fragrance-Free Face Cream
Dove amazon.com

"This keeps the skin barrier health top of mind," Connecticut-based dermatologist, Mona Gohara, MD recommends. "Its simple, fragrance-free formulation keeps the acne fire from being stoked. Although it’s a cream, it is non-comedogenic, cosmetically elegant and easy to layer. I often use it as my last step before makeup when I am going out at night. "

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Redness Reducer
MMBalance Serum
mmbalance mmskincare.com

"This is best for acne-prone skin because it acts as a serum and moisturizer, and keeps your routine short and simple," board certified dermatologist, Ellen Marmur, MD, who also is the founder of Marmur Metamorphosis. "The amazing ingredients such as canadian willow herb, niacinamide and pre- and probiotics help sooth not only acne but also rosacea, redness, inflammation, and dryness. Massage one to two pumps of serum to face, neck and chest." 

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For Deep Skin Tones
Darker Skin Tones Face Cream
Dr. Barbara Sturm sephora.com

This formula from Dr. Sturm caters specifically to the needs of darker skin tones with extracts of magnolia and African whitewood bark, which help to refine the pores, reduce sebum flow, and supply intensive moisture. And purslane, and anti-aging ingredient developed by the doc herself, helps calm inflammation that can make acne worse.

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Soothing Salve
Shiffa Healing Balm
Shiffa amazon.com

"This is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial balm with St. John’s wort, echinacea and calendula—this formula helps lessen the occurrence of acne, takes away the redness and helps prevent scarring," says Dubai-based physician and founder of Shiffa, Lamees Hamdan, explains. "Use it on acne prone areas twice a day, a little goes a long way. It is 100-percent natural, more than 96 percent organic, and very gentle on the skin, helping to retain moisture and keep your skin glowing." 

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