The debate about oils in face creams is as divisive as the fat-free debate in the nutrition industry. Some dermatologists are vehemently opposed, saying oils are too dense for most skin types and only clog the skin, leading to breakouts and a greasy complexion. Other experts are of an entirely different opinion, thinking that facial oils—primarily those derived from botanicals—are, in fact, the key to optimal skin hydration, offering a nutrient-rich and readily absorbed option for deep moisturization. The truth is, oil-free facial moisturizers are the best bet for many skin types, with those who are acne-prone topping the list. And it's also true that oil isn't the only ingredient that can effectively hydrate any complexion.
What ingredients should I look for in an oil-free moisturizer?
Oil-free moisturizers can deliver hydration through other proven ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and silicone adjacents like dimethicone. It's a delicate moisture balance, but the best oil-free moisturizers containing these types of ingredients can harness prime skin function for every complexion and re-establish healthy hydration. These formulas also tend to feel lighter on the skin—many have a matte finish, and some contain anti-acne ingredients or skin brighteners. So not only are you more likely to reach for an oil-free moisturizer to calm over-productive oil glands but even more so if it feels nice and simultaneously addresses other skin concerns, right?
Ahead, scroll on to discover the best oil-free moisturizers—some of our favorites are creams, others are lotions, and a few are gels and serums. Once you choose the one that seems to address your concerns best, prepare to transform that previously slick skin.
Tatcha The Water Cream Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer
Japanese botanicals and nutrients are among the best ingredients for a poreless look. This water-based oil-free moisturizer is formulated with Japanese wild rose, leopard lily, and Tatcha's Signature Hadasei-3 ingredient combining green tea, rice, and algae to hydrate dry, dull, and uneven skin.
Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream
If creams and lotions scare you because your skin has historically absolutely revolted at the sight, this cooling gel-cream might be just the ticket. In signature Kiehl's fashion, an exciting plant is king. This time, potassium-rich Imperata cylindric extract restores the skin's natural moisture function almost immediately on application.
Paula's Choice Clear Oil-Free Moisturizer
Ceramides and antioxidants curb redness, while hyaluronic acid holds onto your skin's naturally occurring moisture. All of this is delivered in the well-researched and no-nonsense fluid that happily absorbs and won't cause additional blemishes.
Farmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer With Moringa and Papaya
Green juice junkies rejoice: Hyaluronic acid is blended here with moringa sourced from the Coachella Valley and papaya for a health shot to your complexion. Please note the product is also vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free, and comes in recyclable packaging, so you can feel environmentally smug and hydrated, too.
Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Facial Moisturizer
Teens and twenty-somethings alike will appreciate the .5 percent salicylic acid, which can quell breakouts, and the lotion's lightweight and readily absorbed finish. Also, the pink grapefruit scent is lovely.
La Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Matte Face Moisturizer
La Roche Posay's gentle formulas extend to oil-free skincare—their site even offers a tab dedicated to such a regime. This new matte gel moisturizer is formulated with a high concentration of prebiotic thermal water, ceramide-3, niacinamide, and glycerin to absorb into skin sans shine quickly. Bonus: it helps to improve skin texture, reduce fine lines, and decrease the size of visible pores, too.
Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel
This hydrating gel works as an oil-free moisturizer by combining vitamin B5 with hyaluronic acid—the body's natural hydrator—to help bind moisture to the skin. Use it by itself or layered with another moisturizer to provide extra hydration—it's an acne-prone ski lover's dream.
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
A no-nonsense hydrator—shout-out pump bottle—that's excellent for layering with other harsh treatments, like prescription-strength retinol or an OTC acne product.
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Oil Free Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 20
Let us not forget about oil-free tinted moisturizers. Of course, Laura Mercier—the queen of this two-in-one product—has an oil-free version of her lightweight tinted moisturizer that provides sheer coverage and a blurred matte finish. Available at Sephora in 20 shades!
Caudalie Vinopure Oil-Control Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin
If blackheads are one of your biggest concerns, Caudalie's oil-free formula is for you. The lightweight and mattifying moisturizer hydrates skin while absorbing excess oil to reduce the appearance of those pesky imperfections.
Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Oil-Free Matte Moisturizer
Peter Thomas Roth's oil-free salicylic acid moisturizer simultaneously treats acne while hydrating skin. Read: you won't experience harshness or unwanted flakiness. Seboclear and hyaluronic acid complex are two other vital ingredients. The former helps absorb excess oil and diminish the look of larges pores, while the latter provides fast-absorbing hydration without clogging pores.
Dermalogica Active Clearing Oil Free Matte SPF 30
The matte finish of this Dermalogica option is a revelation for anyone with oily or combination skin that has avoided moisturizer for most of their adult lives. Smooth on a generous dab, and you'll get the three-in-one benefit of a non-greasy sheen, hydration, and sunscreen.
It Cosmetics Confidence In A Gel Lotion Oil-Free Moisturizer
At first pump, you'll feel a cooling gel moisturizer on your fingertips. The formulation breaks into a water-like liquid as you work into your skin, making it easy to apply and absorb.
Olehenriksen Sheer Transformation™ Perfecting Moisturizer
With a sheer, veil-like finish and a good dose of fruit acids and antioxidants, this lightweight vegan whip is an excellent option for acne-prone and aging skin alike.
Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Aloe vera and glycerin are the moisturizers in this unassuming offering, which also contains green tea and Saint John's wort extract to scrounge up aging free radicals while also providing broad-spectrum UV protection.
BareMinerals Poreless Oil-Free Moisturizer
When you struggle with acne, causes range, but you can address many with the prebiotics and fruit exfoliants in this lightweight and pore-refining formulation.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer
Breathe me in, breathe me out. Watermelon extract is the first and most prominent ingredient in this pleasing pink elixir. Here, it combines with hyaluronic acid and peony and sweet potato extracts to deliver an efficacious and fun-to-use hydration.
I Dew Care Chill Kitten 24-Hr Moisturizing Cactus Oil-Free Cream
A cooling and calming blend ideal for ruddy or sore skin, a generous splash of cactus extract helps this jelly-like cream soak in without causing additional flare-ups.
PCA Skin Clearskin Moisturizer
A cooling, jelly-like moisturizer that wobbles when you crack open the jar, then soaks happily into dehydrated skin to soothe and soften. While it does contain a trace amount of borage seed oil, it's harnessed only for redness reducing properties, as glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, and good ole water bring major hydrating chops to the table.
Skinduced CBD Oil-free Moisturizer
A v. chill CBD-infused lotion that swaps gunky oil for proven-hydrators aloe vera, glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid to quench thirsty skin and also calm it all down thanks to cannabidiol, all from Black founder and skin savant Briana Robinson. The label is currently rebranding, but the site will be back in 2022—watch this space for updates.
Tula Skincare Breakout Star Oil-Free Acne Moisturizer
When your skin is super broken out, layering on a thick cream is about as appealing as getting tarred and feathered. Here, two percent salicylic acid and brightening azelaic acid are suspended in a sumptuous featherlight cream, meaning your entire face can get both hydration and treatment at once.
Tom Ford Oil-Free Daily Moisturizer
Look to Tom Ford's decadent formula for a luxe designer oil-free moisture. The lightweight, quick-absorbing, and skin-mattifying recipe combines luxurious butters, including shea and jojoba, to hydrate skin, help reverse dullness, and help reduce the look of fine dry lines—such a great gift for oil-free skin fans.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion
Two heavy-hitters that skin savants are wild about: Japanese marine algae—a nutrient-rich and naturally occurring complexion nourisher—and plumping hyaluronic acid, which combine here for a potent oil-free option.
EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
The EltaMD line is beloved for its sunscreen products, frequently recommended by dermatologists. Likewise, the brand's oil-free moisturizer is equally hype-worthy. The sheer, non-comedogenic formula with niacinamide helps stimulate skin cells to increase moisture absorption and retention. Plus, ingredients like non-irritating willow bark promote cell turnover for smoother skin.
Glo Skin Beauty Oil Free Moisturizer
Humectant hyaluronic acid joins forces with vitamin E and algae for a calming and non-greasy option. In addition, antioxidant malachite extract—yes, the gemstone—boosts collagen production.
Clean & Clear Essentials Dual Action Facial Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid
One part daily moisturizer and one part blemish-blaster, this affordable option uses a .5-percent salicylic acid blend to blunt current breakouts and discourage ones in the future.
Origins Plantscription™ SPF 25 Power Anti-Aging Oil-Free Cream
There are a lot of oils in this botanical cornucopia—essential oils like lavender, orange, lemon, and bergamot, which work as powerful antioxidants in conjunction with chemical sunscreens and a rich and creamy moisture blend.
Indie Lee Active Oil Free Moisturizer
Just a pump or two of this supremely light option will both hydrate and protect against environmental damages thanks to daisy flower and immortelle extracts that combat free radical degradation.
CosRx Oil Free Moisturizing Lotion
While the packaging might feel a tad sterile, the results are syrupy sweet. Here, a revolutionary 70-percent white birch sap moisturizes and calms redness, irritation, and inflammation.
Kate Somerville Oil Free Moisturizer
We love Kate Somerville products, and we're not afraid to say it. In this particular rebalancing formulation, algae and amino acids are suspended in a creamy hydrator. But what truly sets it apart is the oil-absorbing spheres, which leave your skin velvet-soft, not shiny or slick.
Hannah Morrill is a writer and editor based in Portland, Maine. She’s an avid reader, an indifferent face-washer and a sunscreen/retinol evangelist.
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