The debate about oils in face creams was as divisive as the fat-free debate in the nutrition industry. Some dermatologists were vehemently opposed, saying oils were too dense for most skin types and would only clog the skin, leading to breakouts and a slick complexion. Other experts were of an entirely different mind, thinking that facial oils—most of which are derived from botanicals—were 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 kind of complexion.
But how can I hydrate my skin without oil?
Good question! Oil-free moisturizers are able to deliver hydration through other proven ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and silicone adjacents like dimethicone. Harnessing prime skin function for every complexion is a delicate moisture balance, and re-establishing healthy hydration is key. Oil-free moisturizers also tend to feel lighter on the skin—many have a matte finish, and some contain anti-acne ingredients or skin brighteners. Not only are you more likely to reach for an oil-free moisturizer if it feels nice, but it'll also work to calm over-productive oil glands.
So what are the best oil-free moisturizers?
Glad you asked! Some of our favorites are creams, others lotions, some more like a serum, watery liquid or even a treatment gel. Pick and choose one you feel most comfortable using, and prepare to transform your previously slick skin.
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.
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 interesting plant is king. This time, potassium-rich Imperata cylindric extract restores the skin's natural moisture function almost immediately on application.
A no-nonsense hydrator—shout-out pump bottle—that's excellent for layering with other, harsh treatments, like a prescription-strength retinol or OTC acne product.
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. (Reader, it me.) Smooth on a generous dab, and you'll get the three-in-one benefit of a non-greasy sheen, hydration, and sunscreen.
At first pump, you'll feel a cooling gel moisturizer on your fingertips. As you work into your skin, the formulation breaks into a water-like liquid, making it easy to apply and absorb.
With a sheer, veil-like finish and a good dose of fruit acids and antioxidants, this lightweight vegan whip is a great option for acne-prone and aging skin alike.
Green juice junkies rejoice. Hyaluronic acid is blended up with moringa sourced from the Coachella Valley and papaya for a health shot for 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.
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.
When you struggle with acne, there's usually a range of causes, many of which are addressed with the prebiotics and fruit exfoliants in this lightweight and pore-refining formulation.
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.
A cooling and calming blend ideal for ruddy or angry skin, a generous splash of cactus-extract ensures this jelly-like cream soaks in and won't cause additional flare-ups.
A cooling, jelly-like moisturizer that wobbles when you crack open the jar, then soaks happily into parched 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.
A v. chill CBD-infused lotion that swaps gunky oil for proven-hydrators aloe vera, glycerin, ceramides and hyaluronic acid to quench parched skin and also calm it all down thanks to cannabidiol, all from Black founder and skin savant Briana Robinson.
When your skin is really broken out, layering on a thick cream is about as appealing as getting tarred and feathered. Here, two percent salicylic acid and brightening azaelic acid are suspended in an sumptuous featherlight cream, meaning your entire face can get both hydration and treatment at once.
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.
This sheer, non-comedogenic formula from the dermatologist-favorite brand contains willow bark extract, which encourages cell turnover, and niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that shores up the skin's outer layers, enhances elasticity, and curbs inflammation.
Humectant hyaluronic acid joins forces with vitamin E and algae for a calming and non-greasy option. Antioxidant malachite extract—yes, the gemstone—boosts collagen production.
One part daily moisturizer and one part blemish-blaster, this affordable option makes use of a .5% salicylic acid blend to blunt current breakouts and discourage ones in the future.
There 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.
Ceramides and antioxidants curb redness, while hyaluronic acid holds onto your skin's naturally occurring moisture. All of this is delivered in well-researched and no-nonsense fluid that happily absorbs and won't cause additional blemishes.
Just a pump or two of this supremely light option will both hydrate and protect against environmental damages thanks to daisy flower and imortelle extracts that combat free radical degradation.
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.
I love Kate Somerville products and I'm not afraid to say it. In this particular rebalancing formulation, algaes and amino acids are suspended in a creamy hydrator. But what really sets it apart are the oil-absorbing spheres, which leave your skin velvet-soft, not shiny or slick.
Silica, essential for the production of collagen, works alongside wild strawberry sprouts and blackberries to deliver a weightless, non-shiny finish with plenty of skin benefit, too.