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The best moisturizers for oily skin, according to dermatology providers

Oily skin needs hydration too. Here are a few favorite products we recommend to help keep your skin happy.

Curology Team Avatar
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
featuring Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristen Jokela, NP-C
A Man applying Curology's Gel Moisturizer
Curology Team Avatar
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
featuring Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Kristen Jokela, NP-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

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There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best, so our team of licensed dermatology providers reviews and assesses countless products on the market to offer a few recommendations. So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

If you already have oily skin, moisturizers may seem like they’ll only make your complexion even greasier. But the truth is, these products can be a helpful addition to your routine if you have this skin type. The key is to choose a moisturizer with active ingredients that help hydrate your skin without adding shine.

Here, Curology’s licensed dermatology providers will explain which key ingredients and types of moisturizers to look for, recommend some of their favorite hydrating products for oily skin, and explain how to keep excess oil at bay while incorporating moisturizer into your routine.

What types of moisturizers are best for oily skin?

It can be confusing to wade through the various moisturizing skincare products to find one that can help your oily skin. Here are a few terms to look for on product labels to get you started:

Noncomedogenic and oil-free moisturizers

“Noncomedogenic” is just a fancy word that describes a product that is generally less likely to clog your pores or cause breakouts. Before buying a moisturizer, check that it’s noncomedogenic and oil-free.¹ 

The Rich Moisturizer, for example, is designed specifically to not clog pores while offering a rich boost of hydration. It uses squalane as one of the key ingredients. A lipid naturally produced by the body, squalene can be derived from both plant and animal sources. When used as a moisturizer, it is noncomedogenic, antibacterial, and doesn’t have an oily feel.²

Curology's The Rich Moisturizer

Check a moisturizer’s ingredient list before purchasing to make sure it doesn’t contain any pore-clogging ingredients. Examples of common ones to avoid include coconut oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, and cocoa butter.

Moisturizers with hyaluronic acid

Research shows that hyaluronic acid may help lower sebum production and manage disorders that result in higher sebum production.³ To dip your toe into the world of hyaluronic acid, try lightweight moisturizers with buildable formulas like The Moisturizer, which helps plump your skin with hydration without clogging pores.

Curology's The Moisturizer

Moisturizers with niacinamide

One study showed that topically applied niacinamide significantly lowered the sebum excretion rate for Japanese test participants after two and four weeks of use.⁴ Since sebum overproduction can play a role in oily skin and acne, you may want to consider trying a moisturizer with niacinamide.

Moisturizers that can help reduce the appearance of shiny skin

While some ingredients (like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid) may help combat oily skin by causing less sebum to be produced, others can help get rid of oil that has already been produced. Products formulated with kaolin and talc, for example, can absorb oil to make your skin look less shiny.⁵

Consider avoiding ultra-heavy moisturizers

If you have oily, acne-prone skin, you may want to avoid heavy facial moisturizers or certain oil-containing formulas. In general, you may also want to stay away from occlusives, which are a category of moisturizers that include Aquaphor and Vaseline. Here are a few examples of occlusive ingredients:

  • Mineral oil

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Beeswax

  • Carnauba wax

  • Paraffin

Moisturizers with occlusive ingredients may contain oils, have a greasy feel once applied, and cause acne.⁶ While you may want to avoid these ingredients, everyone’s skin is different—so to find out what’s right for your skin, consult a licensed dermatology provider, like those at Curology.

Should you moisturize if you have oily skin?

In short: yes! If you have oily skin, it’s still important to moisturize daily to keep your skin hydrated.⁷ In fact, research shows that the amount of sebum your skin produces may increase when your skin is too dry. So although it sounds counterintuitive, dehydrated skin may actually lead to increased oil production.⁸

Acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxidesalicylic acidadapalene, or tazarotene can make some people’s skin feel dry and irritated.⁹ If you’re using a product with one of these key ingredients, it’s extra-important to moisturize. Not only can dry or irritated skin lead to increased oil production, but more acne may actually be noted, as excess sebum may cause breakouts by clogging pores.¹⁰ 

In fact, if you’re using a treatment for acne, your doctor may recommend a moisturizer along with it to help soothe irritation.¹¹ If you’re not sure if a daily moisturizer is right for you, Curology’s licensed dermatology providers are here to answer any questions you have about your skin.

Our four picks: The best moisturizers for oily skin

Everyone’s skin is different, and it’s important to find products that work for your specific skin concerns. In general, however, here are a few of our favorite moisturizers that we recommend for oily skin types:

1. The Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • Lightweight, buildable formula

  • Features hyaluronic acid

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Provides hydration for normal-to-oily skin

2. EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • Oil-free

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Features hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and willow bark extract, a natural source of salicylic acid

3. CeraVe Ultra-Light Face Lotion Moisturizer with Sunscreen

What we like about it:

  • Offers broad spectrum SPF 30 protection

  • Oil-free

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Features hyaluronic acid

  • Leaves a matte finish

4. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Fluide Oil Free Moisturizer

What we like about it:

  • Oil-free

  • Non-comedogenic

  • Lightweight formula

  • Features niacinamide 

  • Ideal for combination skin, oily skin, and sensitive skin

Tips for using moisturizer on oily skin

Once you’ve narrowed down your ideal moisturizer, here are a few guidelines to follow to get the most out of your product:

Wash your face regularly

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using a gentle, foaming face wash in the morning, in the evening, and after exercise to help control oily skin. However, make sure to avoid harshly scrubbing your face, which can cause irritation.¹² 

Try a gentle, foaming face wash like The Cleanser, which washes away dirt and excess oil without stripping your skin or clogging pores.

A Lineup of Curology Products

 Apply sun protection daily

If you have oily skin, it’s still necessary to protect your face from the sun with a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. Some key ingredients in acne medications, like tretinoin, can increase photosensitivity, making it extra important to use sunscreen.¹³ 

The American Academy of Dermatology Association advises using a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and is free of fragrance or oils, like The Sunscreen.¹⁴ This noncomedogenic formula is suitable for every skin type, but is particularly helpful for those with acne-prone skin.

A Happy Woman with Curology's Everyday Sunscreen

Moisturize daily in dry environments

We know that you should still moisturize if you have oily skin—but doing so can be extra important if you are in a dry environment since skin dryness can lead to excess sebum production.

In general, you may want to hydrate your skin daily whenever it feels dry. Apply your moisturizer after washing your face while your skin is still damp, so the product can lock in hydration.¹⁵ 

Oily skin may need some extra TLC

Moisturizing can be an important part of your routine when it comes to taking care of oily skin. Luckily, there are formulas out there that are designed to not break you out—and some may even help control your skin’s oil production.

If you need help choosing the right products for your skin, Curology is here to help. Our licensed dermatology providers can answer any questions you have about oily skin, moisturizers, and more once you sign up. Plus, Curology offers personalized dermatology treatments for acne. 

To get started, claim your offer* today and take the first step toward your personalized skincare routine.

The key takeaways

  • Look for ingredients in moisturizers that can help oily skin, such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and kaolin.

  • Avoid ultra-heavy moisturizers, and look for ones that are noncomedogenic and oil-free.

  • It’s important to moisturize daily if you have oily skin, especially if you’re using an acne treatment that is drying your skin out.

  • Recommended moisturizers for oily skin include Curology Gel Moisturizer, EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer, and CeraVe Ultra-Light Face Lotion Moisturizer with Sunscreen.

FAQs

Should you moisturize if you have oily skin?

The short answer: yes! If you have oily skin, it’s still a must to moisturize daily to keep your skin well-hydrated. In fact, research shows that the amount of sebum your skin produces may increase when your skin is too dry.¹⁶

Acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, adapalene, tazarotene, tretinoin, or isotretinoin may cause dryness and/or irritation.¹⁷ If you’re using a product with one of these ingredients, it’s extra-important to moisturize.

Why is my skin so oily?

While the causes of oily skin vary, the following factors may increase your risk:¹⁸

  • You’re male

  • You’re a premenopausal woman during ovulation

  • It’s the spring or summer

  • It’s humid out 

If you’re battling with oily skin, the best course of action is to consult a dermatology provider who can provide you with a personalized plan.

Which product is best for oily skin?

Try a buildable formula like The Moisturizer, which helps plump your skin with lightweight hydration and is formulated to not clog pores. It also features hyaluronic acid, which may help lower sebum production.¹⁹ 

And don’t forget SPF! Make sure to follow up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen like The Sunscreen, which reflects UVA and UVB rays without clogging pores.

How many times should I moisturize if I have oily skin?

If you have oily skin, it’s important to moisturize daily to keep your skin hydrated. In fact, research shows that the amount of sebum your skin produces may increase when your skin is too dry.

Is hyaluronic acid good for oily skin?

Yes! Research shows that hyaluronic acid may help lower sebum production and manage disorders that result in higher sebum production.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. (2023, n.d.).

  2. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. (May-June 2016).

  3. Jung, Y.R., et al. Hyaluronic Acid Decreases Lipid Synthesis in Sebaceous Glands. J Invest Dermatol. (June 2017).

  4. Draelos, Z.D., et al. The effect of 2% niacinamide on facial sebum production. J Cosmet Laser Ther. (June 2006). 

  5. Sethi, A., et al. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. Ibid.

  6. Purnamawati, S., et al. The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review. Clin Med Res. (December 2017).

  7. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. Ibid.

  8. Jang, S.I., et al. A study of skin characteristics according to humidity during sleep. Skin Res Technol. (July 2019).

  9. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne. (2023, n.d.).

  10. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne. Ibid.

  11. Chularojanamontri, L., et al. Moisturizers for Acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (May 2014).

  12. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. Ibid.

  13. Yoham, A.L., et al. Tretinoin. StatPearls. (2023, March 27).

  14. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. Ibid.

  15. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne. Ibid.

  16. Jang, S.I., et al. A study of skin characteristics according to humidity during sleep. Skin Res Technol. Ibid.

  17. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne. Ibid.

  18. Endly, D.C., et al. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (August 2017).

  19. Jung, Y.R., et al. Hyaluronic Acid Decreases Lipid Synthesis in Sebaceous Glands. J Invest Dermatol. Ibid.

Kristen Jokela is a certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Our thoughts on sun protection: *Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

Kristen Jokela, NP-C

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