When your face is overproducing natural oils, it can seem counterintuitive to reach for a moisturizer. But, in fact, your oily skin could just be a cry for hydration. “Sometimes your glands produce more oil than normal because it’s dehydrated,” says Vanessa Marc, celebrity aesthetician and owner of Vanessa Marc Spa. So, in other words, “You should still use a daily moisturizer,” says CareMount Medical dermatologist Melanie A. Warycha. To find the best ones on the market for oily skin types, we consulted Warycha, Marc, and three other experts, including Shamara Bondaroff, founder of SB Skin, who has this additional tip to keep in mind: Don’t excessively clean your face or use a harsh toner, either. “Stripping your skin will only cause it to produce more oil,” she notes. The options below manage to hydrate with mostly oil-free ingredients, and don’t feel heavy or greasy, either (and one pick is even approved by a dermatologist’s 14-year-old son).
Best overall moisturizer for oily skin
A good rule of thumb to follow when looking for a moisturizer for oily skin is to shop for things that are noncomedogenic (not pore-clogging or likely to cause acne, in plain speak) and oil-free. Both Warycha and Hadley King, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, recommend Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel for oily skin types — though it’s been recommended by experts countless other times for dry skin types, the rosacea-prone, and even pregnant women, too. Derms love this stuff.
In addition to the Hydro Boost being noncomedogenic, alcohol- and oil- free, it also contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which, King explains, “are both humectants, so they can hydrate the skin without the need for emollients that may feel too heavy for oily skin.” It’s also a favorite of Dr. Kenneth Howe, a cosmetic dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology, who adds, “Its lightweight gel formulation goes well with oily skin,” and it also happens to be a personal favorite of his 14-year-old son.
Best lightweight moisturizer for oily skin
Marc’s No. 1 recommendation is this lightweight, oil-free moisturizer. “It’s the one I always used before starting my own skin-care line,” she says of the Dermalogica Active Moist formula. While it goes on sheer and easy, the ingredients — namely plant extracts including lavender, mallow, and cucumber fruit — provide deep hydration. A bonus ingredient is silk amino acids, which are derived from raw silk and can help smooth and improve skin’s texture, according to Beatriz Santana, a skin therapist at Dermalogica.
Alabama-based dermatologist Corey L. Hartman’s patients keep coming back to this moisturizer. “It’s a crowd favorite, and even though it has been around for years it continues to excel,” he says. The allure is in the ingredients. Packed vitamin E and C (both of which neutralize free radicals in the environment) and hyaluronic acid (an oily skin staple), it moisturizes while still being incredibly lightweight.
Best (less expensive) lightweight moisturizer for oily skin
Not your traditional moisturizer, but this serum is another favorite of Howe’s and one he says can be used alone as a light moisturizer. Not only does it contain hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, which he says “has a calming, anti-inflammatory effect on the skin,” but it also contains ceramides — the ingredient that makes this moisturizer-esque. Howe explains that ceramides are the fatty component on the outer layers of our skin, or, the “‘mortar’ in the brick and mortar composition of the epidermis.” All of these ingredients combined allow this to constitute “more of a full-service moisturizer” than a serum in Howe’s eyes.
Best splurge-y lightweight moisturizers for oily skin
Brooklyn-based oculofacial plastic surgeon and founder of epi.logic Skincare Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton also likes hyaluronic acid for oily skin. “Hyaluronic acid is an easy choice for oily skin because it won’t clog pores or leave a heavy residue but it still provides an impactful amount of moisture,” she says, adding that a serum with hyaluronic acid is often enough to keep skin hydrated and balanced. She likes this hydrating gel from Skinceuticals in particular, which contains hyaluronic acid and B5, the two ingredients working together to fortify the skin’s barrier and lock moisture into the skin. She also likes the Collagen Renew Growth Factor Serum from her own line, which uses growth factors, hyaluronic acid and peptides to keep skin hydrated, smooth and firm.
This serum moisturizer is a favorite of Dr. Caroline Robinson of Tone Dermatology’s patients and one she recommends. “It works well as a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer on its own in humid months, and it can be layered under other moisturizers during drier months,” she says. The water-based, oil-free moisturizer is formulated with two types of hyaluronic acid, fruit extracts, and peptides which Robinson says offers both short-term and long-term improvement for skin.
This moisturizer from M61 also contains vitamin B5, and comes recommended by Dr. Jessie Cheung of Cheung Aesthetics and Wellness, who likes that it’s both lightweight and oil-free. “The Vitamin B5 draws in moisture to replenish and restore the skin’s moisture barrier, and balances oil production,” she says, adding that vitamin B5 also has a calming, anti-inflammatory effect. It also contains antioxidants like kakadu plum and Japanese lemon balm, which helps to protect your skin from environmental stressors and further seal in moisture.
Best cream moisturizer for oily skin
Warycha also likes this creamy hyaluronic-acid moisturizer from Peter Thomas Roth that goes on like a whipped souffle. It’s oil-free, noncomedogenic, and flush in moisture-locking ceramides and antioxidants (so your skin will look plump and brightened, but not greasy).
Best matte moisturizers for oily skin
Here’s another oil-free and noncomedogenic moisturizer, this one notable for its light matte finish. King says this Effaclar Mat moisturizer from La Roche-Posay uses “sebulyse technology” to target excess oil, “the brand’s proprietary new anti-sebum ingredient.” (Sebum, by the way, is the substance secreted by your body’s oil-producing glands.) She also credits its matte effect to the micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid, microspheres, and perlite that “absorb humidity and sebum.” Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology, is also a fan: “It gives a nice finish in a lightweight formula that restores the barrier without increasing oiliness,” he says.
Curology physician assistant Nicole Hangsterfer likes this mattifying moisturizer option from First Aid Beauty, which uses ingredients like zinc and FMLT SeboCure (a proprietary blend of oil-absorbing ingredients) that work together to reduce oil and control sebum. In addition to offering a matte finish it also hydrates and reinforces the skin’s barrier using ceramides. It’s also ultra-lightweight, sinking in almost immediately after it’s applied.
Best nighttime moisturizer for oily skin
“A hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid tends to provide enough moisture, but if more moisture is needed, a lightweight, oil-free, non-comedogenic lotion is the next step up,” says Jeanniton, who recommends this oil-free, PM moisturizer from Cerave, which she says ticks all the boxes. “It’s a great drugstore find,” she says. She likes that it offers hydration without heaviness, noting that oily skin doesn’t need a thick, heavy moisturizer with lots of emollients. “It has skin barrier strengthening ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing niacinamide,” she says of the formula, which work together to moisturize skin without clogging pores.
Best moisturizer for mature oily skin
Like the rest of our experts, Bondaroff recommends avoiding heavy oils, but for mature skin specifically she recommends looking for something to “help control oil, clear breakouts and reduce signs of aging,” and likes that this Nuori Bio-Catalyst day cream is “packed with so many active ingredients” — oddly enough one of them is an oil. While the recommendation for oily skin is typically to avoid more oils, the jojoba oil in this formula is lightweight enough that it won’t make you any oiler, according to Dr. David Colbert, the lead dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group. This moisturizer also has hyaluronic acid, an oily-skin-care staple, and squalane, which according to the brand, resembles sebum and “prevents moisture loss, and provides a shield from environmental damage without clogging pores and creating a weighty after-feel.” Squalane is also a humectant, and according to Howe, “Oily-skinned patients need humectants more than oils in their moisturizer.” Bondaroff also recommends Nouri’s Infinite Bio-Fusion Serum for mature skin as a natural retinol alternative.
Hartman says this moisturizer helps repair the skin barrier as well as smooth texture and brighten the complexion. He also likes that it’s both deeply hydrating and lightweight.
Best (less expensive) moisturizer for mature oily skin
Colbert’s recommendation also contains jojoba oil. According to the brand, the jojoba oil in Susanne Kaufmann’s Day Creme Line T contains a high content of vitamins B, E, and A, which serves as a natural retinol and will aid in cell development. The main oily-skin saver in this formula however is the plant-based hyaluronic acid. (Typically referred to as a humectant, Colbert further explains that hyaluronic acid is also hygroscopic, meaning it brings water into the skin but “the molecule itself doesn’t have any oil in it.”) While both of these moisturizers for mature skin are splurges, this Susanne Kaufmann version is about half the price of the Nouri.
For an even more affordable option, Hartman recommends this hydrating and plumping moisturizer from Vichy, which he describes as a “cool glass of water for the skin.” In addition to hyaluronic acid (a well known humectant), it contains the brand’s signature, mineral-rich volcanic water, which Hartman says act as antioxidants in the skin.