moisturizers

The 13 Very Best Moisturizers for Oily Skin

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In my seven years as a beauty writer, oily skin has been one of the trickiest skin types to nail down. Despite what it might look like on the surface, too much oil can be the result of dehydrated skin. “Sometimes your glands produce more oil than normal because it’s dehydrated,” says Vanessa Marc, celebrity aesthetician and owner of Vanessa Marc Spa. Finding something that won’t make skin ultra-greasy and spark a breakout while still being hydrating is a fine needle to thread. You’ll want to look for something that’s moisturizing but not too heavy and maybe even a little mattifying.

I personally don’t have oily skin, but I did go on a bit of a quest for this piece, testing lightweight formulas to see if they were moisturizing enough for my normal to dry skin. I also talked to both dermatologists and estheticians including Marc and eight other experts. Those picks, below.

What we’re looking for

Ingredients

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. Oily skin is more likely to be acne prone due to the overproduction of sebum — which is how acne develops — so looking for acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and alpha hydroxy acids and oil-controlling ingredients is key. It’s also important to look for ingredients that are ultra-hydrating but not heavy and greasy (think: hyaluronic acid), which will hydrate without clogging pores.

Consistency

A formula’s weight is important with oily skin, because heavier moisturizers can be pore-clogging and leave skin feeling oilier than when you began. Lighter moisturizers — think gel creams and serums — tend to work best for oily skin types, which benefit from lightweight hydration.

Price

Moisturizers are available at just about every price point, ranging from luxe to drugstore. We’ve noted the size, as well as the cost per ounce, so you can decide which product works best based on your budget.

Best moisturizer for oily skin overall

$15

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Gel-cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $11/ounce)

Neutrogena HydroBoost is wildly popular, so much so that it’s been recommended for practically every skin type, from dry skin to mature. Its formula is deceptively lightweight. Despite sinking into skin almost immediately, it’s very hydrating and leaves skin feeling supple. It’s heavier than a serum but lighter than CeraVe’s cream and has a uniquely bouncy texture. On the skin it feels lightweight, creating a thin layer of hydration that quickly sinks in. The ingredients are also pretty straight forward. The hero here is hyaluronic acid, which is keeps skin moisturized long after it seems to go away. It also contains glycerin. Both it and hyaluronic acid are humectants, which draw in moisture to the skin. Hydroboost does this without emollients, which make a moisturizer feel richer and ultimately heavier on the skin. For its ingredients, texture, and efficacy—along with its affordable price point — it’s my best overall pick. And dermatologists back it up. Four that I spoke to: CareMount Medical dermatologist Melanie A. Warycha, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell UniversityHadley King ,Tone Dermatology founder Dr. Caroline Robinson, and Dr. Kenneth Howe, a cosmetic dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology are all fans. Howe says it’s also a favorite of his 14-year-old son.

Best moisturizer for sensitive, oily skin

Ingredients: Glycerin, amino acids, imperata cylindrica root, vegan collagen amino acids, meadowestelide | Consistency: Gel-cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $17/ounce)

While Neutrogena HydroBoost works well for most people, it does contain fragrance which can be sensitizing for anyone with sensitive skin and trigger breakouts and dermatitis. For that, I recommend going with something totally fragrance free, like Dieux’s Air Angel, the lightweight alternative to the plush, rich Instant Angel. Air Angel has become my sole moisturizer over the past few months and I’ve used it during 80 degree days and 37 degree days too, and have been impressed by how it’s nourished my skin in every circumstance. It’s lightweight, plumping, and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and not at all heavy. It’s packed with super-hydrating glycerin, a barrier repair complex that helps to repair any skin damage, amino acids that help with wrinkle depth, imperata cylindrica root extract, a hydration complex, vegan collagen peptide, and meadowestelide, an ingredient that functions similarly to ceramides. All together, it has helped my skin to be hydrated and healthy looking. It’s definitely on the lighter side, and on the coldest days I like to layer a thick occlusive on top of my moisturizer but I expect it would be perfect for oily skin types who need lots of moisture without the added weight.

Best lightweight moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: THD ascorbate (vitamin C), vitamin E, hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 2 ounces (Approx. $27/ounce)

Packed with vitamin E and C (both of which neutralize free radicals in the environment) and hyaluronic acid (an oily skin staple), this moisturizer from dermatologist-beloved SkinMedica is good if you want something that’s super lightweight while still offering some big skin benefits while still being incredibly lightweight. It’s a favorite of Alabama-based dermatologist Corey L. Hartman’s patients. “It’s a crowd favorite, and even though it has been around for years it continues to excel.”

Best (less expensive) lightweight moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin B5 | Consistency: Serum | Price: 1 ounce (Approx. $16/ounce)

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 cream moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $31/ounce)

If you yearn for a rich-feeling moisturizer without the added weight, the cloud cream moisturizer is a good option. It has a whipped soufflé texture and is oil-free, noncomedogenic, and flush in moisture-locking ceramides and antioxidants so your skin will look plump and brightened, but not greasy.

Best less-expensive cream moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $18/ounce)

While glowy-looking skin is always the goal, sometimes you want to cut down on the shine. This one from First Aid Beauty has shine control properties along that work to reduce oiliness over time along with hyaluronic acid. “My friend with a very oily forehead says this is the only product that helped her with sebum production,” says aesthetician and founder of Dorian Skin Sydney Utendahl.

Best mattifying moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: Lipho-hydroxy acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 2 ounces (Approx. $14/ounce)

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.

Best less-expensive mattifying moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: Panthenol and madecassoside | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 4.37 ounces (Approx.: $3.80/ounce)

All of the products in Etude’s Soon Jung collection are mild and have a low pH, meaning they have a pH between 1 and 6. For reference, most skin has a pH between 4.75 and 5.75. Products with a high pH (above 8) can disrupt the skin’s acid mantle, which can cause inflammation, flakiness, dryness, and redness. In addition to having a low pH, this moisturizer has lots of humectants, which helps skin to retain moisture. “The finish is pretty matte, but without having that clay mask–like feel,” says Utendahl.

Best nighttime moisturizer for oily skin

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 3 ounces (Approx. $4/ounce)

One of our favorite night creams also happens to be a great option for oily skin. It has skin barrier strengthening ceramides, hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing niacinamide, which work together to moisturize skin without clogging pores. “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 epi.logic founder and oculofacial surgeon Dr. Chaneve 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.

Best moisturizer for mature oily skin

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, squalane, shea butter, jojoba oil | Consistency: Rich cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $109/ounce)

Mature skin can be tricky, because creams formulated specifically for older skin tends to be ultra-rich to give skin that plump look. They also tend to be actives-packed and try to do lots of things simultaneously like clear breakouts, smooth fine lines, and also moisturize. This one from Nuori is practically a unicorn. It manages to be both rich and non-comedogenic and well-tolerated by oily skin. 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.

Best (less expensive) moisturizer for mature oily skin

Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, mineral water | Consistency: Serum | Price: 1.69 ounces (Approx. $14/ounce)

If you don’t want to shell out over $100, Vichy’s beloved Mineral 89 is a nice alternative. This was one of the first beauty products I ever used consistently and can attest that, despite being a serum, it hydrates like a moisturizer. The gel-like texture creates a film of moisture that quickly sinks in and gives skin a nourished, hydrated feeling. The main ingredients in this are hyaluronic acid and mineral-rich volcanic water. The hyaluronic is plumping and the volcanic water acts as an antioxidant, giving the skin a dose of added protection and helps to protect from damage.

Best moisturizer for acne-prone oily skin

Ingredients: SPF 30, micropearls | Consistency: Lightweight lotion | Price: 4 ounces (Approx. $2.75/ounce)

If you’re both oily and acneic, you’ll need a moisturizer that offsets the drying effects of whatever actives you have in your routine. This one from Differin pairs nicely with any acids or retinols you might have in your routine, and contains oil absorbing ingredients. Differin is a longtime, popular acne brand (their most notable product is adapalene, which functions similarly to retinol) so it stands to reason that their oil-control moisturizer would be good for skin too. This moisturizer contains SPF 30 using oleosome technology, which lowers the concentration of chemical sunscreen filters, which can cause irritation. On the mattifying front, it uses micropearl technology, which absorbs oil and gives skin a matte finish.

Best moisturizer for oily skin with SPF

Ingredients: SPF 46, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight lotion | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $23/ounce)

I’ve written about this popular SPF a lot, naming it the best option for most people. Dermatologists love it, as do Strategist staffers, because it’s moisturizing without being greasy, feels nice on the skin, and uses both physical and chemical SPF to protect the skin. The tinted version is my go-to (the clear can leave a slight cast), and I like that it imparts a slight sheen on my skin and pairs nicely with the other products in my routine. Hangsterfer has combination skin herself and finds that this sunscreen from EltaMD is moisturizing enough to use as a moisturizer on its own, thanks to ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. “It works great under makeup or by itself,” she says. It’s also good for people who deal with hyperpigmentation, which can be common for people with melanated skin. Because oily skin is acne-prone, there’s a higher chance of getting dark marks post-pimple. Niacinamide, one of the key ingredients in the EltaMD moisturizer, is an important ingredient for this—it reduces inflammation, regulates oil, and helps to keep skin moisturized. The EltaMD also contains zinc oxide, which helps to prevent hyperpigmentation from getting any worse.

Some more products for oily skin we’ve written about

Our experts

• Shamara Bondaroff, founder of SB Skin
• Dr. David Colbert, lead dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group
• Dr. Chaneve Jeanniton, oculofacial plastic surgeon and founder of epi.logic Skincare
• Dr. Hadley King, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University
• Dr. Karan Lal, dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group
• Vanessa Marc, celebrity aesthetician and owner of Vanessa Marc Spa
• Dr. Caroline Robinson, founder of Tone Dermatology
Melanie A. Warycha, dermatologist at CareMount Medical
• Sydney Utendahl, product developer and aesthetician

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The 16 Very Best Moisturizers for Oily Skin