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.
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 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 moisturizer 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” in it.
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.
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.
Best moisturizer for oily and red skin
If your skin tends to appear red as well as oily throughout the day — a cursed combo — Warycha suggests this color-correcting cream from Olay. It contains niacinamide, or vitamin B3, which she explains is “an anti-inflammatory that helps to absorb sebum and strengthens the skin barrier.”
Best moisturizer for oily skin with SPF
King also recommends this Cetaphil oil-free moisturizer because it offers added broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (which is extra help for oily skin types because UV light can stimulate activity of sebaceous glands and lead to increased oil production, explains Warycha). This one wields “micro-pearl technology,” which absorbs surface oil, reduces shine, and creates a matte finish, says King.
Best retinol treatment for oily skin
This one isn’t really a “moisturizer,” more a treatment, but there’s not a single product more widely recommended for acne sufferers than Differin. It’s the only prescription-strength retinoid — or vitamin A derivative — that’s available over the counter, and Warycha explains that it’s a worthwhile product to add for oily skin, because retinoids “have been shown to influence the function of sebocytes (oil-secreting cells) and reduce pore size.” If you did want to try a moisturizer version of Differin, though, they thankfully do make one that contains added SPF and absorbs oil due to the same micro-pearl technology in the Cetaphil.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.