In this article
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 on the market for oily skin types, we consulted Warycha, Marc, and six 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 (one pick is even approved by a dermatologist’s 14-year-old son).
What we’re looking for
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.
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.
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 overall moisturizer for oily skin
Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Gel-cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $11/ounce)
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. Tone Dermatology founder Dr. Caroline Robinson describes it as “lightweight yet nourishing,” and I would agree. It’s the kind of moisturizer you tell everyone to use, because regardless of skin concern, it’ll probably work for you too.
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
Ingredients: THD ascorbate (vitamin C), vitamin E, hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 2 ounces (Approx. $27/ounce)
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 with 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
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 splurge-y lightweight moisturizers for oily skin
Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 | Consistency: Serum | Price: 1 ounce (Approx. $83/ounce)
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.
Best cream moisturizer for oily skin
Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $31/ounce)
Warycha also likes this creamy hyaluronic-acid moisturizer from Peter Thomas Roth that goes on like a whipped soufflé. 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 less-expensive cream moisturizer for oily skin
Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Consistency: Lightweight cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $18/ounce)
“My friend with a very oily forehead says this is the only product that helped her with sebum production,” says aesthetician and product developer Sydney Utendahl of the First Aid Beauty Oil Control moisturizer. Its hero ingredient is hyaluronic acid, and it also contains shine-controlling properties that help to reduce oiliness over time.
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)
Utendahl also recommends this moisturizer from Etude’s SoonJung line. All of the products in the 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)
“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
Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, squalane, shea butter, jojoba oil | Consistency: Rich cream | Price: 1.7 ounces (Approx. $109/ounce)
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
Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, mineral water | Consistency: Serum | Price: 1.69 ounces (Approx. $14/ounce)
For a 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.
Best moisturizer for acne-prone oily skin
Ingredients: SPF 30, micropearls | Consistency: Lightweight lotion | Price: 4 ounces (Approx. $2.75/ounce)
For acne-prone oily skin, Dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal recommends opting for something hydrating. “You definitely need something to offset the drying effects of whatever actives you have in your routine.” He likes this one from Differin, which helps to moisturize and mattifies skin too. 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)
Hangsterfer has combination skin herself and finds that this sunscreen from Elta MD 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 skin of color. 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. It also contains zinc oxide, which helps to prevent hyperpigmentation from getting any worse.
Some more products for oily skin we’ve written about
• 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
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.