When your face is over producing 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).
Best overall | Best lightweight | Best less-expensive lightweight | Best splurge-y lightweight | Best cream| Best mattifying | Best nighttime | Best for mature skin | Best less-expensive for mature skin | Best for acne-prone skin | Best with SPF
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 formua’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 overall moisturizer for oily skin
Hyaluronic acid | Gel-cream | 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.
In addition to the Hydro Boost being non comedogenic, 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
THD ascorbate (vitamin C), vitamin E, hyaluronic acid | Lightweight cream | 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
Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin B5 | Serum | 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
Hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 | Serum | 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
Hyaluronic acid | Lightweight cream | 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 mattifying moisturizer for oily skin
Lipho-hydroxy acid | Lightweight cream | 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 nighttime moisturizer for oily skin
Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides | Lightweight cream | 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.