Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin

Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin

Face cream for acne is essential, but so is finding the right one for your skin type. Check out our list of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin here.
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While many people think moisturizer is a big no-no when it comes to acne-prone skin, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Moisturizing is essential for managing oil production while ensuring the skin stays hydrated. However, you must choose the right moisturizer to support your skin type and improve your acne symptoms.

Here, we’ll share some of the best face moisturizers for acne-prone skin, delving into the details of their formulations, ingredients, benefits, and why they’re a good choice for acne-prone skin.

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when oil glands become clogged with excess sebum - the natural oil our skin produces to keep our skin from drying out. These oil glands are connected to hair follicles all over the body, which when clogged up, cause pimples, spots, and cysts. These symptoms are what we know as acne.

There are several types of acne and many different reasons why someone might experience it. For example, acne is often associated with teenagers and a surge in hormones. These hormones can cause our sebaceous glands to produce excess oil that becomes blocked by dead skin cells, leading to clogged pores and acne. 

With prolonged acne or acne that has become infected or irritated, sometimes scars can appear on the face. There are several ways to treat acne scars with the right skincare routine, including using retinol to reduce the appearance of acne scars.

Why is moisturizer important for acne?

When you first think about moisturizer, you’re likely to think about your skin feeling potentially oily or greasy. And if you’ve got acne-prone skin, this is sure to make you want to skip the moisturizer for fear that it will cause acne or make it worse. However, moisturizing acne-prone skin is essential for effective treatment and management. 

Firstly, many acne treatments are particularly drying for the skin, so moisturizing is vital for combatting that dryness and potential irritation. Suppose you’re using any of the following acne treatments. In that case, you’ll definitely want a moisturizer in your skincare routine to help your skin tolerate them better:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Adapalene, tazarotene, or tretinoin
  • Isotretinoin

Moisturizers are vital even if you’re not using acne-specific treatments or medications. During the winter, or other times our skin feels dry, our body will make more oil to protect it. When this happens, already acne-prone or oily skin could experience clogged pores and increased breakouts. Using the right moisturizer can help prevent the skin from becoming dry in the first place so that extra oil production doesn’t start happening. 

What to look for in an acne-specific moisturizer

When considering the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, it’s not as simple as looking for a product that claims to treat acne. There are several other factors that you need to pay attention to when researching acne moisturizers. Here are some things to consider:

Your skin type

If you’ve got acne, it’s highly likely you’ve also got oily skin. However, people with dry skin can have acne too. With this in mind, you need to seek out acne moisturizers that are also formulated to complement your skin type. 

Look for ingredients that you know are beneficial for your skin or have certain properties that support your skin type, and avoid those that don’t. For example, someone with sensitive skin might want to avoid an acne moisturizer with strong active ingredients in it, such as certain acids. Although this could help acne, it could also cause more irritation. 

The formula

To ensure the moisturizer you choose doesn’t cause further breakouts, there are certain claims and descriptions you should look out for on the packaging of products. These include:

  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Won’t clog pores
  • Fragrance-free

The texture is important too. To combat acne, look for a lightweight, oil-free formula that won’t feel heavy or greasy on your skin. Bear in mind that this may be slightly different for those with exceptionally dry skin. For most skin types with acne, it’s best to avoid thick and heavy creams that could clog pores.

Like any moisturizing product, it’s a good idea to choose something with SPF included, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. An SPF of at least 30 can help to protect your skin from sun damage and prevent further acne irritation from sunburn. However, try not to rely on this as your sun protection. We always advise adding an SPF on top of your moisturizer for adequate protection.

The ingredients

Of course, the ingredients in your chosen moisturizer need to be suitable for your skin type, but you should look out for certain ingredients that are known to help with acne. Here are some of the key acne-fighting ingredients often included in moisturizers for acne:

  • Retinol - helps to clear and prevent clogged pores with gentle exfoliating properties
  • Vitamin C - anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce redness and swelling to improve overall acne appearance
  • Salicylic Acid - penetrates oil gland and dissolves acne-causing blockages such as dead skin cells and oil
  • Benzoyl Peroxide - unclogs pores and prevents bacteria from growing and causing acne pimples
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) - provides gentle exfoliation to unclog pores and reduce the size of large pores
  • Azelaic Acid - removes dead skin cell, unclogs pores and kills acne-causing bacteria
  • Tea Tree - anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties help to decrease acne lesions

Best moisturizers for acne-prone skin

While many products claim to be the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, there's much more to it than that. To save you some time in your research, we’ve picked out several of the best products on the market so you can make an informed decision.

Symphonic M.D. - Retinol :: Vitamin C Moisturizer

First up is our Retinol :: Vitamin C Moisturizer. This powerful combination of retinol and vitamin C, among other key ingredients, is a real acne-fighting powerhouse. The anti-inflammatory formula effectively targets blemishes, tone, and skin texture, clearing bacteria and unclogging pores to reveal smooth skin. 

Historically, retinol was not used as a treatment for acne as it was thought that this ingredient actually contributed to acne. However, we now know this as purging. The inclusion of retinol in this product helps to treat acne by unclogging pores, gently exfoliating, and smoothing the skin’s texture. 


  • Anti-inflammatory properties bring down inflammation, reducing the appearance of acne
  • Retinol gently exfoliates to unclog blocked pores and smooth the skin
  • Vitamin C brightens the skin to reveal clearer complexion
  • BioA3 complex protects active ingredients and ensures all skin types can safely benefit
  • Cruelty-free and vegan


  • Might need additional moisturizer for night time use for dryer skin types
  • Doesn’t contain SPF protection

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Retinol - exfoliates and unclogs pores to smooth the skin and treat blemishes
  • Vitamin C - treats blemishes and brightens the skin, while stimulating collagen production and protecting from free radical damage

Who’s it for?

  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

Paula’s Choice - Clear Oil Free Moisturizer

The Paula’s Choice Clear Oil Free Moisturizer is a great option if you’re looking for an acne-fighting moisturizer you can use in the evening. With a lightweight formula, this product moves away from that greasy feeling that acne-prone skin can often experience when using a night cream. The moisturizer has also been formulated to ensure the skin is well-nourished, but shine-free. 

Several important ingredients are included in the makeup of this moisturizer, including niacinamide, ceramides, and glycerin, each working to fight acne breakouts and thoroughly hydrate the skin without clogging pores. 


  • Acne-fighting ingredients
  • Lightweight formula for fast absorption
  • Support skin barrier health and function
  • Reduces redness caused by acne inflammation


  • Can be slightly drying for the skin
  • Evening-use only

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Niacinamide - supports skin restoration by improving the appearance of large pores, uneven skin tone, fine lines, and dullness
  • Ceramides - support skin barrier health by improving water retention and skin replenishment
  • Blueberry - antioxidant properties that calm redness and protect against pollution

Who’s it for?

  • Best suited to combination or oily skin types.

Drunk Elephant - Protini Polypeptide Cream

For those that like to mix and match skincare products without a defined and meticulous skincare routine to follow, Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream is a great option. Their protein-packed product is also an effective moisturizer in the fight against acne. With signal peptides, growth factors, amino acids, and pygmy waterlily, this moisturizer successfully improves the skin’s tone, texture, and firmness.

The Protini Polypeptide Cream is full of proteins and nutrients, all working to support the skin barrier and restore it to its healthy, strong state. A final key benefit of Drunk Elephant products is that you can combine this moisturizer with other products in the range and simply mix them in your hands to apply. No more waiting between layers or remembering which order to apply your skincare products in.


  • Formulated at ideal pH of 4.0 to restore skin
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Fragrance-free formula and suitable for vegans
  • Strengthens and moisturizes skin


  • Peptides can take a long time for users to see a difference
  • Not always hydrating enough for some dry skin types

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Peptides - plump, firm and restore bounce to skin with protein-forming amino acids
  • Acetyl glutamine - soothe and strengthen the skin
  • Pygmy waterlily stem cell extract - antioxidants and nutrients replenish the skin and intensely nourish

Who’s it for?

  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive

Murad - Oil and Pore Control Mattifier Broad Spectrum SPF 45

As oil production is one of the key contributing factors to acne, keeping that under control is essential. The Murad Oil and Pore Control Mattifier Broad Spectrum SPF 45 moisturizer effectively manages excess sebum production to minimize the appearance of pores and keep your skin shine-free. We like the lightweight formulation of this product, especially for those with very oily skin who want to avoid heavier moisturizers.

With avocado and African yellow wood bark also key ingredients, the product helps to reduce excess oil over time, supporting the prevention of acne over a longer period. This moisturizer also helps to blur imperfections caused by acne, with oil-trapping microspheres that mattify and smooth the skin.


  • Oil-free hydration
  • Broad spectrum SPF protection
  • Pore appearance reduced by 54%


  • Not suitable for dry skin types
  • Contains avobenzone which can cause more frequent acne breakouts
  • Slightly runny consistency that isn’t always mattifying enough for some skin types

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Avocado and African yellow wood bark extracts - visibly tighten pores and reduce oiliness over time

Who’s it for?

  • Suitable for all skin types, except dry skin

Dr Dennis Gross - Vitamin C Lactic Oil-Free Radiant Moisturizer

If you’re seeking a glow alongside your acne moisturizer, Dr Dennis Gross’ Vitamin C Lactic Oil-Free Radiant Moisturizer is the ideal choice. This oil-free treatment has been formulated to offer intense hydration with the stronger potency of a serum, ensuring it doesn’t clog up the skin but continues to keep the skin nourished. 

This moisturizer claims to visibly improve dehydrated, sun-aged skin, as well as even out skin texture and tone to uncover a smooth, glowing complexion. It is a non-comedogenic product, combining lactic acid with three different forms of vitamin C, ensuring increased absorption and enhanced antioxidant performance. 


  • Anti-inflammatories in vitamin C help to control oil production
  • Improves skin tone and texture
  • Brightens complexion
  • Smoothes fine lines and wrinkles


  • Dewy finish which can look shiny
  • Serum consistency which some might not like in a moisturizer

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Vitamin C - deep skin penetration offers free radical damage protection while improving visible signs of sun aging 
  • Niacinamide - evens skin tone and refines the appearance of pores, while stimulating ceramides essential for skin barrier strength
  • Lactic acid - stimulates cell renewal, gently exfoliates to remove dead skin cells, and repair the skin barrier

Who’s it for?

  • Suitable for all skin types, although sensitive skin types may want to patch test due to the high strength of vitamin C

Dr. Jart+ - Teatreement Moisturizer

For those who prefer a gel consistency with their moisturizer, Dr. Jart+’s Teatreement Moisturizer is a top pick. This gel moisturizer offers a lightweight formula designed to hydrate oily and combination skin without clogging pores and contributing to acne breakouts. It benefits from the addition of niacinamide which delivers moisture and supports the skin barrier in preventing water loss.

This moisturizer’s hero ingredient is tea tree, which is well regarded as an acne-fighting ingredient. The Teatreement Moisturizer has also been proven to reduce sebum levels by 18%, helping those with acne-prone skin to control breakouts caused by excess oil on the skin.


  • Lightweight consistency avoids pore-clogging
  • Spot targeting technology rebalances the skin’s pH level to target blemishes without drying out the skin
  • Oil production is reduced


  • Tea tree oil can sting or irritate some sensitive skin types

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Australian tea tree - antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties help to reduce acne lesions
  • Niacinamide - controls oil production and brightens skin complexion

Who’s it for?

  • Best suited to oily, combination, and blemish-prone skin.

Naturopathica - Rosemary & Salicylic Acid Acne Clearing Moisturizer

The Rosemary & Salicylic Acid Acne Clearing Moisturizer from Naturopathica is a lightweight herbal moisturizer with superior hydration and acne-fighting properties. Formulated with purifying rosemary and 2% salicylic acid, this moisturizer is designed to deliver a clear and radiant complexion.

The combination of ingredients in this product also work together to control oil production and unclog pores, actively treating current breakouts while preventing future occurrences. With rosemary being a star ingredient in this product, we’re also big fans of the smell produced by this moisturizer.


  • Formulated to clear acne
  • Hydrates and nourishes skin
  • Cruelty-free


  • Can be drying if used too frequently
  • Can be irritating to very sensitive skin types

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Rosemary essential oil - powerful antioxidant properties to soothe skin and provide additional hydration
  • Salicylic acid - gently exfoliates and reduces the appearance of acne scars
  • Bixa orellana seed powder - improves the appearance of pores and skin imperfections

Who’s it for?

  • Suitable for all skin types, particularly oily and combination

Tula - Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer

Tula’s Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer has been formulated to deliver everything that acne-prone skin needs. It’s lightweight and clinically proven to treat and prevent acne, while also offering plenty of hydration to the skin. The hero ingredient in this moisturizer is 2% salicylic acid, which is a well-known acne-fighting ingredient.

With a non-comedogenic formula, the Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer doesn’t clog pores and prevents skin dryness. It’s also crafted without parabens and sulfates, ensuring your skin retains the strength and nourishment it deserves.


  • Lightweight and hydrating
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Brightens skin and reduces the appearance of acne scars


  • Not suitable for sensitive skin

Noteworthy ingredients

  • Salicylic acid - fights and prevents acne breakouts
  • Azelaic acid and niacinamide - brightens skin and reduces the appearance of past acne marks
  • Willowherb - calms skin and reduces redness

Who’s it for?

  • Suitable for all skin types, except sensitive skin

How to use moisturizer

Moisturizing is the final step in your skincare routine, whether you’re moisturizing in the morning or evening. But it’s not always enough to simply slather your moisturizer on your face after you’ve applied the rest of your skincare products. Here’s a quick look at how best to apply moisturizer to obtain the most beneficial results:

  • Squeeze a quarter-sized amount of moisturizer between your fingers
  • Rub the product between your fingers to warm slightly
  • Apply to the face, neck, and decolletage in circular motions
  • Leave to soak into the skin and work its magic

Like most skincare products, even the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin are all different. Be sure to follow the specific instructions and manufacturer’s guidance on your product’s packaging to ensure the best results.

The bottom line

Whether you’re looking for a moisturizer to combat acne as a first step to improving your skin, or you’re adding it to an already comprehensive acne treatment plan, using a specialist moisturizer is essential. While we’ve outlined some of the best moisturizers for acne-prone skin above, it’s still important to consider the needs of your skin before making a decision. 

All of the options outlined in this article would be excellent acne moisturizers, but our Retinol :: Vitamin C Moisturizer takes the top spot for us. The active ingredients in this product have been scientifically proven to fight acne and blemishes, and it’s suitable for all skin types, which means even sensitive and irritated skin types can benefit. Why not give it a try? We’re confident you’ll see noticeable improvements in your skin tone, texture, and acne appearance