When your face is overproducing its natural oils, you might think twice before piling on even more hydrators, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t moisturize at all. “While you may want to rid your skin of all oil, it is important to preserve some of your skin’s natural oils and skin barrier,” says CareMount Medical dermatologist Melanie A. Warycha. You should still use a daily moisturizer and sunscreen.”
Excessively cleansing the skin or overusing oil-control products can actually cause more damage, stripping the skin and leading to dryness and redness, adds Warycha, that can make your skin reproduce oil in excess (and undo all your blotting) as a result. Finding a moisturizer that can walk the line of absorbing surface oil and hydrating your skin is the goal. So we turned to two dermatologists to find out which are the best for oily skin types and how to shop for them.
A good rule of thumb is to shop for things that are noncomedogenic (not pore-clogging or likely to cause acne, in plain speak) and oil-free. Both experts 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. Derms love this stuff.
“It’s noncomedogenic and alcohol-free and oil-free so it’s well-suited for oily skin types. It contains glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which are both humectants, so they can hydrate the skin without the need for emollients that may feel too heavy for oily skin,” says Hadley King, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Here’s another oil-free and noncomedogenic moisturizer with a 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 [which] showed higher anti-sebum clinical efficacy than zinc in studies.” She also credits its matte effect to the micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy acid, microspheres, and perlite that “absorb humidity and sebum” in it.
King also recommends this Cetaphil Oil-Free Moisturizer because it offers added broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection (which helps 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. “It was shown in their clinical studies to absorb oil. I believe silica is one of the key ingredients responsible for this effect.”
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 which helps to absorb sebum and strengthens the skin barrier.”
She 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).
This one isn’t really a “moisturizer,” per se, 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 (who knew?) and absorbs oil due to the micro-pearl technology mentioned above. A best of all worlds situation, we think.
We’ve also been hearing a lot about this moisturizer from Origins that’s designed for oily-skinned people. It’s not completely oil-free, despite its branding — it’s free from mineral oil, though still contains a handful of essential oils — but still helps with clearing skin and reducing oil thanks to the salicylic acid and silica in it.
And generally, Murad’s blue line of skin-care products for acne are well-reviewed and very popular among acne sufferers. They make this oil-control moisturizer that reduces shine and contains added SPF — we’d recommend it.
If you’re open to spending a little more money on a shine-free appearance, there’s also this Kate Somerville moisturizer that people with greasy skin love for its “oil-absorbing spheres” and its marine extracts that firm up skin.
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