Adult-onset acne and any form of acne-prone skin can be hard on one’s self-esteem, or at least just a bother. Many look to concealers, foundations, and masks to work on this nagging issue, as they should. But moisturizer can be a great weapon too.
Don’t get fooled by the myth that acne-prone skin is too moist and can’t handle any moisturizer. Here’s the truth, and the biggest concept on moisturizing: dry skin actually leads to acne. We all know that are bodies receive messages and respond accordingly. Sweat cools us down, for example, even if it can be an unwanted helper. Likewise, when your skin gets too dry, your physiology responds by producing too much oil, some of it in the form of sebum. The result is acne. So, moisturize away, my friend. You’re not oiling up that epidermis, but keeping it healthy, strong, and less prone to acne.
We’ve tried out piles of moisturizers so you don’t have to. We’re happy to give you the rundown of many of the best ones that will give you plenty of options. Let’s start off with our top pick.
Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Daily Moisturizing Lotion
The picture of the bearded guy on the lip balm and other BB’s products is actually Burt! There’s a real Burt, and he started the company 1984 with a partner and eventually sold it to Clorox. The corporation holds true to Burt’s original vision of offering environmentally-friendly, natural products.
People who use BB’s healthcare products often swear by it by life, and it really kills it on Amazon.
This moisturizing lotion comes in a spray bottle and is infused with a heady brew of witch hazel, goldenseal, and lemongrass. Here you get moisturization and a soothing feeling to your skin. As far as the acne prevention, that comes in the form of naturally-derived salicylic acid.
Burt’s Bees moisturizing lotion is 99% natural, noncomedogenic, and dermatologist tested.
We used a little spray on a cheek and rubbed it into our whole face—it blended in with no greasiness. It definitely wears light and preserves your natural skin tones. One thing to note is that, per the company, BB’s is to be used as a sole acne fighter, not in combination with others.
- Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-free Salicylic Acne Treatment and Moisturizer
A bottle of philosophy—how smart are you now? Another of their products is called “Hope in a bottle” and this one is “Clear Days Ahead.”
The formula here is a combo of oligopeptide-10, Salicylic acid, and a mess of antimicrobials. This arsenal of ingredients allows Clear Days to actively fight and heal acne.
We found it to provide a matte finish and to not dry the skin. It’s oil-free and blends into the skin nicely, lying down to accommodate any makeup you may choose. It is destined to make your skin nice and balanced, and it won’t clog pores.
Depending on where you purchase this little number, it may run you nearly $40—something to consider, though it is a high-quality item.
- Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer
Probotics are all about your digestive system, right? Well, yes, but it’s actually because of this fact that they help your skin. Bad bacteria in your GI tract can cause inflammation which ultimately bursts forth in the form of acne. Because probiotics kill these bad bacteria, they are a big weapon in the war on facial blemishes.
Eminence Clear Skin brings not only probiotics but also cucumber and tea tree extracts—these put the damper on irritated red blotches.
This is a lightweight, hydrating moisturizer, and it’s recommended that you apply a bit more on particularly dry areas.
This moisturizer comes in a 2 oz jar.
- Algenist SPLASH Absolute Hydration Replenishing Gel
This replenishing gel specializes in big-time hydration. It is made of an algalyte complex, which is turn made up of microalgae polysaccharide and energizing electrolytes.
Hmm, what might microalgae polysaccharide be? Well, if you’re familiar with spirulina, which you’re seeing in a lot of smoothies and health bars, etc., it’s a common microalgae. A polysaccharide is a complex carbohydrate composed of long chains of molecules.
Now, nobody is saying that if it’s SCIENCE it has to be good, so let’s describe this SPLASH a bit more intimately. Once these algaes and ‘lytes get cooking, they give you lustrous and smooth skin because of their deep hydration.
This gel has been tested, meaning hard-and-fast results. 96 of 100 women in a recent trial said Algenist SPLASH makes skin feel softer and replenished. 93 said it made their skin more radiant. It’s good for the whole range of skin types.
As you might guess with such a plant-oriented product, SPLASH parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.
- Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Moisturizer
Speaking of plants, Aveeno’s latest masterpiece centers around a gentle soy compound. This complex, from a plant that has a reputation for helping skin going back more than a thousand years, will first make your blemishes history, and then install some radiance and brightness.
Another big ingredient is less natural, the well-known acne fighter Salicylic acid. That’s kind of the bad cop, going in and kicking butt, while the soy compound is the good cop, soothing your skin, making you feel soft and even-toned.
You know the Aveeno name, and while this 4 oz bottle will run roughly $11 dollars, it’ll probably be well worth it.
- EltaMD UV Clear
We think you’ll like what this has to offer—it’s certainly a good friend to gals with acne-prone skin. That’s because it has a lightness and gentleness that you don’t get with just any product that’s tough enough for acne.
The non-sticky and light feeling, along with the good work on your skin, all come from the main ingredients of this moisturizer, lactic acid and hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means it retains moisture, and therefore leaves your skin soft and supple. Lactic acid gives you exfoliation.
Now, a secret weapon with this moisturizer is that it has SPF—45 to be exact. That kind of makes it even more useful and versatile to you.
- Concept Oil Control
Well, this mattifying moisturizer is made specifically for acne-prone and oily skin. One of the big helps it gives is unclogging your pores. It also prevents breakouts and of course covers your blemishes.
The ingredients in Concept’s moisturizer are Salicylic Acid and Lactic Acid. Other ingredients include Aloe, Tea Tree oil, and Witch Hazel. You’ve got a nice cornucopia of natural moisturizers and soothing agents here. It’s a combination I happen to really like.
Concept’s products are produced in small batches and pumped out into stores and customers as fast as the company can get them there. That’s a unique trait that a lot of gals will appreciate.
- Jurlique Calendula Cream
This cream will bring the deep hydration. Calendula cream originates as oil pulled from the Calendula plant, a type of flower that Europeans used to use in soup.
In any case, it originally gained a reputation for soothing wounds, and you can see how it would then become big in lotions.
Jurlique’s Calendula will go to the irritated spots in your skin and deeply hydrate them. The result? Less redness, a softer and more toned skin.
Now, Jurlique makes use of all sorts of great ingredients in addition to Calendula. The host of moisturizers it brings includes macadamia, safflower, primrose, and avocados. And also aloe vera.
It also includes Witch hazel and spilanthes, which provide astringent properties.
Now, the cream comes in a small, 1.4 oz package, and is whopping expensive, so it may not be for everyone. But it does deliver some high-end ingredients.
- Lavo Daily Moisturizer Cream
Whether it’s a mask or a foundation or a lotion, you’ll always have a brand that really goes for the vitamins, and today it’s Lavo Daily Moisturizer Cream. It gives your skin a feast of Vitamins A, B, C, and D which cultivate the health of your skin.
As for the anti-acne big guns, they come in the form of hyaluronic acid, which is algae-based. This blocks bacteria, and the cream forms a thin layer on your skin, acting as a blockade against environmental toxins. It does attack blackheads and whiteheads, and also tightens pores.
It goes on non-greasy and has a mattifying effect. Makeup will go on over it, no problem. All in all, a solid product for ladies with acne-prone skin.
- Alba Botanica Hawaiian Oil-free Moisture Sensitive Skin
Remember several years ago, when green tea was all the rage? Well, it’s known to be great for skin—for slowing the effects of aging, and also specifically for its acne-fighting capabilities.
Green tea is one of the main ingredients in this oil-free moisturizer. This infuses the moisturizer with antioxidants. These fight off free radicals, thus keeping your skin healthy.
The other key ingredient is Aloe. This moisturizer reflects the bright colors of its packaging by moisturizing the skin thoroughly, providing humectants and delivering a soft and bright complexion.
The ingredients in Alba’s moisturizer are 100% vegetarian.
- Clean and Clear Essentials Dual-Action Moisturizer
This moisturizer uses Salicylic acid to combat acne—it’s one of the best-known anti-acne weapons. Because this acid both treats and remedies acne, you have dual-action.
We found it to be nice and light, absorbing quite well rather than drying. It made our tester’s face feel moisturized and hydrated but without a greasy feel.
This moisturizer is meant to be used two to three times per day, in light layers, and it comes in a pack of 3.
- Foxbrim Vitamin C Lotion—Natural Face Moisturizer
What’s amazing about these various products that hydrate acne-prone skin is that together, they include so many different combinations of ingredients, allowing you to find just the right one.
Foxbrim’s Vitamin C Lotion not only contains that important vitamin, but also Aloe, Green Tea, and MSM. This last ingredient is methylsulfonylmethane, This is a sulfur compound derived from the Earth’s rain cycle. How beautiful is that? Well, MSM is known to hydrate skin and help wrinkles and the effects of aging on the skin.
This lotion lightens and brightens and enhances the re-growth of healthy skin cells. It is full of organic ingredients, and is actually vegan. We should point out that in addition to the chief ingredients, Foxbrim also adds jojoba butter and Shea butter.
You can come at the issue of acne and dry skin from a variety of angles, and the particular combo of ingredients used by Foxbrim just may be the ticket for you.
- Neutrogena Oil-free Moisture Sensitive Skin
This moisturizer is all about giving you hydration that lasts. The formulation absorbs quickly, doesn’t clog pores, and makes your skin youthful and soft. This oil-free moisturizer also gives broad-spectrum sun protection.
We found it to be gentle, light, and utterly non-irritating. It’s water-based, also including soy sterol. Now, many women stay away from parabens, and this product does contain three varieties of parabens.
- Inside Out Probiotics Daily Moisturizer
Probiotics are the enzymes and cultures found in Greek yogurt, among many other products. They are known as “good bacteria,” meaning that they eat up the bad bacteria. This is important because it’s the bad bacteria and impurities that damage the skin. Some bacteria are expressly responsible for acne. So rubbing probiotics into your skin (in addition to including them in your diet) is a direct way of nourishing your skin, meaning you’re fighting a permanent battle against acne.
The ingredients in Inside Out’s moisturizer balance oil and have a light feel. The probiotics will give you very noticeable reduction of redness. In addition to the probiotic ingredients, it’s made up of marine algaes and botanicals.
Specifically, ingredients include wheat germ extract, arginine, apricot kernel oil, and coconut alkanes.
It is free of sulfates and dyes, colorings and parabens. The natural approach, free of harsh chemicals, is what keeps this moisturizer from clogging pores.
So you get a reduction of redness, calming and soothing of skin, a reduction in hyperpigmentation, and repair of your cells.
Daily Probiotic Moisturizer comes in a 1-oz. bottle.
- Cetaphil Dermacontrol Moisturizer SPF 30
The unique calling card for Cetaphil’s moisturizer is Oleosome technology. Oleosomes are little pockets of organelles in some plant seeds like safflower—they work to preserve moisturizing plant oil and Vitamin E.
Using oleosomes from these plants is the best way for makers of lotions and moisturizers to extract the moisturizing ingredients in a way that is stable.
Cetaphil uses this tech to deeply hydrate skin. It won’t clog pores and cuts down dryness and roughness. It also controls shine; micropearl technology delivers a matte finish; and the moisturizer also contains sunscreen to the tune of SPF 30. In fact, it’s broad-spectrum, meaning that in protects the two major types of sun rays, UVA and UVB.
The main acne-fighting ingredients are Avobenzone, Octisalte and Octocrylene. The rest of the ingredients list is a lot of chemicals—this isn’t a moisturizer for someone looking for botanicals and nut oils and all-natural ingredients.
It comes in a 4 oz. bottle with a pump top.
- Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Control Moisturizer
Last but not least, Clean & Clear brings us a specially-formulated acne control moisturizer. Some of the products we’re reviewing are good for acne because they don’t clog pores and because they, of course, hydrate the skin appropriately. But this is one of several that includes anti-acne medication as well. That comes in the form of salicylic acid, a very common, powerful anti-acne formulation.
Salicylic acid can be used by itself, and that can be harsh and, if done for too long, detrimental to the skin. But when the acid is one component of a larger product, those worries vanish.
This moisturizer is light and non-greasy. It is to be used one to three times daily, but one relief is that it comes in a 4-oz bottle, so you won’t go through it as quickly as you would some others.
Choosing and Using the Best Moisturizer
Emollients, Occlusives, and Humectants
Not all women with acne-prone skin have the exact same needs and issues. Your skin type, apart from being acne-prone, can be different from someone else’s. Some women may be acne prone without having oily skin. Some women or girls may not have clogged pores. So let’s look at some various options for getting the most out of your moisturizer.
Now, before we get any further, some people might point to a bottle of moisturizer and say “that’s an emollient.” That would be looking at bottle of beer and saying “that’s wheat.” Well, it may have wheat in it, but it isn’t wheat. And you can also have beer without wheat.
Emollients are things that are meant to seal in moisture as one particular way of making sure your skin is moist enough. Remember, you don’t want to think that moisture is your enemy, the thing that leads to acne. What leads to acne is sebum and another oils being produced in excess. Healthy moisture actually is what stops acne—if your skin is moist, your body won’t want to produce more oil.
So, as a way of helping with this, some makers of moisturizers include emollients. Examples include
coconut, almond, sesame oils
As you can see, some of the moisturizers we reviewed do include these, while some do not.
Occlusive ingredients form a layer on top of the skin as a way of trapping moisture. So, like emollients, they keep moisture from escaping, but they do this by forming an occlusive layer. (Emollients basically fill in microscopic cracks to seal the moisture). Examples include:
castor oil (also an emollient)
So, here you are deciding if you’re looking for a layer to seal in moisture or to fill in the cracks.
Now, humectants are kind of wild. They draw H2O molecules from the air around you and plant them on your face. Really! That’s how they moisturize. There are many of these in play in moisturizers. These include:
Now, hyaluronic acid is naturally found in the body, as a connective tissue, and is thought of as the most effective humectant. If you go back up to our review of Lavo Daily Moisturizing Cream, you’ll see more info on this.
Well, do you want a layer over your skin, cracks to be filled, or water to be sucked onto your face? As to pros and cons, as you can see, these humectants are acids—organic material—but maybe not as inviting as a nut oil, etc. Alternately, even though moisturizing is important, some people feel squeamish about rubbing food products into their faces. (Seriously, though, all of these products work and are effective and necessary).
Another issue with humectants is that, if you use too much, they can draw moisture to the surface of your skin from other cells. Now that you’re lacking that moisture, once the humectant wears off, you’ll end up with dry skin.
Emollients are probably the best bet for anyone with acne prone skin. One of the reasons for this is that they can also act as occlusive; but they are the ingredients that most soothe your skin and are in general, the best. If you don’t have a major acne problem, but just want to prevent breakouts, emollients are probably the best.
Now, if you look at our various reviews, you’ll find some with Salycilic Acid. This actively unclogs pores, so that’s one particular ingredient you may look out for. Lactic Acid is another one. It is a type of Alpha hydroxy acid, and as such it breaks up the substances that can keep pores closed. Now, Lactic doesn’t penetrate as deeply as Salycilic, but is still your friend if clogged pores are your problem.
Makeup and Other Considerations
Some of the mineral-type moisturizers are the ones that will sit on the skin rather than seeping into it. This won’t help any if wearing makeup over these is a priority. Above, we’ve mentioned which moisturizers are which.
Natural vs. Chemical- You may wish to go natural, or to privilege products that are mostly natural. Truth be told, very few cosmetics of any kind are 100% natural. Burt’s Bees, are top pick Inside Out Probiotic Moisturizer does qualify as all natural.
Now, because ingredients are synthetic, that doesn’t make them harmful or bad—these products are approved by the FDA. But it’s something to consider.
Ethics- Clearly, if you need a vegan moisturizer, that consideration will trump all others. Whether or not the product is tested on animals is a key consideration, and if we’ve made our best effort to mention it when products aren’t.
You may know other things about certain ingredients and how they are acquired, who they affect, etc., and we encourage you to follow your morals here. Also, write to companies and encourage them to not use ingredients that pose ethical dilemmas.
I’ll be honest here—if I had my way, my cosmetics would be put on by a robot in the shape of a teddy bear while my chauffeur takes me to work. Failing that, I’d choose the basically smash it into my face and rub it in with all my fingers.
But, don’t do that. Not with moisturizer. It’s best to use the ring finger on each hand, since these place less pressure on your skin than others. You want to be gentle here. From there, use a circular motion. You probably already do this, and it might seem like the most efficient way to rub something in. But the real reason is to stimulate blood flow.
Now, if you’re using occlusive or emollients, as described above, you’re trying to seal in moisture. Therefore, it’s a good idea to wash your face first and then put on the moisturizer with your face a bit damp.
Then, give it some time to soak in before going further with sun screen, etc. Have some breakfast. If you want to moisturize before bed at night, that’s a possibility, but many people wish to moisturize 2-3 times per day, which makes doing it before makeup in the morning pretty important.
To me, the big thing about moisturizers is the ingredients. If you know you like Shea Butter and Aloe and have had good experience with Salicylic Acid, you can go for something with that combination. If you’re into antioxidants or vitamins, you can go that route.
Chances are, that will get you most of the way there. You do, however, have to keep track of some of the special features of some of the moisturizers we’ve looked at, such as killing bacteria associated with acne, unclogging pores, etc. The more serious your needs are, the more carefully you have to balance and compare each product, being sure you are meeting all your needs.
Finally, if you have a problem with any product, be sure you replace it with something with significantly-different ingredients, taking into consideration which are light, which cut down on redness, etc.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a moisturizer that won’t contribute to acne problems!