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It might seem like it’s counterintuitive to apply more moisture on top of an already oily face, but hear us out. Your skin might be struggling with excessive production of oil because your skin is thirsty — and your body is trying to compensate for the moisture it’s lacking by producing more oil.
According to Dr. Papri Sarkar, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston, oily skin gets a bad rap, and her patients often say they drip, sweat, glisten and glow a lot. “Because of that, my patients are loath to add another drop of hydration on their face,” says Sarkar. “I don't blame them, but patients with oily skin often also have acne, and acne therapy can make your skin dry and irritated. So, if you're feeling oily and dry at the same time, [lightweight] moisturizers will work well for my patients with oily skin.”
You want to look for hydrators that have a light texture, that don’t make an oily face feel heavier or tacky and don't have the occlusiveness that dry skin sometimes needs, suggests Sarkar. “Some key ingredients to look out for [in moisturizers] are hyaluronic acid, glycerin and niacinamide,” says Dr. Sarkar.
Below, you’ll find some of the best moisturizers for oily skin that won’t leave your face dripping.
Dermatologist-recommended moisturizers for oily skin
“A light, gel-like texture goes on smooth and dries to a matte finish,” explained Sarkar. “It's packed with hyaluronic acid and glycerin and is oil-free — this one [from Neutrogena] is scented, but it's a clean, fresh smell.”
“This [CeraVe] cream is great for patients with oily skin to use at night, especially after applying their acne regimen which can be drying and irritating,” sayid Sarkar. “It contains ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, which hydrate without adding heaviness.”
“This is super lightweight yet still feels like a cream without the heavy feel that some of my patients with oily skin hate,” explained Sarkar. “Oatmeal extract soothes irritated skin, while squalene helps to replenish the oil balance. It's fragrance-free, so sensitive skin types may reach for it, too.”
“This serum is primarily hyaluronic acid in a lightweight serum that melts right into the skin,” said Sarkar. “Vichy's products contain volcanic water that is purported to be rich in minerals and have special beneficial properties for the skin.”
“This light, gel-like cream feels like water when you apply it to the skin but has staying power without heaviness,” explained Sarkar. “It has a combination of oat kernel and plant extracts that hydrate and condition, while ceramides and cholesterol boost oils without heaviness. Although this formula contains a small amount of shea butter, it still feels surprisingly light and doesn't seem to clog pores.”
“This moisturizer boasts electrolytes to replenish the skin, but the work is probably primarily done by a high concentration of glycerin and dimethicone,” said Sarkar. “Plant extracts and electrolytes, squalane, ceramides, niacinamide and rice bran extract help to round out the cream and keep it feeling like a light lotion.”
Top-rated moisturizers for oily skin
It doesn’t get more lightweight than the Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer. The texture is serum-like, while the hydrating benefits are similar to a daily moisturizer. It’s oil-free, smells amazing and works well under makeup, too.
La-Roche Posay is a fan favorite brand amongst acne sufferers with sensitive skin. It’s formulated with micro-exfoliating lipid-hydroxy acid, which helps to target excess oil and mattify skin.
Water creams are ideal for those with oily skin — they add the perfect amount of hydration without feeling like you have any moisturizer on your face. This pick from Sunday Riley includes papaya enzymes to exfoliate and smooth, two forms of hyaluronic acid to hydrate and tamarind extract to improve skin moisturization.
Another great pick for those with sensitive, oily skin, the oil-control moisturizer from First Aid Beauty features hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and glycerin for a trifecta of hydration, without the greasy, heavy feeling.
A cream-gel moisturizer that adds the perfect amount of hydration, this pick from Korres uses pomegranate extract to reduce the appearance of pores, salicylic acid to exfoliate dead skin and willow herb extract to absorb oil and excess shine.
Ideal for those with oily or sensitive skin, this lotion from Avene uses papaya-extracted enzymes to exfoliate and smooth while reducing the appearance of blackheads, along with glyceryl laurate to reduce excess oil and neutralize shine.
This lightweight moisturizer is not only great for oily skin types, but it was specifically made to blend with your favorite foundation. It’s a great option if you’d rather not pile a heavy foundation on top of your moisturizer (hello, more oil) and instead add a few drops of liquid foundation to this pick for a lighter feeling on your skin.
This water gel from Murad is perfect for anyone with oily skin suffering from acne breakouts. The hyaluronic acid lightly hydrates, the ginger root extract soothes inflamed skin and the salicylic acid fights blemishes all day.
This Kiehl's water cream is ideal for those with oily skin that experience redness and irritation. The calendula flower extract works wonders in soothing skin, and the water cream base won’t add unnecessary oiliness or excessive moisture to an already oily face.
This lightweight moisturizer is packed with hyaluronic acid and glycerin for a beautiful glow that won’t leave skin feeling sticky. The hero ingredient in this formula is chrysin, which is an anti-aging antioxidant found in honey that helps to naturally brighten the skin and fade dark spots.
Those with oily skin often complain about visible, enlarged pores. This pick from Skinceuticals was made for oily skin to hydrate while also reducing the appearance of pores.
Tatcha has done it again with a beautifully light, oil-free anti-aging cream that melts into the skin flawlessly. What’s so cool about this formula is that it has a unique water-burst cream that breaks upon application to deliver ingredients deeper into the skin.
For the clean skin care lovers, this pick from Naturopathica is super lightweight, smells amazing and is great for oily and/or acne-prone skin.
If you think your oily skin might be caused by a dry dermis, this pick from award-winning skin care brand skinbetter science is a great one to add into your routine. It’s lightweight but adds extra hydration into the skin and will also help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, too.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Why is activated charcoal good for your skin? Derms explain its benefits
- This dermatologist-approved acne gel doubles as a powerful anti-aging product
- Beat dry winter skin with these dermatologist-recommended picks