Everyone – young, old, and in between – have to deal with acne at one time or another. Of course, teens are at the top of the list, but hormonal changes can bring on breakouts with a vengeance at any age. Unfortunately, many treatments for acne leave your skin dry and flaky. That’s where moisturizers for acne-prone skin come in handy. They give your skin the hydration and moisture it needs without clogging pores.
We reviewed dozens of moisturizers for acne to find the formulas that nourish the skin but banish pimples. Our search included formulas with acne medication, some with sunscreen, and others specially designed for aging skin. We narrowed it down to the top five moisturizers for acne. These formulas target specific problem areas and just plain do a fantastic job of moisturizing the skin without contributing to and even preventing breakouts.
CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin brings everything to the skin moisturizing table. This formula exfoliates with lactic acid, which also lightens dark spots and can decrease fine lines and wrinkles. However, this lightweight lotion also fights acne with salicylic acid. Finally, it contains vitamin D and essential ceramides to nourish the skin. CeraVe’s formula is also non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic, and fragrance and dye-free.
The 5 Top-Rated Moisturizers for Acne
|Best Moisturizer for Acne Overall
|CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin
|Best Moisturizer for Acne with Sunscreen
|Cetaphil PRO Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30
|Best Budget Moisturizer for Acne
|Clean & Clear Morning Burst Hydrating Gel Face Moisturizer
|Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Acne
|Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisture
|Best Best Moisturizer for Acne with Acne Medication
|Clean & Clear Essentials Dual Action Face Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid
*Ratings are current at the time of publication and can change
Best Moisturizer for Acne Overall: CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin
CeraVe makes a popular skincare line the treats everything from dry skin to the oiliest of complexions. Their CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin takes on three common skin issues with a single skincare product. This formula contains lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that’s used to exfoliate, lighten dark spots, and reduce wrinkles and fine lines. It’s the gentlest of the AHA’s and is often used for sensitive or acne-prone skin.
CeraVe’s formula also contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that causes the skin to shed the dense skin cells that can clog pores, making it an effective ingredient against acne. At the same time, this formula also has hyaluronic acid to boost skin hydration. A mix of three ceramides also fortify the skin’s natural protective layer. The combination of exfoliating, acne treating, and moisturizing gets rid of the skin cells and oils that cause acne while building and revitalizing the skin.
CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin Key Features:
- Exfoliates with lactic acid
- Fights acne with salicylic acid
- Nourishes the skin with vitamin D
- Builds the skin’s protective layer with three essential ceramides
Best Moisturizer for Acne with Sunscreen: Cetaphil PRO Oil-Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30
Cetaphil’s PRO Oil-Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30 contains a slew of ingredients that protect and nourish the skin. It starts with micropearl technology that absorbs surface oil to cut down on clogged pores and leave behind a matte finish. That’s combined with a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection with Oleosome technology. This technology lowers the sunscreen concentration for less irritation and better hydration without sacrificing sun protection.
While protection is great, the best part of this moisturizer is the actual moisturizing, which softens as it moisturizes. Finally, Cetaphil PRO is free of the parabens and fragrances that can contribute to skin irritation.
We like that it’s light and not greasy. There’s nothing worse than putting on a moisturizer and feeling slimy afterward.
Cetaphil PRO Oil-Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30 Key Features:
- Contains UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection
- Oleosome technology for sensitive skin
- Absorbs oils with micropearls
Best Budget Moisturizer for Acne: Clean & Clear Morning Burst Hydrating Gel Face Moisturizer
Moisturizers like Clean & Clear Morning Burst Hydrating Gel Face Moisturizer are water-based, so they won’t clog pores while offering maximum hydration. This blend brings the refreshing power of cucumber and green mango extracts for morning invigoration. The cool gel certainly gives you wake up and puts your skin on the right path for the rest of your day.
Creams can sometimes feel heavy. Morning Burst feels ultralight on the skin and quickly absorbs into the sink, so there’s no greasy residue. All that’s left behind is dewy, well-hydrated skin. Of course, it’s non-comedogenic and won’t cause breakouts.
Clean & Clear Morning Burst Hydrating Gel Face Moisturizer Key Features:
- Contains cucumber and green mango extracts
- Ultra-light feel
Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer for Acne: Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisture
Anti-aging moisturizers like Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer contain extra ingredients that plump fine lines and wrinkles, while helping the skin to stay clean and clear from acne. Hyaluronic acid acts as the miracle ingredient, as it encourages collagen production to reduce visible aging. The skin feels tighter and plumper with each use. At the same time, this powerful acid helps shrink pores. Guess what? Smaller pores are less likely to develop acne.
Retinol Surge also contains green tea, jojoba, and aloe hydrate and give the skin a healthy glow. It’s designed to be used with Body Merry’s skincare system, so you might need to use several products to get the maximum benefits. Whether you use it with other products in their skincare line or not, you’re getting excellent moisturization that reduces wrinkles and prevents acne.
Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisture Key Features:
- Contains Hyaluronic acid and retinol to reduce visible signs of aging
- Moisturizes with green tea, jojoba, and aloe
- Evens skin tone
- Prevents breakouts
Best Moisturizer for Acne with Acne Medication: Neutrogena Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid
Some moisturizers only do one thing — moisturize. However, formulas like Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid moisturize and hit acne with a dose of acne medication at the same time. These aren’t prescription-level ingredients, but they’re effective at breaking down the skin cells and oils that clog pores. In this case, salicylic acid reduces swelling and redness while breaking up pore-clogging debris.
At the same time, this Neutrogena blend offers the skin the moisture it needs to prevent flaking and peeling. It has everything you’re looking for in moisturizer for acne; it’s non-comedogenic, oil-free, and has a light, nongreasy feel.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Facial Moisturizer with Salicylic Acid Key Features:
- Fights acne with salicylic acid
- Grapefruit scent
Who Should Buy a Moisturizer for Acne
Pores get clogged, and the body responds with acne. It’s a fact of life. Adolescence is the most common time for acne-prone skin. However, hormone fluctuations cause acne into middle age and beyond. Most people associate acne with oily skin. Many acne treatments, however, can be drying, which only makes the skin produce more oil to maintain hydration — more oil means more acne. That’s where moisturizers for acne come into play. These moisturizers keep the skin moist but don’t contribute to breakouts. In fact, many formulas are designed to fight acne.
Everyone’s skin is different, so the type of moisturizer you’ll need will depend on a number of factors. People with sensitive skin should look for a formula designed specifically for sensitive skin. These formulas often skip harsh chemicals, irritating sunscreens, and contain low doses of acne medication (if any). You can often find a moisturizer for acne that can help you with other skin issues, such as wrinkles, dark spots, or sun sensitivity. No matter your skin issues, there’s a moisturizer out there for you. It just might take some trial and error to find the right formula.
Important Features to Consider
A moisturizer for acne should do a few things well and have the key features that you need. Here’s what to consider as you make your selection:
- Non-comedogenic. You definitely want to look for a moisturizer that’s non-comedogenic. That basically means that it won’t clog your pores. Clogged pores lie at the heart of acne. Most non-comedogenic moisturizers are also water-based. But double-check to make sure since oil-based moisturizers quickly lead to breakouts.
- Gel vs. cream. As far as effectiveness goes, a gel versus a cream doesn’t really make much difference. But they do feel different, which may make one or the other better for you. Gels tend to feel lighter in weight and soak into the skin faster, whereas creams feel heavier and leave behind a protective barrier. Either type can leave a matte finish, depending on the formula. It’s really about what you prefer.
- Sunscreen. We all know that the sun ages skin. Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen every day to prevent the kind of damage that can lead to skin cancer. Moisturizers that contain sunscreen give you a two-for-one on skincare by containing sunscreen. These formulas may feel thicker, so look for one that’s lightweight and nongreasy. It should be at least SPF 15. Also, you may not apply enough moisturizer to fully protect your skin from the sun. If you plan to spend a lot of time outside, be sure to apply sunscreen.
- Acne medication. Some moisturizers don’t just prevent acne; they treat it. These moisturizers may contain salicylic acid, tea tree oil, or benzoyl peroxide. Some formulas also have ingredients that control sebum production. Sebum comes from the sebaceous glands, which control your skin’s oil production. If you’re already using a topical acne medication, be very careful using a moisturizer with additional medication. The combination can cause irritation or drying and flaking. However, if you’re not using any extra topical treatments, a moisturizer with acne medication may be all you need to keep breakouts under control.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is moisturizer good for acne?
Acne-prone skin needs moisture just as much as dry or normal skin. In fact, it may need it more. Most people with acne wash their faces more often and use harsher products to control breakouts. Excessive drying may cause the skin to produce more oil, which contributes to more breakouts. For that reason, moisturizers are an important part of daily skincare. They help maintain the proper balance of hydration even if you’re treating acne.
Can moisturizers cause acne?
Yes, some moisturizers can cause acne. That’s why you want to look for a moisturizer that’s non-comedogenic because that means it won’t clog pores. You should also look for formulas that are water-based rather than oil-based since they’re less likely to contribute to acne.
How often do I need to apply moisturizer?
How often you apply moisturizer depends on your skincare routine. In general, you should moisturize your skin after you’ve washed it with soap or treated it with acne products. For some people, that will only be once a day. For others, it may be in the morning and at night. Anytime you strip your skin of moisture, you should reach for a skin moisturizer.
Do I need a moisturizer with acne medication in it?
Moisturizers with acne medication are helpful for some people. However, if you’re already using topical acne medications, another layer of medication may be too harsh for your skin and cause more breakouts. You have to take into account your other medications and how often you be applying the moisturizer. If you notice itching or worsening breakouts, reduce the number of times you use the moisturizer or try a different formula. Since everyone’s skin is different, one formula may work better for you than another.
Other Moisturizers for Acne We Reviewed
We looked at the 20 other moisturizers for acne. While these formulas didn’t make our 5 best moisturizers for acne list, they’re still excellent formulas that may be perfect for your skin. We’ve included the information you need to compare products with each listing.
- Anti-Aging Moisturizers for Acne
- Moisturizers for Acne with Sunscreen
- Moisturizers for Acne with Acne Medication
- Moisturizers for Acne for Sensitive Skin and/or Natural Ingredients
Anti-Aging Moisturizers for Acne
Acne knows no age limits. This formula tackles breakouts and wrinkles with a single cream.
- Exfoliates with mandelic acid
- Clears acne with salicylic acid
- Moisturizes for 24 hours
A cream that locks in moisture for a full eight hours is one that keeps skin looking young and fresh. This formula also battles acne for a clear complexion no matter your age.
- Contains organic green tea, ginseng, and rose water
- Maintains moisture in drying conditions
- Soothes irritated skin
Moisturizers for Acne with Sunscreen
Differin’s formula has micro pearl technology that soaks up oil while moisturizing and offering SPF 30 sun protection.
- Absorbs oil
- Contains technology that allows for less sunscreen with maximum protection
- Non-comedogenic and fragrance-free
Moisturizers for Acne with Acne Medication
This wonderfully light moisturizer contains salicylic acid to treat acne while giving the skin the nutrients it needs.
- Contains salicylic acid
- Made with a moisturizing soy complex
- Penetrates deep pores
Clean & Clear designed this formula to be used as part of their complete skin care treatment system. However, this moisturizer can be used alone to treat acne while maintaining the skin’s hydration.
- Contains salicylic acid
- Recommended for use with Clean & Clear cleanser and astringent
You opt for natural tea tree oil for acne treatment with this moisturizing formula.
- Treats rosacea
- Fights acne with tea tree oil and salicylic acid
- Contains naturally soothing ingredients like St. John’s wort, pomegranate seed oil, and aloe vera
Lauda packs a three-sided punch with a moisturizer that also mattifies and reduces pore size.
- Contains tea tree oil, St. John’s wort, witch hazel
- Controls sebum production
- Contains salicylic acid
Murad moisturizes, tones, and reduces pore size for a triple action skin lotion.
- Contains retinol and allantonin
- Calms inflammation
- Oil-free formula
Hyaluronic acid tones the skin, and niacinamide reduces pore size, while the rest of the ingredients reduce inflammation and moisturize.
- Rejuvenates the skin while hydrating
- Evens skin coloration
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Salicylic acid gives this moisturizer its deep acne-fighting power.
- Hydrates for a full 24 hours
- Reduces shine
- Can be used up to three times per day
Moisturizers for Acne for Sensitive Skin and/or Natural Ingredients
Acure’s moisturizer soaks up oil, leaving behind a smooth matte finish.
- Easily absorbs into the skin
- For normal to oily skin
- Moisturizes with argan oil
A 100 percent vegan formula treats acne while hydrating the skin.
- 100 percent vegan
- Doesn’t clog pores
Almost all of the ingredients in this formula, 99.5 percent, are natural. It still has salicylic acid to combat acne but offers a gentler, natural approach to breakouts.
- 99.5 percent natural ingredients
- Contains salicylic acid
- Designed to moisturize oily skin
Natural botanicals in this formula get to work, reducing shine and moisturizing dry skin.
- Bamboo extra absorbs oil
- Mattifies the skin
- Softens as it moisturizes
This moisturizer creates a barrier that protects the skin from bacteria to prevent acne. It’s also designed to reduce acne-related inflammation.
- Botanical based formula
- Designed for oily, combo, and sensitive skin
- Contains hydrating avocado oil and aloe vera
Tea tree oil offers a natural treatment for acne-prone skin. This one also moisturizes into the deepest skin layers.
- Contains 5 percent tea tree oil
- Nourishes skin with ceramides
- Gentle enough for sensitive skin
Sensitive skin gets breakouts and needs moisture, too. This formula caters to those who need a gentle formula.
- Non-comedogenic and lightweight
- Alcohol, fragrance, and dye-free
Soothing ingredients like vitamin E and aloe allow this formula to calm red, irritated skin.
- Controls sebum production
- Treats rosacea and acne
- Free of parabens and sulfates
Sensitive skin needs a formula that’s free of alcohol and harsh chemicals. Solimo fits the bill and moisturizes the driest of skin.
- Won’t clog pores
- Alcohol and paraben-free
With a name that includes tomatoes, it’s easy to remember this formula that’s packed with natural ingredients. It’s not 100 percent natural, but it’s pretty close.
- Contains watermelon, tomato, and almond extracts
- Absorbs sebum
- Free of parabens, SLS, and silicone