13 of the Best Skincare Products for Acne

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

02.15.22DISCLAIMER

While there are copious over-the-counter and prescription treatment products to keep acne under control, sometimes what’s not in abundance is education. Just because you’re targeting breakouts doesn’t mean you should neglect the rest of your skin’s needs — that’s why a solid skincare routine with the best moisturizer for acne is so important. While it may not seem logical to use a moisturizer, it’s vital if you want to achieve a balanced, healthy, and acne-free complexion.

The best moisturizer for acne-prone skin should also be a non-comedogenic moisturizer, meaning it won’t clog your pores. It’s not uncommon for pustules, pimples, and nodules to become red and inflamed. In this case, you need a moisturizer for sensitive, acne-prone skin. The best cream for acne balances oil production and helps counteract any dryness from potent treatment products.

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

Suppose you’re not sure what to look for in a good moisturizer for acne, not to worry. Here at Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of skincare brands with a scientific lens to ensure they’re both safe and effective.

Whether you’re on the hunt for a moisturizer for acne scars or a more standard acne-prone moisturizer, here are 12 of our top picks. 

Best Moisturizer for Acne: The List 

BEST OVERALL
Best Overall: Carrot & Stick The Acne Spot Treatment, $50

FULL LIST
Best Moisturizer for Dry Acne-Prone Skin:
Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel, $44

Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Acne-Prone Skin: Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream, $39

Best Drugstore Moisturizer for Acne: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, $12.99

Best Moisturizer with SPF for Acne-Prone Skin: Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer with Sunscreen, $9.59

Best Moisturizer for Acne Scars: MDacne Retinol Treatment Cream, $24.95

Best Moisturizer for Combination Acne-Prone Skin: boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer, $50

Best French Pharmacy Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Anti-Shine Face Moisturizer for Oily Skin, $32

Best Moisturizer for Oily Acne-Prone Skin: GLAMGLOW’s SUPER WATER GEL, $56

Best Night Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: iS Clinical Firming Complex, $130

Best Moisturizer for Hormonal Acne: Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Matte Moisturizer, $38

Best Moisturizer for Blackheads: Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer, $38

Best Vegan Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: bioClarity Hydrate Skin Smoothie, $19.95

The Science Behind the Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin

Whether your acne came out of the blue in your 40s or it’s a chronic condition that’s been following you since your teen years, chances are you’ve been using topical therapies formulated with potent ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids — maybe even an oral medication prescribed by your doctor. While these are all effective acne treatments, they don’t come without dry skin, photosensitivity, and irritation.

Research has found that dryness or skin irritation may cause barrier disruption of the stratum corneum leading to increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and production of inflammation. With that said, many skincare experts recommend using a moisturizer as an adjunctive acne treatment. Evidence suggests that moisturizers can contribute independently to improving signs and symptoms of acne.

 

The Importance of Moisturizing Acne-Prone Skin

When the skin becomes overly dry and stripped of its natural oils, it produces more oil to compensate for the loss. This extra oil clogs the pores and leads to additional breakouts. A non-comedogenic moisturizer can help your skin tolerate these harsh ingredients while keeping your skin balanced because it acts as a protective barrier.

A good moisturizer for acne can also increase cell turnover, soften the signs of aging, and reduce inflammation associated with breakouts. However, if using an acne-prone moisturizer seems to be doing more harm than good, you may want to consider speaking to a dermatologist who can help you establish the proper acne treatment routine — including the best cream for acne. 

What to Look for in the Best Moisturizer for Acne

To prevent a moisturizer from causing breakouts, look for one with the words “oil-free” or “non-comedogenic,” which means it won’t clog your pores, leading to acne breakouts.

  • Avoid ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, coconut oil, fragrance, isopropyl myristate, and petrolatum.
  • Just because you’re shopping for a moisturizer doesn’t mean you have to avoid acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, sulfur, and azelaic acid.
  • You’ll also want a formula with humectants, water-based, non-occlusive moisturizers (think hyaluronic acid and glycerin) to help draw water into the skin and keep it moisturized.
  • If you require a moisturizer for acne scars, look for additional ingredients like rosehip oil, vitamin C, lactic acid, niacinamide, and azelaic acid.
  • Don’t be afraid to use an acne-prone moisturizer with zinc oxide sun protection during the day, as it will not cause additional breakouts. Not to mention, topical acne treatments make the skin more sun-sensitive, so you must be wearing a minimum of an SPF 30 each day.
  • Lastly, since acne is often associated with inflammation, look for ingredients with soothing, anti-inflammatory properties such as green tea and chamomile extracts, tea tree oil, purslane, Chinese rhubarb, Baikal skullcap, and Indian chrysanthemum, among others.

Best Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin

BEST OVERALL
Carrot & Stick The Acne Spot Treatment, $50
A potent, yet gentle treatment serum targets blemishes. Formulated with 2% blemish-fighting Salicylic Acid along with soothing and redness-reducing Chamomile Flower and Green Tea Leaf Extract. This topical treatment serum will reduce the appearance of redness and inflammation while it gently exfoliates the area, whisking away dirt and bacteria.

FULL LIST
Best Moisturizer for Dry Acne-Prone Skin:
Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel, $44
Yes, oily, acne-prone skin can also be plagued with dryness, but this moisturizer for acne targets both concerns. Hyaluronic acid deeply hydrates while salicylic acid exfoliates and refines pores for a balanced, non-greasy finish. Korean red pine extract helps stop quorum sensing, a process known to cause microbiome imbalance and irritation.

Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Acne-Prone Skin: Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream, $39
This soothing, lightweight moisturizer provides lasting hydration without clogging pores. Since the combination can also be sensitive due to inflamed acne lesions or dry, irritated patches on the cheeks, banana, chia seed, magnesium, turmeric, and cica help calm any redness irritation. It’s genuinely a non-comedogenic moisturizer that’s suitable for all skin types, though it’s a relief for those struggling to treat oiliness and dryness simultaneously.

Best Drugstore Moisturizer for Acne: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion, $12.99
This lightweight moisturizer for acne hydrates the skin while restoring its natural barrier, thanks to key ingredients such as glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid. The formula is non-comedogenic, which means you can use it on your face and body.

Best Acne Moisturizer with SPF: Neutrogena Moisturizer with Sunscreen, $9.59
When you have acne, it can be tricky to find a sunscreen that won’t exacerbate breakouts. However, this moisturizer with SPF 15 is lightweight, non-comedogenic, and alcohol-free, so it won’t irritate inflamed, acne-prone skin or encourage new pimples from forming.

Best Moisturizer for Acne Scars: MDacne Retinol Treatment Cream, $24.95
This high-strength 0.5% retinol treatment for acne unclogs pores, prevents blemishes, and reduces fine wrinkles without over-drying the skin. The formula also includes 4% niacinamide, the amide form of vitamin B3 known to reduce inflammation, increase hydration, improve skin texture, and help fade post-acne dark spots.

Best Moisturizer for Combination Acne-Prone Skin: boscia Cactus Water Moisturizer, $50
It can be challenging to manage oily, acne-prone skin when other areas of your face feel tight and dehydrated — that’s where this ultra-lightweight, fast-absorbing moisturizer comes into play.

This non-comedogenic moisturizer provides ample hydration for soft and smooth skin without clogging pores or aggravating acne. It doubles as an excellent primer before makeup application and feels even more refreshing when stored in the fridge.

Best French Pharmacy Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Anti-Shine Face Moisturizer for Oily Skin, $32
The most appealing aspect of this oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer is that perlite and silica leave a light matte finish, banishing that mid-day T-zone shine.

The brand’s Sebulyse Technology (said to be more potent than zinc) is responsible for mattifying excess oil while visibly reducing large pores’ appearance. Lipo-hydroxy acid, is a gentle derivative of salicylic acid that helps treat acne while preventing further breakouts.

Best Moisturizer for Oily Acne-Prone Skin: GLAMGLOW’s SUPER WATER GEL, $56
If you love GLAMGLOW’s incredible results-driven masks, then you’ll surely be impressed by the latest moisturizer to join their lineup. This moisturizer is what every person with oily skin who is also experiencing acne breakouts needs.

The formula releases the brand’s signature blend of salicylic, glycolic, and pyruvic acids to effectively control oil and fight breakouts throughout the day but without any irritation. The addition of hyaluronic acid helps hydrate and balance the skin’s natural oils without the risk of clogging pores.

Best Night Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: iS Clinical Firming Complex, $130
Lighter than a cream but heavier than a serum, this nighttime formula is ideal for oily, acneic skin. Fruit acids — natural alternatives to alpha and beta hydroxy acids — resurface the skin, improving texture, tone, and pore size while reducing inflammation at the same time. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 deeply hydrate and replenish the skin, while powerful antioxidants promote wound healing.

Best Moisturizer for Hormonal Acne: Peter Thomas Roth Acne-Clear Matte Moisturizer, $38
Hormonal breakouts are tricky. It’s unpredictable, and it can often be associated with painful cystic acne that forms under the skin along the chin, jawline, and cheeks. Even so, the skin still needs ample hydration to soothe the look of dry, flaky, overly treated acne-prone skin. This matte gel moisturizer harnesses the power of 2% salicylic acid to help clear acne blemishes and prevent future breakouts.

Best Moisturizer for Blackheads: Origins Clear Improvement Pore Clearing Moisturizer, $38
Formulated with 1% salicylic acid, a powerful beta hydroxy acid with incredible pore declogging properties, this moisturizer helps prevent breakouts before they occur. It’s also formulated with bamboo charcoal, a highly absorbent ingredient that helps keep the pores clear.

Best Vegan Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: bioClarity Hydrate Skin Smoothie, $19.95
Normal, combination or mildly dry acneic skin types can benefit from this lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that softens and hydrates without excessive oiliness or stickiness. Key ingredients 

include shea butter, Floralux (the brand’s proprietary ingredient), jojoba seed oil, argan oil, and ceramides. The formula is vegan and fragrance-free so that it won’t irritate breakouts. 

Best Moisturizer for Acne: The Bottom Line

What’s the Best Skincare Product for Acne treatment? Overall, we suggest Carrot & Stick The Acne Spot Treatment.

While there are copious over-the-counter and prescription treatment products to keep acne under control, sometimes what’s not in abundance is education. Just because you’re targeting breakouts doesn’t mean you should neglect the rest of your skin’s needs.

While it may not seem logical to use a moisturizer, it’s vital if you want to achieve a balanced, healthy, and acne-free complexion. It’s precisely what you need if you’re treating your acne with products that contain drying, irritating ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or a prescription treatment for severe acne.

The best moisturizer for acne-prone skin should also be a non-comedogenic moisturizer, meaning it won’t clog your pores. It’s not uncommon for pustules, pimples, and nodules to become red and inflamed. In this case, you need a moisturizer for sensitive, acne-prone skin. The best cream for acne balances oil production and helps counteract any dryness from potent treatment products.

What’s the best moisturizer for acne, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

 

FAQs
One of the main issues with acne is inflammation, so it’s no surprise that most acne improves when it’s calmed down. With that said, moisturizing is helpful providing you’re using a non-comedogenic formula that fits into an acne treatment regimen.
Yes, you can moisturize your skin even if you have active acne. It’s a myth that moisturizing your face will worsen your condition. As noted several times in this article, a good moisturizer for acne helps keep the skin hydrated and free from inflammation.

Excessively over-moisturizing your skin can cause acne — especially if you’re using a formula that’s not non-comedogenic. What happens is that your skin will absorb what it needs to moisturize your skin. The remaining product sits on the surface of your skin and forms a thin layer of oil, bacteria, and other impurities, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.If you use the best moisturizer for acne and don’t overdo it, you’re more likely to be successful in keeping pimples and inflammation at bay.

As you already know, clogged hair follicles cause acne — but dry skin can be the cause of an excess buildup of dead skin cells that clog pores and start the vicious acne cycle. Additionally, dry skin makes your pores more likely to break open, inviting acne-causing bacteria deeper into the skin.
Aloe vera has antibacterial properties that can help control and reduce acne-causing bacteria. Combine it with honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you’ve got yourself an easy DIY at-home spot treatment or acne mask.

Sources:
Physiology and Functions of the Sebaceous Gland,” Bioalternatives.
Moisturizers for Acne,” U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 

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