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How to Choose the Best Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin

How to Choose the Best Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin

Moisturizer is an essential step in any skincare routine. The right lotion can prevent dryness and provide nourishment to create smooth, supple, and elastic skin that looks and feels great. While it might seem counterintuitive, moisturizer is just as important for those prone to acne. However, it’s all too easy to choose face lotions that are too greasy or pore-clogging, which can then exacerbate breakouts. Read on to learn how to choose the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin, some specific ingredients to look for, and what to avoid.

Know Your Skin Type

Acne Prone Oily Skin – If you have oily skin it is important moisturize even if it may seem counterintuitive. Skipping this important step in your routine may leave your skin dry and irritated. Having dry skin increases sebum production and may lead to more breakouts.

Using acne treatments and products like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinol may further dry and irritate the skin. If you are using any of these products then incorporating a moisturizer into your routine is essential.

Acne Prone Dry Skin – Even with excessive sebum production, people with acne may still struggle with dry skin, which is a common consequence of over washing or from a side effect of an acne medications such as accutane.

With lack of hydration, the skin can’t function as a barrier. It injures more easily which results in an immune response and inflammation. A weakened skin barrier allows bacteria and debris to enter the skin which may lead to acne breakouts.  Therefore, it is imperative to include a good moisturizer into the skincare routine.

Acne Prone Combination Skin – For the most part, the nose, chin and forehead are oilier because these areas have more active oil glands. Consequently, these areas are more prone to breakouts. Even so, the cheeks may have less oil glands and tend to dry out and become flaky.

As we discussed above it is important to moisturize both dry and oily parts of the face to keep the skin barrier healthy and functional. Doing so will result in clearer and more youthful looking skin.

Ingredients to Look for in a Face Moisturizer for Acne

A moisturizer for acne prone skin will come with a wide range of different ingredients aimed at nourishing your skin. Here are some of the most effective ingredients.

Oat Amino Acids

Oat amino acids are amino acids derived from oat protein. Amino acids are used to produce proteins including ones that are integral to your skin’s health. Proteins make up the skin barrier which helps the skin retain existing moisture and stay hydrated. Amino acids are also used to produce collagen which helps to ensure full and plump skin.

Oat Emollient

Emollients are topical creams and ointments that are formulated to soften skin and reduce inflammation. Oat emollient is commonly prescribed as an effective treatment for atopic and contact dermatitis.2 The composition of oat emollient may also make it effective as an ingredient in moisturizer for dry acne-prone skin. The rich beta-glucans and starches may help to hold in moisture to hydrate the face and improve barrier functions.3

Sunflower Seed Oil

Sunflower seed oil is highly absorbent, gentle, and non-irritating for most people, which makes it versatile for all skin types. Sunflower seed oil is naturally rich in antioxidants and linoleic acid, which supports natural moisture retention and offers a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect.4

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring molecule in your skin. Studies suggest that it is one of the key molecules involved in maintaining skin moisture and reducing signs of skin aging. It is a sugar that binds water to collagen, resulting in skin that appears plump, dewy, and well hydrated.5 Unfortunately, you produce less hyaluronic acid as you age, but the molecule is available in topical serums and supplement form. When applied in a serum or moisturizer for oily, acne-prone skin, hyaluronic acid essentially attracts water to the skin and locks in moisture to provide a softer, smoother look.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera moisturizer for acne works through several mechanisms to support blemish-free skin. Aloe vera helps to bind moisture to the skin and stimulates fibroblasts, the cells responsible for producing collagen and elastin fibers, both of which improve skin’s elasticity to prevent the appearance of wrinkles. Aloe vera also contains amino acids to support skin structure and the essential vitamin zinc. Aloe vera has inherent antiseptic properties, which may help to eliminate acne-causing bacteria.6


Panthenol is a derivative of pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5. Studies have found that panthenol supports skin moisture by reducing transepidermal water loss. These effects were most prominent with formulations containing a 1% concentration of panthenol.7


A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is a water-soluble vitamin that is believed to provide a variety of skincare benefits, from preventing acne to treating rosacea. Studies suggest that these effects come as a result of niacinamide’s role in hydrogen transfer. Topically using niacinamide has been shown to increase keratin synthesis, improve moisture retention, and reduce water loss. It has also been shown to have potential anti-inflammatory properties while improving skin barrier functions.8


Studies have found that N-acetylglucosamine contributes to an increase in skin moisturization and a decrease in skin flakiness, suggesting that it may be a better alternative to alpha and beta hydroxy acids.9 Other studies have found that N-acetylglucosamine may effectively reduce redness, dark spots, and other signs of hyperpigmentation.10 N-acetyglucosamine may also provide significant acne-reducing potential while enhancing the effects of conventional prescription and over-the-counter acne treatments.11


An extract of the comfrey plant, allantoin has been shown in studies to possess powerful skin healing properties.12 It may also possess antimicrobial effects and keratolytic activity, which promotes cell turnover to maintain smooth skin and unclogged pores.13

Additional Tips

Along with the natural ingredients above, here are some general tips for finding the best moisturizer for acne-prone skin.


The main word you want to look for in a moisturizer (and any acne product) is “noncomedogenic.” This means that the product does not contain ingredients that are known to clog pores or cause comedones (acne). Products are rated based on a comedogenicity scale, which ranges from 0 to 5. The higher the number, the higher the risk of clogging your pores. Ingredients rated 2 and below are considered noncomedogenic.14

Understand Your Skin Type

Even if the label reads “noncomedogenic,” you may still end up with some acne. Everyone’s skin is different and can react to products in different ways. Understanding your skin type can help to inform the types of products you use on it. Skin can generally be broken down into normal, oily, dry, combination, and sensitive skin types. You may be using a face lotion for oily skin when you actually need a moisturizer for sensitive, acne-prone skin. You may be able to discern your skin type just from experience, but it may help to visit a dermatologist or skin care professional to understand your skin better.

Avoid Most Additives

You generally want to avoid any additive ingredients, as they may contribute to irritation. Avoid scented moisturizers as well as any products containing alcohol, as alcohol is known to dry out the skin.

Moisturizer protects your natural skin barrier, reduces signs of aging, and prevents that uncomfortable, tight feeling. Finding the right moisturizer can take some trial and error but knowing what ingredients to look for and what to check for on the label gives you an excellent place to start.