We Ask a Derm: What Is the Best Moisturizer for Acne?

When it comes to treating acne, most of us have the impulse to eradicate all traces of oil from our faces. And while having too much oil can certainly contribute to clogged pores, not having enough can cause further inflammation—especially since “acne medications like retinoids can be very drying,” explains Dr. Shari Marchbein, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University. “It’s especially important for people with acne-prone or oily skin to moisturize and protect their skin barrier function.”

To that end, Marchbein recommends looking for a moisturizer with deeply hydrating ingredients such as ceramides, glycerin, shea butter, petrolatum, dimethicone and hyaluronic acid. It should also be oil free and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores).

Don’t have time to scan the aisles? We’ll take you through Marchbein’s top picks for moisturizers that won’t break you out (or break the bank).

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Pond's Clarant B3 Even Skin Tone Daily Moisturizer With Broad Spectrum Spf 30

“Some acne medications can increase your sensitivity to the sun, so I always advise my patients to protect their skin every morning—even in the winter,” says Marchbein. “This moisturizer does double-duty by protecting with a broad spectrum of SPF 30 and minimizing any dark spots that are left over from previous breakouts.”

best moisturizer for acne cerave

Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion Am Spf 30

Another go-to morning moisturizer for Marchbein? This lightweight lotion from CeraVe, which has three essential ceramides to support the all-important skin barrier, as well as hyaluronic acid and microfine zinc oxide to protect your skin.

$14 at Amazon

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Simple Skincare Water Boost Hydrating Gel Cream

Whereas daytime is all about protecting your skin, “nighttime is all about repairing it,” explains Marchbein. This gel formula is rich in hydrating ingredients but doesn’t feel greasy or sticky on your skin. Pat it on as the last step of your bedtime routine (or before retinol to prevent future flaking).

Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream

For something that’s a bit thicker, Marchein recommends Vanicream because it contains ”various humectants and emollients that are especially effective at keeping your skin hydrated during the colder winter months.” (It’s so effective, in fact, that it has a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association.)

Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2

And finally, if you can afford to splurge a bit, this luxe cream is the perfect companion to a more rigorous acne regimen. (Think: Prescription retinoids or Accutane.) Packed with ceramides and fatty acids, it replenishes dry or compromised skin with the lipids it needs to stay supple and smooth.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023
Jenny Jin

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...
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