What Is the Best Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin?

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A woman touching her face with the title "What Is the Best Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin?"

The combination of moisturizers and acne can be a touchy subject. It took me years to figure out what worked well for my skin, and choosing the wrong moisturizer can make acne even worse. If you are in search of the best moisturizer for acne prone skin, you’re in the right place.

We’re going to cover how to find the right cream for your face, plus when and how to use it. Since high quality moisturizers can cost big bucks, it’s crucial that you do a little research before spending your hard-earned cash on a product that doesn’t live up to the hype.

My Skin Is Oily, Do I Still Need a Moisturizer?

If you have oily skin (which most of us with acne do, at least in patches) you may think you don’t need a moisturizer. That’s not necessarily the case.

Leaving a top-notch moisturizer out of your skin care regimen is not a good idea. Even oily skin needs to be moisturized. (source) In fact, if you’re using topical acne treatments, it may be even more important.

Common acne treatments like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can cause excessive dryness, redness, and flaky skin. (source) Aside from making skin tight and uncomfortable, these skin afflictions can cause inflammation just like any other skin damage.

Since acne is linked with inflammation in the first place, it makes sense that eliminating additional inflammation caused by OTC and prescription topical medications may help your skin feel better. I wish I would have realized this when topical acne gel dried my face out but I was scared of extra moisture!

Could Moisturizer Make Acne Worse?

If you don’t use a moisturizer made especially for acne prone skin, it just might. Many moisturizers contain ingredients that may clog pores, which is one of the causes of acne. Some moisturizers may also contain harsh ingredients that can do more harm than good if you have acne prone skin.If you choose wisely, though, a moisturizer will improve the look and feel of your skin, even if you suffer from acne.

How Do Moisturizers Work?

Moisturizers use a combination of different ingredients that are separated into classes by their function. We will discuss humectants and emollients here, as they are present in almost all moisturizers. Another other common components are occlusives, which create a protective barrier.

Humectants draw and help retain moisture in the stratum corneum (the outer layer of skin that contains moisture and protects the body from outside influences). Some examples of humectants include glycerin, alpha hydroxy acids, and sugars.

Emollients help to smooth skin by filling in the tiny crevasses in skin and helping removed flakes of skin, creating a softer, smoother surface. A moisturizer that balances these types of ingredients is ideal. (source)

Picking the Best Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin

This is where things get tricky. Just because a moisturizer says that it’s oil-free or great for acne sufferers doesn’t mean that it is. Even the label non-comedogenic (which means does not cause acne) means very little.

This is because over the counter skincare products like moisturizers are not highly regulated. Any claims made by a health and beauty company are subject to suspicion. They can say almost anything they want about their product in order to market it, with little repercussion.

They are, however, required to list their ingredients. Knowing what moisturizer ingredients can help acne and which may hurt your skin is the best way to make sure you’re getting a quality product. I’ll cover some ingredients to avoid and some to look for when selecting a product next.

What Moisturizer Ingredients are Bad for Acne Prone Skin?

Here’s a link to a list of common moisturizer ingredients and their rating on the comedogenic scale. The comedogenic scale is a good guide to determine if an ingredient can cause or worsen acne. You might consider checking each ingredient against this scale when shopping for the perfect moisturizer.

One thing that should be mentioned is that the first ingredients on the label are contained in the highest quantities, while the last ingredients are likely contained in negligible amounts. The first several ingredients are the ones you should be paying closest attention to in this case.

Common ingredients to avoid include mineral oil, cocoa butter, lanolin, many pigments, and fragrances.

Moisturizing Ingredients Which are Good for Acne Sufferers

Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are both lightweight, non-comedogenic bases that are common in moisturizers made for people with acne. If you’re looking for a more natural alternative, lotions or creams containing jojoba oil and argan oil rate zero on the comedogenic scale.

A moisturizer with anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe or green tea is ideal as well. Knocking down inflammation will not only help acne heal, but it can also help eliminate some of the unpleasant skin side effects common of acne medications.

Choosing a moisturizer with SPF (sun protection factor) is also a good idea. Many over the counter and prescription acne medications, both oral and topical, can cause photosensitivity. This sensitivity to light can cause you to sunburn easier, so always wear a moisturizer with SPF.

The Last Word on Moisturizers for Acne

For me, the Serumtologie Whipped Chiffon moisturizer is the overall winner. As far as effectiveness and quality of ingredients go, it wins hands down. The product is effective for all skin types (great for those of us with combination skin) and doesn’t promote breakouts.

However, if you’re looking for something a little more reasonably priced as opposed to a more natural product, Cetaphil is a great pick. If you find it bothers your eyes, you might opt for a similar Cetaphil without sunscreen.

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