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How to moisturize oily skin (and how not to)

There is an advantage to oily skin: it seems to age more slowly than dry skin.

Myth: Moisturizers Make Acne Worse in Patients With Oily Skin

Not true: moisturizers can help with retinoid or salicylic acid treatments, alleviate dryness, and make the skin feel more comfortable.

Moisturizers for oily skin

Oily skin may need moisturizing; just make sure that you use the right products and don’t add “bad” oils to already oily skin.  A light moisturizer can also help protect your skin after washing and make-up for a “breached” skin barrier.

Go for a lotion rather than a cream. Lotions are a water/oil emulsion and contain more water than creams do, are easier to apply, and are less likely to aggravate acne-prone skin. Choose a lightweight, water-based product that’s labeled oil-free. A light lotion won’t clog pores; use a lotion or serum that contains useful actives (two birds with one stone kind of product). For example, try using sunscreen instead of just a moisturizer, or a serum that will decrease sebum production, like our T-zone serum.

What you want is water, not more oils.

What not to use

  • Alcohols like ethanol or isopropanol, remove sebum but stimulate the production of more sebum. They also dehydrate the skin.
  • Petrolatum and other occlusive ingredients will contribute to pore obstruction and promote acne because acne bacteria do better in an anaerobic environment.
  • Avoid the combination “heat plus high humidity”, like a hot kitchen.
  • Don’t feed the acne bacteria with cocoa butter or coconut oil.
  • If you are going to use an oil, try to get one rich in  linoleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory capabilities
  • Don’t wash your face with soap, alkaline pH will hurt your skin
  • Don’t use products containing irritating essential oils or fragrances

OK to use

  • Glycerin (glycerol)
  • Hyaluronic acid and other jellifying polymers
  • Sea kelp bioferment is a gel that helps control acne
  • Moisturizers will hydrate and protect the skin, and carry (and deliver) useful actives, like sunscreen
  • Silicones like dimethicone are OK, reducing transepidermal loss, making the skin more comfortable, and making it less shiny
  • Anti-inflammatory, soothing, antibacterials, sebum-suppressing actives like those in Skin Actives clarifying products.


Claims on this page have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.

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