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Finding a Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin

According to the American Association of Dermatology, 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience some amount of acne, while 15% of adult women deal with breakouts well into middle age. 

It’s super common ladies, and if you count yourself among those of us dealing with acne beyond your teen years, I’d venture you probably find it difficult to moisturize properly too. This shouldn't come as a surprise since many of the most popular moisturizing products were developed with average-to-dry faces in mind, not oily, acne-prone skin. 

Simply put, the best moisturizers for acne prone skin are those that nourish without clogging pores or causing inflammation. Here's some vital information to help you find them.

The Basics

Acne is the skin's response to a buildup of oil, bacteria or other debris. This buildup causes irritation, inflammation and visible, unsightly bumps that can make you feel like the center of unwanted attention. Acne is influenced significantly by several factors:

  • Skin type
  • Certain medications
  • Hormones
  • Stress
  • Diet

If you’re experiencing acne for the first time, you may want to determine whether these common causes are responsible for your particular problem before beginning a new skincare regimen.

Reasons To Moisturize

Moisturizing is an important and necessary part of your daily skincare routine. While people with oily skin often believe that moisturizing is unnecessary or even harmful to their skin, the right solutions can actually reduce oiliness and breakouts. 

Another common misconception is that moisturizing can dry your skin by causing a dependency in which your skin no longer produces its own moisture. This is a myth. No matter who you are, moisturizing can help protect your skin's natural barriers and prevent the appearance of cracks and wrinkles over time.

Facts About Oils and Acids

Almost every substance under the sun has been prescribed for skincare at some point, but a few ingredients have become staples in skincare moisturizers…for the right reasons.


Because oil is often responsible for acne, it’s natural to assume that you should avoid skin products that contain oils as major ingredients. Oils, however, comprise a large group of compounds that are not all created equally. In some cases, acne can be caused by a lack of essential omega-3 oils. True omega-3 oils are easily absorbed by the skin and can be integrated into the skin's protective outer barrier.

Coconut Oil

Though coconut oil has recently been prescribed for a litany of cosmetic issues from limp hair to dry skin, it can clog pores and worsen acne. Strangely, even though alcohols are often bad for your skin, coconut alcohol is a helpful emulsifier that may improve acne and blemishes.

Vitamin C

Many products advertise vitamin C as a crucial ingredient for clearing blemishes. You should be careful, however, when using products that contain vitamin C. A high concentration can essentially burn your face. Always use low concentrations of vitamin C and avoid products that contain both retinol and vitamin C.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is an oil-soluble substance derived from willow bark that’s used in many acne products. Because it effectively cuts through oils, it can eliminate dead skin, resulting in a clearer complexion. If you’re just beginning a new skincare routine, wait a couple of weeks before using a product containing salicylic acid. This gives your skin time to adjust to its new treatment.

What To Avoid

Comedogenic Products

Those blessed with easy-care skin can get away with just about anything, but for those of us with easily blocked pores and acne-prone skin, product selection requires a little more thought. You’ve probably seen the term "non-comedogenic" on a skincare product container. The term itself does a poor job of indicating exactly what it means, but a non-comedogenic skincare product is simply one that doesn't cause clogged pores. 

While the best moisturizers for acne prone skin won't clog pores, there are many moisturizing products on the market that contain coconut oils and other ingredients that worsen acne. Broadly, these include:

  • Alcohols
  • Lanolins
  • Cocoa butter
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Carrageenan
  • Algae
  • Various oils

What To Look For

Easily Absorbed Vitamins and Minerals

Your skin is a porous surface that can absorb certain vitamins, contributing to your overall health and maintaining radiance. The minerals found in clay have long been associated with improved skin tone. Vitamins C, E, A, B and K, and ingredients with antioxidants such as green tea, are all generally easy for your skin to work with when used in proper volumes.

These are some oils you can likely feel comfortable using for moisturizing:

  • Meadowfoam seed oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Rosehip oil
  • Sea buckthorn

Sun Protection

Chronic sun exposure can cause drying and aging that negatively affect your skin's appearance. Products that have sun protection, or SPF, can guard against premature aging and sun damage. Further, certain oral acne medications increase your sensitivity to sunlight, so using SPF when taking these medications is vital.


If you’ve tried a new product and it isn't working, don't assume that you’re to blame. Although some products can take time to work, skincare almost always requires a bit of trial and error. Don't be afraid to try something else if you don't notice a difference in your skin after a few weeks.

In Short, Do What Works for You

In the same way various diets or medications work differently for individual people, skincare routines should be tailored to your personal needs. It's easy to find lists online of substances branded as miracles for skincare. Sometimes these ingredients work well, and other times, they can make problems worse.

Finding the best moisturizers for acne prone skin is complicated, and knowing what ingredients are likely to help while avoiding those that won't work requires quite a bit of background knowledge. 

Nava MD understands skincare. We also know that skincare is a personalized business, and that what works for others may not work for you. If you’re frustrated with the process of finding a moisturizer that doesn't aggravate your acne-prone skin, try a professional consultation with one of our skincare experts. After you complete your comprehensive questionnaire, you can review your customized treatment plan with a clinician before receiving your treatment by mail. It’s like a dermatology visit online

Start your visit today.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency