One of the worst mistakes I ever made when dealing with my acne-prone skin was skipping moisturiser. The second was thinking that an alcohol-based toner was the best acne treatment. I was wrong, on both counts.
Here’s the thing: a good skincare routine for acne will definitely include a moisturiser. All the types of acne benefit from it, and even if you have a particularly violent patch you’re covering with acne patches or a spot treatment, you still want to moisturise, regularly.
I learned this the hard way. Not moisturising compounded my acne - my skin suffered from excessive trans-epidermal water loss, leaving it dehydrated and entirely out of whack. The acne got worst and the clear patches didn’t look so great, either; they were dry, and a bit flat looking.
I introduced moisturiser when a facialist heavily advised I do so, and I’ve not looked back. Now, my routine includes serum and moisturiser every day - and my skin’s never looked better. The truth is, once you've found the best acne face wash and used all of the best spot treatments (whether that be retinol for acne or even tea tree oil for acne), you need to follow up with a great moisturiser. And take this as your sign to also start looking for the best sunscreen for acne-prone skin, while you're at it.
Why should people who suffer from acne use a moisturiser?
"A common misconception is that acne-prone skin doesn't need moisturiser, however, dehydration and acne can co-exist on the skin. Instead of skipping the moisture altogether, gravitate towards lighter lotions with ingredients focused on barrier repair which is integral for acne-prone skin."
Which ingredients are especially helpful to reduce redness without clogging pores?
"There are a few ingredients that can combat redness without being comedogenic; I suggest Niacinamide, Q10 and Vitamin B5. Q10 specifically is a powerful ingredient which refills the skins energy supply and maximises the natural cycle of repair and regeneration."
What about applying moisturiser to areas of active acne?
"It really depends on the severity of the acne. I would generally advise using a very light layer of moisturiser on acneic areas, particularly if the breakouts are more severe. That said, if you are using anti-acne treatments/prescriptive topicals in your routine, you may find that such products are moisturising alone, as some acne treatments are often combined with nourishing bases such as stearic acid."
The Best Moisturisers for Acne Prone Skin
As someone who's had a long 20 years to test skincare on my acne-prone skin, I've got a very good instinct for what's going to make my skin break out, or soothe it.
That said, what works for me might not work for you, and different ingredients of course don't agree with different skin types.
There is, however, overlap - certain ingredients which reduce inflammation universally, or slough off dead skin gently to help reduce blockages.
Everything below contains ingredients which reduce inflammation or acne, and which have made my skin calmer and clearer.
Best moisturiser for acne prone skin which is also very oily
This is a clever moisturiser, containing magnifying silica powder to keep sheen at bay, while plant squalene hydrates and soothes, and polyphenols act as antioxidants to mop up free radicals (you don't want these knocking around - they break down collagen and make skin prematurely aged).
- Doesn't leave grease on skin
- Perfect under SPF
- Won't hydrate drier skin
- You might find it 'disappears' into skin quite quickly
Best moisturiser for acne prone skin which is also very red
Antibacterial tea tree is blended with very soothing and calming mania honey and propolis in this really lightweight cream, so you basically get something which helps to keep skin clear but which also really reduces irritation, and keeps redness at a minimum.
- Very soothing
- Properly hydrates skin
- The pot means you must use clean fingers or the spatula to remove
- Might overwhelm very greasy skin
Best moisturiser for acne prone skin if you hate the sensation of product on your skin
There's little worse than loading moisturiser on when your skin feels a bit sweaty, either because it's hot or your skin just leans that way. Equally, if you like your skin not to be tacky or feel overloaded, moisturiser might feel counterintuitive.
Enter this one by Dr Sam Bunting. It's lightweight and feels like a cooling gel when you slide it on, before sinking into skin quickly.
- Doesn't irritate skin
- The texture is cooling and soothing on application
- Won't hydrate drier skin
Best moisturiser for acne prone skin if you also want some firming action
Dr Ewoma told me to try this one, so I took it for a whirl and was really impressed - plenty of hydration, but zero spots triggered.
Here's what she had to say: "The NIVEA Q10 Power Anti-Wrinkle Protecting Day Cream SPF 30 in particular helps to moisturise skin whilst replenishing skins energy stores to help neutralise damage from the day. It also has added SPF 30 to protect the skin against damaging UV rays, which can sometimes worsen acne scarring."
Bear in mind that this one contains SPF so is only suitable for daytime use.
- Hydrating and firming
- It's really affordable
- There's a hint of SPF to protect
- The SPF means it's not ideal for night time application
- The SPF is only factor 15 so you will need to add a separate one for full protection
Best moisturiser for acne prone skin if your skin looks dull
This is the one I grab if my skin looks tired and a bit grey - it's hydrating and makes the skin feel very cosseted, but the idea is that it nourishes while also allowing oxygen to circulate through it.
In practise, that means skin feels hydrated and comforted but I noticed definitely more glowing over time.
- The texture is pleasingly lightweight but hydrating
- It brightens skin when on
- Might not be ideal for very sensitive skin
Best all rounder moisturiser for acne prone skin
I have turned to this gel moisturiser countless times when my skin was in a real state, and it works its magic every time. I was introduced to it by the Clinical Aesthetician Pam Marshall who rates it because it contains mandolin acid (lipophilic, so it gets into oil clogs and breaks them down) as well as PHAs, which Pam loves because they take down inflammation and hydrate - and are gentle enough to be used daily (not many acids are).
- The lightweight gel smooths on well
- It really reduces spots over time
- You might need a more hydrating moisturiser on dry patches or during the winter
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Madeleine Spencer is a journalist and broadcaster who has contributed to titles including Grazia, Glamour, InStyle, The Independent, The Evening Standard, and Stylist, as well as offering commentary for the BBC, Sky News, and ITV.
She is keen on exploring the significance beauty rituals, products, and memories have on people from different walks of life, and enters into conversation on the topic with guests on her podcast, Beauty Full Lives.
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