Does Oily Skin Need a Moisturizer?

A lack of hydration can trigger a host of skin problems

A woman dips her finger in moisturizer

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When your skin is oily, slathering moisturizer onto it is probably the last thing you think you should do. But the reality is that there are a host of benefits to using a daily moisturizer if your skin is oily or pimple-prone.

Think Hydration, Not Oil

The key to getting on board with the idea of moisturizing oily skin is recognizing this skin-care truth: Hydrated skin is healthy skin. Indeed, dehydrated skin can lead to issues like inflammation, a cause of premature skin aging, and even breakouts.When your skin becomes dry, your body responds by making more oil—and this extra oil can clog pores, leading to more pimples.

Many people confuse oil with hydration, but the role of moisturizers is to improve skin's hydration by adding water to it. That's the reason the first ingredient listed on moisturizers is usually water.

Remember: Just because your skin has a lot of oil doesn't mean it has enough water. In fact, plenty of things—cold weather, hot water, harsh products, and aging—can disrupt the integrity of skin, causing it to spring tiny leaks. Before you know it, the skin no longer can act as a barrier to water loss and it becomes dry.

Moisturizers Keep Acne Treatments from Drying You Out

Moisturizers become especially important if you use drying acne treatments such as retinoids like Retin-A and isotretinoin, or the anti-bacterial agent benzoyl peroxide. Even if your skin normally pumps out too much oil, acne medications can quickly take your skin from shiny to uncomfortably dry, peeling, and flaking. Using a moisturizer daily is the best defense to help ease these side effects.

Moisturizers Don't Have to Be Heavy or Greasy

There are many moisturizing products that are created especially for oily skin. These products are light, fast absorbing, and don't leave your skin feeling like an oil slick. Look for a moisturizer that's labeled non-comedogenic, which means it won't clog pores.

If you have acne steer clear of mineral oil, cocoa butter, lanolin, and petrolatum. Alternatively, you do want to reach for moisturizers that contain ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe, and squalane, which won't trap oils into the pores.

Take the time to choose the right moisturizer by reading ingredient labels. Ingredients to look for include glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which won't trap oils into (ingredients to look for include humectants like hyaluronic acid, and asking your dermatologist or esthetician for recommendations. Experiment with different products until you find the one that is perfect for you.

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Article Sources
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  1. Lebwohl M, Herrmann LG. Impaired skin barrier function in dermatologic disease and repair with moisturization. Cutis. 2005;76(6 Suppl):7-12.

  2. Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(5):36-44.

Additional Reading
  • Kraft JN, Lynde CW. "Moisturizers: What They Are and a Practical Approach to Product Selection." Skin Therapy Letter 2005; 10(5).

  • Lynde CW. "Moisturizers: What They Are and How They Work." Skin Therapy Letter 2001; 6(13):3-5.

  • Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." American Academy of Dermatology. Schaumburg, IL, 2004.