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Best moisturiser for acne-prone skin: Healthy skin minus the irritation

Melissa Epifano
22 Sep 2022
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Nourish acne-prone skin with these soothing, hydrating creams and lotions

If you’re someone who’s often woken in the morning to be greeted by a tiny eruption of bumps, or a single, rather angry-looking spot, then you’d be wise to invest in a moisturiser for acne-prone skin. While spots, pimples, blemishes, zits – whatever you call them – are unpleasant, they’re incredibly common, afflicting nearly 95% of people between the ages of 11 to 30.

So, if pimples pop up more than you’d like, then the best thing you can do to counteract the unpredictability of having such skin is to follow a customised skincare routine both to treat your acne and to leave skin feeling its best – and the place to start is with a suitable moisturiser. Many who suffer acne are under the impression that a moisturiser will increase oil and therefore make their condition worse. However, dermatologists urge those with acne to keep skin well moisturised to help fight acne.

Below you’ll find our pick of the best moisturisers for acne-prone skin. Our list covers options for various skin types and includes products for your face and body. And with moisturisers for both small and more generous budgets, you’re sure to find a product that will dial down the irritation and keep skin nourished and healthy. But first, we’ve put together a buying guide so you know exactly what to look for when shopping for a moisturiser for you.

READ NEXT: Best moisturiser 2022


Best moisturiser for acne-prone skin: At a glance


How to choose the best moisturiser for acne-prone skin

To treat a serious acne condition, the best course of action would be to visit a dermatologist. However, the right daily care products can help keep acne-prone skin under control. So while the moisturisers for acne-prone skin listed here may not cure your acne, they can certainly prove a helpful addition to any skincare routine. The right formula for your skin type will boost hydration, combat excessive oil and soothe irritated skin. Note, too, that moisturisers made specifically for acne-prone skin will include particular ingredients that may help to reduce the appearance of cysts, whiteheads and blackheads, managing any breakouts.   

What types of acne-prone moisturisers are available?

It’s safe to say that there are an overwhelming number of lotions, balms, gels and creams to be found for acne-prone skin on the market – and that’s just the moisturisers. Serums, masks and spot treatments are abundant, too. But the place to start is to understand your particular skin type. 

It’s thought that acne-prone skin is likely to be oily, with that abundance of oil responsible for clogging pores and causing spots. However, this isn’t always the case. Some folk who suffer breakouts have dry skin, mature skin or even a combination of the two. Shoppers with oily skin may want to seek out lightweight formulas that won’t feel heavy or result in a greasy appearance. Drier skin types will appreciate the opposite, opting for thicker creams that nourish and hydrate.

What features should I look for in a good moisturiser for acne-prone skin?

Choosing the best moisturiser for acne-prone skin will really come down to personal preference and the concerns you’re looking to tackle. Nevertheless, when picking up your moisturiser, consider the three areas belows to ensure you select a moisturiser that’s best for your skin.

Type of acne: The NHS breaks down acne into six categories of spot type that can appear on your face or body. These include blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. Speak with your doctor or dermatologist to determine the kind of acne you’re suffering to help inform your decision over the type of moisturiser you buy.

Ingredients: Most moisturisers for acne-prone skin are likely to have one or several ingredients in common. Many contain acids, such as salicylic, alpha hydroxy, beta hydroxy and lactic acid. Don’t be surprised to find ingredients such as retinol and niacinamide, too. They’re beneficial for both soothing and combatting spots. Tea tree oil is another popular addition found in acne-specific moisturisers.

Texture: The texture of the moisturiser you choose is likely to depend on your skin type and what feels most comfortable. Gels and more viscous moisturisers are nice for oily skin and in warmer months, whereas creams are great for dry skins and cooler months where greater hydration might be necessary.

READ NEXT: Best anti-ageing creams 2022

The best moisturisers for acne-prone skin to buy in 2022

1. Paula’s Choice Clear Oil Free Moisturiser: The best oil-free moisturiser for acne-prone skin

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Oil-free formulas won’t be the answer for everyone with acne-prone skin, but if your skin naturally veers towards being greasy, then this cream from Paula’s Choice is a winner. And don’t assume this oil-free formula won’t deliver the hydration that skin needs to feel healthy. Just a small amount of this lightweight moisturiser is needed to cover the entire face, soaking into skin relatively quickly.

Containing niacinamide, it’s particularly helpful for acne-prone skin, regulating sebum production and therefore reducing blocked pores. This isn’t the only star ingredient, however. Hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, ceramides and vitamin B3 all feature, too, for a well-rounded formula that targets blemishes while maintaining the rest of your skin. Licorice extract will help to reduce any redness and irritation to calm. It’s best applied at night as the last step in your routine.

Key specs – Best for: Oil-free hydration; Texture: Lotion; Featured ingredient: Niacinamide



2. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Moisturiser for Sensitive Blemish-Prone Skin: The best moisturiser for sensitive acne-prone skin

Price: £19 | Buy now from Look Fantastic

For those with sensitive skin, choosing a moisturiser can prove tricky. Too much fragrance or too much of a particular ingredient could in fact lead to greater irritation and breakouts, with a not-so-happy complexion. As such, you’d be wise to opt for products that have specifically been made for easily irritated skin, such as La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo. This gel formula features a blend of salicylic acid and niacinamide, both of which are key for maintaining the general health of skin, but also for tackling acne. There’s glycerin, too, for delivering a dose of moisture.

Unlike thicker creams, this lightweight gel formula won’t clog pores or leave skin looking greasy, which makes it ideal for those with oily acne-prone skin. Consistent use may lead to fewer breakouts and spots that heal far more quickly. Applied morning and evening, this gel will see skin looking refreshed and hydrated, rather than inflamed and stressed out. 

Key specs – Best for: Daily use and sensitive skin; Texture: Gel; Featured ingredients: Niacinamide, glycerin and salicylic acid

Buy now from Look Fantastic


3. Baebody Retinol Moisturiser Cream for Face, Neck, and Décolletage: The best retinol moisturiser for acne-prone skin

Price: £38 | Buy now from Amazon

This beloved moisturiser is chock-full of skin-loving ingredients and can be applied from the top of your forehead down to your décolletage. Ingredients such as aloe, vitamin E and jojoba oil play their part to soothe, calm and moisturise the skin. But the real star of the show is retinol (aka vitamin A), which not only helps in the fight against breakouts, but can also improve the appearance of any scarring. 

And retinol’s powers don’t end there. It’s a great anti-ageing ingredient, too, capable of diminishing the look of wrinkles and uneven texture. Those wary of using a formula that contains such a powerful ingredient can rest assured that this moisturiser is gentle enough for use both day and night. 

So whether you have mature skin, acne-prone skin or are simply seeking a preventative moisturiser, this tub of magic will deliver.

Key specs – Best for: Anti-ageing and acne combination; Texture: Cream; Featured ingredient: Retinol


4. CeraVe SA Smoothing Moisturiser Cream Salicylic Acid: The best body moisturiser for acne-prone skin

Price: £13 | Buy now from Superdrug

If you’re an acne sufferer then you’ll be well aware that those angry red bumps don’t always stop at your face – acne can appear on the back and chest areas, too. And it can prove just as frustrating to tackle, with regular body lotions often providing no relief from breakouts. If this is you, then it’s best to opt for a specialty formula, such as CeraVe’s Smoothing Moisturiser. Used in tandem with a specialty body wash, a moisturiser targeted towards acne-prone skin could help keep acne at bay and provide relief against painful, itchy or dry spots.

Note that this dual-action product doesn’t only moisturise; it exfoliates, too. This is essential for sloughing away dead skin cells and clearing any blocked pores. And while many body lotions typically deliver only temporary hydration, this formula from CeraVe will deliver its benefits through a full day. 

Key specs – Best for: Treating body acne; Texture: Cream; Featured ingredient: Salicylic acid

Buy now from Superdrug


5. The Nue Co. Barrier Culture Moisturizer: The best splurge moisturiser for acne-prone skin

Price: £45 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

“Skin barrier” is a buzzy term that you’ll often hear when reading about skincare – and for good reason. Proper care and maintenance of the barrier is key to a healthy complexion, one that’s better equipped to heal from any irritation, too. Day to day, your skin barrier takes a lot of flack, deflecting harmful external factors such as pollution and grime, too. An unhealthy barrier can lead to skin that’s dull, unbalanced and more prone to breakouts.

With that in mind, the Nue Co. has created its Barrier Culture Moisturizer to keep the skin barrier in tip-top condition, so it can continue to protect other layers of your skin. Its combination  of squalane, pre-, pro- and post-biotics, ceramides and niacinamide make it an absolute workhorse for repairing the barrier and reducing inflammation as a result of acne. Apply this cream as the last step in your skincare routine, for an ultra-hydrating finish to skin that’s neither heavy nor sticky.

Key specs – Best for: Preventative and reparative care; Texture: Cream/gel; Featured ingredients: Squalane, niacinamide, pre-, pro- and postbiotics

Buy now from Cult Beauty


6. Australian Bodycare Face Cream: The best moisturiser with tea tree oil 

Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon

Tea tree oil is a firm favourite for those with acne-prone skin. Known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, it proves an excellent addition to a skincare routine to help tackle mild to moderate acne. This formula from Australian Bodycare contains pharmaceutical-grade tea tree oil to treat acne while simultaneously hydrating skin. Claims of formulas being for all skin types aren’t typically well proven, but this one is an exception: the silky cream works for oily, dry and mature complexions. 

People who suffer acne are well aware that results after starting to use a new product won’t be instant. Nevertheless, in this case, acne should be markedly improved following a couple of weeks of use, with fewer breakouts appearing. And for those concerned that they might not be able to stomach tea-tree oil’s pungent scent, thankfully this formula is pretty mild. Australian Bodycare Face Cream is particularly great for targeting problem areas.

Key specs – Best for: All skin types; Texture: Cream; Featured ingredient: Tea tree oil

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