Moisturizer: Why You May Need It If You Have Acne

Acne can cause your skin to feel oily and greasy, so a moisturizer may be the last thing you’d think of trying. A moisturizer, however, may be just what you need if you’re using one of the following acne treatments:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid
  • Adapalene, tazarotene, or tretinoin
  • Isotretinoin (prescription treatment for severe acne)

These treatments tend to dry and irritate the skin. Using a moisturizer every day can help your skin tolerate these medications.

A moisturizer can also be helpful any time your skin feels dry, such as during the winter.

When your skin becomes dry, your body makes more oil. The extra oil can clog your pores, which may lead to more breakouts. The right moisturizer can prevent your skin from becoming dry and irritated.


Woman applying moisturizer

When creating an acne treatment plan, dermatologists sometimes include a moisturizer.

What type of moisturizer should someone with acne-prone skin use?

To prevent a moisturizer from causing breakouts, look for one of these descriptions on the container:

  • Oil-free
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Won’t clog pores

When you see one of these descriptions, it means that the moisturizer is unlikely to cause acne.

When should someone with acne use moisturizer?

You want to apply moisturizer when your skin feels dry. Dermatologists recommend using it every day when your skin feels dry.

Applying it after you wash helps to trap much-needed water in your skin.


After washing your face, leave some water on your skin. Then apply moisturizer.

Woman toweling off face

When should you see results?

In studies, most patients see less acne between 4 and 8 weeks after beginning to use an acne friendly moisturizer.

All of the patients in these studies were following an acne treatment plan that required them to use acne medication, cleanser, and moisturizer. Dermatologists choose their medication, cleanser, and moisturizer.

Still skeptical?

If using a moisturizer still seems as though it would worsen rather than help clear your acne, you may want to speak with a dermatologist. During an office visit, a dermatologist can tell you what can help clear your acne and create a treatment plan for you.

Your treatment plan may very well include a moisturizer.

Getty Images
Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, et al. “Moisturizers for acne: What are their constituents?” J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(5):36-44.
Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, et al. “A double-blinded, randomized, vehicle-controlled study to access skin tolerability and efficacy of an anti-inflammatory moisturizer in treatment of acne with 0.1% adapalene gel.” J Dermatolog Treat. 2016;27(2):140-5.
Colombo MA, Cirigliano M, et al. “Poster P141: Evaluation program of the effectiveness and safety of a topical gel with clindamycin 1%/benzoyl peroxide 5% and moisturizers in papular pustular acne in a general population.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007;56(2):AB23. 100% sponsored by Stiefel Laboratories, Inc.
Dall’oglio F, Tedeschi A, et al. “Cosmetics for acne: indications and recommendations for an evidence-based approach.” G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2015;150(1):1-11.
Friedman A. “Debunking acne myths: Should patients with oily skin use a moisturizer?” Cutis. [published online May 2017].
Isoda K, Seki T, et al. “Efficacy of the combined use of a facial cleanser and moisturizers for the care of mild acne patients with sensitive skin.” J Dermatol. 2015;42(2):181-8.
Jordan L, Baldwin HE. “Stratum corneum abnormalities and disease-affected skin: Strategies for successful outcomes in inflammatory acne.” J Drugs Dermatol. 2016;15(10):1170-3.



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