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Best Oil Free Moisturizers

Écrit par : Dr. Leslie Baumann

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Temps de lecture 11 min

"Oil Free" is a complicated statement in skin care that's way more confusing than it needs to be, in fact, there is no standard definition of "oil free" in skin care at all. I'm a dermatologist, and in this blog I'll provide my own definition and recommendations of oil free moisturizers for all 16 Baumann Skin Types. Oily skin types often ask for a recommendation for an oil-free moisturizer for the face, but is avoiding oil in face lotions and creams really necessary when you have oily skin? Can dry skin types use oil-free face lotions and creams? Are gel moisturizers better for oily skin? This blog will explain what "oil free" means and if oil free products are good for your skin type.


First- I highly recommend taking the Baumann Skin Type Quiz for free today. Most people think they know their skin type, but our data shows that most people guess their skin type incorrectly. Buying the wrong products can set your skin health back by months. When you know your Baumann Skin Type, products on our website that are safe for you will be indicated with your skin type icon. You can take the quiz with the button below!

Best Oil Free Moisturizers

Which oil free moisturizer is best for you depends upon if you are oily or dry, as well as the other skin health barriers you have. Below Here are some general suggestions on the best moisturizers for individual skin concerns. Keep in mind that this advice is less personalized than your custom skin care routine recommendation is after you take the quiz.

Oil Free Moisturizers for Oily Skin

Oily skin types can have a hard time finding products that don't cause acne. That's because oily skin types can get clogged pores from an excess of lipids on the face, including saturated fatty acids from many oils. For those reasons and more, I often advise oil free moisturizers like these for oily skin types:

  • Cera Ve PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion is an oil free light face lotion that is noncomedogenic
  • Cetaphil Oil Control Moisturizer SPF 30 - contains micropearl technology to mattify skin and control excess sebum and shine. Broad spectrum SPF guards against daily UV damage.
  • Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture is one of the bestselling oil-free face moisturizers but it contains petrolatum and soybean sterols that can make this feel greasy on the skin. It is non-comedogenic.
  • La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Oil-Free Mattifying Face Moisturizer - uses micro-exfoliating LHA to refine skin texture, shrink visible pores, and purify acne-prone skin without dryness or irritation. My acne patients with oily skin love this! 

Essopi Triple Antioxidant Serum is my go-to oil-free moisturizer when my patients have sensitive skin and need antioxidants in their skincare routine.

This product is good for Baumann Skin Types 7,8,11,&12

This oil free antiaging moisturizer has peptides and antioxidants. It has jojoba esters but not the oil form of jojoba.  It was designed to be noncomedogenic and hypoallergenic.

EltaMD AM Restore is an oil free moisturizer. It has some ascorbyl palmitate in it which is mildly comedogenic, however, it the moisturizer has been tested and shown to be noncomedogenic so it should be safe in acne-prone skin types. 

Elta MD PM Restore Moisturizer is also oil-free and noncomedogenic.  It is a bit heavier than the AM version so it you have very oily skin, you will not like this.  Does not repair the skin barrier, so this is not for dry skin types.  It is best for normal/oily and combination/oily types which some people call combination skin.

Oil Free Moisturizers for Dry Skin

Dry skin types need a moisturizer in their regular daily routine, but some dry skin types might be sensitive to many kinds of oils. Some oils can still clog the pores of acne-prone dry skin types, or are simply allergenic to some people. If you have dry skin and need an oil free moisturizer for your daily regimen, here is my product recommendation for you:

This oil free moisturizer was created by Dermatologist Dr. Amy Brodsky.  It has niacinamide to help give cells energy to make collagen and other vital components and to repair skin damage. Niacinamide is a PAR-2 blocker that help even skin tone. This product is perfect for dry skin types with acne and dark spots from acne.

Antiaging Oil Free Moisturizers

Anti-aging products are designed to do things like promote collagen synthesis, aid in exfoliation, eliminate free radicals on the skin, smooth skin texture, and more. Anti-aging is a challenging skin care journey because it is best treated through prevention. For that reason and others, many moisturizers have anti-aging benefits, but some people are sensitive to products with oils in them. If you are looking for an oil free anti-aging moisturizer, these are my two favorites:

SkinMedica TNS Advanced+ Serum is one of the best oil-free antiaging moisturizers.  It's also noncomedogenic. It has many antiaging growth factors and peptides.

This retinol for beginners is oil-free. Make sure you use it as part of a complete customized skincare routine to get the best results.

Oil Free Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin

Acne prone skin types are the most likely to get clogged pores from using oils in skin care products. If you are prone to acne and can't find products that won't clog your pores, but still need a moisturizer, this product might be your skin type solution:

La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat Moisturizer is good for skin types

This is the oil free product that I recommend most to my oily skin teens. Dimethicone helps keep oil hidden while silica and methyl methacrylate crosspolymer absorb oil. This is also noncomedogenic so is perfect for teens with acne-prone skin.

Oil-Free Moisturizers with SPF

Protecting your skin from solar radiation should be a part of your everyday skin care routine. If you are hesitant to use sunscreen because it might clog your pores, I recommend this oil free sunscreen for you:

This Murad oil-free susncreen was desinged for acne-prone skin.

Oil Free Body Moisturizer

This oil free body lotion contains humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid to help hold water on the skin's surface.

Why Use an Oil-Free Moisturizer?

There are a few things to think about in addition to skin type before buying a oil free moisturizer for your face. It is important to ask yourself, "Why would I want an oil free moisturizer?" Below I discuss the different reasons you might need to use oil free skincare products.

There are a few key reasons why someone may want to use an oil free moisturizer:

  1. Preference for a non-greasy feel

Many people simply do not like the feeling of heavier, greasier moisturizers on their skin. Even patients who do not have overly oily skin often prefer the lighter feel of an oil free moisturizer formula. These are designed to hydrate the skin without leaving behind a slippery, tacky, or shiny residue after application.

  1. Help control excess oil and shine

For those with very oily skin, excess sebum and slipperiness are major concerns. Applying an oil free moisturizer can provide hydration while controlling grease and shine. Patients also appreciate that oil free moisturizers allow makeup, powder, and sunscreen to glide smoothly onto skin without appearing patchy or caking up.

  1. Reduce risk of clogged pores/acne

Moisturizers with high oil content have a higher likelihood of clogging pores for some skin types. This in turn leads to increased blackheads, breakouts, and congestion over time. Opting for an oil free, non-comedogenic formula minimizes this risk. Those already struggling with acne will likely see better results from an oil free moisturizer.

  1. Improve compliance with regular use

When research subjects enjoy the feel and performance of a moisturizer formula, studies show they are more likely to apply it consistently every day. The non-greasy refreshing feel of oil free options makes people more eager to use them. This leads to better absorption of all regimen steps.

So in summary- the main driver for using an oil free moisturizer is personal preference for a lightweight, easily absorbed, non-greasy hydrating formula. But they also provide essential oil control and clog preventing benefits for the right skin types. 

Once you have a better feel for why you want an oil free moisturizer, lets discuss the best moisturizers out there that do not contain oil.

Benefits

Using lightweight oil free hydrators offers perks like:

  • Oil Control - Less oil means less shine and slip, allowing you to comfortably wear less powder, touch up less often, and show off a flawless complexion longer
  • Allows Makeup to Glide Smoothly - Creamy moisturizers can interact poorly with liquid foundation, preventing proper application and absorption. Oil free options provide the perfect slick-free canvas for makeup
  • Non-Greasy After Feel - For those who dislike heavy lotions, oil free moisturizers absorb rapidly without leaving behind slippery residue or tackiness
  • Feels less heavy on skin - men and oily skin types seem to prefer lighter moisturizers on their skin.

What Does Oil Free Mean?

There is no standard definition or criteria that regulates use of the term "oil free" on skincare product labeling. As a dermatologist specializing in clinical skin care, I have often been asked to clarify what oil free truly means. This is what it means to me:

If interpreting the phrase literally, oil free would indicate a product formula containing no oil ingredients whatsoever. However, many items marketed as oil free actually do contain components of plant oils such as esters.

The term oil free can also be used as a descriptive adjective referring to the final texture, feel and spreadability of the product. Oil free denotes that the moisturizer, lotion, cleanser or serum has a lightweight, non-greasy, water-like feel when applied. It does not necessarily denote a complete absence of oily feeling substances.  Oil free does not mean noncomedogenic, as some non oil ingredients can clog pores.

Myths about Oil Free Skincare

Oily free skincare may have ingredients that clog pores.  For example, Bees wax is not considered an oil but is comedogenic. Oil free often means the moisturizer is light weight, but does not necessarily mean that the moisturizer is not greasy feeling.  Fatty alcohols, for example, are not oils but give moisturizers a greasy oily texture.

It can be very confusing shopping for oil free skincare, so I suggest you make it easy on yourself and take our skincare routine quiz.  We will help you find the best oil-free moisturizers for your skin type.  Without knowing your Baumann Skin Type it is hard to know if an oil free gel moisturizer, oil - free lotion, or oil free cream is right for you.

Oily Ingredients that are Not True Oils

These ingredients in skincare are not considered oils, but do feel oily on the skin. They may be found in 'oil-free moisturizers'.  I divided them up by which plant oil or petroleum product the ingredient is derived from.


From Palm Oil:

  • Palm Kernel Alcohol
  • Palm Alcohol
  • Palm Glycerides
  • Palmitate (various forms like Cetyl Palmitate, Isopropyl Palmitate)
  • Squalene

From Soybean Oil:

  • Soybean Sterols
  • Soybean Glycerides
  • Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
  • Hydrogenated Soy Glycerides
  • Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil
  • Soybean Oil PEG-6 Esters

From Vegetable Oil:

  • Cetyl Stearate
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • PEG-100 Stearate

From Castor Oil

  • Hydrogenated Castor Oil
  • PEG Castor Oils (PEG-40 Castor Oil, etc)
  • Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil
  • Ethoxydiglycol
  • Castor Isostearate

From Mineral Oil

  • Paraffinum Liquidum (Mineral Oil)
  • Petrolatum
  • Ceresin
  • Ozokerite
  • Paraffin

From Olive Oil

  • Squalane (Olive-derived)
  • Hydrogenated Olive Oil
  • Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil
  • Olive Glycerides
  • Olive Oil PEG-7 Esters
  • Olive Oil Polyglyceryl-6 Esters

These can be in products which make them feel heavy and greasy even if they are technically "oil free."

As you can see, there is a lot to known when choosing an oil free moisturizer.  Let us help you find the right moisturizer that targets all of your barriers to healthy skin.

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

Why do moisturizers make me break out?

If your moisturizer makes you break out, make sure it does not contain any comedogenic ingredients.  Not all oils are comedogenic.  Also, some oil-free moisturizers can make you breakout because they may have comedogenic ingredients like beeswax. Just because a moisturizer is oil-free does not mean it will not cause pimples.

Is moisturizer bad for acne?

Some moisturizers have comedogenic ingredients that make you break out.  But dry skin types with acne need a moisturizer.  In fact, if your skin is too dry- that can cause acne. So it is ok to use a moisturizer when you have acne if you use one that is right for your Baumann Skin Type.

When should I use a gel moisturizer?

Oily skin types often prefer the feel of a gel moisturizer or a serum. 

What is the difference between an oil in water moisturizer and a water in oil moisturizer?


Oil-in-water (O/W) moisturizers are lightweight and quickly absorbed, ideal for oily or combination skin, providing hydration without a greasy feel. Water-in-oil (W/O) moisturizers are richer, creating a barrier to prevent moisture loss, suited for dry or sensitive skin. The choice between O/W and W/O depends on skin type and hydration needs.

Best References and Scientific Publications on Oil Free Skincare:

  1. Baumann L. Moisturizers in Ch. 43 of Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)
  2. Baumann, L. Ch. Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill 2015)
  3. Rawlings, A. V., & Lombard, K. J. (2012). A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. International journal of cosmetic science34(6), 511-518.
  4. Mohiuddin, A. K. (2019). Skin care creams: formulation and use. Dermatol Clin Res5(1), 238-271.
  5. Ruiz, M. A., Arias, J. L., & Gallardo, V. (2010). Skin creams made with olive oil. In Olives and olive oil in health and disease prevention (pp. 1133-1141). Academic Press.
  6. Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. International journal of molecular sciences19(1), 70.
  7. Savary, G., Grisel, M., & Picard, C. (2013). Impact of emollients on the spreading properties of cosmetic products: A combined sensory and instrumental characterization. Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces102, 371-378.
  8. Chularojanamontri, L., Tuchinda, P., Kulthanan, K., & Pongparit, K. (2014). Moisturizers for acne: What are their constituents?. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology7(5), 36.
  9. Okamoto, T., Tomomasa, S., & Nakajima, H. (2016). Preparation and thermal properties of fatty alcohol/surfactant/oil/water nanoemulsions and their cosmetic applications. Journal of oleo science65(1), 27-36.