During the winter months, most of us wouldn't be caught dead going outside without a layer of moisturizer on our skin. But as temperatures climb and our complexions shift from dry to oily, it can be tempting to skip that step altogether—after all, no one wants a thick coating of goop on top of their already-sweaty skin—but that's decidedly not a good idea.
- Dustin Portela, DO, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist
- Michele Farber, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group
- Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University
- Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology in New York City
During the warmer seasons, a combination of sweat and humidity can make even the driest skin feel slick with oil, and though it's counterintuitive, adding a moisturizer can help. "We have these teeny little glands in our skin called sebaceous glands, which are the oil-producing factories," says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut. She explains that how "active" these oil factories are is largely dependent on your genetics and hormones, but they can also be kicked into high gear if you're using the wrong skin-care products—which many of us are guilty of doing (especially right now) in an attempt to de-grease our oily skin. "Sometimes when you strip your skin excessively of oils with drying products, your little sebaceous factories go into overdrive to create more oil, which could be stoking the fire a little bit."
How to pick the right moisturizer for oily skin
That said, you don't want to add any extra oil into your already greasy skin, which means it's extra important to pick the right moisturizing product. "Oftentimes people with oily skin freak out and don’t want to moisturize their skin, but that shouldn’t be the case," says Dr. Gohara. "There are ways to moisturize the skin without making it extra oily. Go with a light lotion instead of a heavier cream." Because lotions are water-based (unlike creams, which are oil-based), they'll add moisture to your skin without any excess grease.
Beauty expert Jasmine Garnsworthy, founder of customized facial oil company The Buff, echoes these sentiments. "Look for lighter, natural oils that more closely mimic the sebum your skin already produces, like squalane or jojoba," she says. "Mineral oils are often used as a cheap emollient, but they're not easily absorbed by the skin, so they become occlusive." (Read: pore-clogging.) Other rich ingredients to avoid in your facial oils include shea, vitamin E, argan oil, and triglycerides.
Go for a gel moisturizer in the spring—here's why.
If you're in the market for something super lightweight—which is what many of us are yearning for during the warmer months—opt for a gel-textured product. "Generally a gel will be composed of water more than the creams and lotion, so gels may be good for someone with an oilier skin type or as an additive treatment to another moisturizer," says Tara Rao, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. These products tend to absorb quickly into the skin, which means they won't leave behind any sort of goopy or greasy residue. "With more humidity in the air as we transition into summer, products with a gel base tend to be more aesthetically pleasing," echoes David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder and CEO of Curology. "Generally, oil production increases in the summer, so trade rich hydrating creams in for lighter gel and water-based products."
One thing to keep in mind: Considering the spring and summer months coincide with spending more time outside, be sure to layer on plenty of SPF on top of whatever moisturizer for oily skin you so choose. Got it? Good. Now shop some of our favorites (many of which are derm-approved) below.
Dr. Gohara recommends this moisturizer for the warmer months, which checks all the boxes for oily skin. “It has a lot of good ingredients, like squalane, which helps to strengthen our skin barrier and keep water naturally trapped in, vitamin C which is a good antioxidant, and niacinamide, which is a wonderful anti-inflammatory ingredient that can settle down irritation from [all your other products],” she says. “So instead of adding an oil, use something like this.”
This hydrating gel is full of probiotics to help support your skin’s barrier function (which is key for a healthy glow). Ginger extract, Swiss garden cress sprouts, and red seaweed provide three-pronged protection from environmental stressors, so your face looks fresh when you use it—not shiny.
Breakout-prone oily skin types, rejoice! Osea’s mixture of organic algae, tea tree extract, and rosemary does wonders for your acne-prone complexion. Combine these soothing natural antibacterial ingredients with hydrating jojoba and grapeseed oil, and you’ve got the recipe for all-day softness. Oh, and it’ll stop pimples in their tracks (win).
The aloe juice in this soothing balm helps stave off redness and irritation, while willow bark extract (which is full of salicylic acid) fights acne. This serum-style moisturizer uses kendi seed oil (imagine a lighter argan oil) to soften your skin, and soaks right in for a full day of non-greasy hydration.
Juara’s entire product line draws on ingredients from traditional Balinese medicine, and this lightweight moisturizer delivers all kinds of skin-healing goodness. It heroes kombucha, which is referred to in Indonesia as “miracle tea,” to control oil production, plus ginger to energize skin. I personally put it to the test on multiple 90-degree days on a recent trip to Bali, and can confirm that the gel texture sinks seamlessly into skin and can maintain hydration without dripping off no matter how sweaty you get.
Well+Good writer Alexa Morales said it best in a recent review: “This one-of-a-kind moisturizer sits at the sweet spot between cream and gel formulas, quenching thirsty skin with hydration without overwhelming it, making it a winner whether you’re oily or dry. Once applied, the oil-free formula explodes with moisture (because ‘Aqua Bomb,’ get it?), absorbing quickly without any stickiness, and keeping oiliness in check while hydrating dry areas. It’s like a glass of water that my skin slurps right up.” And she isn’t the only one who loves the formula: Over 2,000 Amazon shoppers swear by it, too.
“Cerave PM lotion is one of my favorites as it is gentle, and does not have fragrances or oils that can precipitate acne,” says board-certified dermatologist Michele Farber, MD, and she isn’t the only derm who’s a fan. “I love the consistency of this lightweight moisturizer,” says Dustin Portela, DO, a board-certified dermatologist. “The niacinamide and hyaluronic acid are perfect for acne or rosacea-prone skin.”
Fun fact: One of the best-of-the best moisturizers for springtime skin is available for $20 at the drugstore. Neutrogena Hydroboost’s well-loved formula is chock full of hyaluronic acid, which draws water into the skin without making it feel slick. Its jelly texture feels amazing, and as a long-time user (yes—it’s even great for the super-dry spots on my combination skin) allow me to share a pro tip: Store it in the fridge so you can treat yourself to a cooling facial that will quickly become your new favorite way to start your day.
This formula is so popular, a tube of it sells every minute—and it’s easy to see why. Its texture toes the line between gel and cream, and it’s chock full of hydrators like sodium hyaluronate, aloe vera, and squalane to deliver lightweight, cooling hydration.
Dermatologists have told us that this drugstore moisturizer outperforms its luxury counterparts, and having used it on my own skin for years, I wholeheartedly agree. “It’s rich enough to be moisturizing, but it’s not super heavy feeling,” says For Shirley Chi, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Southern California. “It doesn’t feel like you’re clogging your pores.”
If you’re looking for an active evening moisturizer, this one’s got you covered. “Ponds Rejuveness Advanced Hydrating Night Cream is a fantastic product for people who have oily skin,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “Not only does it have a retinol complex, which is a “must-have” for oily skin, but it also combines it with vitamin B3, which is a form of niacinamide that hydrates and can also target oil glands,” she says.
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