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Why and How You Should Moisturize Oily Skin

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This article has been reviewed by Dr. Meg Sison, a board-certified dermatologist practicing both medical and cosmetic dermatology.

When your face is always shining, you may think twice if your oily skin needs moisturizer or not. But is that shine the same as moisture? Does sebum do the job of a moisturizer? And finally, does oily skin actually need a moisturizer? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

First, don’t mistake oil and hydration. This is one first misconception people with oily skin usually have. While skin oil is the waxy substance (sebum) made by the sebaceous glands to protect the skin’s barrier, hydration is the process wherein water is absorbed into the skin’s layers to keep it plump and elastic. Hydration plays an important role in maintaining moisture at the skin’s surface, stopping water from evaporating. So, the skin needs hydration as much as it needs sebum.

What happens when oily skin gets dehydrated?

One thing is for sure: dehydrated skin can lead to pimples. When the skin lacks moisture, in an attempt to replenish that moisture loss, the body produces more oil to bolsters the skin’s barrier role. In turn, this can clog pores and make breakouts appear.


Also, dehydrated skin develops wrinkles faster, aka premature aging, and your skin’s barrier function can get disrupted. So is moisturizer necessary for oily skin? Yes, but to understand why oily skin needs moisturizer, you need to know what a moisturizer does to the skin. 

What’s the role of moisturizer?

Moisturizers contain occlusives, emollients, and humectants. Dr. Meg explains that “occlusives form a protective film to prevent water loss from the skin, as plant oils, petrolatum, and butters do.” Emollients fill in the spaces in between skin cells called corneocytes to create a smooth surface and impart a silky feel to the skin. Ceramides and fatty alcohols are examples of these. Last but not least, humectants draw water from the environment and from the dermis of the skin. “Examples of these would be hyaluronic acid and glycerin” she adds.

From all, humectants do best for oily skin since they don’t create a protective film on the skin’s surface, which sometimes can clog pores.

Does oily skin need moisturizer?

Yes, oily skin needs moisturizer just like any other type does. If you don’t moisturizer oily skin, it will start to produce more oil in an attempt to hydrate itself. However, the only difference in how you should moisturize oily skin stays in the formula and ingredients.

A moisturizer for oily skin should be lightweight, non-comedogenic, oil-free, and enhanced with ingredients that aim to control excess sebum, like zinc, niacinamide, or salicylic acid.

What kind of moisturizer does oily skin need?

The best type of moisturizer for oily skin should have a lightweight texture, absorb excess sebum, yet should provide the right amount of hydration. Ideally, your moisturizer should absorb fast and not leave any greasy residue or shine. Gel and mattifying formulas will do best.


Also, don’t forget about sunscreen. You could either use a moisturizer with SPF for oily skin or pick a separate sunscreen that you layer after the moisturizer. For the best, look for physical sunscreens, the ones that protect naturally against sun rays with zinc and titanium dioxide and lack oils and fragrances. They are less likely to cause you breakouts.

How much moisturizer should I apply?

When applying moisturizer, between 1 to 3 pumps or a nickel-sized amount is enough for the entire face. Also, you’d want to massage it into the skin for one minute to boost blood flow and increase absorption.

Layer your moisturizer while your skin is damp with the serum you apply before. This will make the moisturizer trap the serum and absorb better into the skin. Also, layering moisturizer without serum or ampule before might hinder the skin’s natural process of exfoliation.

What happens If I don’t moisturize?

The idea is that the less you moisture, the more sebum your skin will produce to replenish moisture. Daily moisturization keeps integer the skin’s barrier function and prevents free radicals from damaging the skin, especially if it’s filled with antioxidants. While your skin needs protection against environmental damage and the sun during the day, opt for a moisturizer that encourages skin repair on your PM routine.

So if you were thinking of skipping moisturizer because you have oily skin, reconsider it. Oily skin needs moisturizer too! Just that if your skin is oily, you can’t slather on any moisturizer that comes in your hand; you must be picky. With so many moisturizers out there, it’s not easy to pick one suitable for oily skin.

You want to look for light moisturizers, meaning water-based ones. Thick formulas made with lipids or fatty substances may clog your pores, so let that for dry skin types. Check these light, fast-absorbing products that won’t leave your skin feeling slick or looking shiny. 

Best moisturizers for oily skin

most popular Clinique product

Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly

The easy-gliding texture of Clinique Hydrating Jelly refreshes and moisturizes the skin, penetrating it quickly for an instant hydration boost. It has a water-jelly texture that is oil-free and definitely not sticky, making it an excellent choice for oily skin.

Tatcha Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer

Tatcha Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer

Made with green tea extract, rice, gold, and a blend of plant extracts, Tatcha moisturizer strengthens skin against free radicals damage, the main culprits for causing dull-looking skin. This oil-free moisturizer might be what you were looking for if you want to reduce sebum and control aging signs at the same time.

Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Moisturizer

Murad Clarifying Oil-Free Water Gel

Murad made this water-gel moisturizer with oily skin in mind. It’s non-comedogenic, oil-free, yet hydrates instantly while helps skin exfoliate and reduce sebum with salicylic acid and niacinamide. This moisturizer doesn’t feel or look greasy, and it gets absorbed into the skin in a second, hydrating it and boosting its ability to hold water for long-lasting hydration thanks to the hyaluronic acid.

Aveda Hydrating Rich Creme

Aveda Intense Hydrating Soft Creme

Aveda created a non-acnegenic moisturizer, ideal for blemish-prone skin types. Botanical Kinetics moisturizer aims to replenish skin hydration while nourishes and protects the skin. The key ingredients that are worth mentioning are salicornia herbacea, a plant that helps the skin absorb moisture, cupuaçu butter that seals moisture in, salicylic acid, and hyaluronic acid. 


  1. 13 Best Salicylic Acid Moisturizers for Fighting Acne and Oily Skin
  2. Why Is My Skin So Oily All Of A Sudden?
  3. 18 Best Oil-Control Products to Reduce Sebum and Shine
  4. How Often Should I Exfoliate If I Have Oily Skin?
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