For clear, breakout-free skin, you'll probably do anything to avoid clogged pores, which can lead to blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. Exfoliating regularly and using products that increase cellular turnover, like retinol, can help. You'll also want to avoid any products that could clog your pores even more. And yes, there are some "helpful" skincare products that can actually make the pore problem even worse. One of those products that could be tricky? A moisturiser.
That's right. Some moisturisers, which are supposed to keep your skin smooth and hydrated, can clog your pores. So if you have issues with congestion and breakouts, you'll want to choose your moisturisers wisely. That's where one important term comes into play: non-comedogenic.
You've probably heard the term before and thought it sounded good for the most part but didn't really know much about it. "Simply put, a non-comedogenic product has been tested to not clog pores," explains board-certified dermatologist Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD, of Eternal Dermatology and Aesthetics. "That means it's less likely to cause acne. Though, this is not guaranteed. Dirt, dead skin cells, or sebum can clog the pores, causing acne. Comedogenic products—usually heavy or greasy—can also clog your pores. It's important to note that non-comedogenic products won't necessarily treat your breakouts. They just won't contribute to the problem."
While non-comedogenic products are helpful for just about anyone, those with oily, sensitive, or acne-prone skin will benefit the most from them, as these skin types can easily become clogged, which can lead to breakouts.
So what makes a product comedogenic? "Ingredients that are 'pore clogging' or comedogenic are found in many skincare products and makeup," says board-certified dermatologist Jeremy Brauer. "The list of pore-blocking ingredients is long and includes various oils, alcohols, acids, butters, propylene glycol, and lanolins. Non-comedogenic products often contain salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur but can also contain other oils such as grape seed."
When choosing a moisturiser, most products will specify that it's non-comedogenic, but you'll want to look at the label, too. "Do your research first. Before anything else, you want to narrow your search down to moisturisers that work with your skin type," Rodney says. "From there, check the label, which will state if the product is non-comedogenic. To be safe, aim for products that are oil-free and non-comedogenic. Next, check the ingredient list. Ingredient lists are usually listed in descending order in terms of concentration. If the product has some comedogenic qualities at the end of the list, it should be safe." Most non-comedogenic products generally avoid thick oils or emulsifiers.
Certain ingredients will work better depending on your skin type. If you have dry skin, Rodney suggests looking for glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalane. Oily skin types will benefit from hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, niacinamide, and/or retinol. And overall, serums and gel-based or whipped moisturisers are best instead of thick creams.
While non-comedogenic moisturisers are so helpful for skin that's prone to clogged pores, there are a couple of drawbacks. Brauer says that products with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur can be drying or irritating, so you'll want to be careful with those.
Another drawback is that some people will expect to have their breakout problems solved after using a non-comedogenic product. They can prevent clogged pores, but that doesn't mean they're going to target acne or blemishes. "Just because it's non-comedogenic does not guarantee that you won't get breakouts," Rodney explains. "If you're seeing unwanted blackheads or whiteheads, stop the moisturiser. Then, look for signs of improvement. Some products also have side effects like dryness, redness, or skin irritation. In both cases, make sure to first test the product on a small area of your skin before committing to it."
If you're ready to change up your moisturiser, take a look at these dermatologist- and editor-recommended picks below.
The 21 Best Non-Comedogenic Moisturisers:
1. CeraVe Moisturising Lotion
"Ideal for both acne-prone and sensitive skin, this lightweight moisturiser quickly absorbs into the skin and contains hyaluronic acids, niacinamide, and essential ceramides," Rodney says.
2. Chanel Hydra Beauty Gel Creme
If you want a nourishing moisturiser that feels lightweight, then this cream is an indulgent investment for your skin. The light as air gel textures melts into the skin, helping to hydrate while plumping fine lines and leaving skin radiant.
3. Medik8 Balance Moisturiser
Medik8 is renowned for its science-led skincare, and I always recommend this brand to those with acne-prone skin. The Balance Moisturiser is ultra lightweight and is virtually free of oil. Plus, it comes in a set with a glycolic acid treatment to help keep skin clear.
4. Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer SPF 30
Rihanna has knocked it out of the park with this moisturiser. It gives skin the ultimate glow but is non-comedogenic and oil-free. The hydration comes from lightweight aloe vera and hydrating hyaluronic acid, and it also makes the perfect base for makeup.
5. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Mosituriser
The whole Water Drench range is brilliant, but the moisturiser is ideal if you want something hydrating but light as air. Described as a cloud cream, this gel-cream texture feels incredibly lightweight yet offers impressive hydrating properties thanks to bucketloads of hyaluronic acid.
6. EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
This daily moisturiser is sheer and contains willow bark to stimulate cellular turnover. Other ingredients include vitamin C, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and dimethicone.
7. Paula's Choice Clear Moisturiser SPF 30
This oil-free, water-based cream contains vitamin-rich plant extracts to control excess oil, tighten pores, smooth skin, and promote an overall glow. It's formulated to hydrate skin without leaving a greasy or sticky residue.
8. Pharmacy Daily Greens Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer
This lightweight gel moisturiser has ingredients like moringa-seed extract and moringa water to refresh and clarify the skin, papaya extract to exfoliate, and hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture. The product also minimises pores and reduces shine.
9. Neutrogena Refreshingly Clear Oil-Free Moisturiser
This glow-boosting facial moisturiser works well on combination and spot-prone skin and doubles as a great base for makeup.
10. CeraVe SA Smoothing Moisturising Cream
Specially formulated to deal with breakouts, this daily moisturiser contains salicylic acid, which is an acne-fighting ingredient, to promote even skin tone and a radiant complexion.
11. Shani Darden Weightless Oil-Free Moisturizer
This moisturiser is super lightweight, oil-free, and fast absorbing. Those with normal to oily skin types will benefit from the formula. Ingredients include sodium hyaluronate, hydrolyzed collagen, and red algae extract to leave skin looking plump and smooth.
12. SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
"Ideal for ageing skin, this non-comedogenic moisturiser has antioxidants and vitamins to fight free radical damage to your skin," Rodney says. Ingredients include essential lipids (for elasticity and hydration), vitamin E, and essential oils.
13. Origins Ginzing Gel
Gel moisturisers can be so soothing on the skin and, not to mention, fast absorbing. This one keeps your skin hydrated for 72 hours and contains unique ingredients including caffeine to refresh and ginseng to energize.
14. Tatcha The Water Cream
This feels so lightweight and silky-soft on the skin—it basically melts undetectably, leave a soft velvety yet hydrating finish that's ideal for makeup prep.
15. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Creme
This lightweight moisturiser also contains prebiotics to soothe and repair your skin barrier and reduce sensitivity over time.
16. Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer
Another lightweight gel formula, this one will brighten, hydrate, and protect your skin. It has nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and watermelon extract.
17. Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream
This cream works overnight to exfoliate skin and promote cell renewal while reducing the appearance of dark spots, uneven skin tone, and acne scars. Ingredients include papaya extract, glycolic acid, viniferine, squalane oil, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E.
18. Cetaphil Daily Facial SPF50+ for Sensitive Skin
You won't experience any irritation with this lotion because it's free of all the things that might annoy your skin, like dyes and fragrances—plus, it's SPF 50+, so your daily sun protection is covered, too.
19. The Inkey List Omega Water Cream
Free from oil and silicones, this ultra-lightweight moisturiser sinks into the skin while skin-nourishing omegas help to keep your skin's barrier healthy and resilient. This is a brilliant moisturiser for the price.
20. Murad Clarifying Water Gel
Murad's lightweight and oil-free moisturiser is designed to target large pores and reduce shine. It leaves a matte finish on the skin but also has a hydrating effect, making it a great base for makeup, too.
21. BYOMA Moisturising Gel Cream
An ultra-lightweight and creamy gel-like moisturiser that contains a skin-loving blend of barrier boosting actives, such as niacinamide and green tea.
Hi, everyone. I’m Sarah! I was born and raised in Los Angeles, spent 12 years going to school and working in New York City (got my BA in journalism from NYU), and made the move back to L.A. to work at THE/THIRTY. I’ve had 10 years of experience covering lifestyle and wellness, with editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, Veranda, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot). Most of my days are spent writing and editing stories about eating healthy, the latest wellness and self-care trends, the newest (and coolest) workouts, and the best fitness gear that will actually make you want to exercise. I love all the topics we cover at THE/THIRTY, but I especially love writing about mental health—I think that’s one of the most important topics right now and something I am passionate about (and also continuously working on myself!). As for self-care, I stick to these five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, a good book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating my apartment. When I’m not working, I love trying new restaurants with friends, listening to history and true crime podcasts, and enjoying an occasional Netflix binge.
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