4 Best Non-Comedogenic Moisturizers (Acne-Friendly)

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4 Best Non-Comedogenic Moisturizers (Acne-Friendly)
In a hurry? Here are our top picks:

BEST ALL ROUNDER

ZELEN Life Moisturizer

Regardless of whether you have dry, oily, or combination skin, picking the best daily non-comedogenic moisturizer is essential for anyone’s skincare routine.

Moisturizing skin is important for restoring the skin’s natural barrier, evening out pH, and locking in hydration. These three things go a long way in contributing to healthy skin and a glowing appearance.[1]

Unfortunately, many people buy cheap moisturizers or avoid them altogether because they have oily or combination skin. In fact, if you struggle with keeping your sebum levels under control then moisturizing properly will help, rather than making the situation worse.[2]

That is of course assuming that you buy a good quality non-comedogenic moisturizer. Poor quality or cheap moisturizers are like the moisturizers of yesterday: heavy with thick creams and oils.

While this may have done the job of moisturizing the skin, these old-style products trapped not only hydration within the skin but completely clogged pores and suffocated the skin.

Skin that is drowned in products like these inevitably becomes irritated and reactive, eventually oily and full of blemishes.

It is for this reason that we have listed the best non-comedogenic moisturizers – you don’t want to start your skin care routine every day by giving your skin more problems than it had to begin with.

Below we give our top recommendations before taking a look at comedones, their potential negative consequences, and what to look out for in a good non-comedogenic moisturizer.

Quick summary

bb2-table__imageZELEN Life Moisturizer
  • Organic formula free of pore-blocking ingredients, Jojoba regulates oil production
  • Lightweight, non-greasy formula, absorbs fast and hydrates all day
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, calm skin reducing redness and blemishes
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bb2-table__imageLa Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light Face Moisturizer
  • Offers 24-hour intense hydration
  • Calms and soothes irritable dry skin without being greasy
  • Inclusion of hyaluronic acid boosts moisture
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bb2-table__imageMario Badescu Oil-Free Moisturizer
  • Contains SPF that protects the skin from UV rays
  • Oil-free and lightweight, suitable for very oily skin types
  • Allantoin and lemongrass calm and soothe the skin without clogging pores
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bb2-table__imageEltaMD PM Therapy Face Moisturizer
  • Loaded with antioxidants, peptides, and ceramides, provide anti-aging benefits
  • Advanced hydration due to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid
  • Repairs the skin's natural barrier and reduces the appearance of blemishes
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Before you buy: 4 Things to consider when purchasing a non-comedogenic moisturizer

Unless you have tried the moisturizer personally or you have access to a lab and expensive testing equipment it can be very hard to find yourself a good non-comedogenic moisturizer without guidance.

1. Non-comedogenic – for who?

The first thing you might try is to check the packaging of any potential cream you buy. On the back, you will usually find a dizzying array of ingredients. Even if the company has kept things simple it can be hard to know from just a name if a cream or lotion will be comedogenic for you. Check if it is aimed at a particular skin type.

2. Some cosmetic claims are just claims

The big news here is that although the cosmetics and healthcare industries are regulated, not all parts of them are.[9]

This goes for specific labeling and messages you might see. Yes, you guessed it – non-comedogenic is one of those phrases that currently isn’t under any type of legislation.

While the majority of skin care companies are well-intentioned, stating non-comedogenic on the label doesn’t really mean anything.

3. What’s the skincare context?

Think about what other products you use in your routine. Are they more drying, hydrating or is the balance already right? You may need your moisturizer to counteract a strong cleanser for example.

4. Do you suffer from comedones?

It may seem like an obvious question, but some skin conditions like rosacea and tinea can look and feel like lots of tiny, irritating comedones. Unfortunately, these conditions won’t be treated best with a simple moisturizer – double-check with your dermatologist.

Just remember that there is no lab or real-world test for comedogenicity when buying a new moisturizer. Companies can of course check how their product performs on the skin, but there is no standard. While two products may claim to be and both actually be non-comedogenic there could still be big differences.

To give an example, a good moisturizer and retinol are both non-comedogenic. But retinol on its own will always be better at getting rid of and preventing comedones than the best moisturizer.

The best thing to do is to review reliable skin care sources when looking for non-comedogenic moisturizers and test a sample if possible before you buy.

The 4 best non-comedogenic moisturizers

1. ZELEN Life Moisturizer

ZELEN Life Moisturizer

Best features:

  • Jojoba regulates sebum production
  • Antioxidants to clear impurities
  • Organic ingredients keep pores unclogged

The best moisturizer for:

Men and women who want deep hydration from their moisturizer without being heavy on their skin.

Overview:

The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is the perfect balance of ingredients to soothe, hydrate, and clear skin all in one formula. Its natural extracts, including Jojoba, Calendula, and Clary Sage work together to reduce inflammation and skin redness which helps reduce overproduction of sebum.

The light formula works even during winter, utilizing the moisturizing effects of Calendula oil to give day-long hydration. Importantly for oily skin, the formulation is hypoallergenic, giving a calming and soothing effect which, leaves the skin refreshed and revitalized.

Being non-greasy and non-comedogenic means it can be used as often as you wash your face. This balances your skin pH and moisture levels, keeping oil production at bay and leaving your skin blemish-free.

The good:

  • Lightweight formulation great for all skin types
  • Antioxidants keep skin irritation to a minimum
  • Can be used multiple times a day without clogging pores
  • Chemical-free
  • Not tested on animals and vegan-friendly

Things to think about:

  • Contains plant-based oils

Bottom line:

As we know a good moisturizer is a must for keeping skin hydrated, free of excess oil and unclogged.

The ZELEN Life Moisturizer is the perfect all-around solution, giving skin an abundance of antioxidants and organic extracts to soothe, hydrate, and return pH to balance. Calming the skin with multiple ingredients also reduces skin turnover, keeps pores clear and skin fresh.

2. La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light Face Moisturizer

La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Light Face Moisturizer

Best features:

  • Intense, rehydrating formula
  • Hyaluronic acid

The best non-comedogenic moisturizer for:

Those with very dry, damaged, or cracked skin.

Overview:

La Roche-Posay has developed this light-textured face cream to help heal and nourish very dry and damaged skin. Developed as a daily moisturizer, this cream is more watery in texture, which you may be used to if you have experimented with Korean skin care products before.

The cream absorbs quickly and leaves a fairly strong perfumed scent which will be up to personal preference. As it is more formulated for drier skin those with normal or combination skin may find it comes into its own in the winter when conditions are harsher.

This is a well-known premium brand and there is a price that comes along with that. Although the actual price of the product is in the expected range, some find that competing brands give you a lot more cream per dollar.

The good:

  • 24-hour intense hydration
  • Airtight pump to preserve formula
  • Fragmented hyaluronic acid for added hydration

Things to think about:

  • Not really suitable for predominantly oily skin

Bottom line:

When you have damaged, irritated, or even painful skin you don’t want to waste time with a cheap or inefficient moisturizer. This cream gets a place on our list because it manages to provide almost over-the-top hydration for skin that really needs it without being greasy, leaving a residue, or blocking pores.

It may not be the right cream for everyone, so if you have combination skin or skin that is more on the oily side we would give this formulation a miss. Infused with lemongrass and allantoin, this simple and fragrance-free formulation is fast drying and non-pore clogging.

3. Mario Badescu Oil-Free Moisturizer

Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer SPF 30

Best features:

  • Oil-free
  • Contains allantoin
  • Calming natural extracts

The best non-comedogenic moisturizer for:

Men and women with excessively oily faces.

Overview:

Mario Badescu has made a great lightweight and oil-free moisturizer that contains added ingredients to both soothe the skin and help retain hydration longer throughout the day. Being fragrance-free is great for those with broken or sensitive skin, allowing you to use this product without worrying about reactivity or further irritation.

This moisturizer is infused with Lemongrass extract which helps even tone and brightens skin. This solution works well even on sensitive skin and can be applied whenever you are washing your face. It dries within seconds as the moisturizer is not oil-based, so must be applied as required fairly quickly before it is absorbed.

The good:

  • Leaves the skin feeling soft
  • Minimal ingredients
  • Fragrance-free

Things to think about:

  • Bottle tip can get clogged easily as the moisturizer dries

Bottom line:

The Mario Badescu Oil Free Moisturizer is what many people who struggle with excess skin oil have been looking for. Being both lightweight and oil-free, this solution hydrates without any risk of clogging pores, and continues to freshen and brighten your appearance with Lemongrass Extract.

4. EltaMD PM Therapy Face Moisturizer

EltaMD PM Therapy Face Moisturizer

Best features:

  • Fragrance-free
  • Antioxidants to clear free radical build-up
  • Safe for sensitive skin

The best non-comedogenic moisturizer for:

Those looking for a mild anti-aging effect with their moisturizer.

Overview:

The EltaMD moisturizer packs several interesting ingredients into a small package. Not only does it contain moisture-supporting ingredients like hyaluronic acid but it also contains a unique mix that EltaMD claims help with skin aging.

The anti-aging mix includes antioxidants but also peptides and ceramides to help smooth out fine lines, repair the skin’s natural moisture barrier and stimulate collagen formation.

Niacinamide completes the package by helping to reduce the appearance of blemishes whilst also speeding up metabolism to maximize nightly repair.

EltaMD suggests applying broad-spectrum SPF after using this moisturizer.

The good:

  • Repairs elasticity and skin appearance
  • Strengthens the skin’s natural moisture barrier
  • Multi faceted anti-aging

Things to think about:

  • Antioxidants not stated as naturally derived.

Bottom line:

Designed as an evening cream, this offering from EltaMD is both oil and fragrance-free, gently moisturizing overnight. Designed from the ground up to be both non-comedogenic and safe for sensitive skin, eltaMD has included some thoughtful ingredients to soothe the skin and manage sebum production.

Those who have outbreaks more frequently than not will appreciate the inclusion of nicotinamide to reduce signs of redness and restore some suppleness to the skin.


Moisturizer benefits

Of course, there are many more functions to a good moisturizer as we hinted at the start of the article.

The function of the skin itself is a barrier, to protect the body and organs underneath it from drying out, becoming infected, and from chemical and physical trauma.

Loss of hydration from the skin means a drop in its ability to perform all the functions just listed. Good quality moisturizers have been shown to improve the hydration status of the skin by restoring the skin barrier, stopping water loss, and also replacing lipids in the skin that might have otherwise been lost.[8]

This has the knock-on effect of keeping the skin fuller and hydrated throughout, not only improving actual skin health but also reducing the appearance of fine lines and generally improving skin texture and complexion.

How we chose these products

For this article roundup, we had to look further than promises made on the packaging. First, we ran through all the problem compounds that usually cause outbreaks and comedones – anything from that list like heavy oils was discarded.

Then we had to look at the properties of each product, would it cause too much skin to slough away and cause blocked pores? Is it gentle enough to control sebum production?

After these conditions and more had been met we then moved onto all experiences that could be found with these products. While general reviews give an idea of how well a product tests in the real world, we were also interested in finding out how well they worked for those with chronic conditions and persistent skin complaints.

This gave us a more complete view of these products and the true range of people and skin that they could work well for.

Now let’s take a look at the risk factors for comedones and what can be done to prevent and treat them.

Frequently asked questions

frequently asked questions 2-min

Are comedones the same as acne?

There are many different names for pimples, spots, acne, and more. People tend to use these names interchangeably and things get only more confusing when talking about comedonal acne.

To be clear, comedones are the precursor to acne, but not all comedones lead to acne. In fact, they rarely do despite what you may think or experience!

The term ‘comedonal acne’ refers to those suffering from acne who also have a high number of comedones.[3]

So what are comedones?

Comedones are small bumps on the skin that are most commonly found in the same distribution as acne, i.e. anywhere you find sebaceous glands like on your forehead or chin.

They happen when skin cells in and around your sebaceous glands naturally grow and fall away. If the skin also produces excess sebum then the two mix and eventually block the gland completely.

Whiteheads, otherwise known as closed comedones, are completely blocked follicles.

Blackheads, or open comedones, are also completely blocked but have been stained by melanin from the skin. The dark color does not come from dirt as previously thought.

Micro and macro comedones are as they sound, either very small comedones hardly visible to the naked eye or large bumps greater than 2-3mm in diameter.[4]

Solar comedones are less common and more usually found in older people. They are caused by prolonged exposure to the sun and building UV damage.

What are the risk factors for comedones?

A lot of health and beauty naturally comes down to genetics and luck of the draw but there are plenty of other factors that can either be avoided or minimized when it comes to comedones.

  1. Cheap moisturizers – for all the reasons stated at the beginning of the article avoid these for your skin’s sake.
  2. DHT – any man with male pattern balding will have heard of dihydrotestosterone. It attaches to hair follicles and can cause hair loss over time. When there is excess production within skin cells there is an increased likelihood of comedone development.[5]
  3. Smoking – this should be obvious to everyone serious about skincare. Smoking helps clog pores and irritates the skin leading to excess oil production and comedone formation.
  4. Acne Propiones – The main acne-causing bacteria also helps get the whole process started in the first place. The bacteria ‘eat’ sebum and turn it into free fatty acids, which when they accumulate can clog pores.[6]
  5. Hyperhydration – similar to using cheap moisturizers, overuse of any moisturizer or living in excessively humid conditions can be an issue.
  6. Trauma – this may sound like an excessive term but in medicine, it really means any physical irritation or injury to the skin. This includes excessive rubbing, squeezing, harsh chemicals, and more. They may seem like good solutions at the time but they are short-term only and leave you with irritation and more comedone formation.
  7. Diet – this has long been talked about as a cause for acne and while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence researchers have struggled to get the same clear results. If you have stubborn comedones it may be worth excluding dairy and high sugar / high-fat foods from your diet for 14 days. If you notice no positive change then no harm is done.[7]

How do I treat comedones?

For those who have a mild to moderate case of comedones, the ‘treatment’ is fortunately very simple.

Building up a proper regimen and sticking to it each day should go a long way to clearing up problem pores. First things first, chuck out any cheap, clogging, or harsh products.

Then start your routine with a good, gentle cleanser and a non-comedogenic moisturizer in the morning and evening. If you smoke and have a diet full of fatty, sugary foods, now is the time to think about cutting those things out to give your skin the best chance of recovery.

By making the above changes you will be surprised at the effect you can see in just a few short weeks or even days.

If you have more chronic and stubborn issues with comedones then you may need to look at more ‘comedolytic’ solutions. These will still take some time to work but are required when you have multiple comedones, possibly with acne outbreaks as well.

They include:

  1. Mechanical exfoliators – look for something soft like sugar
  2. Chemical exfoliators – hydroxy acids like salicylic or malic
  3. Benzoyl peroxide
  4. Retinoids – increase cell turnover – some like isotretinoin need a doctor’s prescription

We would argue that everyone should be including good quality, gentle yet exfoliator to their routine at least once a week even if they do not have any comedone issues.

Conclusion

Finding a good non-comedogenic moisturizer should be a right, not an uphill struggle. Securing one that works best for your skin will be the foundation that the rest of your routine grows from.

Choose the wrong type or poor quality and the rest of your skincare regimen will suffer.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Skin care is by no means cheap when you are using reliable and worthy products, but it will pay in the long run to buy a couple of different moisturizers to see which really gives you the most benefit.

If you find something that works or have any questions about which product you should try next, let us know in the comments below.

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References

  1. Cunliffe WJ, Simpson NB: Disorders of the sebaceous gland; in Champion RH, Burton JL, Burns DA, Breathnach SM (eds): Textbook of Dermatology, ed 6. Oxford, Blackwell Science, 1998, pp 1927–1984.
  2. Burton JL, Shuster S: The relationship between seborrhoea and acne vulgaris. Br J Dermatol 1971:84:600–601.
  3. Holmes RL, Williams M, Cunliffe WJ: Pilosebaceous duct obstruction and acne. Br J Dermatol 1972;87:327–332.
  4. Thiboutot DM, Knaggs H, Gilliland K, Hagari S: Activity of type 1 5α-reductase is greater in the follicular infrainfundibulum compared with the epidermis. Br J Dermatol 1997;136:166–167.
  5. Sanders DA, Philpott MP, Nicolle FV, Kealey T: The isolation and maintenance of the human pilosebaceous unit. Br J Dermatol 1994;131:166–176.
  6. Aldana OL, Holland DB, Cunliffe WJ: Variation in pilosebaceous duct keratinocyte proliferation in acne patients. Dermatology 1998;196:98–99.
  7. Norris JFB, Cunliffe WJ: A histological and immunocytochemical study of early acne lesions. Br J Dermatol 1988;118:651–659.
  8. Elbaum DJ: Comparison of the stability of topical isotretinoin and topical tretinoin and their efficacy in acne. J Am Acad Dermatol 1988;19:486–491.
  9. Bottomley WW, Yip J, Knaggs H, Cunliffe WJ: Treatment of closed comedones – Comparisons of fulguration with topical tretinoin and electrocautery with fulguration. Dermatology 1993;186:253–257.

About The Author

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Board-Certified Doctor and Educator

Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery MBBS (Cardiff University)

London, United Kingdom

Dr. McKeown is a UK based NHS clinician with over 10 years experience in both hospital medicine and surgery. After an initial career in maxillofacial surgery his focus now lies in elderly care and rehabilitation medicine. A board member for Wadham College of Science, Dr. McKeown is passionate about widening access to both education and healthcare around the world and as a result, outside of his clinical work he spends much of his time either teaching or providing medical consultancy to healthcare startups. Commercially, his interests lie in helping research and promote novel, evidence-based medicines originating from natural sources and processes.

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