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Does My Skin Need an Oil-Free Moisturizer?

oil free moisturizer

Oil-free moisturizers are all the rage lately. But do you need one? Here, we explain what kind of skin benefits from an oil-free moisturizer and the best (SPF-packed!) options out there.

Keeping your face hydrated with certain types of skincare products is a no-brainer if you deal with dry or flaky skin. However, even people with oily or acne-prone skin need their daily dose of moisture. Instead of applying a thick or heavy cream, which may bog down oily skin types, the goal is to apply on an oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer that sits lightly on top of your skin.

“In general, oil-free moisturizers feel more absorbable and lighter on the skin.”

“An oil-free moisturizer is a cream or lotion which is intended to hydrate the skin without the use of oils. Instead, other ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid are often included to help hydrate the skin,” explains Jeanette Black, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles, California. “Moisturizers with and without oil in the ingredient list can have various formulations and levels of hydration, but in general, oil-free moisturizers feel more absorbable and lighter on the skin.”

Today we’re helping you figure out if your skin needs an oil-free moisturizer and what to look for when shopping for one. We’re also dishing on two of our favorite SPF-loaded picks (one that’s oil-free, and one that isn’t).

Does my skin need an oil-free moisturizer?

There are two things to keep in mind when trying to determine whether an oil-free moisturizer is best for you. The first and most important factor is your skin type. The second is climate and weather.

“Patients with oily, acne-prone or combination skin tend to prefer oil-free moisturizers,” notes Black. “Many oil-free moisturizers are non-comedogenic, meaning that they are less likely to cause acne breakouts, and patients with oily skin don’t often need the extra hydration provided from thicker moisturizers containing oils.”

If you live in a climate that’s hot and humid all year round, lighter, oil-free moisturizers that easily sink into your skin will probably feel much better.

But note that just because something has oil, that doesn’t mean it automatically isn’t non-comedogenic. For example, our Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50 has essential oils but it non-comedogenic. So make sure you always read the labels and you may find that only some oils (usually the heavier ones, like jojoba and tamanu) can cause breakouts.

Even if you’re someone who has normal or dry skin, sometimes an oil-free moisturizer is the way to go depending on the season. Black says, “Summer can bring humidity and skin is often less dry than it is during winter, so many prefer to use lighter, oil-free moisturizers during summer months.”

This is also true if you live in a climate that’s hot and humid all year round. Those lighter, oil-free moisturizers that easily sink into your skin will probably feel much better compared to a heavier option when you’re dealing with muggy humidity.

If it sounds like your skin could benefit from an oil-free moisturizer, you’ll find a winner in our Superscreen Daily Moisturizer, which is a non-comedogenic formula that gives your skin both a daily dose of hydration and SPF 40 protection. The bouncy, lightweight formula protects your skin from UVA and UVB rays. Plus, the inclusion of blue green algae means you’ve got antioxidant power on your side to shield your skin from free radical damage. Basically, this everyday moisturizer does it all without the heaviness of a traditional, oil-based formulation.

Keep in mind, though, that if you have oily skin, Superscreen may be a bit heavy for you, especially during the summer. If this is the case, we suggest trying out Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40. It’s another oil-free formula that goes on super lightweight and dries nicely with no oily finish. It also earns bonus points for doubling as an amazing primer.

How often and when should I apply this moisturizer (or any oil-free moisturizer, tbh)?

Superscreen should be applied once a day, preferably in the morning. In order to get the proper amount of SPF protection, a nickel-sized amount is what you’ll need (we also like putting any excess on our neck and the backs of our hands). It should go onto cleansed skin as the last step of your skincare routine, before you start putting on primers and makeup.

While you should apply Superscreen once in the morning, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to reapply every two hours! You can definitely slather on some more Superscreen every two hour, or if you’re wearing makeup, our go-tos are spritzing on Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50 or applying Invincible Setting Powder SPF 45.

OK, but what if my skin needs extra hydration and I don’t live in a climate that’s humid year round?

In this case, something with moisturizing properties that’s also oil-based is OK, and our Glow Stick Sunscreen can be a nice option for you. It’s considered a dry oil with SPF, which means that it won’t sit heavy on your skin but will still give it ample moisture. Its ingredient heroes are buriti oil, a natural source of beta carotene and potent antioxidant, pracaxi oil, which is rich in fatty acids to moisturize the skin and tamanu oil, which protects against free radical damage. You can swipe it all over or just use it as a highlighter on spots that feel particularly dry.

A quick recap on all of the above:

Everyone’s skin can benefit from the inclusion of skincare products with moisturizing properties. However, if your skin type is oily, acne-prone, or combination, then an oil-free moisturizer is going to feel much better on your skin than a heavier, oil-based formula. Also, if it’s the middle of summer or you live in a humid climate, oil-free moisturizers are usually the way to go. There are lots of wonderful options out there, but our Superscreen Daily Moisturizer is the only one that will lightly hydrate your skin while also protecting it from UV rays, free radicals and pollution in the process. The result is beautiful, silky skin that’s balanced, radiant and healthy.

+ Do you prefer oil-free moisturizers or do you like your creams to have oil? Sound off in the comments below!