Does moisturizer make acne worse? Since acne is the result of excess oil and dead skin cells, which clog and irritate pores, it may seem that slathering on lotion might make things worse. This is true if the moisturizer you use contains heavy oils, waxes, or petroleum jelly. But studies show that using a moisturizer with healing ingredients, such as retinoids or niacinamide, can actually improve signs and symptoms of acne.1 This is especially true if you are already using a topical treatment that may be drying out your skin.
Read on to find out what causes acne, why it’s important to moisturize your skin, and what kind of moisturizer you should add to your routine.
What Causes Acne?
Acne erupts when your hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. These eruptions can take the form of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, pustules, or cysts and they can leave behind scars. While acne can appear anywhere on the body, it is most common on the face, chest, and upper back because these areas have more oil glands.
There are a number of potential triggers for acne breakouts. These include:
- Hormonal fluctuations, especially during puberty, menstruation, or menopause
- Certain medications like steroids
- Excess sweat
- Picking at the skin
- Air pollution
- Harsh or oily cosmetic products
There are a number of different treatments to consider for clearing up acne, preventing breakouts, and healing residual scars. Practicing a healthy skincare routine is essential, beginning with daily cleansing, wearing sunscreen, and breaking bad habits like skin picking.
Common treatments for acne include the antiseptic benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, topical retinoids like tazarotene or tretinoin, or prescription isotretinoin (for severe acne). While these types of products can be highly effective, they can also dry out the skin, cause burning and redness, or make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
Your doctor may also prescribe an oral medication like antibiotic tablets or birth control pills if your acne is moderate to severe and doesn’t respond to other treatments.
Why It’s Important To Moisturize With Acne
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, when your skin becomes too dry, your body amps up oil production.2 This extra oil can clog your pores, lead to more breakouts, or exacerbate an existing breakout. Using the right moisturizer can prevent your skin from becoming too dry and irritated, especially if you are using a strong acne topical treatment.
Using a moisturizer can also protect skin from acne by creating a physical barrier over the top layer of your skin, thus reducing sebum production. The right moisturizer will be hydrating enough that it will lock in moisture and soothe inflamed skin.
What To Look For In A Moisturizer If You Have Acne
The best moisturizer for acne will contain the following:
- Labeled “Oil-free”
- Non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog pores
- Humectants like hydrating hyaluronic acid
- Acne-fighting ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin C, and azelaic acid
- Soothing ingredients like aloe, vitamin E, and green tea
What To Avoid In Moisturizers If You Have Acne
If you have acne, it is recommended to avoid the following in your moisturizer:
- Heavy oils like coconut
- Waxes and petroleum jelly
- Cocoa butter
- Exfoliators that contain sodium chloride
When & How To Apply Moisturizer For Acne Prone Skin
Dermatologists recommend applying moisturizer after you wash your face with a gentle cleanser. Applying moisturizer when there’s still a little water on your skin helps to maintain water in the skin. You can also apply moisturizer whenever your skin feels dry.
Studies show most people see less acne between 4 to 8 weeks after beginning to use an acne friendly moisturizer.2
Foundation Skincare Products Recommended for Acne
The Foundation Skincare collection offers a number of dermatologist-formulated products for acne without the need for a prescription. All of these products are lotion based, which helps to seal in moisture and sufficiently hydrate the skin. Use the following acne moisturizers, whether you’re struggling with a current breakout or trying to prevent a future one:
- FS Night Renewal Cream contains 2% Granactive Retinoid and essential peptide growth factors with plant-based botanicals. The hydrating formula offers the skin-renewing benefits of prescription retinoic acid without the irritation.
- FS Azelaic Acid 14% is the highest non-prescription percentage of azelaic acid available. The skin-friendly antioxidant formula soothes and manages breakouts without irritating skin like a prescription formula might, but is more effective than what you would get from other over-the-counter products with lower concentrations. Not only does azelaic acid kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin, it also disrupts the link between increased levels of testosterone and other hormonal changes to help minimize hormonal breakouts. Gentle enough for sensitive skin, the formulation is made for daily application as a soothing cream.
- FS Niacinamide Lotion supports healthy fats in the skin while decreasing the production of sebum to help prevent acne breakouts. Its anti-inflammatory properties also soothe the redness and irritation of current breakouts while improving skin texture to minimize scarring. Also gentle enough for sensitive skin, the lotion has a hydrating base and can be used twice daily.
- FS Vitamin C Lotion contains a high 20% concentration of the active ingredient, which reduces the redness and swelling associated with acne and boosts collagen to support scar healing. The Vitamin C Lotion also contains a hydrating base to moisturize, brighten, and protect skin without drying it out or causing irritation.
If your skin needs more hydration, the best recommended product to add as the top layer of your routine is FS Hyaluronic Acid Lotion, a fast-absorbing and powerful humectant, which locks in moisture and hydrates on a deeper level for healthy, vibrant skin. All of the products in the Foundation Skincare collection can be layered, with or without additional moisturizers. If you suffer from acne, we suggest the following routine.
- Cleanse skin with a gentle cleanser.
- Apply FS Azelaic Acid 14%.
- Hydrate skin with FS Hyaluronic Acid Lotion.
- Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher to protect against sun damage.
- Cleanse skin with a gentle cleanser.
- Apply FS Niacinamide Lotion.
- Hydrate skin with Hyaluronic Acid Lotion or alternate with the granactive retinoid-powered Foundation Skincare Night Renewal Cream.