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Here’s How to Tell If You Should Be Using an Oil-Free Moisturizer

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Here’s How to Tell If You Should Be Using an Oil-Free Moisturizer featured image
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Anyone with oily skin can agree that there’s a not-so-subtle difference between a dewy complexion and greasy one. If your skin belongs to the second camp more often than you’d like to admit, swapping your moisturizer for an oil-free option might help de-slick skin from the start.

“Oil-free skincare is great for patients that have excessive oily skin and are producing ample sebum and excessive oils,” says Newport Beach, CA dermatologist Zenovia Gabriel, MD, noting that while all skin types require moisture, it’s important to understand your specific complexion before shopping for a new hydrator. 

If you’re unsure whether your skin is oily or not, Dr. Zenovia puts it simply: If you wash your face in the morning and by 1:00 p.m. you can swipe your facial skin and you’re oily, that means you have oily skin. “Your body is producing those natural oils and it’s stimulating the sebaceous gland, so you don’t really need additional oil in your products,” she adds. 

On the flip side, however, Dr. Zenovia notes that if your skin tends to be dry, flaky, or irritated—“or if you have a rosacea component to your skin where it’s inflammatory with a bunch of little red bumps—you could probably benefit from oil in your skin-care products.”

Acne patients may also benefit greatly from oil-based products, says Dr. Zenovia, noting that every case is different and the correct course of treatment should be determined by your dermatologist. “Some [acne] patients have T-zone oiliness and early congested blackheads, while others have deep, cystic jawline acne. Even though both patients have acne, they have very different diseases.”

The bottom line: While oil-free products are great for patients with excessive oiliness, acne patients that suffer from dry skin, along with those with overall dehydrated or flaky skin, may benefit from oil-based topicals. “It’s not a straightforward answer because acne isn’t the same for every patient,” says Dr. Zenovia. 

If you’re in the market for an oil-free moisturizer, Dr. Zenovia recommends her own Aloe Vera Blemish Soothing Moisturizer ($38), formulated with pure, medical grade aloe to soothe blemish-prone skin and deeply hydrate even those with excessively oily skin. If acne isn’t a concern, newly launched Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream ($42) boasts three types of hyaluronic acid and peptides to plump parched skin sans any extra oil. And to keep finicky skin clear and de-slicked, a blend of glycolic, salicylic and pyruvic acids in GlamGlow SuperWaterGel Moisturizer ($56) delivers.

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