“If I apply moisturizer to my oily skin, won’t it make me break out?” Answers for those with oily skin.

Here are a few questions regularly asked of our science team from those who tend to have oily, acne prone skin.

  • “Do I really need to moisturize when I have oily skin?”
  • “I need something to help dry out my oily skin, not something that makes it worse.”
  • “If I apply moisturizer to my oily skin, won’t it make me break out?”

Most people with oily skin are familiar with these concerns, and the answer is, yes, you actually do need moisturizer for your skin even when it is oily and acne prone.

Do not confuse skin oil for skin hydration. Skin oil is the waxy substance called sebum.  Sebum helps to seal in moisture and prevents skin from becoming overly dry. It also has antibacterial properties, making it the body’s first defense against infection. That is a GOOD thing.

Sebum is released by the sebaceous glands and helps maintain the barrier function of your skin. Water is absorbed into the layers of the skin to help maintain its elasticity, fullness, and resiliency which is known as the “epidermis and dermis.” This process is referred to as skin hydration.

The excessive buildup of sebum can help cause oily skin and acne. However, that doesn’t mean the skin is well-hydrated. In other words, just because your skin has a lot of oil doesn’t mean that it has a lot of water. A common action is to strip away (excessive exfoliation) the oils that promote this loss of moisture and this isn’t the best thing to do for your skin.

One thing you may not be aware of is that moisturizers do not add water to your skin, but rather, they help hold the water in the outer layer of your skin to keep it hydrated.

How does this happen?  A good moisturizer will contain ingredients that draw water into your skin to help form a protective film to keep the water in the skin. These ingredients are commonly known as humectants and emollients, respectively. I have listed them below for you to read through. Education is power.

  1. Occlusive

An occlusive agent is an ingredient that seals in moisture by forming a hydrophobic film on the skin.

  1. Humectant

Ingredients that keep the skin moist by drawing water from the lower-lying dermis to the outermost epidermis are known as Humectants. 

  1. Emollient

These are ingredients that smooth skin by filling spaces between flakes in the crusty outer layer of the epidermis, known as stratum corneum, with either wax or oil.

It is important to NOT forget that everyone’s skin is different. The same moisturizer that works well for a friend, relative or your favorite celebrity or influencer may not be the best option for you. Do not be afraid to experiment with different moisturizers and brands until you find the right one, just make sure the brand is science based, not a marketing victim. 

Believe it or not, breakouts happen more often on dry, dehydrated skin. When the skin becomes unusually dry, the body logically compensates by producing more oil to bolster the skin’s barrier function. This could lead to exactly what you are trying NOT to do, which is further clogging your pores and getting more blemishes.

Having prolonged dehydration in your skin, puts it at a greater risk of inflammation (breakouts), infection, fine lines, and dullness and this is PRECISELY why it is important to moisturize oily skin, just make sure it is the right moisturiser for you.

Be patient, wash thoroughly and try to use products that are not oil based. You will see how these small adjustments to your regime will make all the difference in the world.


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